Rise’s new TIPS handouts offer parents clear information and peer guidance to navigate their cases. Developed in partnership with parents and frontline staff at three NYC foster care agencies–Graham Windham, JCCA and Sheltering Arms–this set of TIPS focuses on visits. Caseworkers and parents advocates can use the TIPS to orient parents when their children enter foster care and to support parents who are struggling.
Making the Most of Visits offers guidance from a parent advocate on creating routines, playing, handling tough questions, and saying goodbye in a positive way.
What You Need to Know provides basic information about how parents can get more family time with their kids – and what will set visits back.
Handling Painful Feelings acknowledges the challenges of visiting, especially for parents who have experienced trauma.
Helping Children Heal explains attachment and guides parents in connecting with children who are angry, hurt and sad.
The visiting TIPS build on three concepts: attachment, trauma and toxic stress. Parents often need information about the routines, activities and discipline approaches that can build secure attachment. Trauma can make it difficult for parents and children to feel safe and connect during visits. Toxic stress can make it difficult for parents to stay calm and plan ahead.
The TIPS provide simple information – illustrated by the stories of real parents – to give caseworkers and parents a common language for understanding what’s expected in visits and for solving problems.
Caseplanner feedback through monthly check-in meetings and written evaluations indicate that the TIPS have been effective at conveying needed, basic information about visits to parents early in the case and for problem-solving with parents when visits are not going well. Below is feedback from caseplanners:
Setting Parents Up for Success:
• “When parents come in, we tell them they have visits but we don’t tell them what’s effective. I know we don’t want parents to feel like, “Even when I see my kids, there’s a certain way of doing that, too?!” But parents need to be informed about what we expect.”
• “I would describe the TIPS as stepping stones to move in the right direction and build a positive relationship.”
• “One mom was very dismissive when I showed her the TIPS, but later I saw her in the lobby, reading the TIPS. And she took the advice.”
Taking Personal Dynamics Out of Policies:
• “I was able to use the TIPS to indicate that it’s standard policy that parents need to be consistent to get more visits, not just the caseplanner’s feelings. That took something personal out of it.”
• “The TIPS suggestions are viewed as policies rather than a caseplanner perspective or command.”
Finding Language for Problem-Solving:
• “The TIPS explain difficult conversations to parents. Parents seem to be more confident after using the TIPS.”
• “I introduced the TIPS to one mom to discuss different ways to entertain her child, because she was bringing the same game over and over and the child was getting bored and hyper. I saw that the mom brought different activities for the child and he is more engaged.
• “I brought the TIPS to a home visit. We discussed discipline strategies. I read the discipline TIPS and I’ve seen this mom try them. Before, she was only having the child kneel in the corner. She learned that she can give warnings.”
• “One tip is to keep the visits positive. Before, one mom would try to find out every bad thing and assumed the worst. It was negative for her children. Now she speaks about positive things: ‘How was your week? How was school?’ The TIPS helped her understand why positive conversation is important for her children and now she spends more time having positive interactions.”
Helping Caseplanners Ground Themselves:
• “I used the TIPS for me. Reading them over reminded me of what I’m looking for in the visit and what the visit is about.”
• “Reading someone’s story of what they’ve been through, it’s a reminder, ‘These are people. No matter what these parents did, they were ripped from their child.’ One mom I was working with had been very rude to me. I was starting to give up. I didn’t want to be bothered anymore. I was telling myself, ‘I’m never going to be able to help this person. It is what it is.’ Reading the TIPS, I was able to look away from the situation and remind myself that my role is to help. This mom actually told her lawyer that I was the one who took the time to help her.”
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