Parents come to foster care agencies experiencing not only the trauma of losing their child but also the confusion of navigating a complex system. Parents must:
• Keep track of appointments at multiple agencies and in court;
• Understand the roles and expectations of professionals in their case;
• Believe they can meet these expectations.
Research shows that stress affects our ability to think and plan. Giving parents information both verbally and in writing makes it more likely to be heard. The Rise TIPS and a “Parent Toolkit” can offer parents information in small bites, help with planning and build trust.
Offering a “Parent Toolkit” at Intake
Rise parent leaders suggest providing the following information in a folder at intake (called “Transition Meetings” in NYC):
Making the Most of Visits: The TIPS 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. The story A Time to Bond (on the back) offers positive guidance to create nurturing routines.
Professionals working with parents can say, “This is written by other parents who have had children in foster care. Parents are sometimes worried about what to do during family time at the agency. Visiting can feel very different from being with your child at home. Let’s go through it together.”
The story Winning Him Back shows how a parent who feels angry, sad and hopeless as she begins visits is able to rebuild trust with her son. Reading this story with parents is a way to acknowledge that visits can be painful and to offer hope.
Parent-to-Parent Video on Visits: This 10-minute video offers guidance from four parents whose own children were in foster care.
Agency Handbook: A basic guide to explain the agency’s approach, services and people can orient parents.
Appointment Calendar: You can introduce it by saying, “There’s so much going on right now that it is easy to forget your appointments. We can use this to keep on track.” You can help the parent put in all of the appointments and visiting times you know about.
Contact Information for Important People on the Case: Include your contact information and your supervisor’s. If your agency has a parent advocate, include their information and introduce them. Also make sure parents know how to reach their attorneys.
Flyer for a Support Group: If your agency runs a parent support group—or you know about one in the community—offer this outlet for parents to speak about their struggles.
Sign up to receive Tips for TIPS, a bi-monthly newsletter to support practice