WHAT WE DO
Rise’s mission is to train parents to write and speak about their experiences in order to support parents and parent advocates and and to guide child welfare professionals in becoming more responsive to the families and communities they serve. Our goal is to reduce unnecessary family separations and increase the likelihood that children who are placed in foster care quickly and safely return home. We provide information and guidance to individual parents so they can more effectively advocate for themselves, and we deepen understanding of parents’ life histories and child welfare experiences so that child welfare can better serve parents and children.
To achieve these goals, Rise:
* Builds parents' writing, public speaking and leadership skills so parents can influence child welfare policy and practice;
* Develops resources that make it simple to include the stories of real parents in parenting classes and support groups;
* Creates opportunities for child welfare professionals to learn about, from, and with parents so that professionals become more capable of responding to the needs of the families and communities they serve.
Rise publishes parent stories in a print and online magazine reaching 20,000 readers each year. More than 10,000 subscribers offer print editions to parents and staff. In New York, the city's Administration for Children's Services and most foster care agencies purchase Rise print copies in bulk to hand out to staff and parents. Individual subscribers can sign up for free.
A copy of Rise in the agency waiting room, or offered to parents at intake, sends the message: "We listen to parents. We value parents' ideas. Your story is important to us." Parents tell us Rise stories offer guidance and hope. Professionals say Rise stories offer valuable insight. As former NYC child welfare commissioner John Mattingly has said, "Every edition gave me fresh insights as to how we might do better as an agency in working with parents."
Rise stories are frequently integrated into training so that frontline caseworkers and supervisors, parent and child attorneys, and foster parents can more deeply understand parents' perspectives. Most recently, Rise has worked with Solutions-Based Casework, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, NYC Administration for Children's Services Satterwhite Academy, and the Foster and Adoptive Parent Advocacy Center of DC to include parent stories in training.
Rise staff also have offered story-based training through NYC's Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), the Delaware Foster Parent Association, and the New York State Citizens Coalition for Children. Our newest initiative has been a writing workshop for frontline staff at Sheltering Arms, a NYC foster care agency, where staff have written about working with parents.
Rise encourages newsletters and policy journals to reprint parent stories and partners with other media to produce original parent stories for publication. Most recently, the New York Times Motherlode blog has featured four stories by Rise writers--on stigma, reunification, education and single motherhood. Parent stories have been reprinted in CW360, NYC's Child Welfare Watch, American Bar Association's Child Law Practice, Michigan Law Review, Youth Today, Casey Family Services’ VOICES; Fostering Perspective, a newspaper for foster parents; Permanency Planning Today; and FOCUS, on therapeutic foster care, as well as dozens of local and online newsletters. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org about reprints.
Rise also has been covered by NPR, the LA Times, NY1, Hoy and most recently Fusion.
Rise strives to make it easy to include parent stories in parent support groups and parenting classes. Our five workbooks include stories, discussion guides and worksheets to support reflection and planning. Stories on improving visits, parent-foster parent communication and preparing for reunification can bring a child welfare focus to parenting classes or can add structure to parent support groups. Piloted in support groups over two years at Children's Aid Society, our workbooks have a proven record of helping parents feel less alone and ashamed--and more aware of the steps they can take to bring their children home.
Washington State Veteran Parents who use Rise stories have said: "We have incorporated Rise into Dependency 101, our class to help parents successfully navigate the child welfare system...The experiences are universal, and the message is that you are not alone. Rise is solution oriented and it gives people hope."
Rise's parent leaders make public presentations, speak on panels, share their stories in staff trainings, and present to other parents. In the past two years, Rise presenters have reached more than 2,000 professionals in New York City through public speaking.
Recent parent presentations have focused on the experiences of young moms in foster care, the impact of trauma on parenting, and parents' experiences in court. Parents have presented through Bronx Family Court, Center for Family Representation, Child Welfare Watch, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Harlem Hospital, NJ Reunification Day, Children's Corps, and multiple NYC Administration for Children's Services events including Supervisor Training at Satterwhite Academy, Family Court Legal Services staff training, a Learning Circle on parent trauma, a Leadership Forum for senior staff, and a Convening on young parents in foster care. To work with Rise's parent presenters, email email@example.com
Rise writing workshops offer parents a safe place to reflect on their experiences, connect with peers and tell their stories. A typical workshop includes 6-8 parents and meets for two hours each week for 16 weeks. Rise runs writing groups at community partners that already work with parents—advocacy organizations, legal providers, foster care agencies and family support programs.
Parents report that the writing process deepens their understanding of themselves and of their case. As one mother wrote recently: "Rise gave me the opportunity to not only write my story but to understand it. Reading over my story, I truly realized how much pain I’ve been carrying inside me.” Contact firstname.lastname@example.org about hosting a writing workshop.
Since 2012, Rise has run special writing groups for young moms (16-30) who themselves grew up in foster care. Data suggest that 25-40% of young mothers with children in foster care in NYC spent time in care in childhood; one-third of young mothers in foster care between 2006-2012 had their children removed while still in care.
Rise's "My Story, My Life" writing groups give these mothers a safe place to share their experiences. Project supporters have included the Child Welfare Fund, Dammann Fund, Pinkerton Foundation and In Viola W. Bernard Foundation. Our two issues arising from these writing groups--Generations in Care and What It Takes--emphasize what has helped these mothers overcome challenges.
RISE&SHINE: PUBLIC SPEAKING TRAINING
In 2015, Rise started its first public speaking training program, Rise&Shine. Our goal is to develop our public speaking to be as effective, polished and frequent as our print stories. This initiative is supported by the New York Women's Foundation.
Our first workshop is open only to parents who have previously contributed to Rise. Early sessions will focus on developing comfort in public speaking, working as a group to maintain safety while telling your story, and building skills in presenting and answering audience questions. In Winter 2016, Rise will partner with The Moth on an oral storytelling workshop.