Transforming Foster Care: Quality Parenting Initiative

In June, I attended the National Foster Parent Association Conference and walked away from it with a new focus – advocating for and educating foster parents. I wrote a post about the importance of recruiting and retaining quality foster parents. And I promised to come back and share some things that our local agency is doing right – and that every foster parent should be asking their agency or county to implement.
I certainly didn’t plan to wait this long to revisit the issue, but such is my life.

First, a brief reminder:

Child welfare in Florida is privatized. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) subcontracts with a statewide network of Community-Based Care agencies (CBCs). My CBC, Community Partnership for Children (CPC), covers Volusia, Flagler, and Putnam counties in East Central Florida.

(if you’d like a more detailed explanation, you can find that here or here

Community Partnership for Children follows the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) model. We’ll go over specifics over the next few weeks and months. For now I want to give you a high-level overview and some general examples.

QPI is about ensuring that excellent out-of-home care is provided to children in the child welfare system by recruiting, educating, supporting and retaining quality foster families and kinship caregivers who are committed to providing the highest level of love, nurturing, advocacy and support to the children in their care.

QPI places some non-traditional requirements on foster and kinship families, but also provides for a higher level of support for and partnership with these families. Possibly the very best thing you can do to improve how foster families are viewed and treated in your area is to check into the Quality Parenting Initiative.

Under the QPI model, I am considered to be truly part of the team. I am not only entitled to notice of all hearings and staffings, I am expected to attend and I am encouraged to speak up and offer my insights.

Now, I am still the foster parent, so my thoughts don’t always carry the weight that I think they should, but I am ENTITLED to a seat at the table. I am considered to be a partner in ensuring the best outcomes for the children in my care. I am expected to be their advocate, and my opinion matters.

I am expected to treat any child in my home as though they were my own forever child. It is my responsibility to arrange medical and therapeutic treatment – and to transport my kids to their appointments and participate in treatment in whatever manner I would if the child were legally mine.

Some may view this as a double-edged sword. When we saw that Lil Bit was struggling with feeding, I asked my CM for a referral. She provided the referral and I scheduled and attended the evaluation. While some may find this inconvenient, it only makes sense – SuperDad and I are the ones parenting this child – who else would be able to provide the appropriate information to the evaluaters?? What would be the point of sending a non-verbal child to be evaluated for ANYTHING and not include input from the person or people who provide the majority of his care?

When we felt that he needed a speech therapy evaluation, I notified the CM that I was asking the doctor for a referral, scheduled and attended the evaluation and notified the CM of the results. When visitation was scheduled that would interfere with his therapy, I talked the CM about it and she and I are working together to resolve the conflict! 

Because I am viewed as a PARENT, rather than a babysitter, I am trusted to identify a need and arrange for it to be met.

On the other hand, when daycare called last week because Lil Bit had a rash that appeared to be spreading and needed to be picked up, it was my responsibility to leave work, pick him up and take him to the doctor. It was my responsibility to make arrangements for SuperDad to take off the next day in case Lil Bit couldn’t go back to daycare right away.

Because I am viewed as a PARENT, rather than a babysitter, it is my responsibility to make arrangements when daycare is closed for the holidays.

Full disclosure: Even under QPI, I have encountered case managers who don’t buy into foster parents being part of the team. I have spoken with foster parents who don’t feel that certain inconveniences should be their problem. However, it has been my experience that the more I am willing to accept the responsibilities of parenting, the more I am allowed the authority to parent.

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Hint:
It has recently come to my attention that not all of my readers can easily tell when I’m being sarcastic. That is truly unfortunate, so finding a solution was imperative. ^Obviously, the easiest answer is to assume that if something can be read with sarcasm, it should be;^; but that’s not really workable, I guess. After reviewing several options for a “sarcasm font”, I’ve come up up with my own system. Whenever you see italics inside carrots (^snark^), that is my “sarcasm font”.

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