On May 8, 2009 the Statewide Foster Care Advisory Council sponsored its annual awards and recognition ceremony for the three foster care agencies that excel in the area of dignity and respect. Implementation plans are required by the Foster Parent Law, which is described below.
Recognizing that foster parents are an essential part of and fulfill an integral role on the child welfare team, the Illinois General Assembly determined that there was a need to establish official public policy regarding the rights and the responsibilities of foster parents. This policy is known as the Foster Parent Law. This law requires that each DCFS region and every agency providing foster care by contract with DCFS is required to develop an annual plan to implement the law. This Council (Statewide Foster Care Advisory Council) is responsible for ensuring that the plans are submitted and scored each year. Plans must score a minimum of 75 out of 104 points to be accepted by the Council.
The three foster care agencies selected by the Statewide Council for recognition this year have submitted the following executive summaries describing the highlights of their 2009 implementation plans:
OUR CHILDREN'S HOMESTEAD
By keeping Our Children’s Homestead’s mission of being devoted to providing uniquely challenged orphans and foster children with the highest quality of services, committed staff and extraordinary families in the forefront in everything we do, this spirit naturally translated into the successful development of our 2009 Foster Parent Law Implementation Plan.
At Our Children’s Homestead, we believe our Foster Parent Law Plan is successful because we believe treating Foster Parents with respect and dignity involves more than verbal niceties. We actively involve our Foster Parents in the revision and development of our Foster Parent Law Plan annually from start to finish.
Characteristics that make our Law Plan successful in the realm of providing dignity and respect to our Foster Parents include;
- A 24-hour Foster Parent return-call back policy that is adhered to by all staff.
- Our Foster Parents participation in our Foster Parent recruitment efforts and Continuous Quality Improvement committees.
- The utilization of our Professional Foster Parents to mentor and assist new and existing foster parents.
- The provision of training to our foster parents regarding the Law Plan on an annual basis.
- Consistent surveying of our Foster Parents in an effort to not only gauge satisfaction, but also assist in the agency’s strategic planning to better meet their needs.
LITTLE CITY FOUNDATION
Little City Foundation is keenly aware that it is only by the strength and commitment of our foster parents that our program continues to strive and achieve in meeting the needs of the children and families that we serve. It is with that thought in mind that we always work to maintain the Dignity and Respect of our Foster Parents.
As a core value within the agency, Little City Foundation values Compassion in all of the relationships that we create and participate in, and support behaviors that demonstrate an ability to listen and understand others. It is the policy of the Little City Foundation Foster Care Program to include the foster parents as crucial members of the foster care team. Our treatment philosophy outlines our beliefs that the relationships that we have with each other are the basis in which all things grow and change. Agency staff at all levels make themselves available to listen to and understand the joys and challenges that our foster parents face in developing the relationships with the children in their care that essential in helping that child meet his/her unique potential.
CATHOLIC CHARITIES ROCKFORD
Thank you for the acknowledgement from the Department of Children and Family Services. Several factors have contributed to making our implementation plan a success including evaluating our services, building a relationship with our foster parents and communication.
Our goal as an agency is to develop a partnership with each foster parent. We strive to give them as many tools as possible in order to assist them in doing a good job of fostering. A key element is constant evaluation of the services that we offer. In an effort to provide our foster parents with better service, our Quality Assurance office randomly selects 10% of our foster homes each month, and asks them to complete a phone survey on the service that we provide. Problem areas are addressed immediately and all workers are made aware of any challenges that exist.
We clearly define the role of our foster parents and make sure they understand how essential their contributions are to the smooth operation of our agency. We work consistently at showing our foster parents our appreciation. We encourage foster parents to participate fully in the cases by inviting them to family meetings, court, administrative case reviews, and any other meetings that concern the children.
Communication is an area that is of extreme importance to us. We utilize email, the postal service, the agency web site and phone calls to address the needs and concerns of our foster parents. In an effort to improve communication we updated the on-call system/pager to an on-call cell phone. This gives the foster parents an immediate resource when they are not able to reach their worker. This new system was developed with in-put from the foster parents because they did have difficulty using the paging system. In addition, we provide our foster parents with phone numbers for the Hot Line, the CARES line and the Medical Consent line. We are in the process of adding the DCFS appeal brochure on our website to make it easily accessible for foster parents.