On June 8, 2012 the Statewide Foster Care Advisory Council (Council) sponsored its annual awards and recognition ceremony for one POS agency and two DCFS regions; two whose 2012 Foster Parent Law implementation plans excel in the area of dignity and respect, and one in the area of user-friendliness/organization. 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 private agency providing foster care by contract with DCFS develop an annual plan to implement the Law. The Council is responsible for ensuring that the plans are submitted and scored each year. Plans must score a minimum of 75 out of 108 points to be accepted by the Council.
The three foster care agencies selected by the Council for recognition this year have submitted the following executive summaries describing the highlights of their 2012 implementation plans:
DCFS Northern Region
DCFS Northern Region has positively developed their foster parents as leaders and permitted them to draw upon their personal strengths and life experiences to promote fruitful foster family experiences. Foster parents and licensing workers collaborate to make a solid training plan that augments the foster parent’s strengths and addresses weaknesses. Through collaborative conversations, foster parents are shown the dignity and respect of knowing themselves and bring tremendous value to the child welfare team.
Foster parents in the DCFS Northern Region are held in high regard and their input is considered at multiple junctures in case management. As members of the child welfare team, foster parents have multiple avenues in the Northern Region to voice their complaints, suggestions, and opinions. Participation on the local Field Quality Councils is encouraged, and the chair of the Northern Region Foster Parent Advisory Council is a voting member of the Regional Quality Council. The administration historically welcomes foster parents to contact them and adheres to an “open door” policy.
Treating foster parents with dignity and respect empowers them to fully embrace themselves as team members. When foster parents are considered as team members, retention is uncomplicated, recruitment is straightforward, and outcomes for children in their care are natural.
The creation of the Cook Central Plan was literally a “labor of love.” Mildred Cardona, Carol Kline, and Denise Spires have worked on our plan for several years. There is never a doubt that these special ladies have a “heart” toward our caregivers and have never declined to work on the plan to ensure that it is relevant and supportive to children, caregivers, and staff. For example, by early Summer, Mildred begins to reach out to Carol and to Denise, and other volunteers to begin the thought processing necessary to craft an excellent document. Although other volunteers might not be available all the time, these three “gems” make themselves available. They take the time to review the suggestions for improvement that might have come in from previous plans and ensure that any emerging issues are addressed in a current plan.
The Cook Central Plan addresses the felt needs, identified challenges, and always leaves room for creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable difficulties. This great plan is reflective of the great deal of work and sacrifice offered by the caregivers and staff of the Cook Central Region; the “gem” of DCFS!
The success of our 2012 Foster Parent Law Implementation Plan was due to our focus on improving our relationship with our foster parents. We believe each foster parent must be treated with dignity, respect, and consideration as a professional member of the child welfare system. Our 2012 Plan created a check and balance process where foster parents could openly critique our work and provide recommendations for better service delivery. This provided a framework for ensuring improved service delivery and overall well-being of children in our foster care program. Key strategies, that proved successful, in our Plan, include:
Foster Parent Appreciation Luncheon took place on April 21, 2012. Seventy-five foster parents, 65 children/youth and representatives
from DCFS, DHS and State of Illinois attended. We secured sponsorships for prizes for Adoptive Parent of the Year, Foster Parent of the Year
and children/youth raffle. A children/youth celebration took place while the foster parents were at the Luncheon. The Luncheon was a great success.
Communication between case management, licensing, and foster parents has improved both in quality of interactions and quality of contact. Association House is more accountable to foster parents as a group resulting in better relations and improved quality of care for our children. Life Books will be provided to each child/youth in our foster care program by June 21, 2012. In-kind donations and sponsorships have allowed us to provide Life Books to 100 children/youth. In addition, Child Record Folders will be distributed to each foster parent by June 21, 2012. These folders will ensure Rights #8 is closely followed. Satisfaction Surveys are distributed quarterly. Return rates have greatly improved due to workers distributing surveys during home visits, monthly trainings and during celebration events.
Professional member of the child welfare system
Foster Parent attendance at monthly in-service trainings increased 40%. Improved attendance is attributed to the recent development of an annual training calendar, which was a shared collaboration between the agency and foster parents. In addition, we provide a Spanish translator, meal and child care during our monthly trainings. Children/youth participate in an enriching educational activity while their caregivers attend the training.