On June 6, 2014 the Statewide Foster Care Advisory Council (Council) sponsored its annual awards and recognition ceremony for three foster care agencies whose 2014 Foster Parent Law implementation plans excel in the categories of "dignity and respect" and "organization and user-friendliness."
Recognizing that foster parents are an essential part of and fulfill an integral role on the child welfare team, in 1995, 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 Council recognizes the top three implementation plans submitted by agencies//DCFS regions on an annual basis.
The three foster care agencies selected by the Council for recognition this year submitted the following executive summaries describing the highlights of their 2014 implementation plans:
Lakeside Community Committee Executive Summary
Lakeside Community Committee's 2014 Implementation Plan was selected to receive an award in the area of Organization. Lakeside staff believes that the foster family is an essential ingredient to a successful placement for children. Our staff is trained to respect the role, rights and responsibilities of foster parents and to ensure that foster parents are recognized and treated as members of the professional child welfare team. Key characteristics that make this plan successful are
1) the foster parents continued active participation in the review and revision of the plan;
2) the utilization of the plan during child and family team meetings to explain the foster parent's role, rights and responsibilities to the birth parents;
3) the open door policy with all agency staff that foster parents easily access to communicate concerns and compliments;
4) 24-hour availability of direct service and managerial staff to immediately address concerns and/or crises;
5) increased training opportunities for caregivers that double the annual four-hour minimum.
Webster Cantrell Hall Executive Summary
Webster Cantrell Hall credits the success of our implementation plan of the foster parent law to the ongoing involvement of our foster parents and the Foster Care staff. As an agency we recognize that both roles involve demanding tasks that affect the lives of others every day. We strive to help our foster parents understand the rules and philosophy of the foster care system by providing trainings, home visits, team meetings, open communication and other resources that are necessary for supporting the child, the family, the permanency goal and the foster family. Foster parents play an essential role as a member of the professional team, therefore; it's important that their voices are heard to ensure that the foster child's best interest is always taken into consideration. To help our foster parents advocate for their children, we encourage peer facilitation through activities. We involve the foster care staff in trainings, celebrations and events to cultivate communication and the development of trustworthy relationships with one another. We uphold all clients' rights to be treated ethically, truthfully and with dignity. We appreciate our foster parent's participation in this team effort to protect and nurture children that are in need and know that without their commitment to make a difference, we would not be able to do our jobs. We consider our foster parents to be the true coach of the team!
Envision Executive Summary
The Foster Care Division is comprised mostly of specialized cases. We are small in terms of staff and cases; however, we feel the quality of support we provide to our foster families enables them to provide better services for the children in their care. The entire staff is known to all foster parents. We consistently strive to provide quality services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are very proud of our interaction with our foster parents
Some of the key components that have made our Implementation Plan successful are:
(1) The area of mutual respect for our foster parents, thoughtful hiring and training of staff are keys to our success. The agency continues to provide training and support to our child welfare staff in order to promote mutual respect. Envision values its staff and has been fortunate enough to have maintained a stable staff over the past five years. This stability includes child welfare workers, licensing representatives as well as receptionist/office manager. Consistent staff has been valuable to the foster parents, as well as child. Envision workers continue to employ mutual respect for our foster parents. All staff is amenable to planning visits, counseling sessions and other meetings around the availability of the foster parents, biological parents and child. Several visits that occur in the office, occurs after 5.00 p.m. as well as counseling sessions. Our consulting psychiatrist and nurse also continue to schedule appointments that are convenient to the foster parents and children. Envision continues to use our Foster Parent Survey to ensure that foster parents are treated with respect, dignity and as a member of the professional team.
(2). There is an "open door" policy with all staff at Envision, including the Director of Foster Care. Foster parents have found this to be a real convenience. It enables them to see workers when they are in the office for others reasons. They find it enables them to better use their time as well as keep workers informed timely. Staff also appreciates the foster parents for having open lines of communication with them. The importance of open communication is reinforced by the Foster Parent Council. During monthly meetings the council stresses to all foster parents to utilize all available means to communicate any needs or concerns they have to the staff. All foster parents have ready access to their workers via cell telephones or the agencies Find-Me feature on the telephone system.
The areas identified above are keys to the agencies strong relationship with our foster parents. The solid foundation of "respect" is demonstrated in all the work we do with the foster parents. We value their input, time and commitment and believe they deserve our utmost respect and to be treated with dignity, respect and as a part of the professional team. Foster Parents are special individuals. Many of us (the professionals) could not do what they are able to do for our children on a daily basis.