Parent review feedback summary
- Parent reviewers broadly recommended the idea of birth and foster families working together and outlined some concerns.
- Reviewers offered skepticism, as these practices rely on foster parents being on board with reunification, which wasn’t always their experience.
- Reviewers suggested pre-licensure role clarity for foster families as support toward reunification. Changing language from “foster parent” to “foster caregiver” may help remind everyone that foster parents are not replacement parents, but temporary caregivers.
- They also emphasized setting clear boundaries for both foster and birth families to serve as protection against jealousy or resentment, future reports to CPS, or mistrust between parents and foster caregivers.
What is the intervention?
QPI MN uses a practice framework which promotes a culture of teamwork among foster and birth parents. Specific ways to connect at different points in the relationship to build, support, and maintain these relationships are outlined in a series of short, easily implemented, how-to guides for foster parents.
One highlighted practice which became part of Minnesota law in 2020, was based on the QPI practice called comfort calls. Being placed with strangers in foster care (family or not) is often scary and confusing, which adds to existing trauma. This can make the first hours and days very difficult for everyone. Comfort calls encourage relationship-building between the foster parents and the birth parents. This may include the foster parents gaining knowledge of the child’s favorite foods, activities, or clothing items.
What makes it a Bright Spot?
The trauma of children and parents being involuntarily separated has a deep, lasting, rippling effect therefore separation must be avoided, yet removals still exist in child welfare. The Quality Parenting Initiative challenges the child welfare system to not only prevent harm, but to make positive practices, like comfort calls, an expectation. In Minnesota the initiative has helped make comfort calls the law.
Foster parents who take a team approach with birth families as reflected in the QPI priorities, can change those dynamics and allow the families to work together towards reunification. Relationships often extend beyond reunification, effectively expanding the group of adults with whom a child can enjoy lifelong, positive relationships. An evaluation of QPI practices demonstrate that when utilizing QPI practices like comfort calls, foster parents are significantly more likely to believe they can partner with the birth parent towards reunification.
What steps can you take?
- Implement a comfort call practice for every out-of-home placement in your agency. Introduce the minimum expectation that foster and birth parents connect within the first hours or days of placement
- Download and distribute all of the How-to practice guides to your team
- Incorporate relationship-building practices throughout agency practice and foster parent training
These downloadable resources may help provide additional context and information about this family-approved resource for systems change.
Let us know any information to consider adding to this Bright Spots practice.