WAKE COUNTY HUMAN SERVICES’ PARENT PARTNER PROGRAMPROMOTING POSITIVE INTERVENTIONS TO IMPROVE OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE by Deona R. Hooper April 20, 2010 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work- MSW Intern for Wake County Human Services firstname.lastname@example.org Deona.Hooper@wakegov.com 919-212-7362
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This evaluation assesses the Parent Partner Program at Wake County HumanServices. Its intended purpose is to aid the county in determining if the program has theability increase family reunification efforts while decreasing racial disparities within thecounty’s foster care system. Wake County’s Parent Partner Program primary functionsare to attend the child planning conferences after receiving referral for services to engagebirth parents. Also, parent partners conduct Parent Orientation sessions which assistfamilies in learning their rights and responsibilities once removal occurs. Last, parentpartners assist in a four day training to promote better relationships and understandingbetween birth parents, foster parents, workers and other professionals. Parent Partners arerequired to be reunified with their children for one year and sober for two years to beaccepted into the program. The agency strives to prepare parent partners for birth parent contact by providingtraining on a continuous basis. Parent Partners are required to receive training in the areasof domestic violence, substance abuse, legal aspects, mental health, and ethics.Additionally, they receive a $12.50 stipend for every hour worked with the Program. Theprogram has successfully recruited 12 parent partners which meet the required minimumstandards for reunification and sobriety as well as a combined average of 91%completion in all required trainings. Since implementation of the Building a BetterFuture Training, a total of 47 child welfare staff have completed the course to include two
program managers and six child welfare supervisors. Additionally, the program hasgraduated a total of 26 families from its Parent Orientation Sessions to date. Results SummaryThe evaluation concluded the following from the retrospective data that was compiledand analyzed: 53.8% of African American families were not referred for program services in comparison to only 15.4% for Caucasian families and 11.5% for other. Petitions identified with no referral for services, 65% were identified as unknown for the reason no referral was made. 87.5% of birth parents who had contact with a parent partner at the child planning conference as a result of a court referral attended and graduated from parent orientation. Analysis revealed that Caucasian birth parents accounted for 62.5% of birth parents in parent orientation when compared to only 37.5% of African American families. No Latino families or families defined as other have attended Parent Orientation. Short notices of the child planning conferences prevent parent partners from attending at a higher rate. Analysis of end of course training evaluations revealed that overall participants feel the training is needed to help improve relationships and collaboration between social workers, foster parents, birth parents and other professionals. Opportunities to Improve Requiring the Parent Partner Program be added to the distribution list when pre- petition information is submitted for court intervention will help ensure all parents are referred to the program. By engaging parents at the child and family team meeting for the purpose of completing the out of home service agreement, the program could improve parent partner engagement with birth parents for reunification services. With fulltime staff /social worker (s) to supervise parent partner and birth parent contact, the agency could provide and document additional case management services for families to support reunification efforts.
Introduction This evaluation addresses the Parent Partner Program intervention model whichaims to improve reunification outcomes for child welfare families in Wake County.Every four years, the county conducts a community needs assessment in order to developan action plan to address the needs of its population. According to the latest communityneeds assessment conducted in 2006, Wake County’s total population ranked secondbehind Mecklenburg County with an estimated 755,034 people and a projected fourpercent growth each year until 2010. The study reported that Wake County was rankednumber one as the best city to find jobs and ranked second best place for businesses byForbes magazine. Additionally, it reported that Wake County public schools were rankedsecond for best educational school system by Expansion Management as well as NorthCarolina State University ranking second best valued public college by PrincetonReview. Raleigh was also deemed the second most educated city according to the UnitedStates Census Bureau. Many of these accomplishments are due to Raleigh being thestate’s capitol and county seat, in addition to being the home of Research Triangle Parkalong with Durham County. (Wake County Human Services [WCHS], 2006) However, the vision of reality for minority children displays a picture of povertyand despair unlike the vast majority of the County’s population. “Disparities between whites and blacks are stark and pervasive African American children are twice as more likely to die in their first year, four times as more likely to be suspended from school, six times more likely to score below grade level at end of grade testing, eight times more likely to be in foster care, and six times more likely to live in poverty than white children (WCHS, 2006).” In Wake County, only three percent of White children live in poverty compared to20 percent of Black children. The average median income in Wake County for a white
family is $59, 449 compared to $33, 163 for an African American family. The studymade the same finding in per person incomes which are $32,125 for White familiescompared to $17, 626 for Black families. Additionally, it states there is a growing trendof minority involvement with the juvenile justice system as well as stating that minoritiesscore 17 points lower in reading and math in comparison to Whites (WCHS, 2006).Problem Statement Wake County’s community needs assessment identified multiple challenges andbarriers plaguing minority children throughout the county. According to the communityassessment, the report stated that approximately 85% of the parents being investigated forneglect or abuse meet the criteria for substance abuse or substance dependency. Inaddition to the dismal racial disparities reported for minority children in Wake County, itappears that those in foster care face even greater challenges (Wake County HumanServices [WCHS], 2006). As of September 30, 2009, Wake County Human Servicesreported on its website that there are 546 children currently in custody within their fostercare system. Of those in custody, the Agency reported 336 African American children,123 Caucasian children, 36 Hispanic/Latino children, and 44 children were defined asother. Additionally, the Agency reported an average length of stay for children in WakeCounty’s custody to be approximately 18-24 months (WCHS, 2009). In an effort to increase reunification with birth parents and decrease racialdisparities, the Agency responded by implementing the Parent Partner Program. Theprogram uses parents who have successfully reunified with their children to teach otherbirth parents how to navigate through the Child Protective Services’ Process. Theprogram began contact with birth parents in August 2009. Parent Partners have been
engaging birth parents by attending their Child Planning Conferences and facilitatingparent orientation sessions. In addition, they conduct trainings to build relationships withcommunity partners, Child Welfare staff, court personnel, and foster parents. Birth parentparticipation in the program is voluntary, and the program relies on professional referralsto obtain birth parents’ permission to contact them. Families that have received servicesare still in the early stages of the reunification process. The study cannot at presentadequately measure any effects on reunification outcomes for families since programimplementation.Objectives of Evaluation This evaluation will seek to answer questions on how to better achieveeffectiveness for the Parent Partner Program intervention. Each question has beencarefully selected to identify target areas to improve outcomes for reunification coupledwith a secondary objective to identify areas to improve racial disparities within theCounty’s foster care system.QuestionsQuestion Number 1: Are Parent Partner Program referrals reflective of the number ofcustody petitions filed in Wake County, and will the ethnicity of birth parents referred bereflective of those in care? Purpose of Question: The purpose of this question is to identify areas to increase program referrals for services for overrepresented groups in foster care.Question Number 2: Does the attitudes of birth parents, professionals and foster familiesreflect program support for the Parent Partner Program in Wake County?
Purpose of Question: This study will use retrospective data from end of course training evaluations to identify attitudes of participants which include birth parents and parent partners, social workers, foster parents and other professionals.Literature Review The Parent Partner intervention model has not yet been accepted as an evidencebased practice model. However, California and Kentucky has been instrumental inimplementing this model while conducting preliminary studies on its effectiveness. TheUniversity of Southern California at Berkley conducted a study of the Parent PartnerProgram used in Contra Costa County Department of Human Services. Study reports thatreunification was more likely to occur at a rate of four times more when participating inthe program. Parents who are involved in the CPS process are often isolated and unawareof others that can identify with their experiences. The program encourages birth parentsto share the experiences with parent partners who understand their plight. This studyconcludes that this process instills hope and motivates change. The conclusion supportsthat families that participated in the study had high satisfactory ratings with the servicesthat they received. Additionally, the study concludes that being a parent partner is asustainability factor for them in maintaining stability. According to the study, theprogram received high marks from court personnel, social workers and other keyinformants from surveys conducted. Results concluded that they believed the programassisted families in reunifying faster (Anthony, Berrick, Cohen & Wilder, 2009). In theCommonwealth of Kentucky, the parent partner program has been implementedstatewide. In 2007, they conducted an evaluation which showed that parent partnersserved a higher percentage of families with reported neglect cases and a lower percentage
with reported abuse when compared to families not receiving services from the program.Additionally, it revealed that children in families assigned to parent partners wereassociated with a higher cumulative risk rating with a greater likelihood of placement infoster care. However, the study found that these children experienced fewer placementmoves while in care, spent less overall time in care, had higher percentages ofreunification with parents or permanent placement with a relative, as well as fewer exitsto adoption and emancipation than children in families not receiving services from theprogram. The conclusion of this study supported the parent partner programs as a viableintervention model (The Commonwealth of Kentucky Cabinet for Health and FamilyServices Department for Community Based Services, 2007).
Program: Parent Partner Program Logic Model Inputs Outputs Outcomes Participation Short Medium Long Building a Better Professionals, Staff, Improved relations Increased collaboration Program Future Training for Court Personnel, between parents, between multidisciplinary Increased Funding for Director Professionals, Community Partners workers and other agencies courts, GAL, Community and Foster Parents professionals Service Providers, Child the Parent Partner 2 MSW Interns Partners and who protect children Welfare Program Foster Parents from being abused Improved attitudes 12 Parent and neglected. towards birth Create an evidence Partners parents and their based intervention Improved response model to be challenges. by professionals in 2 Staff implemented in all facilitators child maltreatment 100 counties cases Parents will have Equipment better knowledge of Reduce Racial Parent Orientation their rights and Technology Sessions for birth Disparities within responsibilities parents Reduce length of Wake County Foster Parents who time a child is in Care System for children come foster care African American into care Improved Families Child Planning behaviors and Conferences with attitudes of birth the Courts Increase reunification parents outcomes for birth parents Parents will Engage Fathers in the understand how to CPS process with maneuver the equal rights and CPS Process responsibilities as birth motherAssumptionsThe parent partner program is effective intervention model to improve outcomes for External FactorsChild Welfare staff and families who children come into care. Data Collected through Agency Files and Database may be incomplete or inaccurate.
Program Design The current intervention model is a modified version developed by the Annie E. CaseyFoundation. The Parent Partner intervention model is based on the principle that family is thefoundation for all children regardless of their race, socioeconomic background, criminal historyand/or disability. Building upon this premise, parents who have successfully reunified with theirchildren are recruited and considered to be the best persons to teach, support and encourage otherparents faced with similar circumstances. The assumptions of this model state that a successfullyreunified parent is the most valuable resource to the agency in training staff, foster families,professionals and community partner in better understanding challenges faced by birth parents(The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2001). In other states, the original program design uses one on one monitoring for families by aparent partner that is assigned to the family at the onset of removal until reunification occurs orcease. However, Wake County has modified the original program model to three programcomponents which are the Parent Orientation Sessions, Child Planning Conferences and theBuilding a Better Future Training (BABF). Wake County Parent Partners’ primary functionsinclude the following: 1. Co-facilitating the Building a Better Future Trainings for the purpose of bridging gaps between agency staff, birth parents, professionals, community partners and foster families while improving client/worker relationships and interagency collaboration. 2. Engaging birth parents at their initial court appearance, Child Planning Conference, to participate in the program’s Parent Orientation Sessions.
3. Participating in monthly team meetings, program planning, and speaking engagements within the community. 4. Training and recruitment of other prospective parent and community partners. 5. Co-facilitating Parent Orientations sessions with staff members to assist birth parents in understanding their rights and responsibilities during the Child Protective Services’ process.Parent Partners are required to be reunified with their children for one year and sober for twoyears to be accepted into the program. Parent Partners are required to receive training in the areasof domestic violence, substance abuse, legal aspects, mental health, and ethics. Additionally,they receive a $12.50 stipend for every hour worked with the Program. The program hassuccessfully recruited 12 parent partners which meet the required minimum standards forreunification and sobriety as well as a combined average of 91% completion in all requiredtrainings. All Child Welfare staff is required to attend the Building a Better Future Training,described above, according to WCHS policy. Since the program has been conducting thetraining, a total of 47 child welfare staff have completed the three day training to include twoprogram managers and six child welfare supervisors.Evaluation Design This evaluation will analyze existing data collected during September 2009 to January2010 from Agency databases, court records and notifications, and retrospective survey data. Thisevaluation will seek to identify and measure qualitative dimensions such as learning and selfdirection, empowerment and potential, in addition to providing data measured with quantitativevalue. This data may provide insight in to the perceptions and potential effectiveness of thisintervention model. It should be noted, this evaluation is not an evidenced base study, and it will
be unable to establish any validity for the intervention model as an evidence based practice.Unfortunately, there is little evidence based research on this intervention and more evaluation isneeded in this area.Sample The evaluation will examine all Child Welfare custody petitions filed in Wake Countybetween September 2009 and January 2010. However, 64 families with petitions filed wereidentified during the assessment period, and two cases were dismissed. This set of data waschosen because the program is still within its first year of beginning birth parent contact andreunification outcomes cannot yet be measured. Additionally, when multiple petitions were filedused the same child welfare case head, the family was only counted once. The final sampleanalyzed consisted of 51 families which included 28 African American families, 14 Caucasianfamilies, five Latino families and four families categorized as bi-racial or other. This sampleappears to be representative of the racial proportions for children in foster care.Participant Recruitment This study does not require any individual permission by the included sample. The databeing analyzed has been collected from existing Agency databases and files. No interviews orsurveys were conducted for the purpose of collecting additional data for analysis. It should benoted that participation in the Parent Partner Program is voluntary, and a referral for the familymust be received before the program can make contact.Data Collection This study will collect data using the Agency’s Child Welfare Databases, Court Referrals,Social Work Referrals, Parent Partner Child Planning Conference Reports, Parent PartnerTraining Records, Guardian Ad Litem Court Reports, Staff Training Records, and past end of
course evaluations collected from program trainings. All data is documented under the casehead/parent for each individual family included in the sample. Each case head will be assigned acase ID number which will be the J number assigned to the child by the courts. If there is morethan one child listed on the petition, the J number assigned to the first child will used as the caseID number. The case ID number is assigned to each family to ensure the correct birth parent (s)is connected to the correct child (ren) in custody. Also, the case ID number will allow for futurecase tracking of families to identify reunification outcomes.Instruments and Data Analysis This study will create a database using Microsoft Excel in order to merge informationfrom the Agency’s Child Welfare Databases, Court Referrals, Social Work Referrals, ParentPartner Child Planning Conference Reports, and the Guardian Ad Litem Court Report foranalysis. The database will include variables such as race, case type, referral source type, parentpartner contact, parent orientation attendance, and graduation rate to examine if any relationshipsexist between them. These variables were included because they are regularly collected datawithin the program. Retrospective data from the end of course evaluations will be captured using MicrosoftExcel to chart reflected attitudes towards the program. A five item survey tool was used toassess the participants’ training experiences which included social workers, birth parents, fosterparents, and other agency professionals. The evaluation surveys were conducted anonymously.Evaluation survey answers could not be linked to a corresponding participant.
Several themes were identified from participant responses to open ended questions. Thesubscales are listed as follows: 1. Learning and self-redefinition 2. Overcoming stagnation 3. Advocacy 4. Self Empowerment 5. New Potential ResultsReferral System for Parent Orientation During the assessment period between September 2009 and January 2010, the 51 familiesincluded in the sample were analyzed. The analysis showed that 49% of those families werereferred to the Parent Partner Program as a result of either a court referral or social work referral.There were no circumstances were a family was referred by both the courts and a social worker.Referral data categorized by ethnicity yielded disproportionate results in African Americanfamilies receiving program referrals for services. The five Latino families identified were notreferred for services due to the program’s inability to support non-English speaking families.However, 53.8% of African American families were not referred for program services incomparison to only 15.4% for Caucasian families and 11.5% for other. When parent partnerprogram staff would follow up with referral sources to identify factors preventing referral, it wasdifficult to get responses. If program staff were unable to obtain an answer from the referralsource, the reason was categorized as unknown. For petitions identified with no referral forservices, 65% was categorized unknown for the reason no referral was made.
Chart 1: Even though the courts referred approximately the same number of African Americanand White families, 53.8 percent of the total petitions filed on African Americans during theassessment period where not referred by the courts.Chart 2: Illustrates that almost half of the petitions filed during the assessment period werereferred for services.
Parent Orientation The Parent Orientation Training which assists birth parents in understanding their rightsand responsibilities has shown much success in its graduation rate. During this assessmentperiod, all birth parents who attended the training completed all three sessions to obtain acertificate of completion. Additionally, birth parent attendance appears to have a high correlationto parent partner contact at the child planning conference. Analysis indicates that 87.5% of birthparents referred by the courts attended and graduated from parent orientation when engaged. Asa result of a social worker referrals post child planning conference, these birth parents accountfor the other 12.5% that attended and graduated without parent partner contact prior to the parentorientation sessions. Additionally, analysis revealed that Caucasian birth parents accounted for62.5% of birth parents in parent orientation when compared to only 37.5% of African Americanfamilies. Latino families and families defined as other were not represented in services rendered.Neglect cases accounted for 93% percent of the petitions filed during the assessment period.Therefore, case type does not appear to determine whether case was referred for services or not.
Chart 3:(Above) Illustrates and supports that Parent Partner engagement prior to the ParentOrientation Sessions is needed in order to get birth parents to buy in to the program.Chart 4: Illustrates the racial makeup of the parents that attended and graduated from parentorientation. The program has a graduation rate of 100% . All parents attended all three sessionsto receive their certificate of completion.Program Course Evaluations Question 1 from the end of course evaluations asked participants if they would tell othersabout this course. Participants used a rating scale of 1 through 5 from 1 being strongly disagreeto 5 being strongly agree. Out of 41 participant responses, 87.9% strongly agree to tell othersabout this course while 17.1% agree. Question 2 asked participants if the activities during thetraining help them to learn. Participant responses indicated that 82.5% strongly agree, 15% agreeand 2.5% uncertain. Additionally, the analysis identified five common themes to participant
responses to the open ended questions in the survey. Overall all responses from participantswere very positive. The following is a few comments from each theme listed below:Learning and Self direction Good information to share with social workers on my unit. Also good tools to use with parents. It opens the lines of communication between all sides of the team working to protect children I like the parent partners’ incorporation into the training. It allows all parts to see how each other plays a part in protecting children. I learned about negative core beliefs by parents, foster parents and social workers. I learned that parents can really be partners at the table. Common aspects of thoughts and feelings between foster parents, parents and social workers. The importance of dialogue between all these groups.Overcoming stagnation Parent Advocates are doing a great job. It’s good that this is a mandatory training. It’s nice to get some relief with the daily stressors of this job. It reminds us why we do what we do. We are all a part of the system as different players and the game is reunification. About the importance of family, the importance of my role, and the importance of a father. The stories of successful parent partners give energy and passion to keep working. Gaining information, learning and understanding the social worker aspect of things.Advocacy Learning how to advocate for others, and more information about self beliefs. I believe the core beliefs concerning advocacy. That we all can work together, even though we come as different people in different roles. We all need to work together for the betterment of children The work I do could be the factor in changing someones life. How to better interact with all the participants in the system.Self Empowerment Trying to be more human and put myself in someone elses shoes
Hearing from the parent partners experiences. Seeing the Maria demonstration. I did not realize how much pain one person could already be dealing with prior to dealing with CPS. I learned a lot about myself and how to help myself. Learned to be trusting of people and to communicate better. Refresher on all the aspects, biases, techniques, and tasks of how to benefit clients.New Potential Foster parents, birth parents, social workers were able to come together to see that we are all on the same side. The best was the participation of my coworkers with the parents and the foster parents. Everyone has strengths and the ability to do better. All sections in reunification have the same feelings and most cases are working for the good of the children. Love the make-up of the class with parents, foster parents and social workers (team work). Summary and Conclusion In conclusion, the program has shown a lot of potential in creating positive outcomes forfamilies with children in out of home placement. The study concludes that more families couldhave been reached with additional resources and changes to the referral process. Parent partnercontacts with birthparents at the child planning conferences were limited to the availability of astudent intern to supervise contact. Additionally, parent partners’ availability to attend childplanning conferences on a one to two day notice affected the number of child planningconferences in which they were able to attend. Without a fulltime coordinator, newly recruitedparent partners were not able to receive the nurturing and supervision needed to begin contactwith birth parents. Furthermore, the evaluation was unable to identify other contributing factorsfor the racial disparities between the numbers of African American families not receivingreferrals for services in comparison to White families. It appears Latino families wereautomatically not referred for services due to their Spanish surnames. However, the currentreferral system does not have any process to identify Latino families that can speak English.
The evaluation points to several possible steps that can be taken toward programimprovement. The program needs ongoing evaluation with improved data collection methods forcollecting complete and accurate data. The referral process must be further examined to identifybarriers preventing African American families from being referred for services. Additionally,barriers preventing parent partner contact with birth parents must be addressed to increaseopportunities for engagement with birth parents. The agency should continue to require andverify attendance in the Building a Better Future Training for Child Welfare staff. From thecomments identified from past surveys, it appears to have a positive effect on relationshipsbetween workers, birth parents, foster parents and other professionals. Further evaluation ofcurrent attitudes and perceptions of child welfare staff is needed to identify other possible factorspreventing referrals for services being made. Finally, the program was successfully in engagingall of the birth parents who attended Parent Orientation and graduated from the program. Thisfurther supports the potential of this program to improve outcomes for families with areunification case plan .
ReferencesThe Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2001). Parents Support Parents. IN ITES, winter,. 2-4.Anthony, E.K, Berrick, Cohen and Wilder. (2009). PARTNERING WITH PARENTS: Promising Approach to Improve Outcomes for Children in Foster Care. California: University of California at Berkley.Jimenez, S., & Weinstein, N. (2004). Building a Better Future. Baltimore, MD: The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Overview available from Randy Jenkins, email@example.com. Curriculum available on request from the Center on Addiction and the Family, www.coaf.orgThe Commonwealth of Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Department for Community Based Services. (2007) ; Parent Advocacy Program Evaluation.Wake County Community Needs Assessment. 2006. November 23, 2009. Available at http://www.wakegov.com/humanservices/communityhealth/communityassessment/defaul t.htmWake County Government. (2009). Fact Sheet about Foster Care. November 23, 2009. Available at http://www.wakegov.com/humanservices/about/about.htm