The School of Social Work’s Family and Children’s Resource Program (FCRP) has been awarded a contract to develop training to help strengthen kinship care in North Carolina.
The pilot project will involve six public and private agencies from across the state and is funded through a nearly $900,000 grant from the Duke Endowment, said Laura Phipps, FCRP program coordinator. The project is directed by the national nonprofit Family Focus Treatment Association, which develops, promotes and supports treatment foster care. Long-term, the association aims to enhance the therapeutic treatment skills of families caring for relative children with mental health, developmental disability and other higher level needs.
In North Carolina, about 25% of the children in foster care are currently placed in homes where kin – defined as a relative or non-relative caregiver – have agreed to care for them. Because many of these families are not legally licensed as foster parents, they do not automatically qualify for state and federal support, training or any other assistance. However, in recent years, there has been a movement to help smooth the process for these families to become legal foster parents and to provide them with greater resources to support the children in their care, many of whom have experienced neglect, abuse or other trauma.
Understanding these families’ needs and ensuring that foster care staff in public and private agencies are trained to support successful outcomes for children in kinship care are vital components of phase one of the pilot project, said Jonathan Rockoff, FRCP training specialist. Rockoff is working closely with the nonprofit Child Focus to develop the interactive content for four two-hour trainings that FCRP will launch in September. Public and private agencies that serve communities in Wake, New Hanover and Cabarrus counties have signed on to participate in the training.
“We’re working to create engaging content that is really focused on setting a baseline of here’s why kinship is beneficial,” he said. “Here’s what a good kinship-focused agency looks like. Here are some specific things they do and here’s what the research says. Our goal is to make sure that all of these agencies are speaking the same language around kinship care.”
To achieve that outcome, the training will be geared for frontline staff who work directly with families, along with their supervisors and other upper management leaders, Rockoff added.
“You’re not going to get a cultural shift for how these agencies view kinship care unless you have representatives from different levels of workers in the training,” he said.
Research has shown children in foster care who are placed in homes with relatives are more likely to have better behavioral and mental health outcomes. However, some agencies are often unaware of these success stories and as a result, may not consider kinship care a priority, Phipps said. FCRP and their partners aim to change that with the newly developed training, she said.
“There is that gap between what people know and the practice in the field,” she said. “Clearly, there are some barriers, and that’s what we hope to address – what’s holding us back from really focusing on kinship care in North Carolina as our primary focus and helping kids to achieve permanent homes and better well-being.”