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Research says Foster Parents Critical in Helping Children Heal

There are about 14,000 children in foster care in Michigan. (Pixabay)
There are about 14,000 children in foster care in Michigan. (Pixabay)
November 21, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Child welfare agencies need to focus on helping foster parents meet the needs of the children in their care, according to new research from The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

For a child, placement in foster care often is one more trauma in an already troubled life, experts say.

The paper says agencies need to develop strong relationships with foster parents that, in turn, benefit the children in foster care.

Child welfare consultant Denise Goodman says foster parents need to be seen as critical partners in helping children heal.

"Foster parents need information,” she stresses. “Foster parents need to be engaged in decision making, to be informed about what's going to be happening with the child and the case plan."

Goodman adds that agencies can work with parents on a treatment plan for the child as well as providing training and support services.

About 14,000 children are in foster care in Michigan.

The research says another key element is empowering foster parents.

Jennifer DeVivo, executive director of the child placing agency Fostering Futures in Ann Arbor, says implementing part of a 2014 federal law called the Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard can help, by allowing foster parents to make routine decisions based on their own best judgment.

"'Prudent parenting' is a newer thing that allows some leeway,” she states. “They can do those things if it's just maintaining a haircut that already exists. They can give them over the counter cough medicine if needed, prescribed by the doctor, without talking to the birth parents every time."

The Casey Foundation report also highlights the need for targeted recruiting of foster parents. Goodman says that means sharing information not only about the responsibilities of parenting, but also the rewards of working with a child in need.

"Helping them grow and heal, and then seeing their families grow and heal at the same time,” she says. “And assisting that child to return to that family safely, and in a secure and stable manner."

DeVivo adds foster parents need to know that they are valued.

"Even though the system kind of works against them a lot, I wouldn't want them to assume that the individuals in the system don't appreciate them,” she stresses. “And it can feel like that. But a lot of times our hands are tied to give them too much of a voice, and that's hard."

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI