Traditions of Caring and Collaborating: Kinship Family Information, Support Groups, and Assessment

Purpose and Target Group 

Purpose.   This 27-hour curriculum, divided into nine three-hour meetings, provides agencies and organizations whose mission is to serve kinship families with a flexible approach to: (a) provide kinship families with essential information, (b) offer the opportunity to connect with other caregivers and share skills and experiences in a safe, supportive environment.

A special feature of this curriculum offers tools to help families and agencies collaborate to assess families’ ability, willingness, and resources to achieve essential outcomes of child safety, well-being, and permanency (connecting to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime). This collaboration may occur within the context of both group and individual meetings.

Target Group.  This curriculum is designed for everyone who is kinship caregiving, which CWLA defines as the “full-time protecting and nurturing of children by grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, older siblings, non-related extended family members, and anyone to whom children and parents ascribe a family relationship, or who ‘go for kin’.  Within this definition there are two populations of kinship families: (a) informal, where children live with grandparents or other relatives and are not in child protective service custody; and (b) formal, where children are placed in the care of a relative or non-related extended family member under the auspices of a public child welfare agency.

This program is intended for use by a wide variety of both public and private community agencies and organizations, including child welfare, faith-based, elder service, health and mental health, kinship care resource centers and navigator programs.  Schools of social work may also find the content of value.

This content is equivalent to what child welfare agencies typically provide in their programs to prepare and assess foster and adoptive (resource) parents, such as PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education), or MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting).  While it may be expeditious to combine groups of prospective resource parents and new kinship caregivers, from a role theory perspective, there is a significant difference between the acquired and volunteer role of being a resource parent, and the inherited role of being someone’s grandmother, son, aunt, daughter, or sibling.  Feelings that surface in working with groups, such as related to attachment and loss, and issues of guilt and anger, are different between these populations.  Please respect these compelling dynamics and keep your target groups of resource parents and kinship caregivers  separate.

Traditions of Caring and Collaborating recognizes and addresses the strengths, concerns, perspectives of families caring for children who are members of their families by birth, legal relationship, or by affinity, using an approach better suited to the interests and needs of kinship families.

Please note that this curriculum is designed as an integral part of CWLA’s Kinship Care Traditions of Caring and Collaborating Model of Practice. It is designed to be used with CWLA’s other Kinship Care Model of Practice resource:  Collaborating with Kinship Caregivers: A Research to Practice Training Program for Child Welfare Workers and Their Supervisors.  Together, these two programs help relatives know how to take care of themselves and their younger family members and, in turn, child welfare professionals know how to support relatives.  Similar to airplane pilots and air traffic controllers or medical personnel in an operating room, they do not train together, but they know how to communicate in the best interests of client and customer safety.  For our population:  it is child safety and, of course, child and family well-being, and permanency, or connecting to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime.

Research

This curriculum is based on the findings of the following research studies:

Views of Social Workers and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren on Collaborative Interactions: conducted by C.C. Goodman from the California State University, Long Beach, School of Social Work; funded by the California Social Work Education Center (Grant 5RO1AG14977), which supports the development of empirically-based teaching materials that can reinforce and supplement competency-based child welfare practice.

Formal Kinship Care Versus Informal Care: Characteristics and Service Needs of Grandparent-Headed Households and Implications for Collaboration and Risk Prevention, conducted by C.C. Goodman, E.M. Pasztor, and M. Potts, faculty from the California State University, Long Beach, School of Social Work, funded by Social Work Education Center, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley.

Curriculum Overview and Materials 

Overview. This information, support, and assessment program is facilitated through directions provided in the “Facilitator’s Guide.” Materials or handouts for caregivers are provided in a “Family Workbook.”

Materials. The “Facilitator’s Guide”  is a comprehensive manual that contains all the information needed to facilitate nine education/support meetings for kinship caregivers.  It is designed to be used with the Kinship Caregiver’s “Family Workbook.” The “Facilitator’s Guide” is divided into four Sections and an Appendices.

Section 1, Traditions of Caring and Collaborating: Kinship Family Information, Support Groups, and Assessment has five parts:

·      Purpose, what this model of practice is intended to achieve and provide

·      Target Group, who benefits from this program

·      Background Information, the history and rationale for this model of practice

·      Overview of Resource Materials for this model of practice program.

·       About the Curriculum Developers

Section 2, Facilitating the Meetings and Assessment is divided into five parts:

·      Agency/Organizational Commitment explains the commitment that an agency or organization must have to ensure that the program is implemented with integrity

·      Qualifications and Skills explains criteria facilitators must have to ensure an effective information, support, and assessment program

  • Invitations and Settings provides suggestions for welcoming or inviting kinship caregivers into the program
  • Instructions for Using the Materials specifies the directions for using the Facilitator’s Guide and Family Workbook
  • Training Preparation Checklist helps facilitators assess facilitation readiness 

Section 3, Facilitating Information and Support Groups contains step-by-step instructions for co-leading the nine, three-hour meetings.

  • Meeting One, Connecting with Traditions of Caring and Collaborating - The purpose of this meeting is to introduce participants to the “Traditions of Caring and Collaborating Model of Practice” and to each other. Every meeting provides participants with the opportunity to share experiences, identify needs and discuss common interests.
  • Meeting Two, Understanding Social Service Systems: Legal and Financial Issues - This meeting addresses issues related to the legal status of children and opportunities for financial support by public social services. The purpose, organization, and services of the child welfare system will be addressed.
  • Meeting Three, Family Relationships I: Supporting Healthy Child and Family Development - This meeting emphasizes the importance of parents and extended family relationships for healthy human development and the significance and role of attachment is also addressed.
  • Meeting Four, Impact of Trauma and Loss: Child Development and Behavior - This meeting discusses how children’s life experiences impact growth and development, with an emphasis on trauma, separation, grief, and loss.
  • Meeting Five, Guidance and Discipline: Child Behavior - This meeting addresses guidance and discipline challenges. Effective strategies to promote positive behavior are shared.
  • Meeting Six, Accessing and Working with Essential Resources: Health/Mental Health and School - This meeting discusses strategies to access health, mental health, and educational systems to obtain supports for children.
  • Meeting Seven, Family Relationships II: Intra-familial Connections - The importance of connecting children to safe and nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime (permanency) is addressed. Strategies to address challenges in maintaing connections are emphasized.
  • Meeting Eight, Support Services, Fair and Equal Treatment, Satisfaction and Recommendations - This session explores access to services and supports, and ways to advocacy strategies. 
  • Meeting Nine, Mutual Assessment and Decision Making - This meeting helps assess ability, resources, and willingness to achieve child safety, well-being, and permanency within the context of the “nine issues” of concern for kinship caregivers and the agencies with which they may be affiliated.

Section 4, Collaborating in the Mutual Assessment Process, is organized into three parts:

·      Objectives explains what the mutual assessment process is intended to achieve

·      Guidelines explains mutual assessment within the context of the nine information/support meetings

  • “Our Family’s Strengths and Needs”  is a work tool or diagram to help kinship families assess their ability, willingness, and resources to meet the five outcomes for  kinship care

The presentation format for this curriculum includes group discussions/sharing, facilitator presentations, interactive large and small group discussions, small-group activities, role plays, a panel and PowerPoint slides.