Working With PRIDE

Adapting the Integrity of the PRIDE Model of Practice to Meet Agency Strengths and Needs

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Children's Bureau of Southern California (CB) is a nonprofit leader in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect, serving children, families, and communities in Southern California since 1904. The organization remains a vital community partner in ensuring that innovative, quality services are available to more than 28,000 at-risk children and families annually. Originally incorporated as the Juvenile Improvement Association of Los Angeles County in 1910, CB's mission remains unchanged: to provide vulnerable children with the foundation necessary to become caring and productive adults by preventing child abuse and neglect; to protect, nurture, and treat abused children; enhance the potential of families and communities to meet the needs of their children; and advance the welfare of children and families through superior programs in family foster care, adoptions, child development, parent education, mental health, research, and advocacy. CB is one of the largest private adoption agencies in California. Our services are made possible through experienced staff, strong case management, supportive services in many geographic areas through our own mental health therapy program, ongoing support groups for adoptive parents, mentoring by other adoptive families and, overall, a committed group of exceptional foster and adoptive (resource) parents. One of our newest programs, Adoption Promotion and Support Services (APSS) is a contract with Los Angeles County to provide support services to foster/adoptive and kinship families at all stages of the adoption, including post-finalization.

For more than 20 years, CB has collaborated with CWLA on projects of national significance. In the late 1980s, we helped CWLA roll out the Ultimate Challenge--Foster Parenting in the 1990s training program. CB's President and CEO, Alex Morales, was a member of the 1991 National Commission on Family Foster Care convened by CWLA in collaboration with the National Foster Parent Association, and served on CWLA's 2013 National Commission on Child Welfare Best Practices. In the early 2000s, CB's Director of Foster Care and Adoptions, Lou Nieman, collaborated with CWLA's Western Office and five other CWLA member agencies on how to achieve Adoption and Safe Families Act outcomes of safety, well-being, and permanency.

CB decided to implement the PRIDE Model of Practice (M of P) for the development and support of resource families because its conceptual framework and practice tools closely matched CB's mission and goals. One of the challenges, however, was to adapt the PRIDE pre-service training structure from nine, three-hour sessions to three, seven-hour Saturday sessions to prepare families in a more intensive time frame as they explore their willingness, ability, and resources to be our partners in child protection. Therefore, we collaborated with CWLA's M of P team, Eileen Mayers Pasztor and Donna D. Petras, to identify a process that would allow that flexibility while maintaining the integrity of the PRIDE M of P.

The focus is to help prospective resource families know and understand the five major PRIDE competencies, specifically: (1) protect and nurture children; (2) meet children's developmental needs and address delays; (3) support relationships with birth families; (4) connect children to safe and nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime (permanency); and (5) work as a member of a professional team. Then, we teach them the major PRIDE M of P tools and show them how to adapt them to their care of the children who will be placed with them.

The core tools include the following: the foster and adoptive parent competencies; the mutual assessment/ selection process and outcomes; the eco-map (renamed family map); jig-saw puzzle child; cycle of attachment; pathway through grieving process and loss history worksheet; difference between discipline and punishment, and balance of structure and nurture; the importance of birth family connections, the "three sets of parents" and especially using "visits" to develop child-birth family relationships. We talk about how to partner with the county child welfare staff and the courts. Trauma is a critical discussion, as are the stages of disruption. Integrated through the Saturdays is discussion of their work with the Family Development Specialists (staff who are working with the families on their "family assessment" (formerly home study), which is necessary for certification. The last Saturday includes a panel of experienced foster and adoptive families who share their expertise and experiences.

Sensitivity to multicultural issues is a theme throughout our program, as PRIDE groups are typically quite variegated, including individuals and couples representing ethnic and sexual orientation diversity. Typically, we have one of our Family Development Specialists or another social worker from our agency participating in the training to provide additional perspectives. We also plan |to offer a fourth Saturday for families soon after children are placed. This will provide a more immediate follow-up that enhances the support of the children's social workers as well as in-service training.

In summary, CB's focus is on preparing families for concurrent planning, supporting permanency for children, either reunification with birth parents or relatives and, if that is not possible, then adoption by the foster family. Most importantly, our PRIDE families learn:

  1. Adoption is a lifetime commitment to a child, while fostering is a commitment to be meaningful to a child's lifetime; and,
  2. To be foster or adoptive parent or a child welfare worker is a privilege, not a right; for children to be protected is a right, not a privilege.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our commitment to the PRIDE Model of Practice.

Cynthia Stogel, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), is a strong advocate for children and families. She received a masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Pepperdine University and has been working in the field of child welfare for more than 20 years. Cynthia began her career as a Children's Social Worker with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), where she focused on Emergency Response and Family Maintenance and Reunification. She continued her commitment to children and families as a social worker and supervisor with several private nonprofit Foster Family Agencies, providing specialized services to infants born with prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol and their caregivers. Cynthia currently serves as the Foster Care and Adoption Coordinator for Children's Bureau, headquartered in Los Angeles and nationally recognized for its innovative services to diverse families and children. Cynthia has developed expertise in the PRIDE Model of Practice, facilitating the preservice program for prospective foster and adoptive (resource) parents, supervising the Family Development Specialists, approving the family assessments, and participating in the Children's Bureau-CWLA PRIDE Model of Practice implementation and research project.

For more than 15 years, Cathy Allan has called Children's Bureau her second family. As the Foster Care/Adoption Program Coordinator, Cathy oversees the continuous recruitment of foster and adoptive (resource) parents and their orientation to the agency. On a 24/7 and immediate basis, she responds to calls from county child protective services staff who need to match the children referred with Children's Bureau families. With this significant responsibility and considerable expertise, Cathy participates on multiple work groups collaborating with Los Angeles County child protective services and other local agencies to improve family foster care and adoption services. Cathy has had a leadership role in bringing the PRIDE Model of Practice to Children's Bureau, working with management, supervisors, family development specialists, childrens social workers, and the CWLA team to help ensure model fidelity. On most Saturdays, Cathy co-facilitates the PRIDE Model of Practice preservice training classes. Her knowledge of the children being referred and how the foster care and adoption system works is highly valued by families and colleagues alike. Children's Bureau is a nationally accredited agency headquartered in Los Angeles that has been assisting and advocating for families and children for more than 100 years.

To comment on this article, e-mail voice@cwla.org.

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