Working With PRIDE

The PRIDE Journey

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SidebarIn California, where there are approximately 65,000 children in foster care, the need for foster and adoptive families has never been greater. Aspiranet, one of the largest social services agencies in California, serves children, siblings, families, and the communities in which they live with 35 core programs offering specialized services through 44 satellite centers across California. Aspiranet has touched the lives of more than 10,000 families and children since its founding more than 30 years ago.

"The need for families willing and able to connect children and teens to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime has never been more acute," says Vernon Brown, CEO of Aspiranet and one of its first social workers. At Aspiranet, the PRIDE curriculum has filled this daunting task since 2006, by providing a foundation for resource families to build on when they apply to foster and adopt, as they typically think that love and good intentions are all they'll need.

As a CWLA member agency--and since California's Department of Social Services was one of the state agencies that helped develop Foster PRIDE/ Adopt PRIDE--we at Aspiranet learned about the PRIDE approach to resource family development and support. We made a commitment to teach the PRIDE curriculum as our precertification training for foster parents and to implement PRIDE as our own needs shifted. Our communities were calling for a more comprehensive framework to tackle the new challenges facing our children today. The child welfare paradigm had also shifted to emphasize the importance of lifelong connections. The PRIDE curriculum appeared to be the best match for Aspiranet and our core values of respect, integrity, courage, and hope. The content of PRIDE was the only competency-based training we found that met the needs of foster parents and adoptive parents. It incorporated the concept of permanency, along with safety and stability.

Foster PRIDE/Adopt PRIDE was first implemented in our Los Angeles offices as the county moved to certifying families for both foster care and adoption simultaneously. But Aspiranet had the forethought to begin the process of changing its current training to PRIDE statewide. Trainers and social workers at Aspiranet attended a PRIDE "Training for Trainers" in order to learn the material. We listened to and put into practice hours of presentations developed by the PRIDE team.

My own experience with PRIDE made an impact on my work. As I learned how to teach families to work more effectively with children and youth, I was able to recognize my own childhood attachments, life losses, and experiences as part of my journey in teaching families to truly make a difference in the lives the children in their care. I can remember leaving the training filled with excitement and readiness to share with families everything I learned. PRIDE's set of competencies, along with Aspiranet's core values, became the foundation of our precertification training and of myown social work practice.

I started working for Aspiranet seven years ago following graduate school. I was hired as a foster family trainer but my roles and responsibilities have adapted over the years as the needs of communities have changed. But my first love of social work practice always remains within the educational sector, and training foster and adoptive families has been the most rewarding and inspirational for me. In preparing families to be successful, the first step starts with providing them with the tools necessary to handle the challenges of fostering and adopting. Through PRIDE, families learn about roles and responsibilities of foster parenting, the matching and placement process, state and agency guidelines, and the support that can be expected from Aspiranet's professional staff. PRIDE sessions are filled with valuable information about child development, issues faced by children in foster care, working with birth families, and the need for permanent connections. PRIDE also makes the seriousness of our task fun, with activities that support adult learning.

Families have told me that they have never learned so much about themselves while gaining a true understanding of what our children need in order to thrive. They leave feeling empowered to protect and nurture children as they make one of the mostimportant commitments of their lives. Andrea Helzer MSW is a district administrator at the El Segundo, California, office of Aspiranet. She can be reached at ahelzer@aspiranet.org.

Do you have an experience using PRIDE that you'd like to share with Voice readers? Visit www.cwla.org/voice/pride.html for submission guidelines.

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

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