Working With PRIDE

PRIDE at penny Lane Centers: Passion and Commitment

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Penny Lane Centers is a social and mental health services agency in Los Angeles County. Our mission is to foster hopes and dreams by empowering children, youth, and families to reach their highest potential. Penny Lane was founded in 1969 by Ivelise Markovits to serve a small group of teenage girls who had been victims of abuse. Markovits selected the name from the upbeat Beatles tune that celebrates the simple joys of life. Since then, Penny Lane programs and services have expanded to serve thousands of children, youth, and families through an array of services.

Penny Lane's latest achievement was receiving the All Children All Families Seal, what the Human Rights Campaign considers the gold standard of practice when serving foster and adoptive families from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community. Penny Lane also created a conference where experts share with child welfare professionals their knowledge and experience in working with GLBT youth and families.

The expansion, development, and creation of every program at Penny Lane Centers is driven by the needs of the children, families, and the surrounding community, and the belief that every child deserves a brighter future. We support our diverse communities not only by serving their individual needs but also by changing the neighborhoods. We work with local city councils, housing and health departments, community organizations, schools, and police departments to make our neighborhoods safer and friendlier places.

After many years of serving children in residential care, Penny Lane Centers started the foster family program to help these children better transition to a nurturing family environment. In 1994, we opened our foster family care program, giving families the opportunity to work together to meet children's developmental needs through the strength of family living.

I joined the program in 1995 as a social worker and recruiter/trainer. The following year, our agency began working collaboratively with Eileen Mayers Pasztor, PRIDE's original designer, to learn the PRIDE Model of Practice. In 1997, I became the agency's director of foster/adoption and family preservation. I found the PRIDE preservice program to be comprehensive, dynamic, inspirational, and in tune with Penny Lane Center's foster family program mission of helping abused children connect with safe, stable, and nurturing families. Learning and adopting PRIDE's preparation/assessment program was the beginning of building a successful foster and adoption family program. We have been able to work with prospective foster and adoptive parents on improving critical dynamics, such as motivation; responding to children's behaviors, relationships, and their personalities; and understanding their developmental needs, traumas, and lack of trust.

PRIDE helped us operationalize permanency for children by meeting their emotional, psychological, social, and educational needs. PRIDE helped us understand that foster care is not temporary care, but is in fact about establishing nurturing relationships intended to last. We want children who come to Penny Lane Family Centers to stay connected with us forever, and many do so through their foster families, mentors, social workers, or Penny Lane administrators. At Penny Lane, we are all proud of our stories and the many connections created throughout the years. This is commensurate with the PRIDE competency of connecting children to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime.

PRIDE provides effective training tools for administrators, trainers, and social workers to recruit, develop, and support prospective and experienced families. Often our prospective parents express their gratitude and recognition of the value of the precertification training (in California, private agencies certify foster and adoptive parents while the county departments of social services license their families). The training is a learning experience and an opportunity to grow, not only as parents but also as individuals. Parents learn about themselves, how to deal with their own losses and fears, and how to understand and meet the special needs of children in foster care. Through the PRIDE training program, families develop a sense of pride and professionalism as foster and adoptive parents.

We also use the Foster PRIDE Core in-service training program for experienced foster and adoptive parents. The use of the PRIDE model represents our continuous effort to recruit, develop, train, support, and retain parents working at a level of knowledge and confidence that translates into their ability to meet the needs of children, adolescents, and adults.

PRIDE offers the opportunity for numerous parallel processes. For example, our children and parents stay connected, and we stay connected with our resource families. We also maintain lasting relationships with CWLA trainers and consultants. Earlier this year, Pasztor provided an in-service training for our foster care staff on "Challenging Assumptions About Child Welfare," where we applied key PRIDE concepts to current policy. Most recently, four of our foster care staff worked with Pasztor and several foster care and adoption staff from other agencies in Los Angeles County to review training skills essential for PRIDE preservice. Our excellent staff--Monica Smith, Trisha Stewart, Charito Carrillo, and Dominique Jeffery--returned from the event reporting that it was inspiring and educational. PRIDE, as we share with our families, expects passion and commitment to improve lives by pushing all of us to be better people for the children and families we are privileged to serve.

Eileen Mayers Pasztor and Donna D. Petras are contributing editors to this column.

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