Working With PRIDE

Community College, Child Welfare Service Agency, and Foster/Adoptive Parents Work Together in San Diego

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The PRIDE model of practice for the development and support of resource families was introduced to San Diego County in the early 1990s, when PRIDE was in its infancy. Earlier, Eileen Mayers Pasztor--then working at CWLA--had presented PRIDE to staff from the statewide California Community College Foster and Kinship Care Education Program. In California, the community college system is legislatively endorsed to partner with child welfare service agencies and foster parents in teaching foster and adoptive families. Community college representatives from San Diego County who heard about PRIDE recognized that this approach encompassed the best practice principles needed for the effective development and support of resource families. PRIDE was a great alternative to the homegrown preservice training for foster parents that were being used at that time.

Nory Behana and Sandra Boelter, instructional specialists at Grossmont College's Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Care Education Program.

Currently, 62 community colleges have Foster and Kinship Care Education Programs serving more than 50 counties. These programs are funded through the State Chancellor's Office, which has a partnership with the California Department of Social Services. Both Sandra Boelter, a foster/adoptive parent, and I, a former social worker and current child development instructor, have worked together since 1984 in Grossmont College's Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Care Education Program. Actually, 1984 was the second time our paths crossed. In 1970, Sandra adopted her first child from San Diego County Adoptions, where I was working as a children's social worker. She came to our agency to adopt and stayed to become a foster parent. To date, Sandra has fostered more than 300 children and adopted two children. As most of us know, many of the parents who foster end up adopting a child. It works both ways, however, and several of our best trainers followed the same path Sandra did. Currently, Sandra is a PRIDE instructor and oversees scheduling for the 50 PRIDE class series we offer each year. These classes serve about 1,400 foster/adoptive parents.

To facilitate collaboration, we have a team of three trainers in each of the PRIDE classes--one from Foster Home Licensing, one from Adoptions, and a foster parent who has also adopted a child. The parent trainers are especially important because they share their own experiences working with children and birth parents and also describe available support services, including the Foster Parent Mentor Program, ongoing training, foster parent support groups, and postadoption services. The goal is real team teaching with shared responsibilities for covering content. It is a great example of the fifth PRIDE competency--working as a member of a professional team--in action. Most of the classes are held at child welfare agency buildings, but many are held at resource centers operated by local foster parent associations--another example of teamwork.

San Diego County Child Welfare Services requires resource parents to participate in the full 27-hour PRIDE class before children are placed with their families. This county requirement exceeds the minimum state requirement of 12 hours of preservice training. Many of the foster/adoptive parents recognize that preservice training is just the beginning of their development of the PRIDE five core competencies. The state minimum requirement for ongoing training is eight hours per year, but many parents exceed that amount by choosing from the hundreds of topics offered annually by our program.

During the past year, San Diego County began melding the process of becoming foster and adoptive parents. PRIDE has demonstrated flexibility and adaptability by serving seamlessly as the preservice training curriculum during this process. The theme of this programmatic change is to "nurture a child... for a little while or a lifetime." The idea behind this is to have potential resource families respond to the needs of the children in care. While the resource families' first priority is to reunify children with their birth families, there is also the side-by-side goal of being willing, able, and approved to become adoptive parents if that is what is best for the children. Throughout the years, PRIDE has proven to be a model of practice that develops and supports resource families in doing just that--what is best for the children.

Nory Behana is an instructional specialist at Grossmont College's Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Care Education Program.

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

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