Working With PRIDE

A Foster Parent's Story

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SidebarFamilies are motivated to become foster parents for many reasons. My own motivations were both personal and professional. My first experience with foster care came as a case manager for children in care, a family reunification counselor, and a foster family licensing representative. In these roles, I saw the level of trauma many children in care have experienced and the many expectations of the child welfare system. I often wondered whether it was possible to comply with agency rules and procedures while also effectively addressing the children's needs.

My decision to apply for a foster care license came when my mother, who became a foster parent during the time I worked in the foster care system, developed a serious health challenge. I become a foster parent so that I could provide a home for my foster brother, whom I had come to love, in the event my mother could no longer do so. I applied through CWLA member One Hope United, a private human service agency spanning four states that provides social services impacting more than 15,000 children and families each year. I chose this agency because I knew about its stellar reputation, confirmed by my mother's experience, for consistently fulfilling its mission of protecting children and strengthening families.

Although I had walked so many people through the process, I approached the Foster PRIDE/Adopt PRIDE Preparation and Assessment Process as a beginner. Everyone involved with foster care knows the system constantly evolves, so the learning process is continual. The Foster PRIDE/Adopt PRIDE program exceeded my expectations. Even as a person knowing policy and procedures, I took away so much more than I could have imagined.

First, the PRIDE training showed how my own upbringing could impact future placements. It helped me acknowledge and address my unresolved issues and also understand the impact of unknown experiences of the child. As a result, I was able to view situations through the child's eyes and establish clear and open communication with the child.

Second, I developed a much deeper understanding of what the PRIDE model of practice is intended to be: people working together as a team. I learned how to be a better team member by anticipating and responding to the needs of other team members and working collaboratively on behalf of the child. I learned how important the birth parent is to the child and how to respect and support that relationship. Furthermore, I learned, and my subsequent experience has proved, that the child's birth parent is invaluable as a member of the team. When I encounter difficulty with my foster son, I talk with his birth mother about it. When he sees us working together, finding a solution to a problem is much easier. His birth mother helps me understand my foster son and fills information gaps to help me be better able to meet his needs.

During my tenure as a foster parent I have encountered many challenges. Through it all, I have found the answer to the question I developed as a worker: Is foster care as designed doable? I have learned that when I, and the other members of my foster son's team, put into practice the five core competencies of the PRIDE model of practice, challenges are surmountable, the expectations of the foster care system are attainable, and the needs of my foster son are met.

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

Mary Whiting is a licensed foster parent with One Hope United, a multiservice agency that is one of the largest providers of foster care in Illinois. She is also a foster family licensing specialist for UCAN, a multiservice child welfare agency in Chicago. Both are CWLA member agencies.

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