Working With PRIDE

New Jersey's PRIDE Training Model

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New Jersey's Department of Children and Families, Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), conducted a comprehensive review of foster parent preservice training curricula in 2005. As a result, PRIDE was selected and implemented. Since that time, DYFS has licensed more than 9,000 resource family parents using this model.

In 2007, DYFS aggressively began to address its many resource family training needs. Training both resource family staff as well as resource families has become a key initiative. Some components of this initiative are:

  • Group Engagement Sessions for prospective resource families. These sessions are part of our foster and adoptive family recruitment process and are intended to provide essential information about the children who are temporarily or permanently in need of family care, the mission and processes of the department, and the roles and criteria for selecting resource families. A group engagement PowerPoint presentation, available in both English and Spanish, and a protocol for delivering these sessions, was developed and implemented. Group engagement sessions are delivered throughout the state on a monthly basis and a home engagement meeting is available to prospective families who may be unavailable for a group engagement session.

  • A Tradition of Caring preservice training for kinship families. This is an 18-hour preservice training program for relative and family friend caregivers. This training addresses the unique needs of kinship caregivers who are actively caring for their kin.

  • PRIDE Master Train-the-Trainer conducted by CWLA. This allowed DYFS to reestablish a train-the-trainer model in New Jersey and increase the pool of expert PRIDE trainers.

In New Jersey, each of the 47 local DYFS offices has a PRIDE trainer. The trainer's main role is to deliver PRIDE and A Tradition of Caring preservice training to prospective resource parents as they go through the home study process. Experienced resource families are also identified to serve as co-trainers, so that participants can learn from someone who has firsthand experience.

PRIDE and A Tradition of Caring training sessions are scheduled at least once a month in each of New Jersey's 21 counties. Local offices provide a variety of training options for families, and include day, evening, and weekend sessions. Trainers submit an annual schedule of resource family training sessions each year. These schedules are compiled and posted on the department's intranet website to allow all staff to access locations and times outside of their area to better accommodate prospective families.

Over the past year, DYFS reviewed the PRIDE curriculum to identify areas for enhancement. This review found a number of areas in which local practices were inadequately presented. As a result, video presentations were developed to standardize and enhance the curriculum in the areas of adoption, lead poisoning, health care needs of children in placement, and the state insurance policy for foster parents.

One exciting outcome of the review was the development of a PRIDE Excellence Training of Trainers. This program--taught one day each month for five months--was developed in order to enhance trainers' overall knowledge of the PRIDE curriculum, further develop their training skills, and introduce enhanced course curriculum. A key objective of this program was to sharpen trainers' presentation and assessment skills in order to support them in all aspects of their responsibilities. An emphasis on active learning techniques enhanced trainers' ability to engage resource parents in the learning process. Emphasis was also placed on enhancing trainers' ability to use observations of and interactions with resource families in the mutual assessment process. Trainers who participated in the program expressed great enthusiasm about using the skills they learned to prepare sessions for resource families. Upon completion of this course, the trainers were prepared to become mentors to newly identified trainers.

New Jersey's DYFS continues to make a commitment to meeting the needs of our families. We are working every day to ensure that we have the best trained staff and resource parents in order to provide the best services to children and families.

Colette Tobias is the Administrator in Charge of Resource Families for the Department of Children and Families. Katie Cunniffe is a Resource Family Case Practice Specialist. Dianna Black is an Assistant to Colette Tobias. Robert Ring is the Director of the Department of Children and Families Child Welfare Training Academy.

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

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