Collaborating with Kinship Caregivers: A Competency-based, Research to Practice Training Program for Child Welfare Workers and Their Supervisors

Purpose and Target Group 

Purpose. This 12-hour curriculum, divided into two six-hour modules, provides a model of practice for collaborating with kinship caregivers to:  (a) help achieve the outcomes of child safety, well-being, and permanency (connecting to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime) that are identified in the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA); and (b) provide meaningful support to kinship families, including use of the resources in the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act.

Target Group. This curriculum is designed for public and private direct service child welfare workers and community and faith based organizations to strengthen their collaboration skills with kinship caregivers.

Agency supervisors whose staff are trained in this curriculum must understand and support the competencies that their staff learn, as training is only as effective as the policy that directs it and the supervision that reinforces it. This program should be of value to agency staff developers who want an accessible and affordable kinship care training program. It may also be a valuable resource for faculty addressing kinship care policies, programs, and practices.

Please note: this curriculum is designed as an integral part of CWLA’s Kinship Care Traditions of Caring and Collaborating Model of Practice. It is designed to be used with CWLA’s other Kinship Care Model of Practice resource:  Traditions of Caring and Collaborating: Kinship Family Information, Support Groups, and Assessment.  Together, these two programs help relatives know how to take care of themselves and their younger family members and, in turn, child welfare professionals know how to support relatives.  The goal of course is to ensure child safety, child and family well-being, and permanency, or connecting to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime.

Research History

This curriculum is based on the findings of the following research studies:

Views of Social Workers and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren on Collaborative Interactions: conducted by C.C. Goodman from the California State University, Long Beach, School of Social Work; funded by the California Social Work Education Center (Grant 5RO1AG14977), which supports the development of empirically-based teaching materials that can reinforce and supplement competency-based child welfare practice.

Formal Kinship Care Versus Informal Care: Characteristics and Service Needs of Grandparent-Headed Households and Implications for Collaboration and Risk Prevention, conducted by C.C. Goodman, E.M. Pasztor, and M. Potts, faculty from the California State University, Long Beach, School of Social Work, funded by Social Work Education Center, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley.

The initial curriculum based upon these research findings was titled, Kinship Caregivers and Social Workers: The Challenge of Collaboration. It was presented to the CWLA National Kinship Care Advisory Committee who recommended that CWLA: (1) partner with faculty of the CSULB School of Social Work to obtain permission from CalSWEC to update and publish a revised curriculum; (2) field test the curriculum in two diverse sites to inform the updates; and (3) produce the new curriculum, based on those results. These recommendations were implemented and resulted in the publication of Collaborating with Kinship Caregivers: A Research-to-Practice, Competency-based Training Program for Child Welfare Workers and Their Supervisors, which is an integral part of CWLA’s “Traditions of Caring and Collaborating Model of Practice.”

Curriculum Overview and Materials

Overview. This training program is delivered through directions provided in the “Trainer’s Guide.” Materials or handouts for participants are organized into “Collaboration Handouts.”

Materials. The “Trainer’s Guide” is divided into four Sections. Section 1, “Introduction to the Training Program,” describes the rationale for and history of this curriculum, provides an overview of the curriculum, describes the intended target group, and gives a brief bio-sketch of the curriculum developers.

Section 2, “Conducting the Training,” details the preparation needed for implementation, and how to use the “Trainer’s Guide” and the “Collaborating Handouts.” It also provides general principles of adult learning and offers some tips on training collaboration or working with a kinship caregiver co-trainer. This section ends with a Training Preparation Checklist.

Section 3, “Training Modules,” provides the two six-hour modules that are the focus of this program.

Module I,Introducing the Collaboration Model of Practice,” is divided into four parts:

Part I provides

  • the welcome and introductions,
  • overview of the curriculum, and
  • strengths-based model of practice definitions.

Part II shares

  • an historical, legal and cultural context for kinship care
  • inherent dynamics that differentiate kinship care from other forms of out-of-home care, making it a child welfare policy choice and practice challenge
  • a program identity for kinship care
  • the perspective of a kinship caregiver’s own story to
    • have an experiential framework for the collaboration practice model;
    • model the collaboration competencies; and
    • provide participants with the opportunity to listen to a kinship caregiver’s experiences.

Part III describes the collaboration practice model, which is based on nine major issues that need collaboration, five collaboration competencies and four phases of services.  The components of the model of practice are:

  • Nine major issues that, according to research, are of concern to kinship caregivers and child welfare workers and supervisors. These issues are:
    • legal
    • financial
    • health and mental health for the child and caregivers;
    • child behavior
    • school/education
    • family relationships
    • support services for the kinship family
    • fair and equal treatment for the kinship family
    • satisfaction with services and recommendations from the kinship caregivers
  • Five collaboration competencies
    • respecting the knowledge, skills, and experiences of others
    • building trust by meeting needs
    • facilitating open communication
    • creating an atmosphere in which cultural traditions and values are respected (i.e., managing the dynamics of “demographic diversity” and “attachment versus authority”)
    • using negotiation skills
  • Four phases of services
    • engaging with the kinship family in the best interest of the children in care
    • assessing with the kinship family willingness, ability, and resources to ensure child safety, well-being, and enduring, nurturing relationships
    • supporting the kinship family based on a culturally-sensitive strengths/needs assessment
    • transitioning  the family to community supports and ending the relationship with the family

The premise is that addressing the nine issues of concern using the five competencies across the four phases of services should help achieve:

  • Five essential outcomes
    • Children are safe
    • Children’s well-being is supported
    • Children experience permanence – are connected to safe, nurturing, and enduring relationships

Part III also describes major concepts and tools to implement the Kinship Collaboration Model of Practice with children who have experienced trauma, including :

  • Significance of attachment,  “Cycle of Attachment”
  • Impact of trauma on child growth and development,  “Jigsaw Puzzle Child”
  • Separation and loss,  “Pathway through Grieving Process – Being a Loss Manager”
  • Positive parenting, “Balance of Structure and Nurture”
  • Building family support networks, “Family Group Conferencing”

Part IV provides

  • summary of the module
  • closing remarks
  • preview of Module II
  • evaluation of Module I

Module II, “Implementing the Collaboration Model of Practice,” is divided into four parts:

Part I provides

  • welcome to Module II
  • “bridge” from Module I
  • objectives and agenda review

Part II offers

  • a creative opportunity to share community resources
  • a panel tailored to the strengths and needs of participants and their service delivery system

Part III enables

  • participants to address the nine issues using the five competencies across the four phases leading to the outcomes to be achieved
  • assess individual and organizational strengths and needs in implementing the model of practice
  • build advocacy skills

Part IV includes

  • concluding remarks
  • suggestions for any next steps in training or implementation
  • training evaluation

Appendices includes

  • PowerPoint slides for the curriculum
  • Overview of studies that informed the curriculum
  • Two charts that cover “Phases of Service Delivery” and “Issues of Concern to Kinship Caregivers” with questions to be addressed
  • Journal article differentiating family foster parent and kinship caregiver preparation including ten components of effective training.

The presentation format for this curriculum includes trainer presentations, interactive large and small group discussions, small-group activities, role plays, a panel and PowerPoint slides.