Increasing Resource Parent Retention
Emerging Leader Fellow: Kira Silk, 2014-2015
The child welfare system in Philadelphia is currently undergoing a city-wide, multi-year transition to improve the quality of child welfare services called Improving Outcomes for Children (IOC). As part of this new model, the Department of Human Services has designated seven Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs) to deliver child welfare and other services in community-based settings. This decentralization has created new expectations and responsibilities for resource parents (foster, kinship, and pre-adoptive parents). For example, resource parents are now also expected to play a more active role on the teams of the children they foster, provide a positive parenting model for birth parents, and participate in treatment plans. At the same time, resource parents have had to come to terms with less – or perhaps a different kind of – support from their caseworkers. At a time when the city is facing a shortage of homes for the children who need placement, it is crucial to understand how to retain existing qualified resource parents.
During her fellowship at Wordsworth (one of the city’s largest CUAs), Kira conducted survey research to better understand the challenges resource parents currently face and what types of supports could best help them succeed in their roles. Based on these findings, Kira worked with a coalition of stakeholders to design and launch the Philadelphia Resource Parent Association to give these parents opportunities to network with, learn from, and support each other, as well as collectively advocate for broader systems change.
Kira’s recommended approach to effectively retaining Philadelphia resource parents involves: sustaining the Philadelphia Resource Parent Association; continuing to implement promising parent-retention initiatives, such as the Quality Parenting Initiative; and conducting more rigorous research to determine what works best to retain resource parents.