Two innovative programs created by Children’s Home & Aid were featured at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) held in Washington, D.C. in April. This biennial conference brings together over 1,800 professionals and community residents from across the country to learn best practices in preventing abuse and neglect.
Senior Vice President of Child Welfare Services Melissa Ludington, Foster Parent Support Coordinator Ashley Akerman, and agency foster parent and Lead Foster Parent Mentor Mary Gatlin led a lively discussion on the agency’s Foster Parent Mentoring program. In 2017, Children’s Home & Aid established a statewide Foster Parent Support Specialist position to pilot the program with the intent of expanding it to all of the agency’s regions.
The initiative works with foster care case management and licensing staff to identify those placements most at risk of disrupting. Since the initiative began, Children’s Home & Aid’s foster parent mentors have provided targeted support and training to over 100 foster parents, and only one placement disrupted at the time of the first notice of intent by the foster parents.
The team presented on the components of this successful model, its implementation and outcomes to date. Mary shared how her own personal experience with her mentor strengthened her ability to parent her child and led her to become a mentor herself.
Children’s Home & Aid Program Manager Jaime Russell, along with Amy Dworsky of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, gave a presentation on the Illinois Pregnant and Parenting Youth in Care (IPPYC) Home Visiting pilot. The IPPYC pilot provides home visiting services to youth in the foster care system who are pregnant or parents, bringing together the child welfare and early childhood systems to improve outcomes for youth in care and their children. Children’s Home & Aid administers the pilot, which resulted from the Project Link federal grant.
The session included insights on the background, development and implementation of this innovative pilot. Jaime provided detail on the Healthy Families Illinois model, as well as implications of home visiting for the Family First Prevention Services Act, the federal child welfare financing reform enacted in January 2018. Dr. Dworsky shared findings from an evaluation of the pilot, conducted by Chapin Hall. Session attendees engaged in conversation on how states and communities can improve collaboration between early childhood and child welfare systems.