The Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) is a new approach to the foster care system. Started by the Youth Law Center in San Francisco, it has launched across Illinois. By treating all stakeholders, from biological parents to judges to youth themselves, as allies rather than adversaries, the system can be maximized to focus on child development and high quality parenting.

The Initiative requires participation from individuals involved in all aspects of the system: youth, foster parents, birth parents, case workers, courts, licensing agencies, and beyond. Together, this varied group defines barriers to success and overall goals. QPI looks different at each site; each group of stakeholders decides where their priorities lie and how to achieve their goals, using tools and best practices shared among all QPI locations. Each develops a branding statement to redefine foster care as child-centered and collaborative. The overall QPI framework provides educational resources and trainings to support recruitment and retention of foster parents, youth development, and loving home environments.

In states where QPI has been implemented, it has resulted in fewer unplanned placement changes, new trauma-informed curricula, and more successful reunifications, to name just a few outcomes. It has rebranded foster care so that the negative connotations associated with it are replaced by support for caregivers and a focus on youth.

Children’s Home + Aid  is unique because we are implementing QPI as a non-profit organization, without the direct partnership of a public agency. We began QPI in the fall of 2015 with focus groups of foster parents, staff and young people. Using what we had learned, we held a series of large group meetings, to create our brand statement. We have been fortunate to have great participation from our partners in the legal system, including the Public Defender’s office and the Guardian Ad Litem office, as well as parent and caregiver participation. Based on our large facilitated discussions, we created five task forces:

  • Foster Parent/Birth Parent Relationship
  • Foster Parent Training
  • Foster Parent Orientation
  • Better Teaming (FP, Case Manager, Licensing Representatives, etc.)
  • Electronic Communication (as a means to enhance relationships)

Since beginning QPI, staff enthusiasm for becoming leaders in providing quality parenting and co-parenting in our programs has increased. Our staff has developed and implemented strategies to improve our work with parents and caregivers, which ultimately benefits the children we serve. In addition, our parents and caregivers have enjoyed feeling like they are a part of the change process and having their voices heard. Our collaboration with the various attorneys’ offices, particularly the Public Defender’s Office, has helped to solidify our agency’s commitment to making changes that better assist parents and increase timely reunification. We are very excited about the positive impacts of our Quality Parenting Illinois efforts and we look forward to continued progress.