Better Supports for Foster Parents. Better Outcomes for Kids.

February 27, 2019

In fall 2017, in recognition of the significant shortage of foster parents in Colorado as well as a need to explore national best practices, the Child Welfare Executive Leadership Council authorized the Division of Child Welfare to form a Foster Parent Steering Committee. For one year, members of the steering committee met to discuss their shared – and differing – experiences and research promising programs in Colorado counties and in other states.

The committee finalized its report and made recommendations to the Child Welfare Executive Leadership Council at the end of 2018. Recommendations include the creation of a Foster Care Task Group to work on issues related to recruitment and retention of foster parents. The new Task Group has formed and is meeting regularly to explore the implementation of the Foster Parent Steering Committee’s additional recommendations.

The Foster Parent Steering Committee focused on the following topics and provided specific recommendations for each (please reference documents linked below for full detail):

Institutional Abuse and Neglect Investigations: Foster care and certified kinship parents are investigated under IA/N rules for incidents that are not always abuse and neglect, and at times for actions that are not actually the fault of the parent.

  • Recommendation: Foster parents should not be treated the same as institutions, which requires rule/policy updates and culture shift in how we treat foster parents who experience a complaint. 

Natural Supports: Encouraging out of home care to remain within a foster family’s support network increases and strengthens community connections for children in care.

  • Recommendation: Allow foster parents to utilize their “Natural Supports” for out of home substitute care when safe and appropriate.
  • Care outside the foster home up to 72 hours at a time; licensing agency can approve care over 72 hours.
  • Care can be arranged at the foster parent(s) discretion.
  • Natural supports may not consent to activities requiring a consent form or safety gear. Current procedures must be followed by the foster parent to obtain these permissions prior to the activity happening.  

Out of Home Substitute Care: Foster families who are not afforded breaks have increased stress which can cause placement disruptions and can ultimately be a reason that families stop fostering.

  • Recommendation: Expand the category of Substitute Care to include certifying homes geared specifically for providing short-term, temporary care of foster children as “Out of Home Substitute Care.”
  • Can provide care up to one week.
  • Are certified through a simplified process including an application, background check, and home inspection.

Assistance with Visitation Transportation: By shifting the visitation transportation responsibility to the caseworker, the visitation schedule will no longer be limited to the foster parent’s ability to meet all transportation needs and children may have more opportunities to connect with biological family.

  • Recommendation: Funding should be provided to counties to offer transportation services to foster children for visitation and that changes be made to the SS-23A contract, CW-7A contract and Volume VII Family Service Plan rules to assign the responsibility of coordinating visitation transportation to the caseworker. This will reflect a culture shift of shared responsibility between professional team members to coordinate transportation and maximize children’s opportunities for visitation.

Harmonization of Policies and Services: Constantly morphing policies and practices lead to confusion, frustration, and inconsistency for kids, foster parents and service providers focused on helping children heal and reintegrate. 

  • Recommendation: A CDHS department with statutory statewide authority relentlessly focused on consistency in policy, practice and support to foster parents is necessary.  We believe that State-level leadership is best placed to harmonize, supervise and ensure foster parent training and policy consistency across the state.  Counties add local nuance and seek out unique opportunities that enhance the impact of standard training, policy and practice in relation to how foster parents can succeed. 

Move Toward Formalizing Positive, Practices and Evidence-Based Practices

  • Recommendations:
    • Focus on building relationships. This includes relationships with(in): 1) foster family units; 2) family of origin; 3) case team members; 4) natural supports, 5) systems impacting their families (i.e. child welfare, medical, mental health, educational, judicial, etc.), 6) community organizations; 7) community members wanting to help; 8) the media; and 9) the general public.
    • Foster parent and foster youth voice needs to be actively included in an ongoing capacity at every phase and at all levels of the system that impact foster parenting.  Foster parents are recognized and engaged as essential professional partners in a child-centered foster care system, including paid participation as a stakeholder and paid salary positions in all levels of the system.
    • Attract, screen, train, support, and retain safe, nurturing, and competent foster families for the diverse needs of foster kids at the right time. 
    • Change perception, messaging, interactions, and policies to continuously work on developing a culture of competence and confidence, dispel fear, and minimize burdens on foster families, child welfare professionals, family of origin, natural supports, and other community members that desire to help. 
    • Utilize, develop, share and celebrate positive, promising, and evidence-based practices.
    • Utilize the Foster Parent Life Cycle to understand and inform policies and training with the recognition of different resources and attention are needed at different stages.

Download the complete report and recommendations.

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