The foster parent recruitment process involves compulsory foster parent training. It is after training that a foster parent becomes a licensed foster parent in a US state. This is an important professional credential for us at StartFosterCare.org. As social work/foster care professionals always explain at StartFosterCare meetings, there are different levels of needs of foster kids. These levels include levels of therapeutic foster care. Different levels of Foster Parenting can require different kinds of training.
Based on academic research and our experience, here is why Foster Parent training is so important:
- Successful foster parenting/ avoiding placement breakdown: Like any type of professional training the goal of foster parent training is to produce a licensed foster parent. A new Licensed Foster Parent who is successful. “Success” is that once a foster kid is placed in your care, you can provide a stable, loving, supporting home environment for the duration of the placement. Everyone wants to avoid a placement breakdown i.e. the child is moved from one foster home to another. Recall heartbreaking TV images of kids moving from one from one home to another with their meager belongings in garbage bags. See a recent meta analysis David Solomon, Larissa Niec, and Ciera Schoonover (2017).”The impact of foster parent training on parenting skills and child disruptive behavior: A meta-analysis”.Child maltreatment, 22(1), 3-13.
- Higher level of parenting skills: The foster parent training involves learning parenting skills formally. This can be very important as one comment on our Facebook page suggests that if all biological parents received the training, there would be such an improvement in parenting, that there would be no foster care needed in the first place! See an example of research on parenting skills from Oregon: Becci Akin., Yueqi Yan, Thomas McDonald, and Jungrim Moon (2017).”Changes in parenting practices during Parent Management Training Oregon model with parents of children in foster care”. Children and Youth Services Review, 76, 181-191.
- Increased foster parent satisfaction: Once a foster child is successfully parented it leads to foster parent satisfaction. Like any field of work, you know that you have done/are doing a good job and that makes you satisfied. A sense of satisfaction with your own work leads to a longer term commitment to that field of work. See research by Melanie Randle, Leonie Miller, and Sara Dolnicar (2018) that suggests that pre-placement training is key to foster parent satisfaction. “What can agencies do to increase foster carer satisfaction?”. Child & Family Social Work, 23(2), 212-221.
- Ability to handle disruptive behavior: Well trained foster parents are able to handle disruptive child behavior in their stride. Since they know about types of disruptive behavior and a set of playbook approaches to deal with those behaviors a disruptive child is not seen as a big problem. The consequent stress to the foster parent is thus minimal. As already mentioned in 1- see a recent meta analysis David Solomon, Larissa Niec, and Ciera Schoonover (2017).”The impact of foster parent training on parenting skills and child disruptive behavior: A meta-analysis”. Child maltreatment, 22(1), 3-13.
- Helps Retention of Foster Parents: Once a foster parent is trained and licensed that foster parent is very valuable to society. It turns out that that good pre-placement training followed by periodic training is very helpful in retaining foster parents. Reinforcing knowledge after the parent has experience is a powerful mechanism to keep the experienced foster parent motivated. See recent research on foster parent retention by Ryan Hanlon, June Simon, Angelique Day, Lori Vanderwill, JaeRan Kim, and Elise Dallimore (2021).”Systematic review of factors affecting foster parent retention” .Families in Society, 102(3), 285-299.
Our numerous discussions with Social Workers across the US States reveals that the initial requirements for foster parents is about 80% same across US States. We believe that our registration questions in the StartFosterCare technology platform covers most of these common themes in trying to prequalify a prospective foster parent. And you can be sure that someone who goes through the registration process for a StartFosterCare event is certainly motivated to become a foster parent.
Luckily, there is an effort to produce a common curriculum for training foster parents across the US. Funded by a grant from the Children’s Bureau of the Administration For Children and Families of the US Department of Human Services, the National Training and Development Curriculum (NTDC) website gives you a sense of the structure and content of training that foster parents go through. Do have a look at the foster parent training curriculum.
We urge both Foster Care Professionals/Social Workers and Prospective Foster Parents to take the training very seriously. If you already know what to expect with foster kids and have a clear practical playbook, it’s far more likely that you would succeed !