Family Link is a system-wide effort to promote communication and shared parenting practices between resource and birth parents for the benefit of children in the DC foster care system. This effort has been made possible thanks to a partnership between DC's Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) and FAPAC. Please read on for more information about Family Link's various initiatives and other shared parenting resources. (Note: The term resource parent is used to refer to foster, kinship, and adoptive parents.)
Please read on for more information about some of the resource and supports that FAPAC is developing in order to promote and support shared parenting through the DC child welfare system.
* The term resource parent is used to refer to foster, kinship, and adoptive parents.
Family Link's Shared Parenting Initiatives:
The following shared parenting resources and supports are now available thanks to Family Link. For more information, please email FAPAC at FamilyLink@dcfapac.org.
Flyer about Family Link
This flyer provides readers with a brief description of Family Link and a variety of initiatives that are being developed in order to improve outcomes for children by promoting and supporting shared parenting practices.
Family Link Icebreakers (45-60 Minute Meetings at CFSA)
Icebreaker meetings are opportunities for resource and birth parents to meet each other face-to-face and to connect over their mutual concern for the child's wellbeing. A trained facilitator will be present during the meeting to prompt a parent-to-parent conversation about the child's needs and the many ways in which the adults can work together to ensure that the child's needs are met. Icebreaker participants will have an opportunity to share information about the child, ask questions, and come up with a communication agreement based upon both parties' preferences.
In October 2014, Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) administrators brought Family Link Icebreakers in-house. As a result, ALL Family Link icebreakers are now scheduled, coordinated, and facilitated by select groups of CFSA staff. The icebreaker coordinators/facilitators are NOT the case-carrying social workers. Rather, the folks who coordinate and facilitate the icebreaker are people who have been specifically trained in the icebreaker model developed by FAPAC and later adopted by CFSA.
According to FAPAC's model, the role of the icebreaker coordinator/ facilitator is to promote and support shared parenting practices that benefit children in care by facilitating an initial parent-to-parent conversation between resource parents and birth parents. The focus of the icebreaker conversation is on the child(ren) in care and how the adults involved can work together to meet the needs of the child(ren). Towards the end of the icebreaker, the facilitator will prompt participants to reflect on their communication preferences and to find a mutually agreeable way for exchanging important information/updates about the child(ren) in care.
Family Link Icebreakers (for initial placements or replacements) can be requested by ANYONE on behalf of ANY family parenting children in the DC foster care system, regardless of whether the child is placed with CFSA or with one of the private agencies.
If you would like additional information about icebreakers, please make sure to reach out to the appropriate team via the email addresses below.
FAPAC's monthly support group provides a safe place for people parenting children through the DC child welfare system to talk and connect with their peers. Participants are encouraged to share how their parenting role impacts them and to discuss the rewards and challenges of partnering with their children's birth parents. Food and childcare is provided. Advance registration is required.
Presentations About Family Link (30 minutes each)
FAPAC is introducing various members of the child welfare team to Family Link through brief on-site presentations.
Trainings on Shared Parenting (3 hours each)
FAPAC will be offering a number of three hour trainings on shared parenting that are geared towards all resource parents (i.e. foster/adopt and kinship parents) who are/will be caring for children through the DC foster care system. As with all FAPAC trainings, advance registration is required and space is limited.
Customized Individual Support
FAPAC offers customized individual support for resource parents, birth parents, and child welfare professionals (within the DC foster care system) who have who have questions and/or concerns about matters related to shared parenting.
Tool Kit for Resource Parents
Family Link's Shared Parenting Tool Kits are blue duffel bags containing concrete items that resource parents can use as part of their shared parenting practice. Starting in January 2016, Health Horizons Assessment Center (at CFSA) will be distributing the bags to resource parents at the "30-day comprehensive screening." Each bag includes a "toolkit guide" that provides an introduction to Family Link and the concept of shared parenting while also offering suggestions for how to use the contents of the kit to build or strengthen a shared parenting practice.
We hope the tool kits will serve as a reminder of the many creative was that resource parents can honor the birth family in their home and help bridge the gap between families for the benefit of children in care. If you have any feedback about the tool kits, we would love to hear from you! Please email your feedback to us at FamilyLink@dcfapac.org.
The following Family Link resources and supports are in the process of being developed by FAPAC and will be rolled-out in 2015. For more information, please email FAPAC at FamilyLink@dcfapac.org.
Additional Tip Sheets
FAPAC will develop additional tip sheets about the Family Link icebreakers, share parenting in the context of foster care, and the continuum of shared parenting practices.
Videos about Shared Parenting
FAPAC will work with the foster parent and birth parent community to develop an video about shared parenting that can be used for educational purposes in both pre-service and in-service training. The video will feature both foster parents and birth parents talking about their experiences with shared parenting and speak to some of the challenges and rewards to building parenting partnerships.
In the meantime, here are some other videos on the subject...
Foster parent and trainer, Donna Foster, defines shared parenting in the context of foster care and explains how this how this practice benefits children and facilitates family reunification.
Foster parent and trainer, Donna Foster, describes how to overcome some of the common barriers foster parents experience when trying to engage in shared parenting with birth parents.
Foster parent and trainer, Donna Foster, offers advice to foster parents about how to successfully engage in shared parenting.
This video clip features foster parents speak candidly about the challenges and rewards in developing shared parenting relationships with birth families and professionals. The footage is an excerpt from a 20-minute, award winning training and recruitment video entitled Foster Parents Speak: Crossing Bridges & Fostering Change.
Jessica, a birth parent, describes the importance of having a good relationship with the foster/resource parents caring for her children during their time of separation. The children feel safe and secure, which allows Jessica to focus on completing DSS requirements so they can return to their home.
Foster care expert, Dr. John DeGarmo, speaks about the importance of reaching out to birth parents as it relates to building a positive working relationship for the benefit of the child.