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Program Evaluation

Program Evaluation

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WAKE COUNTY HUMAN SERVICES’ PARENT PARTNER PROGRAM PROMOTING POSITIVE INTERVENTIONS TO IMPROVE OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN IN

FOSTER CARE

by

Deona R. Hooper April 20, 2010 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work- MSW Intern for Wake County Human Services drhooper@email.unc.com Deona.Hooper@wakegov.com 919-212-7362

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This evaluation assesses the Parent Partner Program at Wake County Human Services. Its intended purpose is to aid the county in determining if the program has the ability increase family reunification efforts while decreasing racial disparities within the county’s foster care system. Wake County’s Parent Partner Program primary functions are to attend the child planning conferences after receiving referral for services to engage birth parents. Also, parent partners conduct Parent Orientation sessions which assist families in learning their rights and responsibilities once removal occurs. Last, parent partners assist in a four day training to promote better relationships and understanding between birth parents, foster parents, workers and other professionals. Parent Partners are required to be reunified with their children for one year and sober for two years to be accepted into the program. The agency strives to prepare parent partners for birth parent contact by providing training on a continuous basis. Parent Partners are required to receive training in the areas of domestic violence, substance abuse, legal aspects, mental health, and ethics. Additionally, they receive a $12.50 stipend for every hour worked with the Program. The program has successfully recruited 12 parent partners which meet the required minimum standards for reunification and sobriety as well as a combined average of 91% completion in all required trainings. Since implementation of the Building a Better Future Training, a total of 47 child welfare staff have completed the course to include two

the agency could provide and document additional case management services for families to support reunification efforts. 65% were identified as unknown for the reason no referral was made. With fulltime staff /social worker (s) to supervise parent partner and birth parent contact. Opportunities to Improve    Requiring the Parent Partner Program be added to the distribution list when prepetition information is submitted for court intervention will help ensure all parents are referred to the program. foster parents. Petitions identified with no referral for services. 87. Short notices of the child planning conferences prevent parent partners from attending at a higher rate. Analysis revealed that Caucasian birth parents accounted for 62. the program could improve parent partner engagement with birth parents for reunification services. Analysis of end of course training evaluations revealed that overall participants feel the training is needed to help improve relationships and collaboration between social workers. Results Summary The evaluation concluded the following from the retrospective data that was compiled and analyzed:     53.5% of birth parents who had contact with a parent partner at the child planning conference as a result of a court referral attended and graduated from parent orientation.5% for other. By engaging parents at the child and family team meeting for the purpose of completing the out of home service agreement. the program has graduated a total of 26 families from its Parent Orientation Sessions to date. Additionally. No Latino families or families defined as other have attended Parent Orientation.   .4% for Caucasian families and 11.5% of birth parents in parent orientation when compared to only 37. birth parents and other professionals.8% of African American families were not referred for program services in comparison to only 15.5% of African American families.program managers and six child welfare supervisors.

According to the latest community needs assessment conducted in 2006. Raleigh was also deemed the second most educated city according to the United States Census Bureau. in addition to being the home of Research Triangle Park along with Durham County. Additionally. it reported that Wake County public schools were ranked second for best educational school system by Expansion Management as well as North Carolina State University ranking second best valued public college by Princeton Review. Many of these accomplishments are due to Raleigh being the state’s capitol and county seat. the vision of reality for minority children displays a picture of poverty and despair unlike the vast majority of the County’s population. Every four years. Wake County’s total population ranked second behind Mecklenburg County with an estimated 755. “Disparities between whites and blacks are stark and pervasive African American children are twice as more likely to die in their first year. six times more likely to score below grade level at end of grade testing. 2006). eight times more likely to be in foster care. 2006) However. The study reported that Wake County was ranked number one as the best city to find jobs and ranked second best place for businesses by Forbes magazine. the county conducts a community needs assessment in order to develop an action plan to address the needs of its population. and six times more likely to live in poverty than white children (WCHS.” In Wake County. only three percent of White children live in poverty compared to 20 percent of Black children. four times as more likely to be suspended from school. (Wake County Human Services [WCHS]. The average median income in Wake County for a white .034 people and a projected four percent growth each year until 2010.Introduction This evaluation addresses the Parent Partner Program intervention model which aims to improve reunification outcomes for child welfare families in Wake County.

The program uses parents who have successfully reunified with their children to teach other birth parents how to navigate through the Child Protective Services’ Process. 626 for Black families. In addition to the dismal racial disparities reported for minority children in Wake County. Wake County Human Services reported on its website that there are 546 children currently in custody within their foster care system. 2006). 2006). it appears that those in foster care face even greater challenges (Wake County Human Services [WCHS]. 163 for an African American family.125 for White families compared to $17. the report stated that approximately 85% of the parents being investigated for neglect or abuse meet the criteria for substance abuse or substance dependency. As of September 30. the Agency reported 336 African American children. 449 compared to $33. 2009. 2009).family is $59. The study made the same finding in per person incomes which are $32. and 44 children were defined as other. 123 Caucasian children. In an effort to increase reunification with birth parents and decrease racial disparities. Problem Statement Wake County’s community needs assessment identified multiple challenges and barriers plaguing minority children throughout the county. the Agency responded by implementing the Parent Partner Program. The program began contact with birth parents in August 2009. Additionally. Additionally. Parent Partners have been . the Agency reported an average length of stay for children in Wake County’s custody to be approximately 18-24 months (WCHS. Of those in custody. it states there is a growing trend of minority involvement with the juvenile justice system as well as stating that minorities score 17 points lower in reading and math in comparison to Whites (WCHS. 36 Hispanic/Latino children. According to the community assessment.

and the program relies on professional referrals to obtain birth parents’ permission to contact them. Families that have received services are still in the early stages of the reunification process. Birth parent participation in the program is voluntary. Objectives of Evaluation This evaluation will seek to answer questions on how to better achieve effectiveness for the Parent Partner Program intervention. Child Welfare staff. professionals and foster families reflect program support for the Parent Partner Program in Wake County? . they conduct trainings to build relationships with community partners. Question Number 2: Does the attitudes of birth parents. In addition. The study cannot at present adequately measure any effects on reunification outcomes for families since program implementation. court personnel. Questions Question Number 1: Are Parent Partner Program referrals reflective of the number of custody petitions filed in Wake County. and foster parents. and will the ethnicity of birth parents referred be reflective of those in care? Purpose of Question: The purpose of this question is to identify areas to increase program referrals for services for overrepresented groups in foster care.engaging birth parents by attending their Child Planning Conferences and facilitating parent orientation sessions. Each question has been carefully selected to identify target areas to improve outcomes for reunification coupled with a secondary objective to identify areas to improve racial disparities within the County’s foster care system.

Results concluded that they believed the program assisted families in reunifying faster (Anthony. This study concludes that this process instills hope and motivates change. the parent partner program has been implemented statewide. The program encourages birth parents to share the experiences with parent partners who understand their plight. the study concludes that being a parent partner is a sustainability factor for them in maintaining stability. 2009). In 2007.Purpose of Question: This study will use retrospective data from end of course training evaluations to identify attitudes of participants which include birth parents and parent partners. The University of Southern California at Berkley conducted a study of the Parent Partner Program used in Contra Costa County Department of Human Services. California and Kentucky has been instrumental in implementing this model while conducting preliminary studies on its effectiveness. Literature Review The Parent Partner intervention model has not yet been accepted as an evidence based practice model. The conclusion supports that families that participated in the study had high satisfactory ratings with the services that they received. Study reports that reunification was more likely to occur at a rate of four times more when participating in the program. social workers. the program received high marks from court personnel. they conducted an evaluation which showed that parent partners served a higher percentage of families with reported neglect cases and a lower percentage . According to the study. Cohen & Wilder. foster parents and other professionals. social workers and other key informants from surveys conducted. In the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Berrick. Parents who are involved in the CPS process are often isolated and unaware of others that can identify with their experiences. Additionally. However.

The conclusion of this study supported the parent partner programs as a viable intervention model (The Commonwealth of Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Department for Community Based Services. as well as fewer exits to adoption and emancipation than children in families not receiving services from the program. had higher percentages of reunification with parents or permanent placement with a relative. it revealed that children in families assigned to parent partners were associated with a higher cumulative risk rating with a greater likelihood of placement in foster care. the study found that these children experienced fewer placement moves while in care. spent less overall time in care. . Additionally.with reported abuse when compared to families not receiving services from the program. 2007). However.

GAL. Child Welfare Long Program Director 2 MSW Interns 12 Parent Partners 2 Staff facilitators Equipment Technology Building a Better Future Training for Professionals. Community Partners and Foster Parents Professionals. Staff. Service Providers. . Community Partners and Foster Parents who protect children from being abused and neglected. workers and other professionals Improved attitudes towards birth parents and their challenges. Parents will have better knowledge of their rights and responsibilities Increased Funding for the Parent Partner Program Create an evidence based intervention model to be implemented in all 100 counties Reduce Racial Disparities within Wake County Foster Care System for African American Families Increase reunification outcomes for birth parents Engage Fathers in the CPS process with equal rights and responsibilities as birth mother Improved response by professionals in child maltreatment cases Parent Orientation Sessions for birth parents Parents who children come into care Reduce length of time a child is in foster care Child Planning Conferences with the Courts Improved behaviors and attitudes of birth parents Parents will understand how to maneuver the CPS Process Assumptions The parent partner program is effective intervention model to improve outcomes for Child Welfare staff and families who children come into care.Program: Inputs Parent Partner Program Outputs Participation Logic Model Short Outcomes Medium Increased collaboration between multidisciplinary agencies courts. External Factors Data Collected through Agency Files and Database may be incomplete or inaccurate. Improved relations between parents. Court Personnel.

professionals and community partner in better understanding challenges faced by birth parents (The Annie E. 2001). Building upon this premise. Child Planning Conference. socioeconomic background. Casey Foundation. criminal history and/or disability. In other states. birth parents. Child Planning Conferences and the Building a Better Future Training (BABF). 2. Co-facilitating the Building a Better Future Trainings for the purpose of bridging gaps between agency staff. The assumptions of this model state that a successfully reunified parent is the most valuable resource to the agency in training staff. However.Program Design The current intervention model is a modified version developed by the Annie E. professionals. to participate in the program’s Parent Orientation Sessions. Wake County Parent Partners’ primary functions include the following: 1. the original program design uses one on one monitoring for families by a parent partner that is assigned to the family at the onset of removal until reunification occurs or cease. foster families. . Casey Foundation. support and encourage other parents faced with similar circumstances. community partners and foster families while improving client/worker relationships and interagency collaboration. The Parent Partner intervention model is based on the principle that family is the foundation for all children regardless of their race. Engaging birth parents at their initial court appearance. Wake County has modified the original program model to three program components which are the Parent Orientation Sessions. parents who have successfully reunified with their children are recruited and considered to be the best persons to teach.

in addition to providing data measured with quantitative value.3. empowerment and potential. Evaluation Design This evaluation will analyze existing data collected during September 2009 to January 2010 from Agency databases. It should be noted. All Child Welfare staff is required to attend the Building a Better Future Training. they receive a $12. This evaluation will seek to identify and measure qualitative dimensions such as learning and self direction. program planning. 4. according to WCHS policy. This data may provide insight in to the perceptions and potential effectiveness of this intervention model. Parent Partners are required to receive training in the areas of domestic violence. and retrospective survey data. The program has successfully recruited 12 parent partners which meet the required minimum standards for reunification and sobriety as well as a combined average of 91% completion in all required trainings. Since the program has been conducting the training. Co-facilitating Parent Orientations sessions with staff members to assist birth parents in understanding their rights and responsibilities during the Child Protective Services’ process. Participating in monthly team meetings. this evaluation is not an evidenced base study. 5. substance abuse. and it will . legal aspects. described above. and ethics. Training and recruitment of other prospective parent and community partners. court records and notifications. a total of 47 child welfare staff have completed the three day training to include two program managers and six child welfare supervisors. mental health. Parent Partners are required to be reunified with their children for one year and sober for two years to be accepted into the program.50 stipend for every hour worked with the Program. and speaking engagements within the community. Additionally.

No interviews or surveys were conducted for the purpose of collecting additional data for analysis. Parent Partner Training Records. It should be noted that participation in the Parent Partner Program is voluntary. and a referral for the family must be received before the program can make contact. Social Work Referrals. and two cases were dismissed. Staff Training Records. Court Referrals. 64 families with petitions filed were identified during the assessment period. five Latino families and four families categorized as bi-racial or other. Sample The evaluation will examine all Child Welfare custody petitions filed in Wake County between September 2009 and January 2010. Additionally. However. This set of data was chosen because the program is still within its first year of beginning birth parent contact and reunification outcomes cannot yet be measured. Parent Partner Child Planning Conference Reports. Participant Recruitment This study does not require any individual permission by the included sample. Data Collection This study will collect data using the Agency’s Child Welfare Databases. This sample appears to be representative of the racial proportions for children in foster care. The data being analyzed has been collected from existing Agency databases and files. there is little evidence based research on this intervention and more evaluation is needed in this area. The final sample analyzed consisted of 51 families which included 28 African American families. the family was only counted once. Unfortunately. 14 Caucasian families. and past end of .be unable to establish any validity for the intervention model as an evidence based practice. Guardian Ad Litem Court Reports. when multiple petitions were filed used the same child welfare case head.

. the J number assigned to the first child will used as the case ID number. Court Referrals. Parent Partner Child Planning Conference Reports. parent partner contact. The database will include variables such as race. the case ID number will allow for future case tracking of families to identify reunification outcomes. The case ID number is assigned to each family to ensure the correct birth parent (s) is connected to the correct child (ren) in custody. and the Guardian Ad Litem Court Report for analysis. referral source type. and other agency professionals. Retrospective data from the end of course evaluations will be captured using Microsoft Excel to chart reflected attitudes towards the program. Instruments and Data Analysis This study will create a database using Microsoft Excel in order to merge information from the Agency’s Child Welfare Databases. All data is documented under the case head/parent for each individual family included in the sample. Evaluation survey answers could not be linked to a corresponding participant. Social Work Referrals. Each case head will be assigned a case ID number which will be the J number assigned to the child by the courts. case type. Also. parent orientation attendance. foster parents. These variables were included because they are regularly collected data within the program. birth parents. A five item survey tool was used to assess the participants’ training experiences which included social workers. and graduation rate to examine if any relationships exist between them. The evaluation surveys were conducted anonymously. If there is more than one child listed on the petition.course evaluations collected from program trainings.

the 51 families included in the sample were analyzed. The subscales are listed as follows: 1. the reason was categorized as unknown. 53. Self Empowerment 5. Advocacy 4. There were no circumstances were a family was referred by both the courts and a social worker. 65% was categorized unknown for the reason no referral was made. When parent partner program staff would follow up with referral sources to identify factors preventing referral. For petitions identified with no referral for services. The analysis showed that 49% of those families were referred to the Parent Partner Program as a result of either a court referral or social work referral. Learning and self-redefinition 2.5% for other.Several themes were identified from participant responses to open ended questions. The five Latino families identified were not referred for services due to the program’s inability to support non-English speaking families.8% of African American families were not referred for program services in comparison to only 15. Referral data categorized by ethnicity yielded disproportionate results in African American families receiving program referrals for services. However. Overcoming stagnation 3. New Potential Results Referral System for Parent Orientation During the assessment period between September 2009 and January 2010. . it was difficult to get responses.4% for Caucasian families and 11. If program staff were unable to obtain an answer from the referral source.

. 53. Chart 2: Illustrates that almost half of the petitions filed during the assessment period were referred for services.8 percent of the total petitions filed on African Americans during the assessment period where not referred by the courts.Chart 1: Even though the courts referred approximately the same number of African American and White families.

5% that attended and graduated without parent partner contact prior to the parent orientation sessions. . Additionally. analysis revealed that Caucasian birth parents accounted for 62. Neglect cases accounted for 93% percent of the petitions filed during the assessment period. these birth parents account for the other 12.5% of African American families.5% of birth parents in parent orientation when compared to only 37. case type does not appear to determine whether case was referred for services or not.Parent Orientation The Parent Orientation Training which assists birth parents in understanding their rights and responsibilities has shown much success in its graduation rate.5% of birth parents referred by the courts attended and graduated from parent orientation when engaged. birth parent attendance appears to have a high correlation to parent partner contact at the child planning conference. Analysis indicates that 87. Therefore. During this assessment period. Additionally. all birth parents who attended the training completed all three sessions to obtain a certificate of completion. Latino families and families defined as other were not represented in services rendered. As a result of a social worker referrals post child planning conference.

Program Course Evaluations Question 1 from the end of course evaluations asked participants if they would tell others about this course. Question 2 asked participants if the activities during the training help them to learn. All parents attended all three sessions to receive their certificate of completion. the analysis identified five common themes to participant .1% agree. Out of 41 participant responses. Chart 4: Illustrates the racial makeup of the parents that attended and graduated from parent orientation. Participant responses indicated that 82. Participants used a rating scale of 1 through 5 from 1 being strongly disagree to 5 being strongly agree.Chart 3:(Above) Illustrates and supports that Parent Partner engagement prior to the Parent Orientation Sessions is needed in order to get birth parents to buy in to the program.5% uncertain. The program has a graduation rate of 100% .9% strongly agree to tell others about this course while 17.5% strongly agree. 15% agree and 2. Additionally. 87.

responses to the open ended questions in the survey. The stories of successful parent partners give energy and passion to keep working. It reminds us why we do what we do. It’s good that this is a mandatory training. parents and social workers. How to better interact with all the participants in the system. Also good tools to use with parents. learning and understanding the social worker aspect of things. foster parents and social workers. Gaining information. We are all a part of the system as different players and the game is reunification. Overall all responses from participants were very positive. Overcoming stagnation      Parent Advocates are doing a great job. and more information about self beliefs. That we all can work together. the importance of my role. The following is a few comments from each theme listed below: Learning and Self direction      Good information to share with social workers on my unit. About the importance of family. It allows all parts to see how each other plays a part in protecting children. Advocacy      Learning how to advocate for others. The importance of dialogue between all these groups. I learned that parents can really be partners at the table. even though we come as different people in different roles. and the importance of a father. I learned about negative core beliefs by parents. Common aspects of thoughts and feelings between foster parents. Self Empowerment  Trying to be more human and put myself in someone else's shoes . I believe the core beliefs concerning advocacy. We all need to work together for the betterment of children The work I do could be the factor in changing someone's life. It opens the lines of communication between all sides of the team working to protect children I like the parent partners’ incorporation into the training. It’s nice to get some relief with the daily stressors of this job.

The study concludes that more families could have been reached with additional resources and changes to the referral process. New Potential      Foster parents. Seeing the Maria demonstration. Furthermore. the program has shown a lot of potential in creating positive outcomes for families with children in out of home placement. techniques.    Hearing from the parent partners' experiences. parent partners’ availability to attend child planning conferences on a one to two day notice affected the number of child planning conferences in which they were able to attend. newly recruited parent partners were not able to receive the nurturing and supervision needed to begin contact with birth parents. Love the make-up of the class with parents. Additionally. Refresher on all the aspects. Summary and Conclusion In conclusion. the evaluation was unable to identify other contributing factors for the racial disparities between the numbers of African American families not receiving referrals for services in comparison to White families. . It appears Latino families were automatically not referred for services due to their Spanish surnames. Without a fulltime coordinator. I did not realize how much pain one person could already be dealing with prior to dealing with CPS. I learned a lot about myself and how to help myself. foster parents and social workers (team work). Parent partner contacts with birthparents at the child planning conferences were limited to the availability of a student intern to supervise contact. the current referral system does not have any process to identify Latino families that can speak English. biases. All sections in reunification have the same feelings and most cases are working for the good of the children. and tasks of how to benefit clients. Learned to be trusting of people and to communicate better. social workers were able to come together to see that we are all on the same side. Everyone has strengths and the ability to do better. The best was the participation of my coworkers with the parents and the foster parents. However. birth parents.

Finally. Additionally. . The referral process must be further examined to identify barriers preventing African American families from being referred for services. From the comments identified from past surveys. foster parents and other professionals. birth parents. the program was successfully in engaging all of the birth parents who attended Parent Orientation and graduated from the program. The agency should continue to require and verify attendance in the Building a Better Future Training for Child Welfare staff.The evaluation points to several possible steps that can be taken toward program improvement. This further supports the potential of this program to improve outcomes for families with a reunification case plan . Further evaluation of current attitudes and perceptions of child welfare staff is needed to identify other possible factors preventing referrals for services being made. barriers preventing parent partner contact with birth parents must be addressed to increase opportunities for engagement with birth parents. The program needs ongoing evaluation with improved data collection methods for collecting complete and accurate data. it appears to have a positive effect on relationships between workers.

2009.org The Commonwealth of Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Department for Community Based Services. Casey Foundation. & Weinstein. S. Available at http://www. MD: The Annie E. Jimenez. Curriculum available on request from the Center on Addiction and the Family. November 23. Casey Foundation. 2006. www. Baltimore.com/humanservices/communityhealth/communityassessment/defaul t. (2004). Parents Support Parents. 2-4. N.K. 2009. Wake County Community Needs Assessment. Building a Better Future. Overview available from Randy Jenkins. raj_willjenkconslt@sbcglobal.com/humanservices/about/about.wakegov.. California: University of California at Berkley. (2009). IN ITES. Available at http://www. November 23.htm Wake County Government.htm .coaf. Parent Advocacy Program Evaluation.wakegov. Berrick. Cohen and Wilder. (2009). Fact Sheet about Foster Care. E. winter.net. Anthony. (2001). (2007) .References The Annie E. PARTNERING WITH PARENTS: Promising Approach to Improve Outcomes for Children in Foster Care..

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