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Intensive Reunification Program of Kansas Children’s Service League Kelly McCauley, LMSW Marianne Berry, PhD, ACSW
Intensive Reunification Program Tenets • Time matters(Berry, 2002). • Children in foster care are at risk of losing their connection to their biological family, and this risk increases over time(Proch & Howard, 1986). • Parent visitation is necessary(Haight, Kagle & Black, 2003). • Clients must have actual control over resources as well as an internalized perception of control(Fein & Staff, 1991). • Concrete help is most predictive of reunification (Berry, 2002).
Intensive Reunification Program Tenets (continued) • Experiential parent training increases safety (Berry, 2002). • Re-abuse rates upon reunification decrease with the amount of time service providers have spent in the biological family’s home during service provision (Berry, 2002). • Biological families are capable and willing (Wilmot, 2001). • Working with parents in groups is effective (Pine, Warsh & Maluccio, 1993).
Intensive Reunification Program Central Tenet To provide multiple opportunities for parents and their children to spend time together.
Family Criteria • Cases were new referrals • Children and parents located within 1 hour travel time from church. • Primary case plan goal must be reunification • If attending while under the influence of chemicals, parents were asked to leave. • Participation was voluntary
The Intensive Reunification Program requires intensive time and skills of foster care staff: • Modeling positive behaviors; • Providing opportunities to practice newly acquired skills; • Imparting community resource information; and • Providing frequent opportunities for participant self-evaluation.
Structure of the Meetings 36 Weeks • Twice weekly meetings for 2 hours each • 144 Total hours for parents and children together in this group setting.
Group Meetings • 1st Half Hour - Group Meal GOAL: Parents learn, from each other and staff, the importance of balanced nutrition, proper meal preparation, tips with meal planning and grocery budgeting. • 2nd Half Hour - Fun Activity between parents and their children GOAL: To provide an opportunity for sharing, communication and fun.
Group Meetings (continued) • 2nd Hour – Educational and Peer Support Groups for both Parents and Children. GOAL: To promote empowerment, knowledge and community awareness.
Meeting Content • Parent participants choose relative educational topics. • Reunification is supported. • “Love & Logic” and the “Incredible Years” curricula are included in the training. • Information is reinforced. • Community supports are incorporated.
Parent Groups Clinical Social Workers Family Support Workers Children’s Groups Case Management Social Workers Volunteers Staffing of Meetings
Weekly Visitation • Weekly 90 minute visits in the birth home between the child and the biological parents. • Support before, during and after visits to maximize their intended effectiveness.
Family Time Together 198 Hours in 9 Months, or 22 Hours per Month
Goal Setting and Mutual Tracking of Progress • Self Evaluations and Group Leader Feedback by participants • Group Log Notes • Monthly Goal and Case Plan Review • Goal attainment ratings • PowerPoint technology as visual aide • Visitation Logs
Program Staffing • Social workers carry 10 intensive reunification cases at a time. • Majority of services are at a centralized location in a group participation format. • Additional staff support • In-house clinical social worker • One contracted clinical social worker • Family support workers • Volunteers
Cost Efficiencies • Intensive model, but requires fewer staff and few staff hours due to group format in centralized location. • Caseloads are half the size of normal reintegration units, but contact hours are increased by 7 times. • Utilizes interns as co-facilitators, collaboration of civic and faith-based groups through donations.
Staff Values • The family is the preferred child-rearing unit. • Family reunification is a process, with a continuum of outcomes and goals. • Diversity in people, family styles and child-rearing methods strengthens all of us. • Families deserve respect and are our partners in the change process. • Self-awareness regarding personal experiences of separation and loss is important to healthy practice. • Competence is improved when it is measured and acknowledged.
Staff Skill Sets • The ability to engage clients and to develop trusting, collaborative relationships with parents and their children, built on mutual respect. • The ability to model, advise and mobilize client energy toward goal attainment. • The ability to assess for readiness of family reunification.
Staff Skill Sets (continued) • The ability to assist parents and their children with identifying and developing clear, measurable, effective goals. • The ability to keep clear, accurate, thorough documentation. • The ability to maintain and then terminate services effectively. • The ability to facilitate group learning processes.
Method • Pilot families (n=12) and comparison families (n=16), all with children in care. • Groups were comparable in family sizes, demographics, reunification risk factors. • Measures: • Risk factors to reunification • Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory (Bavolek) • Strengths and Stressors (Berry) • Post hoc interviews and focus groups
Reunification Process • There were 15 families enrolled in the 9-month pilot program in the first year (3 self-selected out due to the group element). • Average level of contact in pilot group was 10 contacts per month. • Families attended an average of 50 group meetings and had an average of 34 home visits. • Average level of contact in comparison group was 3 contacts per month. • Families had an average length of service of 19 months, and an average of of 53 home visits in those 19 months.
Reunification Outcomes • Seven families completed the 36-week program in the first year. • In those families who completed the pilot program, 58% were reunified. No children returned to care in subsequent 6 months. • Comparison group (n=16) had 29% reunification rate in same time period, and among those reunified, 50% were removed again, within four months of return home, on average.
Specific Outcomes • Greater success with neglect than with abuse, but time to reunification was longer for neglect. • Avg. time to reunification was 6.5 months. • Time to reunification for abuse: 5.5 months • Time to reunification for neglect: 7 months • Greatest gains were in the areas of • parental acceptance of child, • parental expectations of child, and • the condition of the physical environment of the home.
Qualitative Findings • Parents appreciated: • That group leaders were warm, honest, caring • Not feeling judged, by workers or peers • That group discussions were relevant/timely • The fellowship of peers, and learning respect for different ways of thinking/being/living, and the need to stick together through hard times • Access to the program supervisor (also a group leader) without an appointment.
Parents Said: • They: • Matured • Learned to actively parent • Learned to respect others • Learned to be less controlling • Learned to be less self-centered. • Group time and home time were equally important, for different reasons.
Caseworkers Said • Biggest benefit was increased time with children and families. • Faster route to trust • Increased cooperation • Faster progress on case goals. • Big changes in social skills of both parents and children. • Important leader skills: ability to engage, handle intense feelings in group, suspend judgment, have a variety of expertise areas.
Critical to Success • Transportation is critical. Twice per week. • Unstructured time with children, parents. • Very important that everyone understands the reason for the child’s removal. • Ability of the group leader to bend with the pressing issues of the group, as well as folding in important lessons or topics. • Group leaders must be able to withstand large amounts of anger from parents; respond with patience, flexibility, respect.
Intensive Reunification Program Presented by Kelly McCauley, MSW and Marianne Berry, PhD,ACSW Special thanks to: The staff and families of the Intensive Reunification Program; Colleen Hamilton for data entry and management; Tracie Lansing for assistance with program evaluation; and the First Methodist Church of Topeka.