From Miriam Webster’s Dictionary: the word training is defined as the process by which someone is taught the skills that are needed for an art, profession or job. Foster parent training and requirements vary among the fifty states and the District of Columbia.
Fifteen states require between four and nine hours of annual training. The majority of states (thirty-one) have requirements that range from ten to twenty hours per year.
Some states allow for training over a multiyear timeframe, such as Illinois’ regulation of sixteen hours over a four-year period and New Jersey’s requirement of 7 hours annually or 21 hours over a 3 year licensing cycle for Primary Providers.
The methods of training vary, as well. In some states, training occurs on a county or regional basis. There are states that have entered into collaborative agreements with social service agencies, local universities or community colleges. Across the nation, a number of states now require CPR training. Additional information on various states’ foster parent training requirements can be viewed here.
From the inception of Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS), training was a very important issue. Our founders Bernie Dondiego, Sue Dondiego and Hattie Talley worked with state officials to create the first voluntary foster parent training sessions in New Jersey. These evolved into mandatory training programs.
Changing Topics and Modalities of Resource Parent Training in NJ
At FAFS, we have a department dedicated to the training of New Jersey licensed resource parents. This responsibility is one of the most essential functions that FAFS undertakes each year. Our team consists of Gail Fiddiman, Larkesa Carr, Elizabeth Taylor, Lisa Johnson, Megan Ryan and Frank Alvarez under the direction of Fran Gervasi, FAFS’ Director of Education and Human Resources. On an annual basis, they produce a Resource Parent Catalog of Training Opportunities. This catalog is thoroughly reviewed and updated. (Eventually, this annual catalog will be distributed in electronic format. If you are a licensed resource parent in New Jersey who has not already received your 2013-2014 Resource Parent Training Catalog or cannot avail yourself of an electronic version of any training resource, please call the Information Line at 1.800.222.0047. They will be certain to mail you what you need.)
In the fast pace of societal change, the Training Department strives to keep topics and courses relevant. We have kept pace with utilization of technology in these efforts. Online Training, eLive Webinar Workshops, Home Correspondence Courses and County Workshops are all part of the FAFS information delivery system.
Currently, FAFS offers NJ resource parents over 100 free foster parent training courses. Many courses (including those listed below) are available both online and as home correspondence courses.
- Daily Health and Living (Hair Care, All About Asthma and more)
- Education (Special Education)
- Medical (Sickle Cell Anemia, Obesity and more)
- Mental Health (Stress, Dealing with Loss and Grief and more )
- Pre-teens and Teen (Gangs, Internet Safety and more)
- Resources Parent Issues and Policy Courses (Visitation, Kinship Care and more )
We sat down with Ms. Gervasi and discussed some facets of FAFS training. She shared that the department had developed a vision statement: The FAFS Training Department is a resource for foster, kinship and adoptive parents of New Jersey. The heart of our vision is to provide high quality, well researched, relevant education to assist with the everyday struggles and joys involved with raising a child in care. Furthermore, we aim to provide this education in a timely, patient manner that is accessible to any and all resource parents, regardless of technical capabilities, language barriers or busy schedules. By utilizing modern technology while still offering traditional modalities, we will provide fun, friendly and informative trainings to prepare licensed resource parents for any and all challenges they may face.
Ms. Gervasi discussed FAFS’ efforts to keep training topics varied. As children grow and mature they each have differing needs and concerns. This fact is magnified in children who have faced trauma, neglect or abuse. Therefore, FAFS makes sure that courses about the different stages of childhood are included in our catalog. Another point of emphasis is to increase the number of courses available in Spanish. At the present time, there are 16 Spanish language courses. This number should be growing over the next year.
Current and varied topics are important as well as the delivery methods of training. Individuals may learn more comfortably via one delivery method versus another. Many people now have experience with workplace or school webinar learning; hence, one of FAFS’ newest methods, Webinars, continues to grow in popularity.
The number of FAFS training topics and delivery systems are continuing to expand. FAFS is currently mailing Webinar schedule fliers to licensed resource parents in New Jersey, in addition to having each flier posted on the website. In spring 2014, all Webinar fliers will be exclusively distributed via email and be posted on the website. There are usually four new courses announced after the Resource Parent Training Catalog is published. Please remember to check www.fafsonline.org often for updates.
Another way to assure that you are aware of new courses or webinars is to share your email address with FAFS. We encourage licensed resource parents in New Jersey to send us their email address today to email@example.com. Our “going green” initiative will help us be ecologically friendly, fiscally conscientious and inform parents of the most current training information.
Communication and feedback from parents is very helpful. FAFS truly values foster parents’ comments about training. In fact, several of our current course selections came from suggestions made by resource parents. If you take one of our courses, please take a few minutes to complete the evaluation. Of course, you may send thoughts or ideas for prospective topics directly to Ms. Gervasi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Importance of Resource Parent Training
Education is traditionally regarded as one of the most important areas of development in society. Foster parents who take the time to become more educated about childhood issues, illnesses and safety should be better prepared to provide a supportive home atmosphere for the children in their care. Many of the issues covered in the content of these courses have direct, immediate application. Some could actually save a child’s life. The emotional, physical and personal lives of children in foster care are enhanced by the time spent by foster parents in this ongoing educational effort.