Each year, hundreds of Kern County children are removed from their homes and placed into foster care for their protection. 95.7% of children entering foster care for the first time are removed due to parental neglect and/or abuse (kidsdata.org, 2013). For the majority of children placed into foster care, the primary objective of their case plan is reunification with their family. Reunification requires intensive case management, family-focused treatment, and parent education. The Child Guidance Clinic’s Time-Limited Family Reunification and Parent Education programs provide the necessary services to help parents create a safe and stable home for their children to return to. As a result of programs such as these, less than 9% of Kern County Children reunified with their family in 2012 returned to foster care– a significant reduction from nearly 25% in 2000 (Kern County Network for Children, 2014).
Re-Entries into Foster Care 2000-2012
As families move toward reunification they may experience difficulties with behavior or require additional parent training. The Department of Human Services will refer these families to the Child Guidance Clinic for Visit Coaching services. Visit Coaching is a twelve-week intensive program that focuses on maximizing visitations and preparing parents and children for successful reunification. Visit Coaches help parents plan two- hour weekly visitations, develop strong parenting skills and techniques, prepare families to deal with the difficulty of separation after a visit, and prepare them for following visitations. Visit Coaching activities take place in simulated-living environments located at the Child Guidance Clinic, such as living rooms, play rooms, and an outdoor playground.
Visitations may center around an activity such as a board game, drawing family portraits, or a picnic. Visit coaches also model parenting techniques during visits such as healthy discipline techniques or giving positive praise when a child is doing well. Tiffany Delouth, a visit coach and care coordinator for the Clinic, emphasized the importance of helping parents develop healthy parenting techniques, “We build on a family’s strengths and give them tools and techniques to take with them so that when they complete Visit Coaching, they are successful and are not referred back.”
Visit Coaches work closely with parents for up to six months after completing the program. “We help parents find housing, furniture, and appliances they may need; we make rent deposits, and even transport parents as they look for housing. Anything families needs to have a safe home.” stated Delouth. Visit coaches also work closely with social workers and the court system to ensure that parents are meeting the requirements for a successful reunification.
The ultimate goal for Visit Coaching is to help parents build loving, healthy homes to raise their children in and reduce the amount of time children spend in the foster care system. Children who reunify quickly have significantly less behavioral difficulties than children who spend more than two years in foster care. By providing parents the tools necessary for success, the Visit Coaching Program is building healthy and happy families.
You can learn more about Visit Coaching, Time-Limited Family Reunification, and Parent Education services by calling (661) 322-1021.