Fathers and Reunification

Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau, introduces two  events observed in June that he believes are closely related:

“The month of June provides two causes for celebration in the child welfare world, Father’s Day and National Reunification Month. Both allow us the opportunity to reflect on the importance of families. Both also prompt us to redouble our efforts to strengthen families and do everything we can as a system and in our communities to respect and nurture the integrity of the parent-child relationship.

Reunification Month is a time to celebrate resiliency, hard work, and the power of families to heal. It is a time to acknowledge perseverance and commit to seeking positive outcomes for families separated through foster care. Parents that achieve reunification often have overcome great odds—and too often without adequate support. Their achievement is a demonstration of parental love and its ability to propel change.”

Well said!  What follows are some of the specific ways that father involvement and reunification are linked.  Children in single parent households are at greater risk of child abuse and neglect. Research shows that when fathers are involved:

  • Children have shorter lengths of stay in foster care, fewer placement episodes, and greater stability in foster care
  • Children are more likely to be reunified
  • Reunifications are more durable

The father’s family can also play a role in reunification. NFPN’s early research on father involvement demonstrated that social workers who received training and assistance were more likely to involve the father’s family with the child and in the case plan.  Winokur et al. (2014) report that children placed with kin have more placement stability and higher rates of behavioral and emotional well-being than children placed with unrelated caregivers.

Involving the father and the father’s family needs to begin early in the intervention.  In NFPN’s research study, social workers’ efforts to involve fathers tended to taper off after six months.  In another study, the worker established either a trusting working relationship or no working relationship with the parent(s) within three weeks of the referral.

Coakley, Kelley, & Bartlett (2014) provide some steps for engaging fathers:

1.Use diligent efforts to identify, find, communicate with, and engage fathers

2. Offer fathers the same services and supports that mothers receive, and treat them equally

3.Address father-specific needs (community services, father support groups, counseling, housing and employment services, etc.)

4.Ensure a constructive worker-father relationship

During this month of June, there are many resources to choose from on both father involvement and reunification.  Here are just a few:

The Birth Parent National Network is sponsoring a Reunification webinar on June 28, featuring Mimi Laver with the American Bar Association.  You can register for the webinar at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7399725737582547459.

A parents’ handbook for reunification is available at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reunification/

A research article on father engagement and involvement can be found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4389279/

A report from the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network on state approaches to including fathers in programs and practices: http://www.frpn.org/asset/frpn-research-brief-state-approaches-including-fathers-in-programs-and-policies-dealing

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director



Putting Together an Opioid Conference

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) helped coordinate a conference on opioids on May 3. There is no more vital topic of discussion right now–here are some suggestions for putting together a conference on opioids:

  1. Collaborate with a wide variety of agencies. The opioid issue involves a broad spectrum of agencies.  Our conference collaborative included family treatment court (drug court), a state child welfare agency, a county child welfare agency, treatment providers, and national organizations.
  2. Select a keynote speaker with vast knowledge of opioids at the national, state, and local level. It’s critical for participants to have information that includes extent of use, how opioids work, the high rate of overdose and available overdose reversal measures, and best practice in treatment.
  3. Provide training on interventions. Start first with addressing differences in perception and approach of the workforce such as child welfare social workers compared to drug treatment providers. Parenting capacity is critical in addressing substance use of parents.  Therapeutic interventions (Motivational Interviewing, TF-CBT, etc.) require intensive training so provide introductory overviews.  More basic interventions that can be quickly learned and applied include Trauma Systems Therapy and Mental Health First Aid.
  4. Family treatment/drug courts are highly effective and an essential component of addressing the opioid epidemic. A drug court judge and drug court graduate are valuable and highly valued speakers at an opioid conference.
  5. Don’t overlook the informal support system. Opioid users need a lot of support from family and other informal support systems such as churches, AA, Narcotics Anonymous, etc.  At our conference the mother of a drug court graduate shared how she supported her daughter in overcoming substance use.  The mother received a standing ovation from participants.

Here are some lessons learned from the opioid conference:

  1. Participants loved the variety of presenters and topics.
  2. The one-day conference was too short for the amount of material presented so plan follow-up training.
  3. The PowerPoint presentations and supplemental materials can be put on a flash drive for easy access and additional training.
  4. On the evaluation forms, ask participants 3 things they learned and 1 way they will change practice after the conference = priceless feedback.
  5. The conference received the highest ratings by participants of any that NFPN has been involved in. There’s a big interest in opioids!

Here are additional resources:

NFPN offers a video training on substance use.  Pricing starts at $275.

NFPN has trainers (board members) with expertise in parenting capacity and skills, motivational interviewing, trauma treatment, and depression.

For all questions and more information about resources, training, and putting together an opioid conference, please contact Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director, director@nfpn.org, phone 888-498-9047.


To view “10 Things I learned at the Opioid Conference,” visit the Preserving Families Blog at https://preservingfamiliesblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/10-things-i-learned-at-the-opioid-conference/


Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

%d bloggers like this: