Moving On

The year was 1999.  The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) was 7 years old.  The first NCFAS assessment tool was in its infancy.  NFPN’s main focus was on placement prevention of children with little mention of reunification.  Supporting father involvement was in the concept stage.  NFPN kept in touch by mailing printed newsletters.

Some of that seems like ancient history because it does reflect the passage of a substantial amount of time, closing in on 20 years.  And that’s the length of time that I have served as NFPN’s Executive Director.  Every day I still wake up happy to go to work and excited to be involved in the mission of preserving families. But 20 years is sufficient for one person to lead an organization.  Now it’s time to step aside and bring in fresh energy and ideas so I am announcing my retirement effective July 31.

It’s both challenging and rewarding to mature with an organization.  Here’s a summary of how NFPN has matured in the past 20 years:

  • Three additional variations of the NCFAS tool developed with supporting research on reliability/validity of the tools and use of the tools in every state of the U.S. and in 20 other countries
  • Nationwide surveys, assessment tool, toolkit, and other resources developed for promoting the widespread use of Intensive Family Preservation Services
  • Focus on reunification including one of the few assessment tools for reunification with additional research conducted leading to a model for intensive reunification
  • Father involvement promoted through a project demonstrating increased involvement of fathers in their children’s lives and development of curricula to train practitioners
  • A website with over 50 resources, many of them free, and two blog posts targeted to sharing cutting-edge information and best practice

Of course I haven’t been the only one working on behalf of NFPN for the past 20 years.  The Board provides oversight and shares their expertise in program development, training, and technical assistance. Ray Kirk, the NCFAS tool developer, has been involved in all further development and research of the tools, even after his retirement, reflecting an ongoing partnership and friendship with NFPN.  We have had dozens of other partners over the years who have provided their staff and resources to help advance the field.  Thousands of practitioners use NFPN’s products and materials in their work with families.  And families are the main beneficiaries and have always been the main reason for NFPN’s existence.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have served NFPN for the past two decades.  My lifelong passion is preserving families and now I will explore other ways to do that.  My successor, Michelle Reines, is gearing up for an August 1 start date.  NFPN’s board will officially introduce Michelle at a later time but, rest assured, she is an outstanding choice!

In the meantime, I will continue to be available to address your needs, requests, and questions.  I want to finish well and finish strong!

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director



The Changing Face of Foster Care

May is National Foster Care Month.  However, traditional foster care is undergoing change.

Here’s the vision of the federal Children’s Bureau:

Rather than “rescuing” children, we can—as one outstanding parent attorney explains her work to her own children—”save families.” Foster care can and should be a way to strengthen families, by building their capacities and giving them the support they need to heal and function in safe and healthy ways. It is not currently designed to operate in such ways.

At the Children’s Bureau, we believe strongly that foster care can and should be reconceptualized as a service to the entire family, as a key component in the need to create the conditions for strong and thriving families and communities where children are free from harm. Resource or foster parents can be specifically recruited and trained to be a support to families and to help create those conditions, to work alongside parents as mentors to help them realize their full potential. Foster care can be a way to form meaningful relationships and human connections, even under less-than-ideal circumstances. Foster care can be a way to wrap support around a family and promote child and parent well-being, family integrity, and parental agency (Milner and Kelly, 2019:

How do we “wrap support around a family and promote child and parent well-being, family integrity, and parental agency?”  Here’s what the research says:      The key characteristics of family-centered practices include: treating families with dignity and respect; providing individual, flexible and responsive support; sharing information so families can make informed decisions; ensuring family choice regarding intervention options; and providing the necessary resources and supports for parents to care for their children in ways that produce optimal parent and child outcomes (Trivette and Dunst, 2014:

The American Bar Association has tips for foster parents to help them support reunifying children with their parents (  Here are four goals that include practical ways of achieving them:

Respect the Birth Parents and Be Compassionate

  • Believe people can change
  • Assume that things will go well
  • Understand that the families often have different life experience than you
  • Look for ways to break down barriers

 Encourage Visitation (Parenting or Family Time) and Regular Contact

  • Advocate for increased visitation whenever safe
  • Encourage children to have phone calls with family, especially during the week and multiple times per week
  • Help children video chat with their birth parents and family members

Communicate with the Family Regularly

  • Stay in constant contact; tell them it’s ok to call any time
  • Send pictures, photos, art projects, grades, etc. with the children to visits
  • Have as many early conversations with parents as possible
  • Transport kids to visits rather than using transporters if you are able

Remember that Safe Reunification is Best for the Children

  • Family units are important; parents should have their children when at all possible
  • Agencies and foster families need to prioritize reunification over adoption when possible
  • Foster parents need to be on board with reunification from the beginning
  • As long as the family is trying, it’s always better to focus on reunification

For more information, visit the National Foster Care Month website:


Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director




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