Nebraska is piloting a new program that will put into practice the idea of resource families taking a lead role in mentoring the families of children in out-of-home care and facilitating reunification efforts.
A request for applications is currently underway through June 27 to launch a pilot project where an agency would recruit resource families who would support reunification efforts and “provide wraparound services to families whose children have been removed from the home.”
This pilot project is a departure from the state’s standard expectations where the foster families have been recruited more to care for just the children while they’re in care and in some cases, become a long-term care option for the children.
“It’s a change from our typical service model,” said Matt Wallen, director of the Division of Children and Family Services. “We want to see resource families engaging the family of origin. We want the resource families to be the support mechanism.”
While some resource families in the past have chosen to be supportive of reunification efforts, this pilot project would require these specialized resource families to support and mentor families of origin so children can more quickly and safely be returned home.
They would be expected to mentor the child’s family of origin by helping them establish routines or teaching them about budgeting, safe parenting techniques and other parenting and life skills.
“The Resource Family must promote child and family well-being, enhance the protective factors through increased knowledge of parenting and child development, and build personal resilience by helping parents and/or family members overcome obstacles, promote meaningful social connections, provide concrete supports, and encourage social and emotional competence,” it states in the RFA.
The resource parents will also be provided with additional training and guidance by the awarded agency to help them navigate these special supportive relationships. While it will be up to the agency that is awarded the contract, Wallen said he recognizes the higher level of expectation for these parents and a higher reimbursement rate may be necessary to recruit and retain them.
“We’ll be asking: ‘What is the cost?’ Are the resource families willing to do it?’” Wallen said. “It’s definitely a different skill level.”
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has set aside up to $1.5 million for up to five different agencies to pilot the one-year project that will run Oct. 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020.
The RFA outlines nine different performance measures that include the resource parents making contact with the child’s family, youth staying in his or her school of origin, and achieving placement stability for youth while in care.
“If we achieve those measures it will be pretty impactful in reducing the trauma to children and families,” Wallen said. “It fits well with the philosophy and approach to Family First,” which is to prevent out-of-home placement whenever possible. By supporting families well through this pilot project, Wallen said he hopes the time in foster care is greatly reduced and the chance that a child will re-enter care at a later date will be eliminated.