Simply said, the “management system” of Foster Parent College does everything necessary to make the website function. If you think of a stage play being performed, the actors on stage are what you see. Their “management system” is the people behind the scenes who change the sets, help with wardrobe, operate the lights, and perform other needs to make the play run smoothly.
The FPC management system is similar. You will never see it, but it is what makes the website work. The tasks it performs are broad and include the course player, which displays the courses and accompanying handouts; records management, which allows agencies to set up accounts and add trainees; data storage, for the distribution of certificates of completion and the preparation of reports; and a lot more.
When Foster Parent College was just getting started on the web in 2001, for many reasons, we decided not to use an off-the-shelf software management system. Instead, we turned to Qiao Jin, our software engineer. Qiao (whose name sounds a lot like “Chow,” in case you’re curious) took on the challenge of coding our own proprietary management system, which we commonly refer to as the “back engine.” It was a demanding job that required a lot of designing and an unbelievable amount of coding. Yet the results of this work continue to be rewarding, because it has allowed us to be innovative in our website design and the features we offer, while not relying on a third-party system.
The earliest version of the management system mainly played the course videos, provided handouts, and tracked the viewer’s progress. It was bare bones in comparison to what it is today. At the time, FPC was funded through a series of grants, and since the grants required our courses to be studied, in 2003 the next version of the management system added the ability to conduct online research studies to evaluate the courses for effectiveness. Then, as the site became available for agencies to use, we asked Qiao to add a reporting feature for agencies.
In 2006, we received a federal grant to develop the pre-service training courses and to expand the management system. This 5-year project added 10 pre-service courses to our site and helped us fund a major update to the system to provide a blended training approach for new resource parents. Qiao did the work that would normally require many programmers; he grouped courses together into clusters for use in the new blended approach and built in more recordkeeping features.
Yet more was needed as interest in the pre-service training grew. We needed to build in more flexibility. In 2015, Qiao went to work, and for almost a year he designed and programmed the website to allow agencies to build their own pre-service clusters of FPC courses, assign them to a group of parents, and evaluate the parents’ knowledge and satisfaction after taking the courses. Additionally, the assigned clusters could be replicated and assigned to new groups of parents as they began pre-service training. Today, we call this the “Series Training Program,” and I consider it to be a work of art. Qiao’s design included many very cool features that give agencies the opportunity to customize their pre-service blended training or assign current parents required in-service training.
More recently, in 2019, Qiao added to the management system the capability to provide evaluation forms for all our courses. This feature has provided us with user feedback that has been very helpful in improving our courses and the website. Since the inception of this feature, some courses have received over 18,000 evaluations.
I will end this column with a giant thank you to Qiao Jin, who recently retired from our company, for his love, dedication, and loyalty to the development of Foster Parent College. We will treasure his amazing piece of engineering and art. As our new software engineers take over, the innovations to the website are continuing.
FosterParentCollege.com Will Have a New Look in 2022
In 2022, FosterParentCollege.com will be sporting a new look. Our website last had a major upgrade in 2013, and at the time it won the Best Family Website WebAward from the Web Marketing Association. As we all know, technology and web preferences have become more sophisticated in the past 9 years, especially with mobile devices added to the mix. Our team has been wanting for some time to provide a fresh, updated website that is more mobile friendly. For the past 9 months, we have been working with a top-notch web designer to help us offer a new look that includes easy-to-use navigation and an intuitive help system. At the same time, we are working hard to keep navigation familiar for our current members.
This redesign will be released in two phases. The first phase will include a new FPC home page that will highlight important information about Foster Parent College, available courses, and details on our proven-effective training method. The home page will also host a freshly updated affiliate map, which will allow parents to easily find agencies that accept FPC online training. Also part of the first phase redesign will be an improved Personal Home page, which will allow parents to easily complete tasks all in one place.
In the second phase of this project, we will release an updated Admin Home page. Agency staff can expect a newly organized management system, along with a notification center and improved reporting system.
At this stage of development, we’d like your feedback, as a stakeholder, on how we can improve the website. What would you like to see improved? What do you like, and what do you dislike, about the current site? Let us know at FPC_staff@northwestmedia.com.
Eating & Food Issues: Coming Soon!
When children come into the child welfare system, they have their own patterns of eating- and food-related behaviors. Some of these are cultural, as both culture and socioeconomic background can impact people’s food preferences, as well as their “food-eating rules,” that is, what is considered appropriate behavior during meals. Other eating and food issues may be related to a child’s trauma experience; for example, children who have been traumatized from being hungry can become fixated on food.
Since many of the behaviors children in care might exhibit, like sneaking and hiding food, are uncommon among children in general, but more common with children in care, many resource parents are not initially prepared for how to respond. This spring Foster Parent College will release a new, updated version of our Eating Disorders course, titled Eating & Food Issues.
Developed by Dr. Rick Delaney, this course is designed to help foster, adoptive, and kinship parents understand and address children’s eating- and food-related behaviors.
Two Spanish Courses Added
The team at Foster Parent College is committed to providing our courses to as many resource parents as possible, which includes translating and dubbing many of our courses into Spanish. This winter we added two new courses in Spanish to FosterParentCollege.com:
La función de los denunciantes obligatorios de abuso de menores (translated from The Role of Mandated Child Abuse Reporters)
Description: Every 8 seconds, someone files a report of suspected child abuse. More than half of all reports come from mandated reporters, including childcare workers and resource parents. This course discusses the challenges and responsibilities mandated reporters face and provides strategies to help ensure the investigation process is not compromised.
Comportamiento intensificado expuesto (translated from Escalating Behavior Unwrapped)
Description: When children’s emotions and behaviors escalate, it can feel like the world is spiraling out of control. It doesn’t have to be that way. This course helps parents understand their child’s escalating behavior and how they can intervene before or during the event to help their child—and themselves— de-escalate.
At Foster Parent College, we are always seeking out new ways to improve our members’ experience on the website. Member comments, from both parents and agency staff, are some of the main drivers for these improvements. We are happy to announce the release of two new member-suggested features: the ability to save or print multiple certificates at a time and improving the delivery of the “Shared Account Agreement” (previously known as the “Affidavit of Completion”).
Print or Save Multiple Certificates:
From both the member profile and the personal home page, agency staff and trainees can choose to print or save one, some, or all certificates on a member’s training record. Here is a step-by-step guide on how agency staff can print/save multiple certificates from a member’s profile:
Shared Account Agreement:
We have received multiple requests to change the way shared account holders access their training certificates. Now, the “shared account agreement” is presented at the start of each course in place of certifying shared viewing after the course completion. We still leave it up to the agency whether to allow the use of shared accounts for a couple’s training.
Courses in Production at Foster Parent College
On an average day at Foster Parent College, anywhere from 7 to 10 courses are in some stage of development. Here’s what we’ve been up to.
Recently added courses
These courses were added to the website this past year:
Niños que entran en el cuidado temporal: Problemas de salud mental (Spanish translation of Children Entering Care: Mental Health Issues) launched January 2021.
Preparing Teens for Postsecondary Education launched May 2021.
Coult It Be FASD? launched September 2021.
La función de los denunciantes obligatorios de abuso de menores (Spanish translation of The Role of Mandated Child Abuse Reporters) launched December 2021.
Comportamiento intensificado expuesto (Spanish translation of Escalating Behavior Unwrapped) launched February 2022.
Courses in the production queue
These courses are in development—look for them on the website in 2022:
Eating & Food Issues
This introductory course by Dr. Rick Delaney will cover many of the eating and food issues that are common among youth in care, including hoarding food, picky eating, and obesity. This course is an updated version of the existing course, Eating Disorders, and will be available in early 2022.
Duelo y pérdida en el sistema de atención (translated from Grief & Loss in the Care System)
In foster care, grief and loss are experienced by everyone involved—the child, birth parents, and the foster family all go through stages of grief. Yet, this grief is often denied or hidden. This course is a translated and dubbed version of Grief & Loss in the Care System. Viewers will learn about the stages of natural grieving, how grief is expressed, and "complex grief." Also discussed are strategies for helping children, birth parents, and family members handle and appropriately express their feelings of grief and loss. This course will be added to the FPC website in early Spring 2022.
Engaging Youth for Change
Designed as a communication skill builder for resource parents, this course is being created with Dr. Liz Barnett, an expert on “motivational interviewing.” The course will help resource parents improve their listening skills and be deliberate with their words, in order to help teens tap into their own desires and motivations for behavior change.
Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders
This course is being created with Dr. Robert Nickel, a developmental pediatrician. It will help resource parents understand what autism spectrum disorders are, know what services are available, and be familiar with parenting strategies that will help children get the supports they need. It will replace the Children with Autism course.
Sleep Problems, 3rd Edition
“As all parents know, when your child has a sleep problem, you have a sleep problem, too,” says Dr. Rick Delaney at the beginning of our course, Sleep Problems. This popular course will undergo some changes in 2022 as we add new content to address trainees’ feedback on the course evaluations. Dr. Robert Nickel will join the team to present additional information about sleep and sleep problems from a pediatrician’s point of view.
Courses in development
Other courses currently in development will cover the topics of:
Sexual health and wellness (being scripted by Ellen Friedrichs)
Fibs, untruths, lies, and confabulations (being scripted by Dr. Rick Delaney)
The resources, abilities, and willingness needed to be a resource parent (based on an interview with Dr. Eileen Pasztor)
Supporting LGBTQ+ youth in care (in pre-scripting)
CPR and first aid for resource parents (searching for an expert/consultant to help us develop the course)
Holidays at Foster Parent College
Please note, the offices for Foster Parent College will be closed to observe Memorial Day on Monday, May 30, 2022.
Foster Parent College strives to be as responsive as possible to the needs of our members and our partner agencies: Your feedback and input are invaluable to improving the website. If you have any suggestions, please contact us!