Over the past couple of years, the number of agencies using Foster Parent College (FPC) has rapidly grown. Since many of you may not be that familiar with us, over the next several Solutions, we will feature a series of short articles about FPC, so you can get to know us better. We'll open with a brief history of how we came to be…
In the mid-1980s and during a recession, three people—a research child psychologist, a videographer, and a business developer—brought their talents together and founded Northwest Media, Inc. (NWM). The vision was to create a socially focused media company.
About the same time, the US federal government began to encourage domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and development through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program. Through the years, NWM applied for and received several SBIR grants, and this funding allowed us to focus on creating innovative media-based training for foster parents. As required for SBIR grants, we conducted evaluation research on the effectiveness of our trainings and submitted written reports on the results. These research studies helped guide the development of future training material.
Using the technology available at the time, NWM first began disseminating training on video cassette recordings. As technology advanced, we produced and evaluated curricula that were delivered on CDs, then interactive Video Discs, and DVDs. Each new technology had its unique qualities, but all were limited in some way. When technology shifted and the World Wide Web became more advanced and more accessible (around 21 years ago), we saw the potential for training that combined video, sound, and interactivity, along with a needed system for retaining training records and certificates. The staff at NWM wrote a successful SBIR grant application to study whether interactive training could be successfully done at home, via computer. This study in 2001-2002 showed the web was an effective approach to in-service training of resource parents, and FosterParentCollege.com was born.
In future issues of Solutions, we'll describe how we developed our preservice training curricula, what it takes to produce a course, the research behind FPC, and how FPC became popular.
Preparing Teens for Postsecondary Education: Now Available!
In today's world, graduating from high school is not enough. Obtaining some form of college or other postsecondary education is a key part to future well-being, including increased earnings, greater job stability, improved health, and increased civic participation. To help resource parents encourage and support teens as they prepare for training beyond high school, Foster Parent College and John Burton Advocates for Youth have partnered to produce the online course, Preparing Teens for Postsecondary Education.
This course is presented by Jessica Petrass, of John Burton Advocates for Youth, and Theresa Reed, who has years of experience training resource parents. Additionally, six former foster youth who are succeeding (or have succeeded) in postsecondary education provide insights into their challenges and successes. Together, they show how resource parents can inspire, encourage, and support youth to prepare for and succeed in college.
This course first explores the need for postsecondary education and the unique challenges that youth in care face. Next, Ms. Petrass and Ms. Reed, along with the foster care alumni, explore how resource parents can inspire and encourage youth in grades 6 through 10 to plan for a career. The course concludes by outlining the many postsecondary pathways that are available and the educational milestones resource parents should help their youth achieve.
ADA Compliance Journey, Part 2: The Many Paths up the Mountain
By Ben James
One of our goals in 2021 is to make all of Foster Parent College, including our courses, meet or exceed ADA requirements. We have progressed significantly in making our courses accessible to assistive technologies, such as screen reading software for people who experience visual impairments. As of this writing, we have completed preliminary accessibility additions to all of our stand-alone courses and are nearly finished with preliminary additions to our Advanced Parenting Workshops. Over three-quarters of our course exercises now have "focus states," which are invisible landmarks for screen reading software. We have also added "tab indexing," which allows members to use the "tab" key to navigate the course viewer and the interactives, as well as using the "enter" key to make selections. Although many of the additions are invisible, these landmarks are critical for people who use assistive technologies to access the internet.
We have continued to progress with adding closed captioning to our courses. Currently, over 75% of our stand-alone, English-language courses have closed captions. We have also begun the process of captioning our Spanish-language courses and Advanced Parenting Workshops. We hope to complete the captioning project by the end of this year. You can always check on our progress on our accessibility page.
This journey to ADA compliance would not have been possible without the incredible developers around the world dedicated to digital accessibility. We would like to recognize the amazing work of organizations such as NV Access, a recognized charity and developers of the NVDA screen reader, which has been indispensable to our efforts. You can learn more about NV Access here: https://www.nvaccess.org/
Another amazing resource for our team in finding accessibility solutions is the A11Y Project, a community-driven pursuit to make digital accessibility easier. You can learn more about the A11Y Project here: https://www.a11yproject.com/
In addition to web accessibility being a crucial ethical consideration for all websites, all users can benefit from having multiple ways to accomplish their online education goals.
To be continued in the Summer issue of Solutions…
New Tutorial Pages and Guides
We are excited to announce that we have completed updates to our tutorial pages, including new guides for both FPC member trainees and FPC agency administrators and staff. The guides provide concise, step-by-step instructions, along with visual aids and infographics to help members explore with confidence, engage, and learn more about the website. In addition to critical tasks for members, such as viewing trainings, downloading certificates, and printing handouts, the guides cover other features, such as extracurricular tools and discussion boards to enrich the member's training experience. The guides are available on their respective tutorial pages. (You must be logged in to view tutorials.)
For Member Trainees:
We encourage you to direct your parents to the Trainee Tutorials, so they can learn how to use FPC as an effective learning tool.
We have trainee guides for Unlimited, Prepaid, and Self-Registered accounts available in English. Currently, the Unlimited Guide is available in Spanish. The Spanish-language guides for the other account types are in the process of being translated.
For Agency Administrators:
Guides available on the Agency Tutorials page include help on registering members, creating subgroups, managing training units, monitoring members' training progress, and using the Series Training Program (for agencies with unlimited accounts), among many more.
Positive Parenting 3: Course to Be Retired
Keeping our courses up to date means that we need to occasionally remove some from the FosterParentCollege.com website. When it comes to parenting strategies, there have been many improvements, including a focus on practices that are trauma informed. The course, Positive Parenting 3, focuses on time-outs, removing privileges, and assigning extra chores to manage difficult behavior, instead of the more trauma-informed strategies of time-ins and rewarding positive behavior.
This spring, we will begin the process of retiring Positive Parenting 3. If you are using this course within an FPC Series, group workshop, or template, we encourage you to remove it from your training. Both Positive Parenting 1 (on using cooperation, tracking behavior, and encouragement) and Positive Parenting 2 (on setting limits and creating behavior contracts) will remain. Additionally, we would suggest the Trauma-Informed Parenting course.
Remembering Vera Fahlberg, MD
(November 12, 1934–July 25, 2020)
We would like to honor the life of Dr. Vera Fahlberg, a pioneer clinic director and author, who helped children and their families as they navigated attachment and separation, foster care, and adoption. Dr. Fahlberg graduated from the University of Indiana School of Medicine in 1959, and authored the book, A Child's Journey Through Placement, which was reprinted many times. Her work positively impacted judges, social workers, and families throughout the United States and beyond. At Northwest Media (the parent company of Foster Parent College), we produced a series of videotaped interviews with Dr. Fahlberg in the 1990s that were used to help foster families understand attachment and support children in care. It was this collaboration that set the groundwork for Foster Parent College.
For the past 6 years, FPC has been adding resources to our website for parents who prefer to learn in Spanish. Seventeen preservice courses are now available in Spanish, as well as the four CWLA PRIDE clusters (available to agencies that use the PRIDE training program).
As our courses are translated, the translating team adds new terms to our English/Spanish glossary. This glossary helps ensure that the language used in our courses is consistent with the language used in social service agencies across the United States. The glossary, which is available in the Free Resources section of our website, was built upon a glossary originally created by the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Our hope is that others in the field will also apply these common terms in their work.
If you have parents who might prefer to learn in Spanish, we encourage you to make our Spanish-language courses available to them. Below is a handy table showing the Spanish name equivalents for the English names of our 17 courses available in Spanish. (You can always find the Spanish name equivalents in our document on Course Titles & Training Units).