Summer 2021 Newsletter
Foster Parent College Solutions Newsletter

Getting to Know Us: Innovative Blended Pre-Service Training

By Lee White, President

Foster Parent College began building online training in the early days when the web was young and slow. From the beginning, our intent was to take full advantage of what the web offered: video, audio, and still images; print; interactivity; and record keeping. All these qualities made for a unique, individualized learning environment that wasn't previously available.

Around the time that the web became fast enough to handle short video clips, one of our early agency partners, the Institute for Human Services of Ohio, did a study of our online training and found it effective for their parents. This well-respected and innovative group had developed an in-person pre-service training program that was being used by several states. After their study found FPC's online courses effective and popular with parents, they approached us with the idea that we make a course for each of their 10 in-person meetings to help parents continue in training. IHS was trying to solve a big problem: Parents who missed any pre-service meeting had to drop out of the 30-hour training process and start over again at the beginning. Their idea was that, if a parent missed an in-person meeting, they could take it online at FPC and not disrupt their training cycle. We thought this was a great idea and wrote a grant application proposing the immense project of building and studying each of the 10 courses. The project was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

In Phase I of the grant, which was funded in 2007, we were first required to do a pilot project—developing the first course, on child abuse and neglect, and then studying its effectiveness. We worked with IHS to build the course, and an evaluation study was conducted with prospective foster parents in Utah and Wisconsin. In the study, all participants took the first two sessions of the IHS in-person pre-service training. When the third meeting, on child abuse and neglect, was about to happen, the sample was randomly split into two groups, with one group viewing FPC's online version of the course and the other group attending the in-person version. All participants were given pre-post knowledge tests, along with satisfaction questionnaires. The study results showed a significantly greater gain in knowledge by the online group, as well as greater satisfaction with the training. After this successful pilot project, Phase II of the grant for the development of the remaining online courses was funded by NICHD in 2009.

As each pre-service course was developed, we worked to improve the training approach and designed unique interactive techniques. After the first two courses were developed, an evaluation study was conducted, and results for both courses (Parent-Child Attachment and The Child Welfare Team) showed that parents in the group that viewed the online courses made significantly greater gains in knowledge and awareness of the topics than parents in the control group, who did not view the courses. Similar results were obtained in a study of the next two courses, Child Development and Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused. Satisfaction with all four courses was very high among parents who viewed them. The entire grant project took well over 5 years to complete. About halfway through the project, we realized we were actually building an online pre-service training curriculum.

There are several benefits to using online training, including fidelity of the training and the ability for parents to complete their training when convenient (and without traveling or paying for childcare), yet online training doesn't provide the interpersonal atmosphere, local agency/staff information, or opportunity for mutual assessment by potential resource parents and agency staff that in-person training provides. Recognizing this is what led to the idea of blended online and in-person training, which was uncommon at the time. Rather than continuing to conduct pre-post studies of individual courses, we requested and received approval from NICHD to revise the study design, so that we could compare the effectiveness of the complete Blended Pre-Service Training Curriculum we had developed with the effectiveness of a traditional classroom-only approach.

The challenge of conducting this new study was to find a partner that would be willing and able to conduct it with us. Here is where the state of Oregon stepped up. Its Department of Human Services, which was using a modified version of the IHS in-person training, worked with us to design and carry out the study. The sample included 111 prospective resource parents who, after volunteering to participate, were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group attended 10 in-person class meetings, and the other viewed the online classes we had built, blended with four in-person meetings. The results were a surprise, even to us. Yes, for both groups there were significant knowledge gains, with the blended training group showing significantly greater gains at posttest, and both groups maintaining their knowledge gains at the 3-month follow-up assessment. The surprise was the dropout rate during the training of those doing the in-person meetings compared to the blended training. Significantly more participants in the in-person training group dropped out prior to completing the training (56%), compared to only 21% in the blended group. The results of this study appeared in a peer reviewed journal article, titled Efficacy of Blended Preservice Training for Resource Parents, and the blended training was subsequently recognized by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC).

After these successful results, we partnered with the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) to adapt their PRIDE curriculum into a blended training using five in-person meetings. Today, this blended training—New Generation PRIDE—is being used by many states and agencies. During the COVID pandemic, some states and agencies have replaced the five in-person meetings with online meetings using programs like Zoom.

In the next Solutions newsletter, I will describe how we developed our proprietary management system that allows agencies to enroll parents in courses, build out a cluster of training courses, and track parent training progress.

New Look Coming to!

Early concept for new Foster Parent College website.
Early concept for new
Foster Parent College website.

We are excited to announce that a new look will be coming to in Spring 2022! As we continue to innovate the way we create and produce our online trainings, we also understand there is a need to keep our website fresh and updated. With this redesign, website visitors can expect a new, modern look with an easy-to-use navigation and help system. Our goal is to have the website completely user-friendly, while keeping things familiar for our current members.

The website redesign will be released in two phases. As part of the first phase, the public website will display a new homepage that highlights important details about Foster Parent College, including our mission, courses available, and details on our proven-effective training method. The homepage will also host a freshly updated affiliate map, which will allow parents to easily find agencies that accept FPC online training. In addition, we will be rolling out a new and improved Personal Home page, which will allow parents to easily complete tasks all in one place. The Personal Home will include a new dashboard displaying all the important training details that parents can monitor and find easily.

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.

We would like to thank our amazing staff who are putting their time and energy into this redesign. We look forward to releasing the new platform for you all soon!

Seeking Expert on CPR/First Aid

Foster Parent College is beginning the process of developing a renewal or refresher course on CPR and First Aid designed specifically for resource parents. The course will include emergency scenarios that are geared toward parents caring for children who have experienced trauma or are emotionally or medically vulnerable.

We are seeking an expert on CPR and First Aid for youth in care (infants, toddlers, school age, and teens) to help us develop this course. Medical professional or first responder is preferred. Current Red Cross or AHA First Aid/CPR trainer certification is required. All experts who work on courses at Foster Parent College are paid a stipend for their work. If you are interested, or would like to recommend someone, please contact us.

Administrator's Tool Box: Creative Ways to Use FPC's Series Training Program

For this Administrator's Tool Box, we highlight some of the innovative ways that our partner agencies use FPC's Series Training Program to fit their specific training needs. We offer three examples used in real agencies from across the country: a large state agency needing to roll out a new kinship care curriculum, a county agency with new annual requirements, and a busy city agency needing to organize their online meetings to align with FPC's pre-service curriculum.

Creating a Custom Curriculum Using the Series Training Program

First, we travel to the western United States, where we highlight a state agency that tailored FPC's series training program to their kinship parent group. At the beginning of this fiscal year, the state's Department of Social Services issued a new directive regarding kinship care requirements. Social workers at the state and county levels had to quickly set up a brand new, custom curriculum for their kinship caregivers. With the assistance of FPC's support staff, agency administrators identified FPC courses to include in a custom series that was tailored specifically for their kinship care groups. The agency also included links to state-specific kinship training websites and provided agency handouts to their parents using the FPC handout management system. Finally, to ensure communication with their trainees was clear throughout this significant transition, the agency used the custom welcome message tool and the cluster introduction and conclusion messages to guide parents through the series.

Managing the Pace of eLearning

Now we head to the Midwest, where a county agency needed to create a training schedule for the entire fiscal year to align with new annual requirements. The agency wanted to ensure that their licensed, in-service parent groups would have access only to specific courses and could not self-enroll in FPC courses. With the assistance of FPC support staff, the agency blocked access to all of the courses in their in-service training group and used the FPC Series training program to create a custom template with one course per cluster. The agency also wanted to manage the pace of learning, so they set the series to "manual" progression. This feature allows the agency to assign the next cluster to parents depending on the agency's schedule and the time-sensitive training requirements of that region. The series was less overwhelming for parents as well, because the courses were delivered one at a time and at a measured pace.

Using Series to Organize Online Parent Meetings

Finally, let's check in with a bustling city agency on the East Coast that was having difficulty keeping all of the online parent meetings and the related series training groups organized. At the start of the pandemic, many agencies began using online parent meetings to substitute for in-person meetings and enrich their blended pre-service training. At this agency, adding virtual meetings and extracurricular materials led to confusion among parent groups and social workers alike. With FPC's Series Training Program, the city agency was able to get all of their staff and trainees back on track by creating a unique series instance for each agency trainer. With the online meeting scheduling tool in the series "Review & Options" tab, social workers could set meeting times and include links to their online meeting platforms, so the parents could reach all of their training materials through Foster Parent College.

Do you have a unique or creative way that you use Foster Parent College's Series Training Program? If so, we would love to hear your story! As always, for any assistance with building series, please contact FPC Support.

Could It Be FASD?: Now Available

"Great presentation. I have a better understanding as to why my adoptive son behaves the way he behaves." – foster parent

Could It Be FASD? cover image.Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is a medical condition that often looks like a mental health condition. When faced with a child's behavior problems, many professionals do not consider the possibility of a brain-based, biological cause. Additionally, for children in care, it is often unknown whether they were prenatally exposed to alcohol. Consequently, children in care and their resource parents often do not get the assistance and support they need.

To help resource parents understand the impact of FASD on the children in their care and identify ways to provide support, Foster Parent College released Could It Be FASD? in late September.

Could It Be FASD? challenges viewers to look beyond a child's behavior and consider whether the cause might be FASD. The course features Kathryn Page, PhD, an adoptive parent of a child with FASD and former director of an FASD diagnostic clinic, and Robert Nickel, MD, a developmental pediatrician.

Learn more and watch a preview here:

New Courses for 2022

The scripting and production teams at Foster Parent College are currently creating courses on a variety of topics. Look for these courses on the Foster Parent College website in 2022:

  • Eating & Food Issues screen capture.Eating and 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 designed to replace our course, Eating Disorders, and will be available in early 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. The script for this course has just been finalized.

  • Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders
    This course is being created with Dr. Robert Nickel, a developmental pediatrician, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, an international lecturer and specialist on autism, an autistic woman herself, and adoptive mother of a child with autism. 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 in 2022.

Other courses in development include 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 (being scripted by Vida Khavar); and CPR/First Aid for Resource Parents (in pre-scripting).

Additionally, three new Spanish-language courses will also be added in early 2022. These courses are translated and dubbed versions of selected English-language courses.

  • La función de los denunciantes obligatorios de abuso de menores   (translated from The Role of Mandated Child Abuse Reporters)
  • Comportamiento intensificado expuesto   (translated from Escalating Behavior Unwrapped)
  • Duelo y pérdida en el sistema de atención   (translated from Grief & Loss in the Care System)

Holidays at Foster Parent College

Please note, the offices for Foster Parent College will be closed the following days:

  • Thanksgiving    Thursday, November 25
  • Christmas Eve    Friday, December 24
  • New Year's Eve    Friday, December 31
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day    Monday, January 17

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Solutions for Agency Staff is a quarterly newsletter produced by with the goal of sharing recent updates with our users.

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