Saturday, July 23, 2011

Train The Teresa

When we recertified this year, part of our home visit focused on the training we had done during the last year and how we felt about the choices that were offered. Our county does a lot of great in-service trainings on a variety of topics. This year I took Sexual Abuse training that was 12 hrs and very eye opening. Brandon took 12hrs of Shared Parenting. I also took a class called Parenting the traumatized child that was 4hrs and a legal training that was done by an adoption attorney and focused on laws regarding rights of foster and adoptive parents- that was 3hrs but I could have sat and listened to her for 12hrs. Brandon and I also attended a conference for fost/adopt parents that had workshops about Fostering Fatherhood, Vicarious Trauma, and The Road to Permanence. Our county didn't host this conference and it really wasn't worth the time- very basic, I could have read all the info in a leaflet.

When we gave the run down of all that, our homefinding caseworker suggested taking the upcoming "Train the Trainer" class to become certified to lead the MAPP training that foster parents have to take to get licenced for foster care. She said that generally the foster parent trainers have more years experience, but we have had all kinds of cases and respites in the our 2yrs and have enough experience to share. I was so excited at the idea of being able to to prepare perspective foster and adoptive parents for the journey they are about to travel!! In our county, every MAPP class has 2 caseworker trainers (who also do the homestudies) and 1 foster parent trainer teaching the class. So  I expected Train the Trainer to be mainly foster parents from our county.

When I first walked into the class, my first surprise was how many materials were involved in this training! Three 2" binders and a 1/2" binder that was FULL of information, 2 VHS tapes, 2DVD's, and a set of charts was supposed to fit in this cute tote that they gave us. The second surprise was that this was not a county training, but a state training. It also wasn't for foster parent trainers, but the agency workers as well. Out of our class of 22 people- 5 were from my county, 3 were from my agency, 4 were foster parents, and 5 had taken MAPP as a student before coming to get certified to teach. I felt a little unqualified to be sitting with caseworkers and matchers, but I also felt like I had such a different view on the material that I could be an asset to these classes. The agency workers have no idea what foster parents go through and the sacrifice they are really asking for when they approve our homestudy and send us kids. I'm so glad that our county includes foster parents as trainers in these classes.

The classes themselves were very interesting. llllllllloooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggg, but interesting. We did Tuesday through Friday 9am-4:30pm, had this week off, and go back on Monday for a full week of 9-4:30. We went through the meetings that we would be teaching, how to assess (and get prospective parents to assess) their strengths and needs, how to facilitate a group of adult learners, and the criteria that is used for "mutual selection" when "selecting in" or "out" of becoming a foster parent. I think it hysterical that we can't say screened out, or denied, or Heck No!! when someone doesn't qualify for foster care. Instead we have to get them to see their needs and help them choose to "select out" of the program. But I digress..
I love hearing people from other counties talk and discovering how different policies can be from agency to agency. Some caseworkers were talking about trying to get foster parents to do training. The lady sitting next to me said that her agency increases the foster parents' daily stipend if they go to trainings. Really?! My agency just won't recertify you if you skip your hours. There was also a homefinder from a county I had never heard of that said they have a policy to have bioparents accompany their children to the foster home upon removal. They meet the foster parents and see where the child will sleep that day. I think that is so crazy! I have never shared my address with any of our kids' parents and my agency lets me decide to even give my phone number. I have to think that all sorts of safety concerns arise from this policy, and I'm glad I don't foster there!

A part of this training was preparing self-disclosures. Stories from your life that relate to the material and make you more human and equal in the eyes of the group. Clearly, self-disclosure is something I'm pretty comfortable with as displayed all over this blog. The trainers we had when we were getting MAPP certified were so good at making their stories feel natural and unrehearsed. It is surprising to know how much thought and scripting is involved for a casual heart to heart. We were asked on our self-disclosure worksheet something that we are not comfortable sharing in the group. I'm uncomfortable sharing how far I push the envelope when it comes to sharing foster care details online. Let's keep that between us :)

So all in all, this has been a great experience for me and I'm getting a lot of good material for posts!! Once I'm certified, I will be ready to co-lead a 10 week MAPP class for Foster/ Adoptive Parents in my county.

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