Together Facing the Challenge
In North Carolina, more than 11,000 children are in foster care. In South Carolina, the total is 4,200.
With numbers reaching critical levels, both states have an urgent need for qualified and caring foster and adoptive parents. Child welfare agencies are working hard to recruit and retain those parents; The Duke Endowment is supporting their efforts by helping them offer effective training and coaching programs.
One program, housed at Duke University School of Medicine, is called Together Facing the Challenge, an evidence-informed therapeutic foster care training model designed to support child welfare agencies.
In child welfare, a distinction is made nationally between “therapeutic” and “traditional” foster care based on the complexity of the child’s needs. But the complexity of needs in “traditional” foster care is growing, and experts believe that foster parents who serve those children can benefit from the same training in trauma-informed care.
“The same training and coaching techniques are applicable, and we’re starting to work with agencies that offer traditional care,” says Maureen Murray, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine who leads Together Facing the Challenge.
Together Facing the Challenge was developed from data about what was working in existing foster care agencies with the intent to integrate those improved practices into participating agencies.
In a five-year randomized clinical trial funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, research showed that increased training and consultation for supervisors and treatment foster parents led to improved outcomes for children.
On the three measured outcomes — symptoms, behaviors and strengths — the enhanced model showed significant improvements over previous practice. Researchers noted reductions in “outward” behaviors (such as aggression and school difficulties) and in “inward” behaviors (such as anxiety and depression).
In the Carolinas, Together Facing the Challenge has trained more than 500 staff members, who have trained some 2,000 foster parents.
The Duke Endowment’s support for the model included funding a second randomized trial focused on whether additional consultation using a coaching-focused approach would yield greater results.
Findings from this study suggest additional coaching-focused consultation can enhance outcomes for children in therapeutic foster care. Supervisors in the enhanced group reported that treatment parents understood the interventions they were coached on significantly better than the treatment parents in the control group, and treatment parents reported being in more frequent contact with their supervisors.
The Endowment is also supporting organizations in the Carolinas that are recruiting and training foster families using the model.