“Self-care” CFT Meetings for Resource Parentsby Billy Poindexter
In this issue we’ve talked a lot about the stress that can come with being a foster, kinship, or adoptive parent, and about how important self-care is for resource parents. Although a lot of good strategies have been suggested, I’d like to talk to you about one you may not have considered or even heard of: a “self-care” child and family team meeting.
Officially, child and family team meetings (CFTs) are meetings where DSS brings birth family members and their community supports together to create, implement, and update a plan with the child, youth, and family. These are structured discussions that seek to ensure child safety and build on the strengths of the child, youth, and birth family and address their needs, desires, and dreams.
But the CFT format is versatile. It doesn’t always have to focus on court or crises. A CFT can be a “self-care” meeting for resource parents experiencing stress in their home.
CFTs for Resource Parent Self-Care
Child and Family Team meetings are a chance to demonstrate one of the core practice principles of North Carolina’s child welfare system: everybody needs to be heard. Self-care CFTs provide a forum for open, honest, non-judgmental discussion about life in the home. CFTs can be held for the express purpose of providing clarity, support, and options for resource parents dealing with the stress of their situation.
To be sure resource parents feel heard, we need to pay attention to the CFT guideline that asks: “Who are the right people to be at the meeting?” Just like youth in care, resource parents need a team to support and strengthen them so they can avoid the burnout that sometimes occurs in helpers.
Who are the right people for this type of CFT?
All professionals working with the child: GAL, therapists, social worker, etc.
People from resource family’s support system and possibly . . .
The biological family of the children the resource parents are caring for.
What are all these people doing at the meeting? LISTENING. This CFT is a place where the resource parent is free to talk to the whole system at one time. In this way resource parents can explain the impact of the situation on them and their family. This ensures team members, as a group, have the information they need to do their best thinking about support.
This is also an opportunity for the group to connect the family to resources to help them meet the children’s needs. This will provide resource parents support and an outlet to cope with the stress of helping. As a resource parent you will now be clear there’s a team supporting you as well as the youth in your care.
Self-care CFTs can also be helpful to caseworkers because it can give them insights for preventing placement disruptions.
If the biological family is involved, a self-care CFT becomes an extension of Shared Parenting, strengthening ties between the two families and encouraging both the youth in care and the bio-family to move more smoothly to transitions and reunification.
As a resource parent, you have a right to ask for a CFT if you think one is needed. Don’t see CFT process as a tool for meeting court orders or answering questions around reunification. CFTs can be a place to explain your life and seek answers that will help the young people in your care, their families, and you.
Billy Poindexter is a CFT trainer for the Center for Family & Community Engagement at NC State University.
To Learn More about CFTs . . .
Read Fostering Perspectives, vol. 16, no. 2 at www.fosteringperspectives.org