Family voice and choice is a core value in the BFP System of Care. It was the local community coalition, Together in Partnership in 2003-2005, when analyzing the former child welfare system identified family centered practice and an aggressive front end prevention and diversion program as two of the 5 priorities for the Brevard Child Welfare System of Care.
Parent leadership and inclusion is a core value of family centered practice. It involves parents as partners from policy to practice. Since February marks the observance of National Parent Leadership Month it is a good time to get a pulse on how we, as a System of Care (SOC) are doing in achieving the vision of our community.
At the core of incorporating a model of care that promotes and embraces voice and choice is creating a climate where asking for help is viewed as a strength. This is why it was necessary to launch an anti-stigma campaign early on. To achieve the objective of reaching families early in their time of need, it was determined that the establishment of a family resource center model through the implementation of Brevard C.A.R.E.S. would serve as a catalyst to reach families before the stressors they experienced had adverse effects on their children. By creating a climate conducive and comfortable for families to seek help, we were able to eliminate the fear of reprisal that may have existed pre-privatization.
In addition, we incorporated the use of family partners across the SOC, former consumers who successfully benefitted from involvement with a system. Family partners offer peer support to those in need, which helps create a climate where asking for assistance is not viewed as a weakness, and promotes voice and choice.
As I pen this newsletter from Tallahassee during Children’s Week, it is a testament that we have successfully embedded family centered practice into the core values of the System of Care. Each year that we have brought a team of advocates to Tallahassee, parents and youth have been key members of the team who share their personal stories of triumphs and the outcomes of investing in Florida’s vulnerable children and families. Once again this year we were honored to have 2 family members representing Brevard. One is a staff member at BFP who is a former consumer of Brevard C.A.R.E.S. who now serves as a family partner in our SOC, taking what was once her obstacle in life and making it her opportunity to strengthen, inspire and empower others. In addition, we were fortunate to have a father who sought assistance from Brevard C.A.R.E.S. sharing his traumatic, yet successful story with our Legislative leaders.
Also key to operating a family centered system is ensuring parent voice is incorporated into the policy level of the SOC. This has been achieved by ensuring consumer representation is reflected on the Board of Directors and parents and families are welcomed and participate in policy level decision making and opportunities to help drive the system. Additionally, we have a strong Foster Parent Advisory Council, Youth Advisory Council and Client Relations Specialist who ensure families always have an advocate to represent their needs.
Parent Leadership is the outcome of operating a Family Centered System of Care as best stated by Robert Ingersoll, “We Rise by Lifting Others.”