SUPPORTING FOSTER, ADOPTIVE, AND KINSHIP PARENTS
In the United States, it took well over a century after the emergence of foster parenting as we know it today for the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) to be created. The reason it was created was based on the premise that fostering and birth parenting was different. The article, Foster Parent Associations: Advocacy, Support, and Empowerment, by Eileen Mayers Pasztor and Emily Jean McFadden, is an outstanding venue to learn the complete history of foster parent associations on the national, state and local levels.
When foster parents were called upon to serve as more than just traditional parents, challenges of the role clarity emerged. The question then still remains today – are foster parents colleagues, clients, or something in-between?
By the 1960’s, foster parents and child welfare professionals alike recognized a need for advocacy, support, and empowerment. In 1967 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) sponsored a National Conference on Foster Care that was funded by the U.S. Children’s Bureau and the New York Fund for Children. Recommendations from the conference included creating associations of foster parents, upgrading foster parenting as a childcare career, and improving training and education for foster parents.
As a result of this conference, CWLA received a three-year demonstration project grant from the U.S. Children’s Bureau to officially launch the National Foster Parent Association. Thus began the idea of NFPA and the work that led to the first official NFPA Conference in 1971 in Chicago, IL. NFPA has held a foster care conference every year since that first official conference – forty-five fantastic opportunities for foster parents, adoptive parents, and agency staff to learn together. These conferences have been held across the country to help ensure foster parents and those who support them opportunities to attend when it was in their part of the country.
This short article would be incomplete without recognizing two women who inspired this movement to provide advocacy, support, and empowerment for foster parents. Beatrice L. Garrett, MSW, Specialist on Foster Family Services for the U.S. Children’s Bureau, and Helen D. Stone, MSW, Foster Care Project Director for CWLA, envisioned an organization offering foster parents a voice that had been missing for decades. NFPA was able to visit with Ms. Stone shortly before her death and presented her with beautiful flowers and engraved vase. Ms. Stone blessed NFPA twice, first for her work to get others interested in recognizing the needs of foster parents and second, by naming NFPA in her estate by providing funding for scholarships for foster parents to attend our annual training conferences.
A better understanding of children who were abused and/or neglected was embraced and practices began to change, the need for foster parents to have a national voice, as well as state and local voices, became even more imperative. Thus, the mission of NFPA is “to serve as the national voice of foster parents.”
State and local foster parent associations began to be established and foster parent advocacy, support, and empowerment began to grow and be embraced.
Many changes over the years brought new programs and opportunities to serve foster parents across the country. NFPA recognized that well trained, respected and supported foster parents/families made for more successes with the children placed into their care.
You are invited to learn more about NFPA by visiting our website or talking with our Board of Directors. I encourage you to read the titled article mentioned early in this article. Many thanks to the authors for their wisdom and talents, as they developed this historical summary of foster care and the National Foster Parent Association.
National Foster Parent Association