To reinforce the abilities of youth in foster care about to transition to an independent life and enhance their chances of success, the University of Houston collaborated with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) and the University of Texas at Arlington to produce a training curriculum for supervisors in child protective services (CPS) across Texas. This collaborative project, Preparation for Adult Living: Supervisor Training and Empowerment Program (PAL-STEP), focused on providing CPS supervisors with:
- The skills and knowledge they would need to guide and direct adolescents in foster care
- The tools to share that knowledge with other CPS caseworkers by imparting the four core principles of the training: positive youth development, collaboration, cultural competence, and permanent connections
PAL-STEP training included both a 1-hour web-based training and a day of live training led by PAL-STEP staff and former foster youth hired by the TDFPS. Youth trainers presented some of the curriculum content and shared their experiences about life in the foster care system. They recounted some common concerns: aging out of care, loneliness, being gay and lesbian in foster care, and separation from siblings. Subsequent evaluation results showed that the participation of these young people, who also discussed resources and answered questions, was the most highly rated aspect of the training.
PAL-STEP staff and youth trained 154 child welfare supervisors during the 3-year project. All trainees received a Participant's Handbook, a Trainer's Manual, and a CD containing a Supervisory Took Kit of teaching strategies. These materials were posted on the project website, and more were distributed through conferences and other requests. A revised curriculum was presented to foster parents and caseworkers, and a total of 233 participants were trained.
Evaluation revealed that the training was very well received, and participants experienced a significant increase in knowledge. Interviews with supervisors after they returned to their workplaces indicated that they were using both formal and informal means to share their knowledge with caseworkers, although they were challenged by high caseloads and excessive work demands.
Changes in practice have occurred due to the PAL-STEP training. Supervisors initially had perceived youth in a negative way, asking, "How can we fix them?" They now ask, instead: "How can we do a better job for them?"
This curriculum will become a part of the State's CPS Supervisory Certification Program.
Reprinted from Children's Bureau Express, "A Youth-Driven Curriculum for Supervisors" (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/).