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January 2022   |   Archive   |   National Adoption Month  

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Building Parents’ Capacity—National Training and Development Curriculum

Becoming a foster or adoptive parent is a life-altering experience that requires ongoing learning and development. Jessie Howell, a foster parent for over 10 years, has participated in and been a trainer for the National Training and Development Curriculum (NTDC). According to Jessie, NTDC is more than what is covered during the training. She shares, “What NTDC teaches you is that this is a journey. It’s like college—they don’t teach you everything; they teach you how to learn. If you think you have it all down, you probably don’t.”

NTDC for foster and adoptive families is an educational approach to help prepare families to foster and/or adopt children who have experienced loss, separation, and other trauma. Given the complexity of the task, NTCD is distinguished from other training programs whose goal may be to simply transmit information to participants. The goal of NTDC is for participants to absorb knowledge and understanding in digestible and interesting ways that allow them to meaningfully reflect on the impact and application in their lives at the beginning and throughout the journey of fostering or adopting. NTDC is free and will be available to any agency in spring 2022 (Learn more at

Jessie explains that the most important aspect of the training is that it is meant to help children. She says, “As a foster parent, you need to keep the child safe and help them get better, and the training has to cover that. If you can’t keep them safe and help them heal, why did we remove them?” She affirms that NTDC accomplishes this. Some of the topics covered in NTDC that she believes make a difference include the following:

  • The impact of trauma on the brain—It’s important to understand that troublesome behaviors stem from changes in the brain and past experiences. “I now know that lying is often kids giving you their truth as they remember it,” Jessie explains. In fact, research has shown that trauma-informed trainings lead to positive outcomes. One study showed that foster parents who received trauma-informed trainings indicated that they felt increased self-efficacy and tolerance of their children’s problem behavior. Furthermore, another study showed that trauma-informed foster parent trainings also had positive effects on children’s emotional and behavioral well-being.
  • How to parent differently—Jessie notes that NTDC shows participants how to respond to behaviors and prevent escalation. “We need to be on a journey with the children,” she adds. Research shows that behavior-management interventions increased positive outcomes such as reunification with birth parents or adoption.
  • Grief and loss—Jessie and her husband find it makes a difference when you understand that children need to process what has happened to them. One study found that children in foster care experience a variety of losses that are often unacknowledged.
  • How to partner with birth parents—One of the many things Jessie says she’s learned about such partnerships is how important it is to help parents address their trauma, too. Research reinforces Jessie’s sentiment. A study found that supporting and maintaining a connection with birth families helped children adjust to placement. Research has also shown that maintaining a connection between foster and birth families was associated with permanency and placement stability.

NTDC includes the following three components:

  • Self-assessment is designed to measure a person’s strengths in each of the areas of characteristics or traits that researchers have found are common among parents who are successful at fostering or adopting. The assessment guides families through their journey by providing feedback that supports ongoing learning about themselves and how they may be able to strengthen their parenting approaches.
  • Classroom-based training includes 19 themes that use a layered content-learning approach and incorporates the best principles of adult learning by using podcasts, videos, and experiential activities to practice and develop essential skills.
  • Right-time training includes 15 themes that families can take any time they want to continue to build their skills. The themes feature the voices of parents, professionals, and youth who experienced foster care and adoption.

Jessie states, “Parents leave NTDC knowing this will be hard, but [they] have some tools and know where to go. It’s 100 percent worth it for agencies to implement a training like NTDC. You can do this work up front and have families who stick around and help children heal and can partner with birth families. No one sticks around when they feel ill-equipped and undervalued.” When foster parents are better equipped and there’s less turnover, it’s good for children in care and their families. And that’s what it’s all about. To learn how your agency can start working on implementing NTDC, contact Sue Cohick at


3 Resources About the National Training and Development Curriculum

Expanding Your
Parenting Paradigm


By NTDC for Foster and Adoptive Parents


Family Dynamics

By NTDC for Foster and Adoptive Parents

Youth Engagement Practice Examples

By Child Welfare
Information Gateway



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