Pam Piper is the Foster/Kin Care Manager for the Vermont Department for Children and Families. Her position is a new one, which was developed by the department to ensure that needs of caregivers are being met. Here she shares some thoughts about her work.
Tell us about your role as Foster/Kin Care Manager.
My focus is to develop and support all aspects of generating a Caregiver network that can meet the needs of children that come into our system. There are 3 specific areas of focus: Recruitment, Retention and Training. Within those areas there are numerous specific tasks.
I work closely with the Vermont Foster Adoptive Family Association (VFAFA), Vermont Kin as Parents (VKAP) and the Vermont Adoption Consortium (VAC) as well as with the Resource Coordinators, members of the Child Welfare Training Partnership (CWTP) and the various units of Central Office such as the Licensing & Policy units.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy meeting with the foster, kin and adoptive families; hearing their stories and gaining their perspective is invaluable. I like brainstorming solutions to problems they are facing and empowering them to add their voices to the DCF/ Family Services discussion. With that said, since starting in this position I have spent a great deal of time learning the laws, mandates and policies that DCF/Family Services social workers operate under. It is important to understand the “system” so that I can work effectively and speak knowledgeably to our parents. I like the learning, but I like working with people more, and I feel that I am finally at that point that I can be spending more time with our families.
I also really like working with the folks who are an essential part of the support network for our families. The Training Partnership and Resource Coordinators jump to mind. I am in awe of the amazing supports that are available in the state and I enjoy sharing that information with our families, by highlighting them in newsletters, websites or in conversation.
What would you like Kinship, Foster, and Adoptive families in Vermont to know about the resources available to them?
As I mentioned above there are so many great resources in VT. Sometimes the trick is knowing that they are available! If people have access I would encourage them to use the internet to seek out resources. Most organizations have websites. For Caregiver Families I would direct them to
www. VFAFA.org – VFAFA (VT Foster/Adoptive Family Association),
http://www.vermontkinasparents.org -VKAP (VT Kin As Parents)
http://www.VtAdoption.org – VAC (VT Adoption Consortium)
http://www.fostercare.vt.gov – DCF webpage
https://voicesatthetable.wordpress.com/ VOICES Blog
Here you will find contact information and can learn about supports, meetings and initiatives that each of these organizations are engaged in. For instance, VFAFA has a fund called the Children’s Activity Fund that enables foster & adoptive families to access $100. per year/per child in the home, for enrichment activities. The application is on the website or you can ask you Resource Coordinator for more info. Many districts have local organizations. The RC in your district can help you be in touch with them.
If you are interested in training, members of the CWTP Child Welfare Training Partnership are great people to talk with. Information is available on this blog under the Educational Opportunities tab and also the links to the right of this article.
Also, the Caregiver Training Collaborative Bulletin is a listing of training and conference announcements and pages specific to different resources such as VT Family Network (focus is education and special needs) and Prevent Child Abuse VT which is distributed quarterly. It also includes a Statewide Listing of Support Groups for Foster, Kin and Adoptive families. Upcoming issues of the Bulletin will be available on this blog. If you would like to receive the Bulletin directly, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think that more often than not, the “resource” folks are looking for is a person to speak with. Resource Coordinators and their support workers (if they are lucky enough to have one) are frequently the first people parents turn to. Though not all districts have them, support groups and local associations are invaluable resources. Being able to meet or talk to other parents that are experiencing the same thing as you are, can be the greatest resource of all. These types of groups can be formal or not, and from my experience, parents who have helped to form and sustain a group are more than willing to talk with you about what works and what doesn’t. If you would be interested in talking to someone please send me an email and I will help connect you.
What else would you like to share?
Simply put, I would like to say thank you to all of you who are reading this. You are the people who provide the “shelter in the storm” for these vulnerable youth. That support, caring, and love is incredible. I feel privileged to be able to work to support you and this part of the System of Care. You are often the unsung heros….I wish everyone had an opportunity to truly understand the difference you make for these children and ultimately for the state of VT.
How can people get in touch with you?
The best way is via email email@example.com.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Pam. Best of luck with your work.