Profiles in Permanence: Texas Preparing Guardians

The National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG) is a five-year project designed to promote permanence when reunification is no longer a goal and improve adoption and guardianship preservation and support. In forthcoming columns for The Chronicle of Social Change, I will describe the different interventions being tested at these sites in more detail. I’ll also share some of the major takeaways and trends identified during the course of the QIC-AG’s first five years. For more information about this project, please click here.

Writer April Dinwoodie is profiling each of the eight projects that are overseen by the center for The Chronicle of Social Change. Today, she looks at the work being done in Texas to help guardians prepare for the trauma experienced by the children they plan to care for.

In Texas, Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) occurs when a judge has appointed either a person or the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to be legally responsible for a child. This project focuses on youth for whom PMC was given to DFPS.

The Texas site team chose the “Pathways to Permanence 2” intervention to help children under conservatorship by providing caregivers with the understanding and skillset to address the trauma, grief and loss experienced by many children involved with child protective services (CPS). Pathways to Permanence 2 aligned well with Texas CPS’ Positive Permanency model of building and sustaining strong families with lifelong connections.

A parent-centered intervention, Pathways to Permanence 2 is designed with the goal of strengthening parents/caregivers’ skills for meeting the challenges and issues unique to adoptive/guardianship families. The Texas site team determined that the best approach to reversing trends of adoption/guardianship disruption, and to increase the number of families willing and able to move forward with permanence, was to proactively provide families with tools and skills that would help them care for their child.

Pathways to Permanence 2 was developed by the Kinship Center, a member of the California-based Seneca Family of Agencies. Pathways to Permanence 2 is designed for foster and adoptive parents, kinship caregivers, and guardians who are actively parenting children who have experienced trauma and loss and is a seven-session series that uses a group-based format to enhance parents’ and caregivers’ ability in skilled application of strategies.

The program is designed as a clinically informed competency-building training, and is delivered as an interactive learning experience with robust discussion. In addition to parents/caregivers, those in the family’s extended support systems are encouraged to participate in the Pathways to Permanence 2 series. As designed by the program’s developer, the Pathways to Permanence 2 intervention has the following goals:

  • Provide parents/caregivers with a foundational understanding (based on science and experience) of childhood trauma, grief and loss, as well as an understanding of the impact of these issues on their children.
  • Help parents/caregivers to recognize, identify and address the core issues of adoption and guardianship stability.
  • Empower parents/caregivers to have more empathy as their skills increase.
  • Stabilize families helping children heal from trauma.

As of July 2018, 116 participants have completed five or more of the seven sessions. These participants represent 89 households providing care in Permanent Managing Conservatorship of the state. Pre- and post-surveys are being utilized to track participant’s experiences and feedback.

“Our understanding of our child’s needs and the possible reasons for his behavior greatly increased,” said one of the participants. “This helps us as caregivers to better keep our prefrontal cortex engaged and not flip our lids. Also, the sense of isolation was greatly reduced. It was important to talk with others that understand. The idea that taking things away triggers loss was a revolutionary idea and helps a lot at understanding outbursts.”

Detailed outcomes and data for each site is planned for September 2019.

To learn more about the QIC-AG’s work in Texas and Pathway to Permanence 2, check out the full profile online. In future columns for The Chronicle, I will continue to describe the different interventions being tested at the other seven partner sites in more detail.

Note: This article was updated on October 5 to clarify the definition of a Permanent Managing Conservatorship in Texas.

Started in 2014, QIC-AG is funded by the Children’s Bureau and through a five-year cooperative agreement with Spaulding for Children, and its partners The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

April Dinwoodie is a transracially adopted person and a nationally recognized thought leader in foster care and adoption. Dinwoodie’s podcast “Born in June, Raised in April: What Adoption Can Teach the World!” helps to facilitate an open dialogue about adoption, foster care and family today. She is the founder of Adoptment, a mentoring program that matches foster youth with adopted adults, and is retained by clients, including the QIC-AG, to help raise awareness of their work to support children and families.   

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