Pilot Underway to Test Foster Parent Involvement in Reunification

The Youth Law Center (YLC) is piloting a project to make the reunification of children with their birth parents easier.

The YLC is launching an Attachment Biobehavioral Catchup for Visitation (ABC-V) program in Reno, Nevada, which will train foster parents to coach and support birth parents during reunification visits.

The model of the program is a condensed version of the ABC-V model developed by Dr. Mary Dozier of the University of Delaware.

The original model was developed to foster attachment in three to five months. The YLC is using this pilot project to see if that same model can be successfully applied during only five weeks of courses.

“Our idea was to shorten the time for reunification using this reunification structure,” said Benjamin Richeda, special projects manager at the Youth Law Center.

The pilot is being paid for with a Federal Title IV-B grant that gives $50,000 for both years of the program. The idea started a year ago, and the first course will be taught in Reno in July. Another pilot is already happening in Florida, where one course has already been taught.

“The idea is not only to build up a connection between birth parents and child, but foster parent and birth parent so they aren’t seen as enemies,” said Richeda.

The courses will be taught by a professional who will guide the foster parents on best practices to help the birth parents bond and re-attach to the child.

Ten families will be participating in the pilot program next month. Five families will be part of a control group without the ABC-V training, and another five will have the training. The YLC is working with the University of Delaware as the project progresses to measure its success.

Ryann Blackshere is a senior reporter for The Chronicle of Social Change

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