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Paper

How does a new training program Pride for foster families work in Lithuania?

abstract

Aim. The aim of the research is to investigate how the new program Pride, dedicated to train, educate and prepare foster and adoptive parents, works in Lithuania.

Background. During the Soviet period no child care system for the substitute family was developed. The substitute family in child care was based on a voluntary base: neither services, nor any observation for the kinship, foster or adoptive families were developed. With the reestablishment of political independence of Lithuania in 1991, ideas about development of social work profession and changes in child care system took part.

The first research about the life of foster and kinship families was made in 1995. The first graduates of social work developed recruitment, training and support program for foster families in Kaunas in 1996, but this experience was not adequately supported by the state. The stronger political will to develop a nationalwide program for foster and adoptive parents started in 2006, when the governmental «Program of reorganization of substitute child care system in Lithuania» was accepted. Pride (s) program from the USA was bought in 2007 and preparation of the trainers started. In 2012 this program was renamed into Lithuanian title Gimk (Training and Consulting of Adoptive and Foster Parents).

Method. Pride program was developed with the Child Welfare League of America (Cwla) for the development and training of foster care and adoptive families. The main task of this program is to recruit, train, and select foster and adoptive parents. The program was designed, or is commonly used, to meet the needs of children, youth, young adults, and/or families receiving child welfare services. Pride program was developed in the broadly developed context of social services for children and families, where the culture of adoption and fostering together with professional social work has a long tradition.

In Lithuania this program has been adapted and now it consists of 10 themes (14th in the USA): introduction, team work for the development of permanency for the child placement, open talk with the child, meeting child's development needs, bereavement, children's relationships with the family of origin and self-esteem, upbringing, consolidation of permanent relations, preparation and planning for change, and informed decision making. There are at least two individual consultations with a future adoptive or foster family at home, when social workers make an assessment about the family's ability to fulfil child's physical, emotional, social needs, and preparation to cooperate in the problem solving. This educational process continues 3-4 months, while the decision about preparation is made and conclusion is written.

According to this program there were prepared 768 foster families and 329 adoptive families from 2008 till the end of 2010 and 229 foster families in 2012. Unfortunately at the same time the number of foster families that refused to continue or were suspended from child care increased.

Research methodology. The chapter is based on integrated results of quantitative and qualitative research projects. Quantitative research with 200 foster families was done by interviewing them with a structured questionnaire in Kaunas county in 2010 (Buchalcaitė, Snieškiené 2011). The results of this research were compared with the findings of the research done in 2001 (Snieškiené 2001). Qualitative research project (Paulauskaité 2011) was based on semi-structured interviews with eight Child Rights Protection Agency social workers that are responsible for the replacement of the child in need.

Findings. The information from the annual report (2012) of National Child Rights Protection and Adoption Agency says that participants of the training program positively evaluated the education process and learned more about child needs as well as changed their attitudes to the biological parents of the children in need and the ways they were upbringing their children of origin.

However the social workers from Child Rights Protection Agency (Paulauskaité 2011) see shortages of this program, such as lack of training and content of this program about the behaviour problems of teenagers, lack of matching foster parents possibilities with child needs, shortage of education about child health development and medical problems, misunderstanding about disabilities and how to deal with posttraumatic conduct after sexual and other types of abuse. This information suggests that not only social workers have to be trainers in this program. Participants of this study see the need of child's preparation to change the placement and particularly for those who live in children care homes from infancy. All social workers encourage the idea of continual education and support for these families as well as specializations for kinship, adoptive and foster families, because there are no services for such families in many Lithuanian regions.

The findings of the study (Buchalcaité, Snieškiené 2011) show that the expectations of foster families about the foster care situation before and after the child came into their family do not fit to more families than it was in 2001 (95,62 percent points), increased the number (in 95,2 percent points) of foster carers affirming that care of the replaced child is more difficult than of their own ones, but it increased (54,16 percent points) participation of the spouses in decision making. After 10 years the role of social workers and Child Rights Protection Agencies at the municipality increased, nevertheless they are accepted more as controllers and people do not actually share the issues with them; they tend to appeal to them for help only at the supreme moment, when «nearly do what you want or take the child away» (Paulauskaité 2011), while 56,39 percent point increased positive evaluation about good relations with Child Rights Protection Agency workers. The most important support system still is an extended family and friends. The economical support from the state was evaluated negatively in 413,48 percent points comparing with 2001. These and other research findings show that there are gaps in Gimk preparation program, particularly for the children with disabilities and special needs as well in the context of social support. The following insights from this research can be drawn:

  • not only people who are going to train others but also the system of services should be prepared for adaptation of the imported program;
  • services for kinship, adoptive and foster families were not developed before the implementation of Pride program and now the program offers to new foster and adoptive families services which actually do not exist in the society;
  • the training program is good for families and children because it helps to develop better relations between children and foster parents as well as with biological parents;

d. importation of social programs from abroad brings different culture and sometimes participants of these programs reject some parts of it as «too much American». 

Key references

Buchalcaitė, R. and Snieškiené, D. (2011). Socialinės paramos globėjų šeimoms vertinimas (How foster families accept the social services). Kaunas: VDU.

National Child Rights Protection Agency (2012). Annual report, National Child Rights Protection Agency.

Paulauskaité, J. (2011). Globėjų pasirengimas vaiko globai socialinių darbuotojų požiūriu (Preparation of Foster Families to Foster a Child from the Point of View of Social Workers). Kaunas: VDU.

Snieškiené, D. (2001). Vaikų globa šeimose kaip socialinis veiksmas (Foster Care as a Social Action) daktaro disertacija. LFSI ir VDU.

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