A nonprofit foster care program is celebrating the launch of its Parent Engagement Program just in time for National Reunification Month.
The West Michigan Partnership for Children, a collaboration between Kent County’s top five foster care providers, launched the Parent Engagement Program as part of its commitment to supporting timely reunification of families and preventing children from reentry to foster care.
The trauma-informed program engages and equips Kent County parents with children 5 and younger entering the foster care system by:
- Building relationships
- Providing emotional support, mentoring and modeling
- Encouraging case plan responsibilities
- Supporting parents in court and family team meetings
“Through this new program, parents are receiving increased peer-to-peer mentorship and encouragement from individuals who have been in their shoes,” said Nakia Kyler, chief engagement and equity officer. “WMPC is proud to implement these efforts that support timely reunifications and prevent reentry to foster care.”
The program employs parent engagement specialists who provide support and mentoring to parents. Family engagement and peer support are known strategies to promote the safety, well-being and permanency of children in foster care, WMPC said.
“With this program, we’re hoping to see an increase in timely reunification (and) an increase in engagement between birth parents, foster care workers, foster parents and service providers,” said JeRae’ Sommersell, Parent Engagement Program manager. “It is important that we bring to light that parents navigating the child welfare system are more than the sum of their mistakes or behaviors and are just as human as you and me.”
Launched on March 31, the Parent Engagement Program was made possible by Kent County taxpayers and the voter-approved Ready by Five early childhood millage. The millage funds allow WMPC to provide services for two years and are distributed and overseen by First Steps Kent.
WMPC has been operating a community-based foster care model for three years through a contract with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and is currently the first and only performance-based child welfare model in Michigan.