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Rural Health Information Hub

Parent Partners

Summary 
  • Need: To support parents whose children have been removed from the home so that the parents can make the changes needed for the children to return safely home.
  • Intervention: A statewide program in Iowa pairs these parents with mentors who have successfully navigated their own child welfare cases.
  • Results: Participants' children were more likely to return home than non-participants' children and participants were less likely to have another child removal within a year of the child coming home.

Evidence-level

Effective (About evidence-level criteria)

Description

Parent Partners is a statewide program in Iowa that connects parents whose children have been removed from the home with mentors who have successfully navigated their own Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) cases. The program is voluntary. If parents decline Parent Partners services, they will receive traditional child welfare services.

The mentors must be parents who have completed their own child welfare cases, have been substance-free for at least a year (if substance use was an issue), and have completed all mandated training. A full list of eligibility criteria is available in the Iowa Parent Partner Approach Handbook.

Children & Families of Iowa logo

The program began in 2007 with three pilot sites, expanded to 68 counties in 2012, and became available statewide (all 99 counties, 88 of which are rural) in 2015. The nonprofit organization Children & Families of Iowa (CFI) managed the statewide rollout.

The Rural Monitor article Parent Partners Provide Mentoring and Support in Rural Iowa offers more information about the program's history and mentors' experiences.

Services offered

The mentors:

  • Coach the parents through different challenges
  • Advocate for them and for any resources they need
  • Visit the parents an average of four times each month at the beginning of the case
  • Connect via phone call between visits
  • Help parents access community resources, including substance use treatment
  • Provide community outreach and education

The mentors also meet with a master's-level clinician once a month to help with their own mental wellness and to prevent burnout. These meetings happen in a group setting, but mentors can also meet with the clinician individually. The program also has support processes in place if mentors in recovery from substance use were to relapse.

In addition, the program offers employment opportunities, as some mentors are promoted within the organization. And some participants, after closing out their DHS case, can apply to become mentors themselves.

From October 2018 to June 2019, Parent Partners ran a pilot program to provide six months of support after a parent's child welfare case closes. Ten of the 14 individuals enrolled reported a positive experience, either still engaging with the additional support or successfully closing out this support.

During this same period, the program enrolled 31 individuals in a pilot program offering prevention services (preventing cases where children are removed from the home). During this pilot, there were only three referrals that led to a child being removed from the home.

Results

A 2019 annual report shows that CFI received 1,554 referrals that year and provided mentoring support to 1,963 parents. There are 155 parents who are mentoring or training to become mentors, 105 of whom are fully trained.

A 2019 Children and Youth Services Review article, studying the program's outcomes between 2011 and 2014, found that participants' children were more likely to return home than non-participants' children (62.4% of the time compared to 55.8%). In addition, participants were less likely to have another child removal within a year of the child returning home (removed from the home 13.4% of the time compared to 21.8% of the time).

A California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare. A July 2020 HHS brief highlights Parent Partners and eight other programs addressing substance use among families involved with child welfare.

For more information about this program:

Chamber, J.M, Lint, S., Thompson, M.G., Carlson, M.W., & Graef, M.I. (2019). Outcomes of the Iowa Parent Partner Program Evaluation: Stability of Reunification and Re-entry into Foster Care. Children and Youth Services Review, 104. Article Abstract

Challenges

Challenges in the rural locations include a lack of available resources like substance use treatment facilities. Program coordinators connect with any local agencies and organizations that are available to work around these challenges. In addition, the program has funds available for participants with urgent needs like vehicle repairs.

Replication

Gain buy-in before implementing a similar program. Stigma can be an issue: Community members may be judgmental toward these parents, but community outreach efforts can help them see how substance use changes someone's brain and that people can change for the better.

In addition, make sure parents have a seat at the table while you're designing and implementing the program. The people who will be directly affected by the program should have a voice and be heard.

Host meetings for community members to attend so that people, especially families, can discuss the gaps in services in the area.

Contact Information

Sara Person, Statewide Parent Partner Director
Children & Families of Iowa
sarap@cfiowa.org

Topics
Child welfare
Children and youth
Families
Human services
Stigma
Substance use and misuse

States served
Iowa

Date added
March 30, 2022

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2022. Parent Partners [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/1098 [Accessed 28 May 2022]


Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.