Eastern Michigan University was awarded a $690,000 grant by the state to create a new mandatory training program for foster parents.

The three-year grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will be used to develop, pilot and implement the soon-to-be statewide program.

The project will help "caregivers establish and maintain relationships to support all developmental stages" of the approximately 13,000 children in foster care in Michigan, university officials said. 

Bethany Christian Services, which began providing refugee foster services to southeast Michigan in 2016, is struggling to find foster families to take children in, even as arrivals increase. 

Starr Allen-Pettway, Bethany branch director in Detroit, told The Detroit News in June more families are interested in offering foster care for children 5 and younger instead of teens who have been through trauma. 

Professors and directors spearheading the project are Dr. Sarah Shea, Dr. Jennifer Farley and Dr. Jennifer Kellman Fritz, all of EMU's School of Social Work.

The team plans to use research and literature focusing on the developmental needs of children and research age-appropriate and trauma-informed parenting approaches and practices to develop the curriculum.

Shea said they hope to "revamp" foster parent requirements to ensure children are being cared for with a unique experience.

"We know that children in foster care are in need of safe, consistent, and compassionate relationships in order to support healthy development and mitigate the impacts of trauma and loss," Shea said. "Foster parents are in a unique position that allows them to create new relationship experiences for children in foster care and also support children’s relationships with their birth parents whenever possible."

They will conduct an assessment of foster/adoptive parent-training models and identify what, if any, elements can be utilized in Michigan. After that, they will begin to write a curriculum with essential elements by the state department with recommendations for policies and regulations that are required for licensing.

The team will conduct a pilot phase of the training and survey the new forster parents to assess the efficacy. After it has been finalized, the team will develop "train the trainer" guidelines for certification of want-to-be foster parents in Michigan.

Ten master trainers in all six regions will then be trained using those guidelines and a combination of modeling, application and experiential approaches, officials said.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

Read or Share this story: