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Wayne State social work faculty join national initiative to promote permanency for older foster youth

January 5, 2017


Child welfare experts from the Wayne State School of Social Work have received approximately $330,000 to assist with the development of a state-of-the-art training program to help adoptive and foster parents care for older youth with complex emotional needs.

Assistant Professor Angelique Day, Associate Professor Debra Patterson and Associate Professor Stella Resko (left to right above) received the funding from the Southfield, Mich.-based child welfare agency Spaulding for Children, which will develop the training in partnership with the ChildTrauma Academy, The Center for Adoption Support and Education, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Day, Patterson and Resko have been asked to identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes that foster, adoptive and kinship care providers – also known as “resource parents” – need when caring for adolescents with moderate to severe behavioral health challenges, often as a result of experiencing trauma. The competencies they identify will be used to develop a national training curriculum helping resource parents understand and manage these behavioral health challenges, which can include high-risk behaviors, poor academic performance, and peer conflicts.

The goal of the training is to reduce foster parent turnover and increase the number of adoptive homes that are prepared to receive and provide permanency and stability to older foster youth, according to Patterson.

“Permanency can be hard to achieve for older foster youth because resource parents are not adequately prepared to respond to their unique emotional needs,” she said. “Resource parents may terminate a placement due to these behavioral difficulties, which can further compound the emotional issues these youth are experiencing. The Spaulding-led initiative recognizes the need for training opportunities specific to parenting adolescents with complex trauma histories.”

The training program developed by this collaboration will consist of classroom-based training steeped in trauma-informed care, right-time training that supplements the foundation provided in the classroom and a self-assessment process for families.  It will be tested at six to eight sites and then disseminated nationwide.

 “The most resilient foster youth I have worked with over the last several years tell me that access to a permanent, reliable and caring adult was the single most important factor in their successful transition to adulthood,” said Day. “Too many foster youth age out of the foster care system without permanent connections to a caring adult. The goal of this project is to reverse this trend through the provision of increased targeted training, supports and incentives for new and continuing resource parents who are interested in parenting teens.”

Resko praised the “tremendous potential” of the training to prepare parents and care providers to better understand and manage behavioral problems among adolescents.

“Most importantly, it has the potential to improve placement stability, permanence and child and family well-being.”


For more information on research conducted at the Wayne State University School of Social Work visit the Center for Social Work Research website.

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