Project Revive: helping foster parents process grief
Project Revive was a statewide support project that sought to help foster parents in New Mexico normalize and recognize the grief their families encounter as part of being involved with the foster care system. Services included training, support groups, a telephone help line, and a private Facebook group.
Publication date: 2020
All licensed foster parents and the children and youth they care for in New Mexico were eligible.
The program served approximately 300 foster families at any given time.
Theory of change
By identifying and processing their own grief, foster parents will have an increased ability to accept and manage the behaviors of the children they are fostering and to work with the children’s birth parents. In addition, by addressing the serious issues of grief and loss in foster care, foster parents will experience less burnout and be better able to model appropriate grief skills. Foster parents who are equipped to consider and understand grief and loss will also be better able to help the children they care for heal from their experiences.
Project Revive was operated by La Familia, Inc., a nonprofit social service agency that provides adoption and treatment foster care services and offers a variety of mental health services.
Role of public agency
The New Mexico Department of Children, Youth, and Families funded the program through 2019, sharing contact information with La Familia for all foster families for outreach and approves foster parent education hours.
Key service components
Training on grief and loss. Project Revive offered three-hour trainings on grief several times per year around the state. Parents were able to attend as often as they like. Childcare and credit for training hours were provided. The grief and loss curriculum was designed to:
- Share up-to-date and accurate information about grief and loss and the foster parent experience
- Inform attendees about how foster families, caseworkers, and children interact and the way that grief and loss affect those communications
- Help concurrent foster parents explore the psychological and emotional implications of unresolved and unaddressed grief and loss on parenting children who have experienced serious challenges
Support groups. Project Revive offered activity-based support groups for foster parents and all children in the family. (Child care is provided for children who are too young for the support groups.) Through these groups, foster parents and children in foster care had separate meetings where they learn about grief and loss and had the opportunity to explore, process, and integrate difficult and confusing experiences.
Telephone helpline. Regional family advocates (experienced foster parents) were available to provide information and support to other parents in their region by phone.
Private Facebook group. Parents shared information and supported one another through a private Facebook group, which was monitored by program staff.
La Familia informed families about the available services through email and monthly newsletters. The agency also sent program flyers to all treatment foster care agencies, licensed foster families, and state offices.
Staffing and training requirements
- 1 program coordinator (.25 FTE)
- 5 regional family advocates (.375 FTE each)—Family advocates coordinated support network activities in their region. This included organizing and offering training for foster families; offering support groups for foster parents, children in care, and other children in the family; providing telephone support to families; and reporting monthly activities. Family advocates were also responsible for managing children’s group facilitators and childcare providers in their region. Each family advocate was a current or previous foster parent with at least five years of experience.
- 1 administrative assistant (.5 FTE)
Before starting work, family advocates attended a two-day training on support groups and how to conduct the grief and loss training.
Evaluation and outcomes
La Familia conducted surveys at the initiation of services and twice a year thereafter. Evaluation results included the following:
- 75% of participants used training and support groups.
- 25% of participants used the crisis support line.
- 100% rated the service as very helpful and 100% would return for services if needed in the future.
- 100% reported that that felt more supported after participation in Project Revive services.
- 100% reported that they now reach out to other foster parents in between Project Revive events. 25% reach out more than twice per week and 75% reach out one to two times per month.
- 100% reported that they are more prepared to offer a child safety and stability due to the services provided by Project Revive.
Annual budget and funding
When operational, the project had an annual budget of $120,000.
The New Mexico Department of Children, Youth, and Families discontinued funding in 2019. When the project was operational, the Department used federal Title IV-E foster care funds to pay for the program, through a contract with La Familia.
Partnerships required or recommended
A close relationship with the public foster care agency is necessary for referrals and funding. The Abuquerque’s Children’s Grief Center was a key partner in development of the grief and loss curriculum.
Challenges and future direction
During operation, the major challenge was that there was not enough funding to meet all the needs identified. The program is currently not in operation, but the hope is that funding will become available again in the future.
Megan Walsh, director of adoption services, La Familia: email@example.com; 505-766-9361