A 2001 communication to the Coalition reconfirmed the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ (OCFS) policy permitting certified agencies to share the names and addresses of other foster parents with local parent support groups. Groups across the state have frequently reported difficulty gaining access to this information due to confidentiality concerns expressed by agency personnel. The inability to reach out to other foster parents has hindered organizational efforts by new groups and the development of new programs, such as buddy programs, by established groups.
In a February 22, 2001 letter to the Coalition’s Nancy Martinez, OCFS Asst. Director of Planning and Policy Development recognized “the interest of foster parents in forming associations or networks with other foster parents certified or approved by the same county or agency” and therefore, their “need to be aware of the names of and how to contact other foster parents.” Ms. Martinez’s letter clearly supports the sharing of information by stating, “certainly it is appropriate for the certifying agency and for your organization (AFFCNY) to share the names and addresses of foster parents with other foster parents.”
Agencies and groups are advised to exercise caution in sharing information about individuals without making them aware of the practice. “Before doing so, it would make sense to advise the foster parents that their names and addresses will be shared and to clearly spell out the purposes of sharing the information. Of course, a foster parent’s participation in a network or association is voluntary, so an individual; could request that their identifying information not be shared for that purpose.”
Encouraging certified agencies to provide information to foster parent support groups is part of a long standing New York State Policy to encourage the development of foster parent associations as evidenced by the following excerpts from the New York State Department of Social Services 1988 Model Foster parent manual and the 2005 OCFS Informational letter, Supporting the Needs of Foster Parents: Recommendations.
- 1988 Manual :”The general purposes of Foster Parent Associations are: 1) to lend support to foster parents, 2) to create channels of communication among foster parents, 3) to assist in problem-solving, and 4) to advocate for the rights of foster parents. These organizations can be valuable sources of information, support, and advocacy for foster parents. The agency will provide foster parents with information about whom to contact regarding membership in a local or state association of foster parents.”
- 05-OCFS-INF-03: “(1) Facilitate access to peer support. For districts and agencies that do not currently have an active foster parent support group, foster parents would like assistance from the district/agency to survey all foster parents to see if there is an interest in forming a group. Foster parents would like the district/agency to encourage all foster parents to join a group or an association and provide current and new foster parents with information about existing groups. (2) Support foster parent associations in concrete ways. Foster parents would like districts and agencies to make available to them the necessary meeting space for a foster parent support group. (3) Encourage networking among foster parents. Foster parents request that they be provided with the names and telephone numbers of the other foster parents in their county as a means of supporting each other.”
For more information contact the Coalition or your OCFS local regional office.