LINK Families: Linking Information Networks for Kids was an AFFCNY project developed in partnership with the Syracuse Salvation Army Adoption Opportunities Concurrent Planning Project from 2001 to 2005. Recognizing that foster/adoptive parents are key resources to help the children understand and handle the ambiguity related to concurrent planning, the Salvation Army contracted with AFFCNY to develop the necessary training and support systems to empower foster parents to assist the child through the concurrent planning process.
Throughout the five year project AFFCNY established a virtual network of knowledgeable foster parents to serve as supportive resources to other families facing the new realities and challenges of permanency planning in the post-ASFA world. During the spring and summer of 2001 AFFCNY staff conducted telephone interviews with foster parents in all 14 project counties to identify foster parent permanency planning training needs and recruit foster parents in each county to participate in project activities. In 2003 AFFCNY received financial support from the National Foster Parent Association to expand the initiative to other parts of the state and eventually recruited and trained over 75 LINK parents in 22 counties who made a commitment to:
Participate in no-cost training activities to expand their knowledge and understanding of changing foster parent roles and family-centered permanency planning practices and principles
- Develop and/or participate in local information networks to inform, advise and support foster parents in their local community.
- Develop “links” between families and agencies to advocate and effect changes in their communities which responded to the demands of ASFA and support children in their journey to permanency.
AFFCNY LINK Family activities led to a significant increase in the number, effectiveness, and viability of parent led foster parent associations in New York State. LINK families developed and implemented local networking plans that resulted in the establishment, re-organization, or strengthening of parent-led foster parent associations in all project counties and five additional upstate counties. Both new and re-organized groups opened up effective communication lines with their local social services districts and developed a multitude of direct foster family support services including telephone information and referral, newsletters, monthly meetings, email networks, clothing closets, parent advocacy liaisons, parent group websites, social events, and training programs.
Training and information tools developed during the project included an extensive collection of resources on shared parenting issues and Foster Parents Speak, a 20 minute video that explores foster parenting today through the experiences and insights of foster families. Foster parents speak candidly about the challenges in developing and nurturing shared parenting relationships with birth families and professionals to benefit the children in their care. They share real life techniques and strategies for improving communication and cooperation to create partnerships that support children in the foster care system.
LINK Continues Today: AFFCNY continues to host annual LINK Family Gatherings on the day proceeding our annual foster care and adoption conference, has posted scores of training and information tools developed during the project in the foster care section of our website, and included trained foster parent advocate contacts in our New York State County at a Glance Services Directory.