When we started on the path of developing an open source parenting program, we could only hope that Strive would become what it is today. We still have a lot of work to do, but one thing we know for sure is: we’ve tapped into something that everyone seems desperate for. Social workers, visitation providers, parents and many more want to find a way to humanize the visitation process between a parent and their child in foster care. They have all shown a strong interest in Strive. (Not familiar with Strive? Read more.)
So what have we accomplished? Over the summer and early fall of 2015, the first pilot was conducted with a provider and parents in Tacoma, WA. This first pilot was intended to “pre-test” the curriculum – basically, we wanted to make sure that it hit the mark for both visit navigators and parents.
We were blown away by the feedback. Certainly, we found that some curriculum tweaks were necessary and we have addressed those. But what took us by surprise was the overwhelming positive response from both parents and providers – even without a formal evaluation, this program was empowering parents and inspiring visit navigators. Some navigators couldn’t imagine going back to the old model of providing visitation services after having delivered Strive. Here’s what else we heard:
“They grasp the main concepts of this…I am really pleased. I cannot recall this early in visits parents talking about emotions and responding to their children like these parents are.”
“When I gauge her against other parents with similar barriers, other parents are not doing as well. For her to have a visit routine, coming early and prepared, and putting stability in place. It’s not the same for other parents in this situation. There are some people who never get a routine.”
“With this much going on in their lives, the built rapport with [a Visit Navigator] makes them feel safe and not judged. It’s an incentive for the parent.”
“I feel like for some families, the content is important because they don’t have the skills. For other families, it’s more the support aspect. ‘I don’t have anyone on my side.’ ‘You are on my side, you’re on my team.’ We are taking a different position.”
“I am sowing seeds and giving them information that they will take with them through the process. Light bulbs go off. I think it’s really beneficial for parents to know these things. I can tell that some of these concepts have not been explored before.”
“[Mom] really takes the information and applies it. She will say, ‘This isn’t how I used to discipline. I used to get frustrated and spank.’ I see her using the things and the lingo.”
Due to privacy rules, we cannot share specific feedback from parents, but we have learned how important the relationship-based approach (one-on-one support) and strength-based focus of the Strive program are to them – this is really unique in their child welfare experience. We have observed how these principles seem to help parents to engage with the curriculum, prepare for visits, and stay child-focused in visits.
So what’s next? In the pre-test, we discovered the first five sessions of Strive were of particular interest to the field. These sessions not only provide basic information to help parents improve the quality of visits with their children, but also provide basic support and encouragement to them as they get their bearings within a new, unusual type of environment within which they maintain a relationship with their child. (Because parenting in a room with someone watching your every move for a couple hours a week is not exactly the most comforting experience!)
Working with our partners at the Children's Administration, we are now moving into a second pilot with a broader set of families and providers that is focused specifically on examining the impact of the five session "parent engagement" module. During this pilot, we will compare whether parent engagement is different for parents in the Strive program versus parents who are participating in a ‘services as usual’ supervised visitation. A third pilot is planned with a larger set of providers and parents with additional examination of program outcomes.
We are also working on integrating the program with one of POC’s other initiatives – Oliver – for service providers who are using both products. This will help streamline the data collection, reporting process and more.
So we’re making steady progress, and smiling along the way – it’s so exciting to see this game-changing program come to life. We don’t have the curriculum available online quite yet because we want to ensure that some of the larger kinks are ironed out first, but it’s definitely still our goal!