Imagine, if you can, how it might feel to be a parent whose child is removed from your home by Child Protective Services.  The child is no longer with you, staying with another caretaker.  During this time, Child Protective Services is building the case as to why your child should be returned to you or if they should remain in out of home care. You likely do not know where your child is living nor with whom they are living.  You have to appear before a judge who orders supervised visits for you and the child.  Depending upon how long it takes, you may not have seen your child in a few weeks before the first visit.  The first visits after a child is removed from a parent’s home are understandably stressful and traumatic for both parents and children.  

Strive was developed to improve the initial visits between parents and their children. Strive recognizes how stressful visitation visits can be for parents and children. Strive was developed with the understanding that untapped opportunities exist during these visits; an opportunity to assist parents with skill-building and support that might help them positively engage with their children; an opportunity to focus on the needs of their children; and opportunity to help create a positive visit for the child and the parent.

We seek to instill some hope in a difficult and scary time.  Strive fills a gap in parenting programs designed for parents who are involved in the child welfare system and is delivered in the context of parent-child visits. 

Strive is a versatile program for parents of children birth to eight years of age that can be used in a variety of locations, such as a community setting, a Department of Children and Family Services CFS Office, and in the home of the birth parent or foster parent. 

Strive includes five one-on-one sessions with the parent and the Strive-trained “visit navigator.”  The program is designed to for parents to provide and practice new skills prior to the supervised visit.  The sessions are immediately followed by the supported supervised visit and conclude with a 15 minute debrief between the parent and the visit navigator.

The program includes:

  • Helping parents understanding their roles and responsibilities during visits
  • Providing strategies for connecting and reassuring during visits that can be used to respond to their children's upset feelings, behaviors and needs
  • Creating a plan to support successful visits
  • Teaching the components of a visit routine and why they matter
  • Creating safe and healthy visit environments
  • Describing ways to improve their children's safety during sleeping, eating, and playing
  • Helping parents with challenging behaviors through monitor, distract and redirect techniques
  • Learning ‘ignore’ techniques and when to use them
  • Improving parent communication skills
  • Teaching and practicing stress reduction skills
  • Helping parents to learn the benefits and steps of child-directed play

Strive was developed through an extensive literature search on parenting programs, over 100 stakeholder interviews, and with theoretical underpinnings and best practices from adult learning theory. 

Current work

Through the fall of 2017, we will finish pilot testing the program with 50 parents in Washington state.  The pilot includes a partnership with seven Children’s Administration Offices and three visitation providers.   Early results indicate encouraging findings with respect to parent engagement, usefulness, and satisfaction with the program.  Parents report they: 

  • found it helpful to work with their Visit Navigator
  • reported less anxiety and tension coming to their visits by the end of the program
  • were increasingly prepared for their visits
  • found that the Strive visit routine helped with saying goodbye to their children at the end of visit
  • were highly satisfied with the Strive program

Anticipated work

In fall 2017, we will continue pilot testing Strive with 50 additional parents in eastern and western Washington.  Other short and longer-term goals are to expand Strive. We will:

  • Develop open source availability
  • Conduct a randomized control trail
  • Become an evidence-based parenting program
  • Create new curricula that focuses on 1) nine-18 year olds; 2)  caregivers and front line workers; 3) healthcare providers; and 4) curriculum to support parents at the point of reunification