Partners for Our Children (P4C) has been working in close collaboration, since 2014, with the Washington State Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF), and over 100 stakeholders to develop and test the Strive Supervised Family Time program. Strive is a parent education and support program that aims to engage parents in the visitation process, assist parents in preparing for high quality family time with their children, and promote child safety. Strive uses a strengths-based, trauma-informed approach to help parents create a positive environment for nurturing their relationship with their child(ren) within the context of supervised family time. Parents are connected with a “Strive Navigator” (family time supervisor trained in Strive) who meets with them weekly during the program to cover session content and to support them during their family time to “try out” new knowledge and skills.
For the five weeks of Strive, parents work with the same Strive Navigator; a) meeting with them one-on-one, before their visit, for a one hour session for information and support regarding their visit, b) after the session, their Strive Navigator then provides a supported, supervised visit and c) they then have a 15 minute, one-on-one debrief with the Strive Navigator after the visit to discuss what went well and areas the parent wants to focus on in subsequent visits.
The current manualized curriculum focuses on parents with children in the birth to age eight age range and includes the following five sessions:
1) Getting Started which is focused on building the relationship between the parent and Strive Navigator (SN) and deciding how to work together, identifying the importance of family time and, orienting parents to family time rules and expectations;
2) Connect and Reassure provides parents with strategies for connecting with and reassuring their children and addressing feelings their children may be having during family time. The parent learns to create and use a visit routine to provide structure for the family time;
3) Creating a Safe and Health Family Time Environment in which the SN provides the parent with age appropriate information on child safety in visits, and how to monitor, distract, and redirect their children and supports the parent in scanning the family time space for safety hazards for their child;
4) Communication Counts in which the SN supports the parents in practicing a strategy called Communicating Using Feelings and Needs to communicate with their children, as well as adults involved in their case;
5) Child Directed Play covers the benefits of parents spending time during the family time following their child’s lead in play and the parent learns about and practices the elements of child directed play (Join, Watch, Describe, Follow, Copy, Praise).
In addition, infused throughout the curriculum, are opportunities for the parent to learn and practice brief, stress reduction techniques to help them to: take in new information from the Strive sessions, be present for their visit with their children and, have self-calming strategies that can help them handle stressful situations that may arise.
Pilot studies, Strive adaptation for Native families, Supportive Family Time, and more
To date, the Strive program has been piloted with approximately 170 parents on both the east and west sides of Washington state. It was pilot tested in Washington state from 2017-2018, with an expansion in a region in Eastern Washington currently underway.
For the past several years, through a Best Starts for Kids-King County, Washington grant, the Strive team has been working with Cowlitz Tribal Health Seattle (CTHS) on the development and implementation of culturally responsive adaptation of the program to better serve Native families with children birth to 5 years old.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Strive team developed the Virtual Supportive Family Time Program and training to support the field during this difficult time. https://allianceforchildwelfare.org/content/family-time-supportive-virtual-family-time-program-and-training-elearning
Additionally, with the support of a grant from the CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund (University of Washington), the Strive team is exploring the ability to get additional content to the field via eLearnings. The first eLearning developed, Trauma-Informed Family Time Services can be accessed here: https://allianceforchildwelfare.org/content/trauma-informed-family-time-services
Every day in the US over 400,000 children and youth are living in foster or relative care. Their parents have a court-ordered right to see them in “supervised family time visits” but parents describe this time as terrifying, emotional and traumatic mainly because they are being watched and judged without knowing what to expect at a time when the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Our goal is to increase the quality of visits between ¾ million parents and their children whom they have lost to temporary state custody in order to reduce the trauma and long term adverse effects for these children and to increase the likelihood of these parents being successfully reunited with their children.
Partners for Our Children wants to change systems and promote child safety, positive family functioning, and reduced trauma for parents and children which is why we created the Strive Supervised Family Time ProgramTM . Strive’s strengths-based mission improves the family time experience by building trusted relationships between parents and the professionals involved in their family time, fostering a sense of hope. This helps parents engage more fully in family time and ultimately, creates positive emotional connections with their children that are healing and reduce trauma.
Strive is listed as a “Promising Practice” with the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (2020): https://www.wsipp.wa.gov/ReportFile/1727/Wsipp_Updated-Inventory-of-Evidence-Based-Research-Based-and-Promising-Practices-For-Prevention-and-Intervention-Services-for-Children-and-Juveniles-in-the-Child-Welfare-Juvenile-Justice-and-Mental-Health-Systems_Report.pdf
Orlando LJ, Barkan SE, Brennan K. Creating an Evidence Informed Intervention to Enhance the Quality of Supervised Parent Child Visits. Children and Youth Services Review 2019; 105: (104429). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.104429
Susan Barkan, PhD – Strive Principal Investigator
Laura Orlando, MSW – Strive Project Director and Trainer
Kristen Greenley – Strive Research Manager and Analyst
Renee Siers – Strive Trainer and Coach
Jen Kitago- Strive Administrative and Operations Support
Strive two-pager overview, October 2021