An interview with Kimberly Murphy, Director of Social Services Programs, about A Better Way's new Parent Partner Program in Santa Cruz, CA
Can you tell us about A Better Way’s new program in Santa Cruz?
The new program is called the Parent Partner Program, operated in partnership with Santa Cruz County Family & Children's Services. The Program provides eligible child welfare involved parents with time-limited education, peer mentorship, and support with the goal of successfully reunifying, and/or reunifying sooner with their child/children, while decreasing subsequent changes in placement or custody.
Parents referred to our program will receive a Parent Partner to assist them with completing their case plan goals. Parent Partners are parents who have successfully navigated the child welfare system as clients. They provide support, advocacy, and encouragement to referred parents and are bilingual and bicultural, representing English and Spanish speakers. They facilitate effective communication between the parents, their social workers, resource parents, and service providers and ensure parents’ voices are uplifted during the teaming process. Their experience and success offer hope and guidance.
The Parent Partner Program is a 4-6 month, voluntary program. Santa Cruz County Family and Children Services Social Workers will make referrals at the time of removal or whenever additional support is needed. Once referred, each parent will be matched with a Parent Partner who will work to empower them by providing education, advocacy, and support to navigate the child welfare system, understand the identified safety concern(s), and whenever possible, reunify with their children.
Why is it important to provide services to parents and families who are in crisis, or struggling?
It is important to provide these services to parents and families because it helps keep children safe and have their needs met. All parents experience ups and downs or challenging times around their parenting, and some more than others. Providing Parent Partner services to a parent helps them extend their circle of support; by identifying who is in their immediate circle or within their community who they can turn to in times of need. Parents also feel like they are not alone and have the resources available to them to better parent their children.
What kind of results have you seen for programs like this at A Better Way?
The parent partner programs or programs with lived experienced staffing here at ABW are the trail blazers of service delivery programs. They provide a humanistic approach to case management, family reunification and family stabilization service delivery. It uplifts the personal experiences of the families we serve and demonstrates that families can overcome and build resilience even in times of great challenges. These programs have positive outcomes for parents served, including zero return rate of parents receiving services from our differential response program and 90-100% satisfaction rates from parents who have received our parent partner services.
How many people will be on staff in Santa Cruz, and how many people will they serve?
Santa Cruz Staff consists of two parent partners. Both will have caseloads of 13 each, one program supervisor, one administrative assistant and director of social services programs.
Why is this work important to you personally?
I believe that having a part in changing the narrative or outcome for a child is why we are here. Every child deserve a happy and healthy parent who has the resources and support to improve the outcomes for their children’s lives. I enjoy seeing parents do the work and find the self-confidence to improve their family function. It is a blessing to be a part of something that is greater than yourself. It is equally important to provide committed and authentic partners for families to have by their side on their journey towards family reunification and family stabilization.
Can you share a success story from one of A Better Way's programs?
Kimberly responded with the following case study:
African American male 40 years old & homeless. Father was brought to the attention of the agency for General Neglect (Domestic Violence). Parent Partner (PP) enrolled the Parent into the Parent Partner program in March 2021. PP supported the Parent by attending his Child & Family Team (CFT), linking the Parent with his service providers, bridging the communication gap between the Parent and Social Worker, helping the Parent obtain referrals from the County by contacting Social Worker for homeless resources. PP has supported the Parent with basic needs items needed for reunification. PP assisted the Parent with community resources for housing, who assisted the Parent to get into a homeless shelter when the Parent was homeless. PP provided the Parent support around housing, such as reaching out to the Housing Authority on behalf of the Parent to get his section 8 voucher and his home inspection. PP assisted Parent with looking for housing, filling out credit applications for homes, finding funds for application fees. PP referred the Parent to A Better Way’s Father 2 Father Parent Support Group, a peer-led group providing fathers with support to build their father specific support network. The Parent made significant progress on his case plan. Parent received a certificate of completion for Father 2 Father support group. The parent also attended a community Fathers Program for additional support. Parent receives support services that centers around Domestic Violence trauma recovery. The Parent is working with a staff member around Domestic Violence Education. PP completed a safety plan with the Parent prior to discharge. PP provided Social Worker and the Parent with a copy of the Safety plan. PP worked with the parent to complete the following goals:
Closure Goal 1
Parent to build support network - The Parent has been attending the Father 2 Father support group. The Parent was awarded a certificate and a gift card for his attendance. The Parent has connected with other Parents in the group that he says are a great asset to his newfound support system. The Parent receives Parenting services, housing support as needed and Domestic Violence (DV) education. Fighting Back Partnership offers several support services that the Parent can rely on while working with a staff member from the agency. The Parent receives support services through a Trauma Recover Center surrounding domestic violence. The Parent has been connected and worked Resource Connect Solano, who assists Parent financially with housing should the Parent need case management services regarding housing in the future. The Parent has been working to repair his relationship with his Parents (Paternal Grandparents) and has made significant progress, as he added them in his 2nd circle of support and not the first. The Parent attends Support groups for Victims of Abuse. - Goal Met
Closure Goal 2
Domestic Violence Education- The Parent has been referred to a program for Victims of Abuse. The Parent receives DV support and education with a staff member at the agency. The program also offers victims peer counselling, Support groups, DV education for victims, restraining orders, court accompaniment, crisis intervention along with many other DV related case management services and is a great support for the Parent that satisfies and exceeds his requirement with the Department. - Goal Met
Closure Goal 3
Stabilize Housing - The Parent worked with Parent Partner (PP) and Family Navigator (FN) to find and secure housing. PP referred the Parent to a Resource Family Center. The Parent received case management services through Resource Center Services (RCS) who helped the Parent get into a homeless shelter. Parent put in applications and looked at apartments. Parent located housing and had it inspected by the Housing Authority who subsidizes the Parent's monthly rent obligation. PP supported the Parent with communication with the Housing Authority and assisting the Parent with filling out rental applications. The Parent now has stable housing with all utilities connected. PP supported the Parents basic needs by referring the Parent to Opportunity House who assisted the Parent with furnishing his home with items needed for reunification with his Children. - Goal Met
PP and Parent discussed the Parent's next steps. The Parent will continue working with his assigned staff member for DV Education, support groups, and DV case management as needed. The Parent will update his safety plan every six months. The Parent will maintain his stable housing and has the contact info for resources around housing assistance and/or case management. The Parent will continue working with his assigned case manager from Fighting Back Partnership for supportive services. The Parent will continue attending the A Better Way’s Father 2 Father parent support group The Parent will follow his safety plan if he finds himself in another Domestic Violence relationship and reach out to his support persons.