We are “Better Together”!
By Laura Boswell
Resource Family Advisory Board member
When partners in child welfare value and respect one another, the children of Alaska benefit. On Dec. 5–7, 2011, OCS staff, allies, alumni and the Resource Family Advisory Board came to Anchorage in a collaborative effort to strengthen their partnership, improve communication and develop relationships with the intent to positively change the foster care system. Guided by the “Better Together” curriculum outline, our facilitators Tess Thomas and Karen Jorgenson walked us through the powerful results possible when stakeholders work together. There was a strong emphasis on the importance of good communication between partners, including active listening as well as patience and courtesy when dealing with misunderstandings. Everyone present grew in appreciation for the unique work of each individual involved in Alaska’s child welfare system.
Though there were plenty of valuable principles for good partnership presented, we also brainstormed specific plans of action bringing theory into practice. We established regional goals such as creating a supply of backpacks filled with necessities for children just coming into care. There was a strong desire to see more recruiting of Native homes to become resource families, as well as increasing the number of Native representatives on the Board. Statewide goals included enhancing education efforts regarding regulations for foster homes, encouraging better connection between birth families, foster families and case workers and providing support in navigating the system. We hope to see this accomplished via local mentorship, a newsletter and a call list of experienced foster parents.
We were all encouraged to see many partners join the Advisory Board and we celebrated with hugs all around. We extend our thanks to the Casey Family Programs and OCS for sponsoring this event and we are hopeful that this meeting and future collaborations will strengthen our alliance and profit Alaska’s children.