Parents Supporting Parents

New Pilot Could Change the Culture of Foster Care

We have seen across Rising Ground’s programs that children, adults, and families benefit from having access to the knowhow of individuals with lived experience. We are proud to be one of two organizations selected for a new initiative, Parents Supporting Parents. This will allow us to start using this practice with families who have children in foster care.

Says Alan Mucatel, CEO of Rising Ground: “We are thrilled to be part of this new pilot program, which allows us to hire and train Parent Advocates who have first-hand experience with the child welfare system. He adds that the program, launched by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, “has the potential to change the culture of New York City foster care as we know it.”

The Parents Supporting Parents Initiative will embed parent advocates in foster care teams. Parents can relate to the parent advocates who have stood in their shoes and felt the anger, resentment, frustration, and sorrow that families can feel when a child is removed from the home. Parent Advocates also have knowledge of how to navigate the child welfare system, which can expedite family reunification—the number one goal of family foster care.

“Parent Advocates have lived experience that, to parents, make them inherently less threatening and more approachable than case planners,” explains Mr. Mucatel. “Parents are more likely to open up to someone who has dealt with the system personally.”

At the same time, Parent Advocates will have a profound impact on family foster care services. “Parent Advocates can give foster care teams more insight into the parent experience than case planners generally have, no matter how well-meaning case planners may be,” Mr. Mucatel notes.

Our 4th Credible Messenger Program
In the Parents Supporting Parents Initiative, Parent Advocates are seen as “credible messengers,” or people who have overcome adversities similar to the challenges faced by the persons they support. Credible messengers serve as a guide, confidant, and mentor to individuals who want to talk and listen to someone who knows what they are going through, someone they can trust.

Rising Ground uses credible messengers in three other areas of service:
• For years, STEPS to End Family Violence has included intimate partner violence survivors in its support of and advocacy for gender-based violence survivors.
• The youth counselors in My Next Move, a program of our Justice for Youth & Families Services, are credible messengers who support youth when they return to the community after placement.
• Lastly, the Fatherhood Initiative, which teaches fathers how to rekindle relationships with their children, invites alumni to its group sessions because of their positive influence on current participants.

Rising Ground is currently recruiting four parent advocates, who will be embedded as full members of the organization’s four Brooklyn-based foster care teams. The advocates will receive training, coaching, and professional development from Rise, a highly respected parent advocacy organization, which is partnering with ACS in this initiative. The initiative is privately funded thanks to the generosity of Casey Family Programs, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Redlich Horwitz Foundation, and the Warner Fund.

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