Supporting Vermont's Foster Parents Through Innovative Systems of Support

PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 1617-03
Sunday, March 12, 2017

Not only are many current foster parents unsatisfied with the supports offered to them, but inadequate supports may also deter people from becoming foster parents in the first place.[i] To aid Vermont foster parents and the policymakers and organizations that support them, this project explores innovative and potentially-underutilized approaches to supporting foster parents. Vermont currently offers foster parents financial reimbursement, support groups, training, and the assistance of support coordinators, and parents can also qualify for food and medical benefits.[ii] Representative Anne Pugh, Chair of the Vermont Committee on Human Services and Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee, tasked us with determining if other innovative approaches to supporting foster parents exist and whether they might be applicable in Vermont. This report examines various models for support currently implemented outside of Vermont while taking into account their feasibility for Vermont. The report examines alternative methods of supporting foster parents through three approaches: a) comparative case studies of programs in other state and countries, b) studies of state nonprofits, and c) expert interviews with administrators and stakeholders involved in innovative foster care system programs. Programs are grouped into two categories: preventative programs that reduced the need for children to be placed into foster care, and innovative reactive programs that support foster parents and their families. Based on these analyses, the report identifies options Vermont might pursue in supporting foster parents, describes information about program cost, implementation, and utilization, and discusses potential feasibility and potential outcomes if pursued in Vermont.