In 2011, our Case Supervisor Laurie Tyrrell had the vision of helping parents reunite with their very young children. As she stated,
“My husband and I were foster parents for over 75 infants and very young children. Over the years I meet many struggling parents who truly loved and cared about their kids, and wanted to reunite and rebuild their family, but lacked basic life and family skills. They would cooperate with their social worker and complete all requirements to reunify with their children, and many times the parent would complete their parenting classes, but I could see that they still had no idea how to put that information to use. Each time I returned a child to one of these parents, my heart would go out and I wanted to go home with the parent to help them learn how to care for their child and maintain a home that is safe and clean.”
This idea became a reality when in late 2010, Placer First 5 approved seed money to launch a Family Mentor program.
The Family Mentor program provides a CASA volunteer for the child and a separate Family Mentor volunteer for the parent. The Family Mentor visits the home of the parent each week and helps the parent develop a variety of life skills surrounding health, nutrition, budgeting, organization, home care, education, career and job search, to name but a few areas. Family Mentors also provide the parents with a small expandable file full of organizational tools. This also doubles as a place to keep important family documents. And when the parents reach certain milestones, we are also to provide them with a laptop computer thorough i-foster.
The Family Mentor works with both parent(s) and child just prior to reunification and throughout the 6 months to one year of Family Maintenance on these skills. Our Family Mentors are highly trained volunteers who have gone through an additional 16 hours of training.
The goals of the Family Mentor program are:
- To prevent the child from re-entering the child welfare system.
- To help the parent(s) become more independent and self-sufficient.
- To end the cycle of child welfare involvement in these families for the next generation.