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February 2004Vol. 5, No. 1Foster Youth Help Develop Curriculum and Provide Training for Child Welfare Workers

Youth in foster care need support as they prepare for independence. A new curriculum developed by the Jordan Institute for Families at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Southeastern Network of Youth and Family Services, and youth and practitioners from eight States across the southeast region, helps public child welfare staff strengthen their skills in working with youth ages 16 to 21 in foster care and independent living programs.

The project has benefited from the participation of current and former foster youth in all aspects of program leadership, development, and implementation. Youth serve on the project's advisory board and often participate as co-trainers. The curriculum itself was developed based on the results of a survey of 800 youth and 400 child welfare workers, and it was pilot tested in four States before implementation.

The curriculum emphasizes that support for independent living is most effective when youth are seen as resources, rather than as objects or recipients of services. Organized into eight 3-hour units, the course is designed to be flexible and highly interactive. Units include:

  • Personalizing youth work
  • Measuring success
  • Connecting with youth culture
  • Seeing me through your eyes
  • Opportunities for positive youth development
  • Supports for positive youth development
  • Family and community connections for positive youth development
  • Walking the talk

Materials include participant notebooks, a CD, and a video produced by and featuring youth. The video ensures youth voices are part of the training, even when a youth co-trainer is not available.

Now in its third and final year, the project is supporting training events across the southeast, training additional trainers, gathering and beginning to process evaluation data, and preparing to make curriculum materials available to a broader audience. By the end of the grant this month, it is anticipated that a total of 400 to 600 child welfare staff from all eight participating states will have been trained.

For more information or how to obtain a copy of the curriculum, contact:

Nancy Dickinson, Project Director
UNC, Chapel Hill
301 Pittsboro Street, CB #3550
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Note: The development of this training curriculum was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant # 90 CT 0060. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Discretionary Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.

Related Items

For more on the needs of foster youth, see "White House Task Force Report Targets Foster Youth," "Casey Foster Alumni Achieve Success in High School Graduation, Employment," and "Funds for Transition From Foster Care to Independence" in this issue of CBX.