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May 2024Vol. 25, No. 4Investing in Peer Support Programs to Improve Family Well-Being

A new resource for professionals, Promoting Peer Support in Child Welfare, details the importance of peer support programs to help bolster children, youth, and families as they navigate the child welfare system. The publication outlines what peer support is, why it is important, the evidence for its effectiveness, and the importance of investing in peer support programs.

When leaders invest in growing and scaling peer support programs, there can be many benefits:

  • It can amplify lived experience, as many support programs fundamentally partner with those who have experienced child welfare.
  • It can build capacity for peer-to-peer delivered services in communities.
  • It can reduce isolation by connecting people with similar experiences.
  • It can enhance family well-being by connecting families to services and supports.
  • It can build evidence for peer support.

Peer support programs can help many families involved with child welfare, including youth and young adults, parents, and kinship caregivers. It can also take many forms, such as mentoring, resource navigation, support groups, training, one-on-one coaching, advocacy, and outreach. While research about peer support programs in child welfare is limited, some early results are promising:

  • Researchers found that involvement in the Iowa Parent Partner Program reduced reentry rates by more than 40 percent and significantly increased the likelihood of reunification.
  • A study of the Parents for Parents Program in Washington found that the program helped parents better understand the system and increased reunification by 32 percent.
  • Evaluations of the Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams program in Kentucky found that children in the program were about half as likely to enter foster care as children not involved in the program. It also reduced the likelihood of foster care reentry.

The publication, available on the Generations United website, was developed by a committee of members from the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, Generations United, FosterClub, and Zero to Three.