THE BIG PICTURE
VIVA leveraged our extensive expertise in early childhood development to help First 5 San Mateo County and the San Mateo County Human Services Agency (HSA) implement a strategy to dramatically improve foster children’s experiences and support their development during supervised visits.
Each year in California, thousands of children are separated from their parents and placed in out-of-home foster care. During this time of separation, the primary way that the parent-child relationship is maintained is through supervised visits. Transportation Officers spend countless hours transporting children across county lines to attend school, return to foster homes, and see their parents. During these trips, which often take place over the course of 2-3 hours and may involve extensive waiting, children can become bored and restless. Furthermore, although supervised visits are critical for promoting healthy attachment between children and parents, they often consist of brief encounters in neutral settings that may be uncomfortable for both the parent and child.
First 5 San Mateo County hired VIVA to support their inter-agency collaborative effort with HSA by developing and sourcing visitation kits to better care for children during these times.
The goal of the kits was to provide engaging, developmentally appropriate activities and toys to help the staff who support these visits and the parents themselves better interact with the foster children. The Transportation Officer Kit developed by VIVA provides Transportation Officers with tools to help engage children during their travels and during the wait time before the visit begins. The kits include developmentally appropriate entertainment and education materials, and car-friendly tools to organize, secure, and transport them.
VIVA also developed Community Care Worker Visitation Kits, which are provided to the Community Care Workers who supervise the visits to be given to parents. These kits contain developmentally appropriate tools to help the parent feel comfortable engaging and playing with their child. The kits also include a fact sheet with information on children’s development and positive parenting skills.
As part of this work, VIVA facilitated a feedback session with Community Care Workers and Transportation Officers. Once the kits were developed, VIVA also provided guidance around training staff to use the kits.