Iowa Parent Partner Approach

About This Program

Target Population: Parents involved with Department of Human Services' Child Protective Services

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 17

Program Overview

Iowa Parent Partner Approach is an approach designed to provide better outcomes around re-abuse and reunification. The Iowa Parent Partner Approach celebrates parents who have been in the child welfare system and achieved reunification or resolved issues around termination of parental rights as individuals that have overcome obstacles through change, recovery, and accountability. This approach utilizes their skills, once they are trained as Parent Partners, to mentor families whose children are in foster or kinship care as they navigate through the Department of Human Services (DHS) system. Parent Partners, who are independent contractors of Children & Families of Iowa, receive training on a variety of topics including Domestic Violence, Mandatory Reporting, Boundaries and Safety Issues, Building a Better Future, Substance Abuse, DHS 101, Mental Health Overview, and Confidentiality and Cultural Competency. Once trained, they provide one-on-one mentoring by providing advice, support, and encouragement to families whose children are currently involved with DHS in efforts to enhance their capacity to provide for and guide their children's healthy development. Parent Partners meet with families face-to-face as well as contact by phone. Parent Partners offer to be present as a support at Family Team Decision Making Meetings, staffings, and court appearances. All activities and contacts the Parent Partner has with the family are documented on a monthly activity form.

Parent Partners receive oversight by local Coordinators to discuss ongoing issues and case concerns. Coordinators also offer growth opportunities in professional interaction skills, as this may be a Parent Partner's first professional role. Mental health support sessions are provided to Parent Partners by a licensed master's-level clinician skilled in trauma/attachment and substance abuse. These support sessions are utilized to discuss issues and challenges that result from mentoring parents with similar mental health problems and recovery triggers.

Program Goals

The goals of the Iowa Parent Partner Approach are:

  • Provide better outcomes around reabuse
  • Provide better outcomes around reunification

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Iowa Parent Partner Approach.

Essential Components

The essential components of the Iowa Parent Partner Approach include:

  • Parent Partners are parents who have previous involvement/life experience with the Department of Human Services' Child Protective Services, including the removal of their child(ren) from their home.
  • A Parent Partner [mentor] who works with families involved in the child welfare system is a key strategy to improving practice with families, but it cannot stand alone. Parent Partners also network within communities and partner directly with the:
    • Department of Human Services (DHS)
    • Child welfare staff
    • Child welfare systems
    • Child welfare agencies
  • Parent Partner Roles include:
    • Parent Partner
    • Parent Partner - In Training Mentoring
    • Parent Partner - In Training
  • Parent Partners collaborate with social workers and providers to:
    • Meet the needs of families
    • Assist in policy and program development
    • Change perceptions in communities
    • Facilitate trainings and learning opportunities
    • Assess progress
    • Help professionally, empathetically, and productively interpret patterns, behaviors, and needs of families
  • Parent Partners validate parents' experiences and opinions to make changes in child welfare that will assist families in reunification and keeping children safe
  • Parent Partners mentoring and in training attend community meetings
  • Parent Partners commit to multiple joint-learning opportunities with DHS:
    • Attend meetings, workgroups, and trainings within DHS offices to foster cultural change and build relationships
    • Assist DHS in meetings, committees, task teams, presentations, conferences, etc., to incorporate parent perspective
    • Instill the Community Partnerships' four strategies and mission

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

Iowa Parent Partner Approach directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Having a child in the child welfare system; lack of information/education/awareness of the Public Agency (DHS); lack of communication skills especially with systems and involuntary services; lack of basic self-advocacy skills, including skills to prepare for meetings, court hearings, etc. that parents may be required to attend due to Juvenile Court and DHS involvement

Recommended Intensity:

Frequency of contact is determined by the family and the family's needs. Typically for the mentoring, or one-on-one piece of the program it is recommended that Parent Partners spend 1-2 hours of face-to-face contact per parent per week.

Recommended Duration:

The length of the program varies as much as the resources, needs, and identified concerns of the parent/family varies. It is recommended to receive at least 6 months of mentoring.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Birth Family Home
  • Public Child Welfare Agency (Dept. of Social Services, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.


Iowa Parent Partner Approach has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • One FT Program Coordinator and FT/PT program assistant
  • Space for Program Coordinator
  • Space for monthly group meetings
  • Mental Health Clinician to co-facilitate group clinical support to Parent Partners on a monthly basis
  • Computer for coordinator and program assistant that is equipped for projection
  • Agency policies in place to employ, contract, or recruit volunteers with child abuse records and possible criminal history backgrounds
  • Copier – paper– files (not only for files, but for group work)
  • Large post-its and markers for training and meetings
  • Trainers for supplemental trainings – training supplies such as food, toys for the tables (adult learners)
  • Funding to support Parent Partner mentors without exploitation

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

For staff other than Parent Partners:

  • Knowledge of disease of addiction, local recovery supports and life-long recovery of addiction
  • Knowledge of domestic violence and local supports and resources
  • Knowledge of mental health diagnoses and local resources/supports
  • Clear understanding of State Agency's Child Protective Services and how other state agencies affect the target population
  • Knowledge of poverty and the effects of poverty on parents and children, and the barriers to breaking the cycle of poverty (if generational)
  • Understanding of adult learning styles including how mental health, addiction, domestic violence, and poverty affects the work ethic/styles of parents who will be mentors
  • Clear understanding of Family Team Decision Making philosophy and practice
  • Excellent relationship and social skills
  • Ability and willingness to partner with State Child Protective Agency and their contract employees
  • Understanding of juvenile court procedures
  • Some education in the human services/social work field - Bachelors degree in Social Work is preferred
  • Understanding of logic models and outcomes achievable by implementing the approach
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Willingness to learn from and be led by Parent Partners

For Parent Partners:

  • Parents who have previous involvement/life experience with Department of Human Services' Child Protective Services and have had their children removed from their home

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

The following guides and a handbook serve as the program manual:

  • Iowa Parent Partners. (2014). Iowa Parent Partner Approach handbook: Governing philosophy, policy & protocol.
  • Iowa Parent Partners. (2013). Parent partner coordinator practice guide.
  • Iowa Parent Partners. (2013). Parent partner practice guide.

For more information about the guides or how to access them, please contact the program representative (info at the bottom of the page).

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
  • Sara Persons, Statewide Parent Partner Coordinator (Iowa)
    Children & Families of Iowa

    phone: (515) 288-1981
Training Type/Location:

The training is conducted in the locality where it will be implemented.

Number of days/hours:

3 days (21 hours)

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Iowa Parent Partner Approach as listed below:

The implementation readiness assessment consists of a planning worksheet that is utilized in helping interested states and agencies determine their status and readiness for pre-implementation. For more information, please contact Sara Persons, Parent Partner Statewide Parent Partner Coordinator, email:

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Iowa Parent Partner Approach as listed below:

Both formal and informal support is provided to states and agencies, depending on the level of progress and implementation of the program. Informal support is typically a "question/answer" conversation and initial materials are provided including the Iowa Parent Partner Handbook, the Parent Partner research study published in the Child & Youth Services Review journal, and the Readiness Worksheet. These tend to lead to a more formal conversation about next steps. Additional coaching or consultation for various states or agencies has also been provided depending on the need or status in the implementation process. Formal support is offered through virtual communication, phone calls, emails, in addition to site visits depending on support requested.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Iowa Parent Partner Approach as listed below:

There is a Fidelity Checklist and Parent Outcome assessment to be completed by the Parent Partner with the Local Coordinator upon the parent exiting the program. The form can be found in the document located at this link:

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Iowa Parent Partner Approach as listed below:

The following guides contain implementation information:

For more information, please contact the program representative (info at the bottom of the page).

Implementation Cost

There are no studies of the costs of Iowa Parent Partner Approach.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Iowa Parent Partner Approach.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Chambers, J. M., Lint, S., Thompson, M. G., Carlson, M. W., & Graef, M. I. (2019). Outcomes of the Iowa Parent Partner program evaluation: Stability of reunification and re-entry into foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 104, Article 104353.

Type of Study: Other quasi-experimental
Number of Participants: 4344 families


  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were families who were involved in the child welfare system.

Location/Institution: Iowa

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to examine the outcomes for children of families served by the Iowa Parent Partner Approach. Participants were from the Iowa Parent Partner Approach and were matched with nonparticipant families via propensity score matching in an attempt to closely replicate the effects of randomization. Measures utilized include administrative data from the Iowa Department of Human Services Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (DHS SACWIS) and the Iowa Parent Partner Approach. Results indicate that the children of Iowa Parent Partner Approach participants were significantly more likely to return home at discharge from their foster care placement than the children of matched nonparticipants. Additionally, Iowa Parent Partner Approach participants were significantly less likely to have a subsequent child removal within 12 months of the child returning home than matched nonparticipants. No significant differences were found between the children of Iowa Parent Partner Approach participants and children of matched nonparticipants in the total time in out-of-home care or subsequent child removal within 24 months of returning home. Limitations include nonrandom assignment and lack of statewide implementation in some years of data collection.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: 12 and 24 months.

Additional References

Midwest Child Welfare Implementation Center. (2014). Iowa's partnering with parents for systems change: Final implementation project report. Lincoln, NE: Author.

Contact Information

Julie Clark-Albrecht
Agency/Affiliation: Iowa Department of Human Services
Phone: (515) 281-7269

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: May 2023

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: July 2023

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: July 2010