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
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, Ethics, Substance Abuse, DHS 101, and Mental Health Overview. 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.
The goals of the Iowa Parent Partner Approach are:
- Provide better outcomes around reabuse
- Provide better outcomes around reunification
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 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
- Validates parents’ experiences and opinions to make changes in child welfare that will assist families in reunification and keeping children safe
- Includes not only Parent Partners, but also those in training, aides, and allies
- Commits to multiple joint-learning opportunities with DHS. Examples include but are not limited to Parent Partners, allies, and aides:
- 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
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
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.
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.
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
Education 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
Education and Training Resources
There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program, and there is training available for this program.
- Sara Persons, Statewide Parent Partner Coordinator (Iowa)
Children & Families of Iowa
phone: (641) 682-3642
Training is obtained:
The training is conducted in the locality where it will be implemented.
Number of days/hours:
3 days (21 hours)
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Chambers, J., 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.05.030
Type of Study:
Number of Participants: 4,344 (families)
- Age — Not specified
- Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
- Gender — Not specified
- Status — Participants were families who were involved in the child welfare system.
(To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The purpose of this study is to examine the outcomes for children of families served by the Iowa Parent Partner Approach. Families who participated in the Iowa Parent Partner Approach were matched with nonparticipant families via propensity score matching in an attempt to closely replicate the effects of randomization. Measures utilized included administrative data from the Iowa Department of Human Services Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (DHS SACWIS) and the Iowa Parent Partner Approach. Results indicated 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 postintervention follow-up: 12 and 24 months.
Midwest Child Welfare Implementation Center. (2014). Iowa’s partnering with parents for systems change: Final implementation project report. Lincoln, NE: Author.
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: July 2019
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: June 2019
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: July 2010