Pamela Parkinson, PhD, LCSW

Assessing Family Issues Using Evidence-Informed Principles:  An Overview (SW200)
This Overview Training will address case assessment specific to psychological and behavioral factors within the context of exploring and identifying the underlying issues in the family including family violence, family needs, strengths and resources. This case assessment will prepare the worker to move forward with an effective case plan regarding how to support the youth in the safest and healthiest manner. This introductory workshop stands alone, however, it is a prerequisite for signing up for the month-long seminar (described below) that uses direct observations of the family’s interactions to identify the underlying and/or disguised issues.  

The Power of Assessing the Family System in our Work with At Risk Youth:  A Brief 4-Session Seminar Using Direct Observation as a Primary Means of Assessment. (SW260)
Practice direct observation of actual families as the primary means of assessing for safety and assessing family issues, needs, strengths, resources, and existing support systems (both natural support and professional services support).  A reflecting team  is used to allow the family to confirm that we have adequately identified their needs.  The overview training described above is a prerequisite to signing up for this training. During this brief 4-week seminar, we use a case assessment that includes the family history, time lines, and, most importantly, direct observation in assessment as part of the training.  

Assessing, Interviewing and Understanding Youth in Foster Care and their Families:   An Intensive Seminar (SW350)
Thoroughly examine how to assess youth and their families.  This 8-month seminar focuses on family-centered practice including interviewing and assessment.
Discuss:
•    The consideration of psychological, developmental, behavioral and educational factors;
•    Exploring family issues pertaining to violence, substance use, child and family needs, strengths, resources, and access to existing support systems
•    Information on the child’s past history, current adjustment, and family history.
•    Direct observation as a major means of assessment in doing effective case assessment

Appropriate Professional Boundaries in Working with Kids/Families:  Boundaries, Boundaries, Darn Those Boundaries! (SW390)
It can be a struggle to know how close or distant your relationships with your clients should be in order to maintain your ability to be helpful and therapeutic.  Today we provide services to our youth and their families in their own homes, in schools, and in their communities.  This can be confusing for us and for our clients about what our roles are and what kinds of relationships are being developed with our clients.  The true helping relationship requires clear relationship boundaries so that we don’t unintentionally exploit our clients.  Examine what we mean by boundaries, ways in which we might be overstepping them, what is meant by dual relationships, and issues regarding the boundaries relating to physical contact with kids.  

Challenging Youth Behaviors:  Understanding the Impact of Child Abuse and Neglect on a Child (SW370)
If you work with youth who behave in ways that are disruptive, disrespectful, and sometimes dangerous to themselves, you, or others, you need to understand why kids who have been abused and/or neglected act the way they do.  Examine the basics of why youth act the way they do and what you bring to the situation.  Focus on understanding the importance of the behaviors’ function (what the youth is trying to communicate) as a necessary ingredient in developing a case plan.  

Understanding and Assessing Challenging Youth Behaviors in the Context of Family Issues:  A 4 Session Seminar (SW375)
Explore what these challenging behaviors mean within the context of family issues.  You must be able to assess and understand what the behaviors mean within the context of the family relationship issues in order to develop an effective case plan to help youth in foster care.  This allows you to preserve, strengthen, and help the family move towards reunification.  Examine the relational function of the behaviors and learn how to assess what needs to happen in the case plans so that the behavior problems of the youth can be addressed effectively.  

Practicing Evidence-Informed Case Assessment Strategies for Increased Mastery in Supporting Youth and Their Families in Foster Care:  a 12-Week Seminar (SW510)
The ability to do an accurate assessment is critical; it is one of the most important aspects of what we do to help our youth and their families move into permanent placement successfully. Study the evidence-informed common elements of case assessment.   Within the assessment process, a positive working alliance with the client needs to develop if the service delivery is to be effective.  This alliance is based in the assessment process, which is based on a strength-based model.  

Working with Multi-Stressed Families (SW400)
When working with families with few resources in their lives, traumatic pasts, and challenged relationships within their families, it can be easy to feel some of the same loss of hope that many of them experience.  Explore the effects of separation, grief, and loss on our kids in foster care.  Additionally, focus on the communications skills required to work with children and their families.  It is our responsibility to help them experience hope that will motivate them to achieve their goals.

How to Build a Genogram with Your Clients:  Assessing the Child and Family History (SW150)

Explore how to gather information on a child’s past history within the context of the family history by using a genogram; it is useful in case development and case reviews.   It is important to gather the kind of inter-generational information that allows a better understanding of the past and current history of the child and family in order to serve youth in the foster care system effectively.

What Strength-Based Family Work Means  (SW 380)
For years we have been told to be “strength-based and client centered”, however, we have not typically been told what this really means.  In our field, we often focus on the negative events that have occurred or the pathology that a client and their family members seem to present with.  We forget, in the midst of all of the difficulties, that everyone has strengths and abilities and good intentions.  This training focuses on the importance of teaming with family members from the beginning and offers a structure for bringing everyone together to build a case plan that will be the most likely to support the success of the child.  We will also clarify what it means in terms of our work to be “strength-based”.  

Why Kids Act the Way They Do: Exploring the “Butthead Hypothesis”
Explore the issues related to why kids act (or act out) the way that they do.  Understanding the potential causes of these behaviors is one of the best approaches to remaining therapeutic even when things are at their worst.  Explore how a youth’s history is related to these behaviors and the theoretical explanations for some of these behaviors  The ability to be empathic is directly related to how you interpret and understand the many unpleasant behaviors that the youth exhibit; this understanding is related to your ability to remain therapeutic, avoid power struggles, and prevent your own professional burn-out.  

Understanding Youth:  The Importance of Assessment
Examine the variety of mental health diagnoses given to our youth and the importance of understanding systemic assessment in relation to these diagnoses. Children change rapidly as they development; similar behaviors can represent very different diagnoses. A good Assessment is necessary to create an effective case plan to guide our work with our kids and their families. If this doesn’t occur, we may use ineffective interventions, thereby wasting time and money. More importantly, we are not helping our youth and their families who will continue to struggle with serious issues

Attachment and Emotions in Working with Youth in Out-of-Home Care
Sometimes it seems like the kids you work with should just forget about their family and move on. You may worry that they are getting hurt more as they hope for things to change rather than accepting that things are not changing and letting go of the situation.  For better or worse, this attachment, or lack of it, carries a lifelong impact and influences every relationship they will ever have.  Explore the effects of separation on child development and its impact on attachment.  Examine how family relationships are about continuously finding ways to stay connected and negotiating this connection through various developmental stages.  

Independent Living:  What you Need to Know to Help Youth in Foster Care Prepare for Independent Living

Preparing for adulthood and independent living brings with it many wonderful and sometimes frightening issues related to the ending of services and what the future will hold. This is a stressful process for the client, staff members, family members, and peers of the individual preparing to leave the foster care system.  Explore the important issues this brings up for the youth, what to expect as this transition grows closer, and how to develop a case plan that includes this kind of understanding.  

Understanding Treatment Modalities in Serving Kids and Their Families
We know that we have to work systemically when working with youth in foster care with mental health issues.  These youth come to our services through a variety of systems (probation, school, mental health) and it is important that we understand these systems and the basics regarding how to navigate them.  Study the large public sectors that make up the child system of care, an overview of treatment modalities typically used with kids, and some of the underlying theories upon which many of these modalities are based.

How to do a Thorough Child/Family Case Review

This training is targeted to those who participate in staff meetings where case review is an important tool used to communicate relevant and important historical and current information necessary with the team.  Without a strength-based case plan, we are working in the dark and may not be focused on the correct issues in order to achieve a family’s goals and to help the child be successful.  A systemic case review format is presented.

The Importance of the Foster Family & the Biological Family to Kids in Foster Care:   Don’t Make Me Choose, I Can Love You Both
Often we forget that regardless the traumas our youth have experienced at the hands of their biological family members, they still have hopes and dreams about how those relationships can change. It is important to recognize these parents “in the shadows” because the youth still love those who mistreated them even when they say the opposite; Working with youth on how they interpret what has happened to them is the most important work that we can do in helping them to succeed in life, whether they return to live with their parents or not.  Explore the challenges in this area and the mental health issues associated with them.  

Understanding Children Placed in Out-of Home Care

Removing children from their homes, for better or worse, can cause yet another set of traumas for the youth.  While this may be necessary for the youth’s safety, it is important to understand the mixture of feelings our kids struggle with and the kinds of connections that they have to their immediate and extended family members.  Use a strength-based perspective in understanding the mental health issues that our kids experience as a result of their past histories.  

Basic Facilitation Skills:  How to Run Effective Meetings
Study basic approaches and ingredients to facilitate an effective meeting structure. Examine how to prepare for a meeting or case review and structure an agenda in a way that allows for the meeting time to be used effectively and also allows the needs of the clients to be met. Discuss: how to help staff prepare for meetings; keeping the meeting focused on the tasks at hand; and planning "next steps" using action-oriented timelines. This allows participants to have a sense of productivity and the feeling that they can meet their clients’ needs. It may be possible to have fewer meetings if you use the meetings you do have effectively

General Supervisory Skills for Working Effectively with Staff who Serve Youth in Foster Care
Few supervisors have had training in providing supervision; rather, we learn on the job.  This training focuses specifically on understanding the basic supervisory skills necessary to provide effective and supportive supervision for staff who work with kids in foster care.  Study issues such as team building, strength-based management, boundaries, and accountability.

Behavior and Emotional Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Examine behavior in children and youth and its relationship to identifying emotional problems a youth’s history of abuse and neglect.  Review a variety of theories and diagnostic labels that help explain or identify emotional problems and study how these can be helpful or harmful to treatment. Discuss assessment in understanding emotional problems and the use of DSM-IV in diagnosing youth.

Discharge & Emancipation

Study the four types of discharge or emancipation that we face when working with kids in foster care:  Planned:  The youth is moving on either because they are emancipating or because they are going to a less restrictive level of care.  Planned: You are leaving the agency and saying good-bye to all of the kids you work with.  Unplanned: Your agency is requesting that the youth leave, usually due to difficulty in meeting their treatment needs and often recommending that the youth move to a more restrictive level of care.  Unplanned: The placing county is moving the youth.  Discuss specific challenges regarding discharge,  what it means to emancipate from foster care, the role of the family/community in this process, as well as general issues.  

Effective Termination with Clients

Termination brings with it many wonderful and sometimes frightening issues related to both the treatment process that has occurred and what the future will hold. It may be planned or unplanned. Either way, it is a stressful process for the client, staff members, family members, and peers of the individual who is terminating. Explore the importance of termination throughout treatment, what to expect as termination grows closer, and some ways to support a healthy termination process for everyone