Mike Canfield Co-President FPAWS testifys on “drop-in” monitoring of foster parents

Mike Canfield, Co President of the Foster Parent Association of Washington State on Senate Bill Bill 5393 (Providing for unannounced visits to homes with dependent children)

Introduced by Sen. Jim Hargrove, (D-Hoquiam) on January 24, 2011, to require the department of social and health services and the supervising agencies to randomly select no less than ten percent of the caregivers currently providing care to children in out-of-home care and in-home dependencies to receive one unannounced face-to-face visit in the caregiver’s home per year.

“We just plain and simply don’t need this to be a law. If foster parents need this type of ‘support’ to assure the kids in care are safe, I lay this at the feet of the social service system and their inability to create a better system, not foster parents. Lets move forward creating a well educated team of folks caring for kids. Let’s create a system where being a foster parent doesn’t make you a suspected child abusing money grubbing bottom dweller. We praise and applaud people for stepping up and taking in the communities needy children. We say things like, “you are so wonderful, I could never do that.” Soon after we license them we start chipping away at their civil rights as we ask them to assume part of the cost. We need to change the culture of foster care so more people feel that it is something they can do.

Do we really want people doing foster care that say, “I need a law that says I need surprise visits to keep me on my toes.” If we suspect a foster parent to be unworthy of our trust, why don’t we just tell them the truth. Tell them that we don’t trust them and are going to be coming by often. Maybe we set up a relationship with a trusted foster parent and an experienced social worker teaming to mentor and support the un-trusted foster parent. If these foster parents are really incapable of regaining our trust, they will likely choose to do something else.

We have many foster care alumni that are foster parents themselves. We should listen to them as well. Are they saying they need this law to be better foster parents? We all want a safer system for kids. This bill will not keep kids safe from the people that want to abuse children. It may unintentionally continue the perpetuate a culture of distrust. It will arm the weaker social workers with a law that allows them to increasingly abuse the power they abuse already. Sometimes it is easier to trash a foster parent then do good social work. Easy isn’t always better.”


Fostering Connections Legislation Finally Begins to Have Effect

The text of the legislation and link to it are found here


From: Lininger, Tami On Behalf Of Revels Robinson, Denise (DSHS)
Sent: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 9:12 AM
Cc: Dreyfus, Susan (DSHS); Guerin, Tracy (DSHS)
Subject: Message from Denise Revels Robinson – CA Staff Recognized by FPAWS

January 12, 2010

Dear Children’s Administration Colleagues:

I am pleased to pass along some wonderful news about several of Children’s Administration staff being recognized by the Foster Parent Association of Washington State.

Today FPAWS announced its 2010 award winners. On January 18, 2010 FPAWS will present 14 awards to individuals who, by being champions of Washington’s foster parents, improve the quality of life for our foster children. Please join me in congratulating your colleagues for this professional recognition.

In honor of the work of Bob Partlow as both a champion of foster parents and as a past former foster parent, FPAWS has created the first annual Bob Partlow Award. Bob will receive the first award in his honor and Michael Luque will receive this year’s Bob Partlow Award. Bob and Michael have worked with foster parents statewide for some time.

FPAWS Luminary Awards will go to the following Children’s Administration Social Workers:

Region 1: Wendi Hunt, CFWS Social Worker – Colville

Region 2: Nelly Mbajah, CFWS Social Worker – Walla Walla

Region 3: Steve DiMarco, CFWS Social Worker – Smokey Point

Region 4: Lina Nuniyants, DLR Social Worker West Seattle

Region 5: Damian Lonnee, CFWS Social Worker Bremerton

Region 6: Maria Oliphant, CFWS Social Worker Vancouver

FPAWS Luminary Unit Award: Tumwater Adolescent Unit of Children’s Administration

In addition, the following are also being recognized by FPAWS:

FPAWS Elected Officials of the Year Awards

Representative Ruth Kagi

Representative Maureen Walsh

First Annual: Steve & Daniele Baxter Award

Steve & Daniele Baxter, Past Co-Presidents FPAWS & Current Foster Parents

Dee Wilson, Exec. Director NICF UW School of Social Work

FPAWS Best Practices in Foster Care Award

Chief Chandra Brady, Lewis County Jail Administrator

The FPAWS January 18 celebration is titled the “Night of 1000 Dreams.” For more information on the free daytime expert panel event 1–5 p.m., and the evening awards dinner ceremony 5–9 p.m. you can visit the web site: http://www.FPAWS.org or contact Mary Jeanne Smith at 509-876-6245 or email at MJ@fpaws.org


Denise Revels Robinson

From a Distance…things will look great!

From a Distance…

“The world looks blue and green
And the snow capped mountains white”

Julie Gold wrote such a beautiful song. It’s one of my favorites. Bette Midler made it hugely popular – so I guess it’s on the list of favorites for a lot of people.

But it describes how the mile-high perspective isn’t always a good thing, ‘cause it’s not real.

That song came to me as I was thinking that sometimes it isn’t wise to apply science to human conduct.

Right now we have lots of small nonprofits with goals of serving a particular population in a particular way – ‘cause that’s what they are good at doing. We have to get rid of them in order to make performance based contracting work. Even if they are the best suited to provide services to little Johnnie, they have to go. Why?

In order to get enough numbers to be able to “prove” that we have managed our system and are now meeting our goals, we MUST reduce the number of contractors who provide services.

Apparently, we can’t figure out a way to apply percentages to small numbers. So, we no longer look at individual cases to see if we got the results for little Johnnie that we wanted. Instead, we look at all the Johnnies together and see if we got good results in 4 out of 6 cases. Too bad if you happen to be the little Johnnie who was one of the 2 we’re not worrying about anymore…we don’t call it falling through the crack, we call it statistically significant…

From a distance, the system will look like it’s working…

The song describes how the world looks from a distant God’s-eye view…to this distant god, there is harmony, we all have enough and no one is in need. There are no guns, no bombs and no disease, no hungry mouths to feed, and you look like my friend even though we are at war. Apparently, that perspective is why this God “cannot comprehend what all this fighting’s for.”

God obviously isn’t going to intervene and fix the problems, if God is too far away to see them.

We don’t have to really improve foster care – just manage it…

When I first heard about the new law proposed in Washington (enrolled house bill 2106) it didn’t bother me that it mandated performance based contracts with providers. That was because I equated performance measures with increased accountability. The state settled a lawsuit (Braam) by agreeing to improve the system. In order to see if the system improved, we had to measure how the state did in meeting the goals for improvement. They tried to improve, but keep missing the agreed upon marks. The goal posts kept moving a little closer – and they kept trying…meanwhile, a consulting group was formed in Seattle to come up with a way to improve the system – and the idea of shifting to a contracts only system – with performance measures was the result.

It was the overall concept of privatizing the system that bothered me. Which I equated with decreased accountability. Hey, here’s an idea – If you can’t fix a problem – make it somebody else’s problem.

If they first shifted responsibility, and then enacted accountability – they would never get stuck with their own toe in the crack. Who cares, because at least we still get some genuine accountability from somebody, right? The system improves. Yeah! Goal Accomplished!

Sounds right. But I’ve come to realize that’s not true. Not because I’m smart. I can’t take credit for my new insight. I had time to read the information that is surfacing in states where they already adopted performance based contracting as their foster care system.

My first “heads-up” that this performance-based initiative meant reduced services was the way many of the articles in favor of performance based contracting called it “managed care.” Insurance companies (also known as banks) adopted managed care systems in order to increase profits from health insurance. So I began to ask whether the driving force for using performance measures in the provider contracts was to find ways to improve the system or to find ways to save money.

Guess what?

Now, to their credit – the legislature NEEDS to save money right now – ‘cause we don’t have any to spend. And, to her credit, the Governor vetoed the section that said performance based contracting was intended to improve child welfare.

If you want to read more about the intent of performance based contracting or whether it has been demonstrated to improve child welfare – go here.


On average, non-pilot agencies provided significantly more in-agency services than did
pilot agencies
– Non-pilot agencies made an average of 85 inperson non-therapeutic service contacts for each
foster child and/or foster family, as opposed to 51such contacts per child by pilot agencies
– Non-pilot agencies had roughly six therapeutic service contacts with each foster child, as opposed
to one therapeutic service contact per child made by pilot agencies
– Non-pilot agencies made roughly 23 phone calls and other collateral contacts per child, compared to
17 such contacts made per child in pilot agencies.


Results suggest that performance-based, managed care contracting is related to suppressed service provision and may lead to service disparities between foster children and families served under different market environments.

What is happening to family home foster care in Washington?

I think there is a lot of opportunity to be had in a financial crisis!  There’s a mandate to change that comes from having absolutely no good choices – that “necessity is the Mother of invention” thing.  And, heaven help us, there’s plenty of reason to make changes in the foster care system.  That is the point of this blog.  BUT…is it a good idea to transfer all child welfare services into the hands of private contractors?  That is what is being proposed in the State of Washington. 



I have to say that I don’t think it is.   Continue reading

National Foster Care Month – FPAWS, get a move on!

Well, here we are, ten days into National Foster Care Month. There’s a lot out there going on in the State of Washington, and around the USA this month.

I’ve walked around the lake in Olympia, Washington for “Walk Me Home to Where I Belong” and doled out free cake and coffee to patrons at the GATEWAYS Bingo Hall in Lakewood, Washington, to remind them that their dollars support foster kids. I’ve met with all the therapeutic foster care providers in Tacoma, Washington in a brainstorming session to discuss how to chart the course for the future, and I’ve said goodbye to two really great advocates for foster care.

I include the goodbyes in the list, because change is essential to progress. And it’s not because the people leaving were bad, they were REALLY, REALLY Good!! AND – they aren’t really gone; they’re not dead, they haven’t stopped being foster parents, Scotty has failed to beam them up… So, they are still doing their part to lift up the children that we’ve entrusted to them. But, they’ve passed the baton.

Steve and Daniele Baxter, outgoing Co-Presidents of the Washington State Foster Parent Association, are sailing off into the sunset on a big boat for the adventure of a lifetime.
I am truly jealous. I know it’s hard for them to let go with so much left to do, but they deserve the break. They’ve been warriors and champions for a long time and I expect they will continue to contribute from where ever fate leads them next.

Looking back on the changes that the Baxters helped to bring about, they can be proud. We had an amazing initiative take seed here. Many kudos have to go to those who forced the dialogue by filing suit. It has raised the level of debate in our state capital about how we want to handle foster care.

Many people like the Baxters were key players in forming the debate that followed and the reforms that were adopted. The lack of speed at which reforms are implemented may drive some folks back to court, but the good news is that we will have a pilot program to look at how the concept of professional foster care homes could work. I’m looking forward to seeing the reviews of that program.

The Baxters have passed the baton, so who will take it up? Who will lead the charge in the State of Washington, answer the call, take up arms, step forward, fight the good fight, and forge ahead for the future of our children?

We at Foster Truth say from the bottom of our hearts, “Bless you, Baxters, and thank you.”

And also, “OKAY, FPAWS, get a move on, already! Everybody’s watching!”