The work of the In-Service Training and Home Study Unit in Foster Care and Adoption is about helping to equip foster parents to support children in care, as well as providing “special” home studies including child-specific and interstate cases. Supervisor Amanda Macaulay answers a few questions about the unit:
Foster Family News: What is your background as a manager?
Amanda Macaulay: I am a social worker by education and have been working in the area of child welfare for the past nineteen years. I took this position when it was created fifteen months ago and prior to that, all of my experience was in direct service with children and families. Since I moved to Virginia in 2005, I have also supervised social work interns for George Mason University.
FFN: What is the structure of the In-Service Training and Home Study unit?
AM: I have five specialists on my team and we are supported by one administrative assistant.
FFN: What does your unit do?
AM: We complete “special” home studies and provide in-service training for approved foster parents. “Special” home studies include child-specific and interstate cases. A child-specific home study is done when there is a child or children in foster care in Virginia with a family member or close family friend who wants to become a foster parent to care for the identified child(ren). Similarly, interstate home studies take place when there is a child(ren) in another state who is in foster care and a family in Fairfax County has been identified to care for the child(ren). We help the family to complete a home study so that the child(ren) can come from that other state to live in Virginia with the identified family.
We also complete court-mandated work to include adoption paperwork for individuals who are not involved with Fairfax County foster care. This often includes stepparent adoptions and adult adoptions. In addition, we complete court custody home studies. These are very different from traditional foster parent home studies. The purpose is to collect information on one party who has petitioned the court for custody and provide it to the judge so he/she can make a decision regarding the child’s custody status.
FFN: That’s fascinating. Since most of the audience of this newsletter is foster parents, please share about some of the training courses you provide?
AM: In-service training is provided regularly to all Fairfax County approved foster parents on a variety of topics to include discipline, loss & grief, independent living, child sexual abuse, trauma, etc. All foster parents are invited and encouraged to attend in-services trainings.
FFN: How often do you provide in-service training courses?
AM: We strive to provide 1-2 in-person classes per month. We offer fewer classes in December and June due to the holidays and the end of our fiscal year. Families are always welcome to attend courses offered by the Fairfax County Community Services Board and Fairfax County Public Schools. All foster parents should have access to Foster Parent College, as well. Foster Parent College offers a number of on-line training classes that can be taken anytime from the comfort of your own home at no charge to registered Fairfax County foster parents. If you don’t have access to Foster Parent College or need assistance registering for a class, please let us know – we are happy to help! (Contact Terri Henderson or Lauren DeFife.)
FFN: Do you provide other supports to families?
AM: There are several conferences that occur each year around the country that we try to sponsor families to attend. These conferences include the National Foster Parent Association Conference and the North American Conference of Adoptable Children. We also assist with the annual Foster Parent Appreciation event in May, the annual Adoption event in November, the picnic each summer, and the annual Holiday Party each December.
FFN: Who does the unit serve, and approximately how many people does that include?
AM: We serve all Fairfax County foster parents and support their in-service training needs. We also serve all families who are referred to us for the specialized services listed above. For fiscal year 2019, we offered 16 in-service trainings, worked on 59 home studies, completed 18 court mandated cases, and assisted with 31 initial home visits.
FFN: What is one thing you want people to know about your unit?
AM: We truly want to support our foster families with meeting their ongoing training needs. Being a foster parent is hard work and we want to provide information, support, and a community of people who understand the daily struggles.
FFN: How can they reach the unit?
AM: During business hours, the best way to reach us is to call 703-324-7639 and ask to speak to someone in the Training and Home Study Unit. You can reach me, Amanda Macaulay, directly at 703-324-7465.
This article posting is part of the Foster Family News monthly newsletter designed to keep foster parents informed about all the new and notable happenings in Fairfax County.
Learn about what the Foster Care & Adoption program has planned for foster families - stay on top of trends, participate in trainings and learn about policy changes.