The relatively small, but mighty NAFI NY Region has made the use of collaboration a key element both in its program design and as a strategy for growth and development. The result has been a growth in programming as well as support and recognition from our partners in the region.
First, from the program design side we value our foster parents as partners. Their success is crucial for us to return youth to their home communities and find success in a family setting. Our foster parent’s success literally leads to our success. We build a Normative Community with shared norms and values with our staff and with our foster parents. This normative approach is the foundation for our work.
From the moment we are asked to consider a youth for placement, we ask the prospective foster parent to be part of the team. We give them access to all of the information we have on the youth and invite them in to read the file. From there, we look at the strengths and needs of the youth in view if the strengths of the foster home to determine if we have a good “fit.”
If, in conjunction with the foster parent we determine we do have a good fit, we begin a step-down process which begins with meetings between the youth and foster parent. If the meetings indicate we have a match, day visits to the home lead to overnight visits and eventually to placement. Along the way we are collaborating with the foster parent to determine what’s working and where the challenges remain. We develop strategies to overcome the challenges and provide support implementing the strategies.
In the same way, we have worked with our community partners to develop plans and strategies that support our common work and goals. In one county where they are completing a large hiring of staff, they have asked NAFI-NY to assist in the staff training by modeling our engagement and case work techniques.
We have developed strong working relationships with Residential placement providers. Our collaborative work has created a mutual respect and understanding of how our services can complement each other’s work.
In other communities we have collaborated with police departments and other law enforcement agencies to help them in their community policing programs. Through the Youth Police Initiative we have demonstrated to departments how they can engage youth in positive activities. Engaging the youth many times results in engaging other members of the household which leads to positive changes in attitudes and cooperation. But it all starts with a collaborative effort between NAFI, using its resources and expertise to help move law enforcement toward its goal.
Out of our ability to sustain collaborative efforts we have developed relationships and created additional opportunities for our services. Many of these efforts started out of willingness to listen and to bring positive ideas to the table. Collaboration has been key.