The FPC courses and their development are the heart of FosterParentCollege.com. I credit our detailed process of course creation to our early days, when we were funded through the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development SBIR grant program. In these early days of online training, the competitive grants we received challenged our team to innovate high-quality training and study its effectiveness.
Our team set forth the FPC course development goals that included being clear, in easily understandable language, yet introducing the viewer to the language they might hear from a professional. We also focused our courses on teaching trauma-informed parenting concepts rather than the memorization of detailed facts. Additionally, we utilized the web’s ability to deliver interactive exercises and used these exercises to focus on understanding and practicing the key points being taught. The web also allowed us to attach PDF handouts to supplement and reenforce the information provided in the course.
And, as the infomercials say, “But wait, there’s more!” As technology has improved, we have continued to innovate. For instance, as selfies have become popular, and smart phones with quality video cameras are now in the hands of teens, we are including selfie-styled video content by young adults who were previously in care. Moving forward, we will continue to innovate to provide the highest quality and most up-to-date training for resource parents.
Now let’s turn to the actual 10 main steps the FPC team takes to develop a course. This process usually takes longer than a year to complete. We typically have 7–10 courses in some stage of development, and each year, we launch 2–3 new courses. Here is an outline of the general steps we take:
We identify a subject based on requests from parents or agencies, or in response to social service regulations, and then recruit a national expert who presents on the topic.
With the expert, the team first creates an outline of the course, then develops a refined first draft that includes multiple interactive components.
If we think the course would benefit from input directly from youth or parents (for example, the selfie-style videos), we develop relevant questions and search for appropriate participants, who are paid. Their selfies are edited into the script, and the whole script is polished by the expert and the FPC scripting team to reduce repetition.
At this point, the script is sent out for review by outside experts, usually a second expert on the topic and a professional social worker. These reviewers provide feedback on the script’s clarity and suggest additional content for the course. The reviewers’ comments are integrated into the script, and the scripting team does another pass.
Once the principal course expert and the in-house scripting team members are satisfied, the script is considered finalized and handed off to our in-house production team.
The production team records the expert, then using this recording and any selfie material, they assemble a draft of the entire course. This draft is reviewed by the scripting team, and the final script is fine-tuned as needed to build a smoothly flowing course.
The production process continues, taking several months to record all the voices, gather needed artwork, and build the interactive activities. During this time the scripting team finalizes the course handouts and review questions, while the launching team creates web graphics and necessary course descriptions.
Finally, everything comes together on our in-house server, and the course is tested to ensure the interactive activities work on the browsers and devices we support. When testing is complete, the course is launched on the FPC live site.
Many of our new courses are also dubbed into Spanish. For this process, we work with a third-party team that includes a professional translator and a bilingual social worker as a reviewer. It takes about a year to complete a conceptual translation of the course content (rather than a word-for-word translation) and ensure it is correct.
Once a course is available on the FPC website, however, it still is not done! The scripting team regularly reviews comments provided by course viewers in the online course evaluations. The user evaluations and comments are extremely helpful in our development process, not just for the courses the viewers evaluated, but for future courses as well. While feedback is mostly positive, the script writers attend to constructive suggestions for course improvements.
This is a lengthy and costly process, but it is well worth it, since our mission is to help children who are in care by providing their resource parents with the best training possible.
A Big Thank You!
The staff at Foster Parent College wishes to thank our agencies and website users as we recently passed a significant milestone: The number of our online courses enrolled in by parents and agency staff crossed the one-million mark! We are grateful to our many state and agency partners for helping us reach this milestone. We are also deeply indebted to the many experts who have helped develop our courses, as well as to the dedicated FPC staff.
Thank you for your support. Without you, we wouldn’t have reached this milestone.
A New Look Coming Soon
The FPC website redesign, which has been in the works for the past year, is progressing nicely. Our graphic designers, software developers, and content writers are all working hard to bring this together. We think it, like all good things, will be worth the wait.
The new look will be released in two phases. The first phase, which we expect to be in place by this summer, will include:
A new home page that will highlight available courses and important information about FPC for resource parents and agency staff.
An updated affiliate map, which will allow parents to easily find agencies that accept our online training
An improved Personal Home page, which will allow parents to easily enroll in courses, access certificates, and participate in discussion boards all in one place.
The second phase of the redesign will be an updated Admin Home page. This phase will begin once the first phase is complete. It will include:
A newly organized management system.
An improved reporting system.
A new notification center.
We are looking forward to releasing the first phase of this redesign! Stay tuned for details.
New Course Eating & Food Issues Replaces Eating Disorders
Children come into care with their own unique eating- and food-related behaviors. Some of these are based on the child’s culture and socioeconomic background; others may be the result of their trauma experiences or health issues. Foster Parent College has just released Eating & Food Issues, which is an updated version of our course Eating Disorders. (Eating Disorders has been retired and will soon be entirely removed from the website.)
After taking Eating & Food Issues, viewers should be able to:
Identify common eating and food issues for children in care
Understand the difference between medical conditions, nonpsychiatric eating and food issues, and psychiatric eating disorders
Understand how trauma can contribute to eating and food issues
Know how to support children with eating and food issues
Through research, knowledge about mental health and mental health disorders is constantly improving. This means courses on Foster Parent College need to be assessed and updated to keep pace. Our course, Children with Autism, has become out of date, as it explains diagnoses that are no longer used in the field. We are excited about the replacement we are creating; however, we need to retire this older course before the new course is completed. We will begin the process of retiring Children with Autism on May 3, 2022, and we hope to have our new course online by the end of the year.
Thank you for understanding.
Grief & Loss in the Care System Now Available in Spanish
Grief & Loss in the Care System has now been translated and dubbed into Spanish, and it is available on the FPC website as Duelo y pérdida en el sistema de atención.
Grieving is a natural reaction to a major loss. In foster care, grieving can be experienced at different times in the care situation by everyone involved—the birth parents, the child, the foster parents, and members of the foster family. Yet this grief is often denied or hidden.
Our course Grief & Loss in the Care System reviews the stages of grief, how the various members in a foster care situation grieve, and tools for regaining a sense of balance and acceptance after a separation. Viewers of the original, English-language version have been very appreciative of this course:
“As I went through this module, I could relate to each state of grief and loss. I’ve been a foster/adoptive parent for 10+ years and have experienced it several times. It’s both difficult and exhausting, just as described.” —Lynn B.
“The video was quite informative. I guess I always realized the children went through stages of grief. I didn’t think about the birth parents going through the stages as well.” —Lisa Marie H.
The scripting and production teams at Foster Parent College are continually creating courses on a variety of topics. Look for courses on these topics within the coming year:
Engaging Youth for Change (in production)
Designed as a communication skill builder for resource parents to use with older youth, Engaging Youth for Change is being created with Dr. Liz Barnett, an expert on “motivational interviewing.” This course will help resource parents learn how to help teens tap into their own desires and motivations for behavior change.
Autism (being scripted and recorded)
This course is being created with Dr. Robert Nickel, a developmental pediatrician, and Dr. Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, an international lecturer and specialist on autism, an autistic woman herself, and adoptive mother of a child with autism. It will help resource parents understand what autism is, what it’s like to be autistic, what services are available, and which parenting strategies will help children get the right supports. This course will replace the Children with Autism course, which is being retired.
Sleep Problems, 3rd Edition (being scripted)
“As all parents know, when your child has a sleep problem, you have a sleep problem, too,” says Dr. Rick Delaney at the beginning of our course, Sleep Problems. In 2022, this course will undergo some changes as we add new content to address trainees’ feedback on the course evaluations. Dr. Robert Nickel will join the team to present additional information about sleep and sleep problems from a pediatrician’s point of view.
Other courses in development will cover the topics of sexual health and wellness (being scripted by Ellen Friedrichs); fibs, untruths, lies, and confabulations (being scripted by Dr. Rick Delaney); supporting LGBTQ+ youth in care (being scripted by Dr. Angela Weeks); the resources, abilities, and willingness needed to be a resource parent (based on an interview with Dr. Eileen Pasztor); and CPR and first aid refresher course for resource parents (in scripting).
Holidays at Foster Parent College
Please note, the offices for Foster Parent College will be closed to observe the following holidays:
Memorial Day Monday, May 30
Juneteenth Monday, June 20
Independence Day Monday, July 4
Foster Parent College strives to be as responsive as possible to the needs of our members and partnering agencies. Your feedback and input are invaluable to us in improving the website. If you have any suggestions, please contact us!