The CALL of Garland and Hot Spring counties is taking the lead in finding new methods of training foster parents in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainties associated with it.
This month, 121 families and 235 individuals will be training online to become foster parents so they will be able to open their homes to children.
"Our normal training protocol is face-to-face training over two weekends, but with the social distancing limitations of this virus, that is not possible and yet our number of children in need of foster homes is growing daily," Tonya Ross, training coordinator for The CALL, said.
In the past two weeks, Ross has trained leaders in four other counties to be able to use Zoom, an online teleconferencing service, to train foster families during April. Ross teaches fourth grade online as her full-time job, so she has some expertise in using Zoom and online platforms for teaching. She and her husband are also foster parents.
"We are so appreciative to Tonya for sharing her expertise with our other trainers so that we could continue The CALL's mission to provide a home to every waiting child," Michelle Douglas, a trainer of trainers for The CALL statewide office in Little Rock, said.
Training will be held in northwest Arkansas, Pulaski, Saline and Garland counties involving foster families from 34 different counties.
"We will have 50 people training through our local CALL organization when normally we train 10-20 in person," Ross said. "We are using our five trainers, who will each lead three-hour sessions over two weekends for a total of 27 hours of training."
"Without that extra understanding of the abilities of the Zoom platform, it would have been much harder to have participation from our families," Janis Bremer, a trainer with the Garland/Hot Spring County CALL, said.
Bremer noted that as an educational consultant she has used Zoom with her work, but never with a group this large.
"It's been great to have our training coordinator Tonya help us learn how to use the extra features of Zoom such as rooms, chats, and whiteboards so that we can better engage our families we are training using this online format," Bremer said.
One of the Zoom features is the virtual breakout rooms, which allow participants from the various counties to meet with just their county and get to know one another and share thoughts and questions, she said.
Each county that is having families trained through The CALL in April will have one of their trainers join the virtual training as support for the families of their county, Bremer said.
"The need is growing for more open foster homes during this time of stress and uncertainty with schools closed and many people unemployed, so to be able to continue the process of getting more homes open is paramount to our mission at The CALL, and we are thankful for the opportunity to try this new method of training," said Ross.
"Foster children are already traumatized from being removed from their families, and this adds extra stress," Bremer said. "Much of our training focuses on how to help children who have been through traumatic events. Our foster families now are under additional stress because their foster children cannot go to school, and these children often have some difficult behaviors."
Having the children 24 hours a day, seven days a week "adds a new dimension to the love and care our foster families provide. It is a very stressful time for all right now," she said.
"I'm sure these extra issues will come up during our training. The last session of our training is a panel of experts, which includes (Division of Children and Family Services) representatives, usually a judge and/or lawyer, current foster parents, etc.," Bremer said.
"I'm sure during this session the current situation will be addressed as foster parent trainees can ask any questions they have," she said.
Local on 04/05/2020