Washington DC - C.A.S.E & FIND

Back in DC, I traveled to the suburbs to spend a day with C.A.S.E - the Centre for Adoption Support and Education. They've been running since 1998 and have already featured in this blog, having delivered presentations on their online training platform TAC at ICAR5.

I came away with an invitation to develop and deliver a webinar on innovation in adoption - a generous and exciting opportunity to synthesise my findings in a practical way.

C.A.S.E do a great deal of good work; from counselling, advocacy, therapy, education to support groups, training and publications parents, children, teens, adults and professionals.

I met with their digital team - it was refreshing to see a social services organisation taking digital so seriously, investing time and money in staff to help deliver cross-platform solutions and materials. I have noted that this does not happen enough; that innovation is seen as an expense first and foremost, which creates an unhelpful cycle of under investing in technology and using self-limited experience to further devalue the point of investment. Through this team they have been able to develop their webinars; I was pleased to see that David Brodzinsky, formerly of the Donaldson Adoption Institute and a key influence at the start of my travel fellowship, was scheduled to deliver a webinar on the role of adoptive fathers.

I was also interested to learn more about their school-based programme. SAFE at School is a workshop and manual for teachers, educators and school counsellors detailing strategies for creating positive, adoption sensitive environments in schools. I asked them about how successful this had been; despite positive feedback and ongoing referrals, the programme had been scaled back due to cost. It seemed a great shame, as I am increasingly convinced of the need for schools to modernise the way they teach children about social and family structures. Still, it's encouraging to know that materials exist that begin to address this gap. It seems an unsurmountable challenge to access more funding in schools to deliver something like this (mirroring the challenges faced by C.A.S.E). I see the solution being advocacy for changing the curriculum of schools at a fundamental level, rather than producing additional costs for schools to take on.

Jason Gournay is based in Washington State and works for the Children's Home Society of Washington, a key FIND delivery partner for the Centre of the Developing Child's Washington Cluster.

CHSW are a private non-profit organisation with over 120 years operational experience. Most recently, Jason's focus has been scaling up FIND - the transactional science model of recording and analysing micro-interactions between children and caregivers to promote positive interactions. It deals with the visibility of these interactions in a positive and constructive way - rather than dwelling on mistakes it encourages the repetition and development of existing strengths.

FIND's video technology is both barrier and an opportunity. It's the expensive part of the processes, but offers great scope for providing online materials for parents to dip into without necessarily needing to enrol on the formal programme. We even thought that with the availability of high quality recording technology in mobile technology, producing material at home could become a possibility, so long as the capacity to edit and produce the short, 10 second snap shots of key interactions was retained.

Streamlining their back office support, making core content available online (balancing individualised material with class/'generic' material) and finding editing efficiencies are key areas for development. Tablets, for example, can record and edit without the need for multiple expensive products.

Jason talked to me about the expansion of FIND for Fathers; initially take up was low and the duration and intensity of the programme didn't appear to suit men. By making adjustments and running micro-pilots for fathers, they are starting the grow a successful model for engaging with men through a technology-centred intervention. I've agreed to keep tabs on their progress.

Summarising our thoughts on technology and adoption more broadly, Jason closed our chat by saying;

  • That adoptions should not be rushed; they are time consuming and we should concentrate on finding placements that children will stay in. He added that there is an interesting research programme in Oregon looking at genetic predispositions of parents - that styles of parenting can/might/should match with genetics in order to create lasting relationships between new families. In other words, if we were able to pair parents with child who share similar genetic traits, permanency would be more likely
  • Problem and solution identification should be child cantered
  • Due diligence, care and thought should not be overlooked in the onset of technological advancement

The next day I would be catching a flight home. Almost before I knew it, my travel time was over...