The Parent Advisory Collaborative (PAC) consists of birth, kinship and adoptive parents. Some of the parents may have had open DCS cases and removals of their children. The PAC includes family members of those who have had DCS involvement. The PAC brings together the voices of parents and families into the decision making process of DCS, to create an atmosphere of compassion, trust and respect. In 2018, DCS started a Prevention Advisory Collaborative (PAC) fully funded by the CBCAP grant and designed to increase parent leadership. The design of this collaborative was based on extensive research with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Family Involvement Center, and a local organization that specializes in parent involvement. The PAC members receive a stipend, a meal during the meeting, and reimbursement for childcare and travel. The entire PAC meets quarterly and the subcommittees generally meet monthly depending on the subcommittee. There are seven subcommittees to address housing, incarcerated parents, parent newsletters, recruitment, legislative affairs, safe sleep, and strengthening young parents. The insights provided by PAC members will continue to increase DCS’s understanding of how the community reacts to various prevention efforts and allow the Office of Prevention to adjust strategies accordingly. Additionally, the PAC provides the DCS with the parent perspective regarding child welfare policies, procedures and service delivery.
The members of the PAC provide consultation and advice to the DCS by bringing the voices of parents and families into the equation to prevent children and families from being separated. The ultimate goal is to create a child welfare system that is both compassionate and respectful of children and families. To that end the PAC has initiated several subcommittee that seek to address the issues that challenge families. Currently, there are seven committees in the PAC described below.
The Parent Newsletter is designed to provide the parent’s perspective, and share with families’ important community resources and information that aid parenting success. Each edition of the newsletter, Parent Voice AZ has an article under the following headings:
Did You Know?
Public Interest Story
The PAC subcommittee choose the article topics such as Shared Parenting or Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). Topics parents may have questions about but were not quite sure where to get the answer are highlighted in the newsletter. A public interest story may address a resource in the community that can be helpful to parents. A resource article will discuss resources within the community that parents can utilize. A biography of a PAC member or a parent known to the PAC that was successful in navigating systems is included. The newsletter is shared with partners who work with the DCS, the DCS Specialists and staff, local and national agencies and the families they work with.
The PAC members provide valuable insight for the DCS as it continues to work with Housing Authorities and the programs they administer. The housing committee seeks to remove barriers to successful use of public housing programs, and provide guidance on the type of navigation information that is needed for families to utilize housing vouchers. Of concern to the committee is the need of young adults and families who need stable and adequate housing to prevent homelessness.
This committee is investigating solutions for incarcerated parents to remain in contact with their children. They seek to encourage the DCS and the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) to improve and increase visitation for children with incarcerated parents. PAC members are reviewing the use of FaceTime and other video conferencing methods in lieu of in-person visits, when they are unworkable. Additionally, they seek child friendly visitation rooms, with less intimidating features for parents who are incarcerated for non-violent offenses and their children. The objective is to maintain the parent-child relationship and to motivate the incarcerated parent to rehabilitate themselves to parent their child when released from incarceration. The belief is that a parent who has a bond with their child, and has had a continuing relationship will not be a stranger to their child, and therefore be successful as a parent.
There currently are thirteen active PAC members from Maricopa and Pima County. To increase the number of active members to twenty, recruitment of parents from rural counties in Arizona will occur in FFY 2020. In order to achieve a broad perspective across the State of Arizona, it is imperative to include rural county parents as they face challenges that are different from the more populous counties of Maricopa and Pima.
Legislation drafted and presented to the State Legislature often impacts parents and children in ways that may have unintended consequences. This committee works closely with the DCS staff members who are responsible for tracking the progress of the legislation and informs the parents when there is opportunity for them to speak and provide public comment. This Committee has, and will continue to present to the Legislature when necessary. It is most important that lawmakers become aware of the perspective and viewpoints of the people who will be most affected by new laws.
Strengthening Young Parents
This committee has been working on issues related to young parents, and working to improve the Protective Factors to assist them in becoming knowledgeable and protective parents. One of the major activities that is being planned is a Young Parent University. These events are opportunities for some of the parents to provide workshops on fatherhood and shared parenting.
This committee is developing safe sleep messaging that is culturally relevant, strengths based and family centered. Strategies for messaging African American and Native American parents will be explored.