By David Finke, PhD
Vice President of Residential Services

For Uspiritus, and other private child caring facilities, one important factor in attaining a successful outcome is making the lives of the children for which we care as normal as possible while they are with us. In many cases, their lives have been anything but normal prior to being placed in residential care.

Federal and state laws have previously placed restrictions on what activities that youth in out-of-home care could participate in without staff first being required to follow an approval process and obtain permission from the child’s birth parent, social worker or the court. While designed to protect them, in many cases, these policies only proved to prevent the children from growing up, learning to solve real world problems and from participating in activities with their peers. The approval process also took a lot of time for all parties involved – time that could have been better spent in helping the child heal.

On Sept. 29, 2014, President Obama signed the Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard (RPPS) into law, which amends various provisions of Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. One of the two main goals of this law is to make changes to the child welfare system to improve outcomes for children and youth in care. This law is applicable to all foster and pre-adoptive parents, private child care agencies and group homes.

“Normalcy” is defined, in relation to RPPS, as the right for ALL children and youth in out-of-home care to participate in age-appropriate extracurricular, enrichment and social activities; and the opportunity for ALL children and youth in out-of-home care to achieve emotional well-being, as well as to develop valuable life-coping skills.

Two key paradigm shifts are occurring as a result:
•Safety is being reconsidered in an age and developmentally appropriate manner so that youth may be allowed to participate in “normal” age-related activities.
•Caregivers are empowered to make routine caregiving decisions without having to get permission first.

At Uspiritus, all of our private child care staff is being trained on the new standard, which we will implement on July 1. We will also have a designated person on each of our two residential campuses 24 hours a day to make reasonable and prudent parenting decisions. We are also providing training for Uspiritus foster parents and will have a designated RPPS person available to them as a resource.

RPPS will allow the kids to lead a more normal life while in residential care. They will be allowed to do more things that their peers are allowed to do, such as get their ears pierced and spend the night with friends. It will allow the treatment staff to make more parenting-like decisions without having to track down a social worker.

Not only will the youth benefit from getting to participate in more age-appropriate activities, but those age 14 and older will play an active role in case planning and transition planning for successful adulthood. They can also help choose certain advisors/advocates who participate in their case planning. The law also mandates provision of a list of rights to youth age 14 and older be included in their case plan document.

– Reprinted with permission from Medical News, July 2016 issue