October 24, 2017 10:24 PM
Hundreds of foster parents took seats at the table on Tuesday to join together and brainstorm solutions to problems they see in Minnesota's child welfare system.
They met with social workers and also listened to some former foster children as they began a new conversation about providing effective foster care in the state.
"I feel like it would have been much easier if we were able to sit down and communicate," 15-year-old Tiffany Omete said about her time as a foster child.
Omete grew up in and out of foster care and was adopted two years ago.
At Minnesota's launch of the Quality Parenting Initiative, she's finally getting a chance to have her voice heard.
"I know its hard," she said. "And it's going to be hard for all of us to get through foster care and get through the court dates and the visits and all that stuff, but it's best just to have communication."
Thirteen Minnesota organizations, including AspireMN and St. David's Center for Child and Family Development, pooled together to bring the Quality Parenting Initiative to Minnesota.
It's a movement aimed to increase the number of foster parents in communities and reduce the number of re-entries into the system.
It's driven by the foster parents and has already proven to be a successful approach in ten states.
"Foster parents are expert parents," said QPI founder Carole Shauffer. "They have so much to share with birth parents and birth parents are so willing to learn if they feel they are respected."
"We need to make sure the people at the top hear what we're saying and make change," said foster father Gregory Van Leer.
He has fostered more than 70 youth and has spoken to lawmakers multiple times in an effort to share his ideas. QPI is a new approach for Van Leer to have direct input in the way the system operates.
"When you talk to people and when they say, 'I never felt heard before, but now I feel I have a voice,' that is a huge change," Shauffer said.
Instead of working from the top down, they're starting from the ground up - with the kids themselves.
"Just because you didn't grow up with your family and have that life and you were moved around doesn't mean you can't be successful," Omete said.
The real work is set to begin Wednesday.
Foster parents in attendance will build their mission statement and develop a strategy to get the right people's attention, hoping to flip foster care in Minnesota on its head.
The QPI launch is being held at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul. Tuesday's workshop begins at 9:00 a.m. All people involved in Minnesota's child protection system are welcome to attend.
Updated: October 24, 2017 10:24 PM
Created: October 24, 2017 08:44 PM
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