Foster Forward (formerly the Rhode Island Foster Parents Association) got its start at the kitchen table of a local foster parent, where other foster parents gathered to share ideas and resources to better support the children in their care. Now, more than 20 years later, we have grown from a small network of foster parents to a leading social services organization of more than 20 highly trained professionals who advocate for foster children and families and who collaborate with other local and national agencies, including the Department of Children, Youth and Families and the Children’s Bureau, to improve the child welfare system.
Although much has changed over the past two decades, one thing remains the same: Foster Forward has — and always will be — committed to practices that promote permanency and well-being for all young people in foster care, and that provide foster parents with the support and resources they need to be successful.
• In 1992, we established the New Foster Parent Mentor Program, which pairs experienced foster parents with newly licensed foster parents, providing them with one-on-one guidance and support.
• Selected by Rhode Island Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, Executive Director Lisa Guillette received a 2005 Angels in Adoption Award for her outstanding work on behalf of children in Rhode Island. She was also the 2011 recipient of the Rama Ramanathan Commitment to Service Award from the National Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.
• In 2006, we launched the Real Connections program, which ensures that all foster youth leave state care with permanent, positive adult connections. In 2010, it was selected as one of 173 Bright Idea programs by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
• In 2009, Foster Forward was awarded the Consolidated Youth Services (CYS) contract from the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to provide an integrated suite of services to older youth in foster care. Today, CYS comprises our ASPIRE, Life Skills, Real Connections, Teen Grant, and YESS Aftercare programs.
• Also in 2009, we were awarded a $2 million Children’s Bureau federal grant to support our efforts (and those of nine partner agencies) to establish permanent homes for Rhode Island’s foster children.
• In October 2011, Foster Forward was awarded one of four highly competitive Administration for Children and Families (ACF) grants to improve services to youth in the child welfare system.
• In April 2012, we were selected to adapt and implement the Making Proud Choices! curriculum for Rhode Island’s foster youth, as part of the Institute on Prevention of Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infection Among Youth in Foster Care; Rhode Island was one of only five states selected to participate in the Institute.