Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Statewide support groups for resource families

Resource families is a term that can apply to adoptive, foster, kinship and respite families. Most states have a statewide organization to support such families.

Or... at least I thought they did.

I was recently asked to help redesign the website for the statewide support group for foster, adoptive, kinship and respite parents in my state. My first step was to look over each state's web site, one by one, compiling a list of the best and worst features of each site.

Out of 50 states, only 35 have web sites. Two of those sites are not operational. Many were difficult to navigate, or had other design problems.

The best sites had the following functional features:

1.) Simplicity of design: A plain, white background with use of a few primary colors
- Rhode Island 'Fostering Futures' site is beautifully designed: http://www.rifpa.org/

2.) Succinct and well-organized text:
- Arizona Association of Foster & Adoptive Parents: http://www.azafap.org/

3.) The Welcome page featured the organization's mission and vision:
- Foster Parent Association of Washington State is a perfect example: http://www.fpaws.org/

4.) Navigation made possible through the side bar and/or top bar:
- Foster and Adoptive Family Service (NJ): http://www.fafsonline.org/

5.) Maps and calendars that were interactive:
- Families Helping Families in Pennsylvania State hosts an impressive map: http://www.psfpa.com/
- Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association has a nice calendar: http://www.mfcaa.org/

In addition, the best sites addressed the needs/questions of resource families:

1.) Membership page answered the questions: Why should I join? - What are the benefits? - Where does the money go?

- Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parents Association: http://www.ifapa.com/

2.) Moderated message board, and other opportunities for resource sharing in order to create a supportive online community.

- New Hampshire Foster and Adoptive Parent Association members support one another by sharing items like cribs, clothing and strollers, http://www.nhfapa.org/

- Nebraska Foster and Adoptive Parent Association subscribes to the Secure Information Exchange (SIX). Their state requires them to use this protective email re: children in state custody. http://www.nfapa.org/

3.) Supportive Services:

- Connecticut Association of Foster and Adoptive Parents, Inc. has a Buddy System and a 24-hour hotline: http://www.cafap.com/

- Adoptive & Foster Parent Association of Georgia has an advocacy hotline with an 800-number: www.afpag.org/advocacy.html

- Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine, Inc. has a lending library, audio archive, discount cards and e-learning programs: http://www.affm.net/

4.) Current legislation affecting foster/adoptive/kinship families:

- North Carolina Foster and Adoptive Parents Association does an excellent job of creating legislative updates (I also love their logo!) http://www.ncfapa.org/

- Sierra Association of Foster Families has respite forms available for download: http://www.saffnn.org/

- Colorado State Foster Parent Association http://csfpa.org/ - Their legislative link includes information about Adam Walsh legislation.

5.) Sharing of news and newsworthy initiatives

- Hawaii Foster Parent Association features fabulous articles and resources: http://www.hawaiifosterparent.org/

- Oregon Foster Parent Association http://www.ofpa.com/ is involved with "A Camp to Belong," which reunites siblings.

- Nebraska Foster and Adoptive Parent Association creates 'Kits for Kids, with items for foster youth to take with them on their travels: http://www.nfapa.org/

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