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MAFF News February 2021

We hope you all had a restful and joy-filled new year. We're excited about the work to come this year, and we thank you for being part of it!

A Letter From the MAFF President

Inspiration

Over the past year, foster parents have stepped up. We have worked tirelessly to ensure the children in our homes are safe and well-cared for. We’ve acted as caregiver, teacher, and advocate; attended trainings, town halls, and support groups. Our commitment inspires.

MAFF has stepped up as well, and we’re proud of the work we have accomplished together. Your feedback on the need for increased support led to the Listening Sessions we hosted with DCF Commissioner Linda Spears and the town hall we hosted with HHS Secretary Marylou Sudders. These gave us an opportunity to connect you directly with DCF, delivering answers to your questions regarding how we provide foster care in a pandemic. We have also worked hard with MSPCC’s Kids Net Program to develop the Behavioral Health FRL pilot (you can read more about that below). Finally, we have solidified our partnership with DCF, allowing us to have a regular seat at the table in discussions regarding the children in our homes. This partnership was instrumental in our ability to advocate for the COVID-relief money that was provided to foster families early on in the pandemic.

Looking Forward

MAFF continues to meet with the Massachusetts legislature on our priorities. We’re advocating for an increase in the daily rate of support for children in foster care and ensuring our Behavioral Health FRL pilot can have continued success moving forward. We’re also re-doubling our efforts to make sure the Foster Parent Bill of Rights is passed this legislative session. We’re also working with our partners to ensure the child care needs of foster care families are met throughout the pandemic and well after. We’re proud to have strengthened our communication with our board and with the Department of Children and Families. These relationships will continue to flourish as we move forward together.

I want to thank you for all your hard work this past year. It hasn’t been easy, but the work we’ve done has made an enormous difference, and we’re so excited to see what the future holds.

Cathie Twiraga

President, Massachusetts Alliance for Families

MAFF Town Hall

Providing Foster Care During A Pandemic - Town Hall

On Thursday, February 11th, MAFF was pleased to offer an opportunity for foster families to meet directly with Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders in a town hall about the COVID-19 vaccine.

With MAFF President Cathie Twiraga facilitating, we had a robust discussion about the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. Joined, as well, by DCF Commissioner Linda Spears and Dr. Paul Biddinger, chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, together we shared information regarding the science of the vaccine and why it’s so critical in the fight against COVID-19.

Yor health and wellbeing is a top priority for MAFF, and ensuring that you have access to COVID-19 testing and to the vaccine are key to our efforts. In the near future, DCF is expected to roll out new rapid testing specifically to test children BEFORE they enter a new placement, including an emergency hotline home, and we are continuing to advocate and work with the Administration to get foster families priority access to vaccination at the earliest possible date.

Thank you to everyone who joined us and submitted questions! As we continue to advocate for foster families, please be sure to remain subscribed to our newsletter and event invites. This is our best way to share updates with you.

Behavioral Health Family Resource Liaison Pilot

Kid's Net, in collaboration with MAFF and DCF, is excited to launch the Behavioral Health Family Resource Liaison (BHFRL) pilot program!

What is a Behavioral Health Family Resource Liaison?

Building upon our current Family Resource Liaison (FRL) positions, we have added additional lived-experience foster parents to our team who have undergone additional training and are available to provide support to you & your family while you wait to engage with other therapeutic/support providers in your area.

What kinds of things can a BHFRL help me with?

BHFRL’s can help address barriers to accessing therapeutic services, provide you with information about other service providers in your area, and direct you to appropriate resources. Most importantly, they are available to support you with a variety of information, tools and techniques to utilize with the kids in your care.

How can I connect with the BHFRL in my region?

For more information about the BHFRL program or to find out how your family can receive services, please contact clinical supervisor Kim Kelley at kkelley@mspcc.org or 857-293-3392. Referrals can be made by families themselves, through DCF, or by any other community partner. Information gathered during this pilot will be used to continue MAFF's advocacy for funding beyond September 2021.

Adoption Subsidies

MAFF has been working closely with the Subsidy Unit at DCF regarding recent glitches/updates to the renewal process.

The most recent information is included below:

The Subsidy Unit would like to thank families for their continued patience. There have been some recent positive changes as well as glitches as a result of an IT build this past July. On a positive note, we can now accept scanned documents through email and upload them directly into the child’s record. This includes renewals, subsidy agreements, school verification etc. We encourage you to communicate with us through email (dcfsubsidyunit@mass.gov) whenever possible. Subsidy renewals will now be due on the child’s birthday and will be every two years until age 18 when it will revert to yearly renewals until age 22 if the “child” still qualifies. There are other very positive changes that will make the process more efficient moving forward.

As with all new things, we have been dealing with some glitches in the system. This has resulted in some significant delays at times when things are not working as planned. If you get phone calls or emails after hours, as many of you have, yes…it is us. We have “all hands on deck” in trying to work through some difficult situations and attend to our most valuable resource, our families and kids. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience we may have caused.

From DCF

DCF is excited to announce the New Foster Parent Portal!

By logging into FosterMA Connect, foster parents can see up-to-date, child-specific information about as soon as a child is placed in their homes. The Foster Parent Portal is easily accessible anywhere, anytime- including on mobile devices. Access to the Foster Parent Portal will be rolling out statewide over the coming months.

The Foster Parent Portal will be accessible through FosterMA Connect. If you have not yet enrolled in FosterMA Connect, please email DCFFosterCare@MassMail.State.MA.US

We hope that the Foster Parent Portal will be a truly valuable resource for our foster parents as we continue to work together to support children in care.

Kid's Net Updates

The Kid’s Net program continues to support foster families during this unprecedented time. We are available to support you and your family. More information on these resources is available on our website (link below).

Helpline: We are continuing to staff our Helpline when DCF offices are closed, and we are also monitoring the Helpline during the business day. If you cannot reach someone directly, please leave a voicemail. Your call will be returned promptly by Kid’s Net staff. 800-486-3730

Respite: We continue to process respite payments as usual. Please continue to make arrangements through your family resource worker.

Emergency Childcare: Kid's Net continues to provide short-term child care support for foster and pre-adoptive families. Through our partner, Child Care Circuit, we can identify home-based daycare providers who are following COVID 19 protocols and have re-opened to provide care for Kid's Net for up to 10 hours per month. Additionally, Kid's Net continues to reimburse in-home babysitting provided by a DCF approved caretaker for up to 10 hours per month. Please contact your Regional Kid's Net staff for additional information.

Family Resource Liaisons (FRL’s): FRL’s remain available to support foster parents with resources and referrals. Please continue to reach out to them for assistance! Find their contact info on our website (link below).

Training & Support: Kid’s Net has been running regular training and support groups via Zoom and we will continue to offer statewide virtual groups and trainings throughout the summer and into the fall. We will continue to evaluate when it is safe and appropriate to re-start our in person meetings.

Did you know? Foster parents who are reimbursed by Eliot/MSPCC for providing babysitting, respite, or MAPP services can now enroll in direct deposit to receive your reimbursement faster! Contact your Regional Kid's Net staff to find out how!

Calling Small Business Owners!

Are you a crafter, baker, florist or own any other business that makes gifts and treats? We want to hear from you! We are looking to gather information on foster family-owned businesses. Please email Kid's Net at kidsnet@mspcc.org and send us your name, information about your business and how we can find you!

About MAFF

ABOUT US

The Massachusetts Alliance for Families (MAFF) is a state-wide association of DCF foster, adoptive, and kinship caregivers. The MAFF Board is charged with ensuring that MAFF’s work is informed by a statewide perspective and addresses existing regional disparities. MAFF events are open to all DCF foster, adoptive, and kinship caregivers and other supporters are welcome and encouraged to participate in advancing MAFF’s advocacy agenda.

OUR PRIORITIES:

MAFF’s advocacy is focused on ensuring that children in DCF care and their caregivers have access to services and resources to support healthy physical and emotional development and enable them to succeed academically and socially. This includes recruitment and retention of well-trained and supported foster families and resources to enhance placement stability and help youth prepare to lead successful adult lives. For more detail about our current advocacy

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