This article was originally published in UKNow.
An adoption support program in the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky is receiving national recognition for its contributions to caregivers.
Adoption Support for Kentucky – Virtual Interaction Program (ASK-VIP) has received a 2021 Adoption Excellence Award in the Child Welfare/Judicial Systemic Change category.
In 1997, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established the award program to recognize outstanding accomplishments in achieving permanency for America’s children waiting in foster care.
“Permanency is of the utmost important to young people in out-of-home care,” Missy Segress, director of the CoSW’s centers and labs, said. “We must do everything we can to support our foster and adoptive parents to help families achieve this goal.”
Undoubtedly, being a foster/adoptive/kinship parent can be demanding. Research indicates that caregivers often struggle to find support, especially in rural communities. On top of that, the number of children entering foster care in the Commonwealth continues to increase.
In response to these challenges, the CoSW, in partnership with the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services, launched ASK-VIP in 2018. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASK-VIP made substantive shifts to creatively serve caregivers throughout the state. ASK-VIP is an interactive, online platform, which offers support for caregivers who are unable to attend traditional meetings.
Jay Miller, dean; Segress; and Karen Bowman, associate director of the Training Resource Center, oversee the program. Lauren Lynch administers the initiative.
“ASK-VIP is an innovative approach to providing support to foster, adoptive and kinship caregivers across the state. What’s more is that the program is specifically designed to reach caregivers that would not otherwise be served,” Miller explained. “Given the rising numbers of youth in out-of-home care, and the more complex situations facing caregivers, programs like ASK-VIP is integral to ensuring the well-being of children and families. ASK-VIP is an initiative rooted in a common purpose; aimed at a common good; and, for the Commonwealth.”
ASK-VIP harnesses technology to organize virtual meetings. Group sessions occur at least once per week, while individual sessions occur throughout the week. These discussions are a safe space for caregivers to share their personal experiences without fear of judgment. Additionally, the program offers specialized training provided by a peer facilitator, who is also an adoptive parent.
“The fact that I can interact with other adoptive parents, and we can access support from one another virtually is really helpful. I live in a rural area and having children at home means it is not always easy to leave home to access services,” Rachael Wall, an adoptive parent and peer facilitator, said. “This program has afforded me the opportunity to interact with other parents in a way that I never would have before.”
CoSW, in collaboration with DCBS, has also launched a virtual support initiative for teens who have been adopted. You can learn more about that program here.
The Adoption Excellence Award will be presented to ASK-VIP at a virtual ceremony on Nov. 9.