In 1996 Adoption Network Cleveland was involved in successfully advocating for legislation that created Ohio’s law regarding professional training and certification for adoption and foster care workers: 5101:2-48-06 Assessor roles and responsibilities for foster care and adoption. Today Ohio’s Assessor Certification is the only program of its kind in the United States as it includes specific training for all practitioners who wish to become Certified Foster and Adoption Assessors. According to Julius Jackson, Adoption Network Cleveland’s permanency navigator and training coordinator, people have traveled from as far as New York for this specialized training.
Professionals who provide any foster care or adoption services in Ohio, such as: working with parents/guardians who express interest in placing their child for adoption, working with those seeking to provide foster care or adopt a child by completing various assessments and re-certifications, working with a child in permanent custody of a licensed agency, etc. are required to complete Ohio’s Foster and Adoption Assessor Training.
Why is this training necessary? Educational requirements for practitioners in the social work field typically do not include course work or training in foster care or adoption issues—including many Social Work Master’s Degree programs. For many Assessors the training serves as their first formal point of training specific to working with foster and adoptive families.
Adoption Network Cleveland’s Executive Director, Betsie Norris commented, “When we worked on this in the mid-1990s I thought it would be the beginning of a trend and other states would follow suit. Frankly, I’m surprised that hasn’t happened. Ohio should be proud to be a leader in this regard.”
Ohio’s required training for Foster and Adoption Assessors professionalizes[BN1] the position of workers in public and private agencies. It ensures Assessors establish a sound understanding of the dynamics of those impacted by adoption or foster care, and keeps Assessors up-to-date on adoption and foster care issues.
Ohio’s Assessor Training is split into two tiers totaling 36 hours of training in each and requires continued education post-training completion. Tier I is required within one year of employment in the field, and Tier II is to be completed within three years after the completion of Tier I. If caseworkers cannot complete the training within the required timeframes they are not authorized to perform any assessor duties. In rare cases, extensions of up to one year may be granted to complete Tier II, but those who do not complete Tier I cannot move on to Tier II.
The training modules are heavy with information on adoption and foster care; which is vital for a professional’s ability to effectively conduct work as an Assessor. It is strongly suggested that the workshops are completed in the listed order.
· 201-A1A-S: Family and Child Assessment
· 201-A2-S: Services for Birth Parents
· 201-A3-S: Post-Finalization Adoption Services
· 201-A4A-S: Adoption Assistance
· 201-A5A-S: Placement Strategies
· 201-A6A-S: Pre-Finalization Services
· 201-A7-S: Achieving Permanency Through Interagency Collaboration
· 201-A9A-S: Openness in Adoption
· 201-A10-S: Gathering and Documenting Background Information
· 201-A8-S: Cultural Issues in Permanency Planning
After completing Tier II trainings Assessors are required to take six hours of additional continued education/training on foster care and adoption issues within every subsequent two years. They are welcome to re-take any of the trainings from Tier I or Tier II to fulfill this ongoing requirement. However, if they do not complete the required six hours of training within any two-year period during their time as an Assessor, they must immediately cease performing duties until they have done so.
Those who have a break in employment as an Assessor may continue to keep up with their required six hours of continued training every two years so they can immediately continue work when they return. However, those who do not choose to do so are required to take twelve hours of “Assessor Refresher” training before they are able to return to work.
Adoption Network Cleveland hosts Assessor trainings and parent trainings through the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program (OCWTP) in partnership with the North Central Regional Training Center through a contract with the Institute for Human Services. If you’re interested in attending an upcoming workshop visit our monthly calendar, or contact Julius Jackson at (216) 482-2324 or Julius.Jackson@adoptionnetwork.org.
Margaret Currie is the Grants & Donor Engagement VISTA at Adoption Network Cleveland