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“This curriculum should be required for anyone who is entering the field of adoption and permanency.” (ACT graduate)
“A professional program of this quality and caliber is unprecedented in Canada. The quality and relevance of the program content was stellar. The entire curriculum reflected a masterful integration of contextual information, evidence based knowledge, applicable theoretical paradigms, professional values underpinning ethical adoption practice, clinical tools and strategies for working effectively with those touched by adoption and resources for professional service providers and constellation members alike.” (Judy Archer, adoption therapist, consultant, curriculum writer, and trainer with over 40 years of experience working in both Ontario and BC)
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Adoption and permanency create issues that are both complex and lifelong for children, adoptive parents and caregivers, and birth families. In addition, children in the child welfare system are more likely to have experienced trauma than other children, resulting in emotional and behavioral problems that create additional strain for adoptive parents and caregivers. The serious shortage of pre- and post-permanency service providers that fully appreciate these complex issues frequently leads to families feeling isolated, frustrated and hopeless, often leading to disrupted adoptions or foster care placements, and children being placed in group homes or residential treatment. The ACO, in partnership with Kinship Center, a member of Seneca Family of Agencies, is very pleased to offer the ACT curriculum for the first time in Ontario to address this significant gap in services to our adoptive, kinship and customary care families.
ACT is a comprehensive adoption and permanency curriculum that provides intensive practice and clinically informed training to adoption and permanency professionals, and community based therapists and service providers. The curriculum expands the application of techniques and knowledge from related fields, such as education, mental health, and neurobiology to the practice of adoption and relative guardianship.
ACT is designed to advance and inform adoption practice, expand the pool of qualified child welfare and mental health providers available to families, integrate permanency practice across an array of programs, and engage and retain qualified professional staff in adoption and post permanency services.
ACT can also help organizations serving children to develop core competencies in adoption and permanency, and provide them with a cohesive framework that will enable them to improve and standardize their programs with shared, quality knowledge and a commitment to integrated practice principles.
ACT was developed in 1992 and has been refined and field-tested to more than 7,000 professionals over 20 years. Kinship Center attributes the successful outcomes of its programs and <2% disruption rate historically to the impact of ACTon the skills and commitment of its staff to creating and supporting permanent families.
As a result of completing ACT, participants in their pre- and post permanency work will:
ACT takes on ambitious goals. The following reflect core competency areas for specific levels of knowledge, values, and skills. Upon completion of ACT participants in their pre- and post- permanency work will have:
Session 1, “Permanence in Context,” provides an introduction to the curriculum and the facilitators, and gives background information on the development of ACT. This session begins the adoption and permanence knowledge and the skill building content, focusing on policy and practice challenges for permanence in a child’s life. The theoretical framework of this curriculum, the Seven Core Issues in Adoption, is introduced, with time spent on the first three issues, Loss, Rejection and Guilt & Shame. Emphasis is on the unique issues that the adopted person, birth family, and permanent family face in the lifelong process of adoption and permanency.
Session 2, “Core Issues,” continues the adoption knowledge and skill-building with further exploration of the Seven Core Issues in Adoption, discussing Grief, Identity, Intimacy and Mastery/Control. The clinical practices that are the focus of ACT have evolved over time, and adoption from a historical perspective is reviewed. This session introduces several practice interventions that professionals can use in their work, including: building self-esteem, genograms, time lines, life books and boxes, and biblio-therapy. These effective tools help both professionals and clients better understand the core issues in play.
Sessions 3, “The Art and Science of Attachment,” gives an introduction to the neurobiology of attachment. Early brain development in children establishes how their attachment patterns evolve, which determines how they cope with the world around them. Insecure attachment patterns have a negative impact on the child, leaving them impaired in their ability to attach to caregivers, affecting their emotional development. Learning to recognize these behaviors and exploring ways to empower parents to change this organized system of faulty internal beliefs held by the child will be the focus of this session.
Session 4, “A Developmental Perspective,” builds on not only the child’s attachment pattern, but their developmental level of understanding of adoption. A child’s understanding of adoption is not the same as an adult’s, and careful preparation of the child and family is needed to make the transition to permanency. Sibling issues are also introduced, as siblings have very complex relationships that affect and are affected by each family they move from. The discussion will include the questions around siblings and decision-making factors in sibling placements.
Sessions 5, “Family Constellation Challenges,” picks up where Session 4 left off, discussing such as whether to place siblings together, when to separate them, and helping children discuss their feelings. This session takes a look at birth parents, those who voluntarily relinquish their children and those who have their parental rights terminated by court decree, and the need for post-adoption support. A significant area of child welfare today involves kinship care, and how professionals can help assess and support this type of family building.
Session 6, “Supporting the Permanent Family,” explores interventions to support constellation members, and how the practice of open adoption is defined. The values, attitudes and beliefs underlying the practice are discussed and participants are asked to examine their own perspectives. Search and reunion is another focal point; reasons people search, their roller coaster emotions, and the benefits and challenges experienced by not only those who undertake this task, but all parties involved.
Sessions 7, “Tools for Skilled Practice,” addresses such issues as lifelong impact of infertility for individuals and couples; individual identity, marital/couple relationships, sexuality, extended family relationships and parenting. Factors for the professional to consider during the assessment of clients considering adoption or relative caregiving are reviewed. Participants are given the opportunity to practice their assessment skill, including attention to factors to consider when looking at trans-racial adoptions. The complexities that arise when concurrent planning is the plan for a child and the issues surrounding placement disruptions and adoption dissolutions are discussed.
Session 8, “Diversity, Healing and the Family,” believing that children heal best in families, discussion reflects back to the neurobiology presented in Session 3, and the implications presented for healthy attachments. The difficulties that impaired attachments, developmental needs and traumatic histories bring, and the parenting challenges they created are addressed. Ways to enhance family attachment with appropriate discipline and therapeutic parenting methods will be presented. The conclusion of the curriculum focuses on the role of rituals and ceremonies in adoption and permanency related work.
Adoption and permanency create issues that are both complex and lifelong for children, adoptive parents and caregivers, and birth families. In addition, children in the child welfare system are more likely to have experienced trauma than other children, resulting in emotional and behavioral problems that create additional strain for adoptive parents and caregivers. The serious shortage of pre- and post-permanency service providers that fully appreciate these complex issues frequently leads to families feeling isolated, frustrated and hopeless, often leading to disrupted adoptions or foster care placements, and children being placed in group homes or residential treatment. Foster and adopted youth comprise a high percentage of the children in group homes and residential treatment programs, making it is essential for administrators and staff in those programs to also develop knowledge and techniques that will increase their ability to more effectively serve this population.
From the ACO’s perspective, one of the strong features of the Kinship/Seneca curricula is the tremendous integration between the curriculum and training for the professionals and the curriculum and training for the parents. The same language and the same concepts are used in both which will assist families and professionals in their work together. This was something our ACO Roundtable Advisory members highlighted to us - how important it was that both parents and professionals receive specialized training. As well, in addition to the very comprehensive manner in which the issues faced by all parties touched by adoption – adopted children and youth, adopted persons, birth parents, adoptive parents, siblings and other extended family – are dealt with throughout each of their life-long journeys, the curricula contain a rich resource of many practical tools for both clinicians and parents to use.
ACT is recognized as a model for the industry, across a broad array of essential services. Although applications vary, ACT’s theoretical framework, concepts and techniques have been successfully applied by professionals in a range of settings, including public and private agency social workers, outpatient clinics, therapists in private practice, wraparound teams, attorneys, judges, educators, residential treatment centers, and therapeutic boarding schools.
The eight (6 hour) sessions ofACT include didactic lecture, large and small group discussion, integrated learning activities, interactive experiences, video, and supportive reading materials. Your ACT training experience will include:
Kinship Center, now a member of Seneca Family of Agencies, has had a long history of bringing adoption competency training to California and other states in the United States. Over 20 years ago Sharon Roszia, M.S., Annette Baran, L.C.S.W., and Deborah Silverstein, L.C.S.W, began to see the real need for specialized understanding of adoption related issues by professionals and as a result, developed classes in the early 1990’s. As adoptive and foster parents and recognized educators in the child welfare field, they also brought a perspective from child and family therapy to inform and enrich the curriculum. They developed a training program that has been continually refined and updated and is now known as ACT - an intensive, comprehensive 8-day training curriculum.
ACT is also informed by Kinship’s Center’s over thirty year service history in California of providing a broad array of permanency services, including infant, special needs and inter-country adoptions; relative caregiver support; adoption specialty wraparound services; and child development and mental health clinics that are permanency specialty models. Kinship attributes the successful outcomes of its programs and <2% disruption rate historically to the impact of ACT on the skills and commitment of its staff to creating and supporting permanent families.
The ACT curriculum was originally developed to meet one agency’s need for specialized training of professional employees across programs and to compensate for the lack of a cohesive and inclusive curriculum that provided a comprehensive body of adoption knowledge via a set of unifying principles. Interest from outside professionals and organizations encouraged continued development, refinement, standardization and dissemination of the course in its current form.
To date over 7,000 professionals in the United States have been trained in the ACT curriculum.
In concert with the ACT course for professionals, a curriculum was developed for parents and other caregivers called Pathways to Permanence 2: Parenting Children who Have Experienced Trauma and Loss. More information about Pathways 2 can be found here.
ACT’s effectiveness is evaluated on an ongoing basis through participant evaluations. In 2011, Kinship Center issued a White Paper Report on the effectiveness of the ACT curriculum and a Summary Report of ACT Evaluations over the previous five years. It is clear from the reports that the ACT curriculum is effective and has delivered impressive outcomes as follows:
In addition to quantitative survey questions, optional open-ended survey questions asking for additional feedback were also provided. Selected responses are quoted below:
In the Spring of 2015, the ACO’s 22 Ontario highly skilled and experienced trainers completed the ACT curriculum. Key results of their overall evaluation of ACT are as follows:
1. Personal quotes about ACT overall:
“A professional program of this quality and caliber is unprecedented in Canada. The quality and relevance of the program content was stellar. The entire curriculum reflected a masterful integration of contextual information, evidence based knowledge, applicable theoretical paradigms, professional values underpinning ethical adoption practice, clinical tools and strategies for working effectively with those touched by adoption and resources for professional service providers and constellation members alike.” (Judy Archer, adoption therapist, consultant, curriculum writer, trainer with over 40 years of experience working in both Ontario and BC)
“An excellent resource because it is very comprehensive, current, evidence-based and clinically relevant. This type of training does not exist in any other format or venue in Ontario.” (Lorraine Franco, private adoption practitioner, mental health therapist)
“I was particularly impressed with the thoroughness of the curriculum because it covers every possible aspect of substitute care from its impact on children throughout their lives to the impact on siblings, birth family and extended family. Having worked in children’s mental health consulting to a children’s aid society over the past two years I can personally confirm the need for professionals working in these areas to gain a deeper, significantly more comprehensive understanding of the unique needs and dynamics inherent in adoption, foster and kin families. I have no doubt they would be eager to attend the ACT training.” (Jacquie Tjandra, child welfare and mental health professional with over 30 years of experience)
“I found this curriculum to be of great quality and very comprehensive. As a PRIDE trainer for over 7 years, I found the ACT curriculum more relevant and more in depth. I also lead a support group and provide peer support for adoptive families and am excited to share with them the knowledge that I received in the training. We need to find homes for our children and youth, and we need to have the appropriate resources for our families.” (Sylvia Gibbons, PRIDE trainer, Founded a support group for adoptive families, Founded a group for adopted youth, provides peer support through Adopt4Life, adoptive parent)
2. Key Quantitative Statistics
Overall the evaluations of ACT were extremely positive. 100% of Ontario’s 22 ACT trainers who completed ACT in the Spring of 2015 “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” with the following statements:
3. Best Features of the ACT Training comments:
When asked what the “Best features of the ACT training”were our Ontario Trainers reported the following:
3. Other comments:
We are thrilled to report that the University of Toronto will be assisting the ACO in evaluating the effectiveness of ACT and Pathways 2 in Ontario, thanks to a 3-year research grant funded by long-time supporters of the ACO.
Dr. Barbara Fallon, Associate Professor & Associate Dean of Research and Factor-Inwentash Chair in Child Welfare at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto will be working closely with the ACO to design and monitor a comprehensive evaluation system for ACT and Pathways 2. This system will measure the ongoing effectiveness of both ACT and Pathways 2 in Ontario, from the perspective of both professionals and ultimately the families and children they serve. We are excited to work with Dr. Fallon and her colleagues on this initiative and very grateful to the funders who made this possible.
The eight-day ACT curriculum will be offered on an ongoing basis in various Ontario locations over a four-month period of time as follows:
Fall: September to December (two consecutive days per month)
Winter: January to April (two consecutive days per month)
Spring: March to June (two consecutive days per month)
Cost for the eight-day curriculum is $1,200 per participant.
Potential $500 Reimbursement of ACT fees: Social workers and social service workers who are registered and in good standing with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers are eligible to apply to the College for a reimbursement of up to $500 of PD activities. We understand that the ACT training fees have qualified for this reimbursement. Please see more information at www.oasw.org
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96% of participants would recommend the ACT training to a colleague
86% rated the training as Excellent or Very Good; the remainder as Good.
The ACT curriculum was comprehensive and was developed by the trainers with such heart and passion. This training is a must for all mental health professionals, child care workers and professionals who work with children, adults and family.
Thanks a ton- so amazing!
Best training I have ever been to! The facilitators provided such beautiful examples.
Energizing, hopeful, so open and receptive.
Thank you - I am using many of the materials with the families I am working with.
From a clinical perspective (residential treatment), I will examine the staff team's IWM and how it impacts their ability to work with the youth and how it influences how they interact (a piece of the puzzle that may be overlooked at times)
Relevant for all professionals and individuals touched by adoption. Truly appreciated the trainer's clinical perspective.
The materials are applicable every day across so many scenarios. Lightbulbs went off for me in so many ways.
It was an amazing training opportunity.
I haven't had extensive training on permanency or adoption before. This was wonderful.
I was able to implement the information right away into my practice and work with client and foster parents.
Very interactive and engaging; great use of individual and group exercises to demonstrate the material. The provided DVD resources and practice tools are above and beyond what I expected to receive and have received in past trainings.
Normally when you take a one or two day course you come out thinking that you have learned a lot about a topic. I came out of this course knowing I had learned a lot and felt competent to apply that knowledge.
Focused and dynamic training. Covering a lot of material in a coherent manner.
Tremendous amount of resources and they are very well organized.
I will be able to use (tools) to approach and assess youth in a more fair and understanding manner.
I have shared (resources) with all of the families I work with and my team mates and colleagues on committees at our agency. We discuss them regularly at meetings.
It was very thorough and so applicable to the work that I am doing.
I am able to generalize the training to children who experience trauma and support the adults who parent or work with these children.
I will be able to speak to people about their stories from a different lens.
Every night after this course I went home and made a list of things that we need to change in terms of process, language, etc in our work with adoptive families. It gave me tools to help expand what we are doing well and it also gave me an understanding of what we need to change going forward.
Our 22 Ontario trainers have over 600 years of combined experience in the child welfare and mental health fields. They also represent the different regions of Ontario. All of our trainers demonstrated that they were highly qualified professionals many having both child welfare and mental health experience as well as experience training professionals and/or families. They also exemplified the following attributes we hoped to attract in our team of trainers:
Of our 22 trainers:
Below is a list of our ACT/Pathways 2 Ontario trainers organized by region.
They have all completed the ACT training and represent the first group of permanency and adoption competent professionals in Ontario.
Loretta Montgomery, CYW, Thunder Bay
Loretta is an adoption worker with the Children’s Aid Society of the District of Thunder Bay. She is an accomplished child welfare professional with over 28 years of experience working with children and families. She has also worked as a full-time trainer for the CAS with a focus on facilitating PRIDE pre-service training for prospective foster and adoptive applicants and the facilitation of ongoing training for resource families, including the PRIDE in-service curriculum.
Central Ontario - north of GTA
Lynda Young, RSW, Barrie
Lynda is a mental health professional with Barrie and Community Family Health Team. She has an extensive child welfare background having worked with various children’s aid societies in Ontario for over 25 years. Lynda is also an approved adoption practitioner and a PRIDE trainer.
Laura Banks, BA, Orillia
Laura is a mental health professional in private practice. She provides counseling, education, advocacy, skill development and service coordination to families in adoption. Laura also sits on several Boards and Committees with the clear intent of assisting children to find permanency and healing in their lives. Laura is an adoptive parent to seven children and has been a Treatment Foster Care parent for over 18 years. She is an experienced trainer to adoptive and foster parents and others.
Sylvia Gibbons, Orillia
Sylvia founded and runs a Support Group for Adoptive Families and founded and runs an Adopted Youth Group, both of which are in Simcoe County. She is the ACO's PACT Parent Liaison. In this newly created role she will assist and guide Pathways parent groups to form ongoing parent support groups in their communities. Sylvia continues to provide peer support to many adoptive families throughout Ontario. Sylvia has been a PRIDE trainer for eight years. Sylvia is also an adoptive parent.
Karen Moore, RSW, MA (Leadership), Lanark County
Karen is a mental health professional, a creative and innovative manager and leader in Lanark County. She is the Director of Services at Open Doors, a children’s mental health centre in Lanark County. Karen also has a private practice in Kanata working with children, youth and families. She has been involved in the world of adoption and children’s mental health for many years through her experience in social work, training and development and leadership positions. Karen is also an adoptive parent of four children.
Sabrina Tripolitano, MSW, Kingston
Sabrina is a mental health professional in private practice with particular expertise in the area of high conflict separation and divorce, child maltreatment issues, as well as working with foster and adoptive parents and their children. She provides counseling, consultation and assessment services. She is also a clinical investigator with the Office of the Children’s Lawyer and has been certified as an expert witness in her field. She is an experienced trainer.
Central Ontario – east of GTA
Dr.Charlie Menendez, Psychologist, Peterborough
Charlie is a clinical psychologist with Telka Smith Psychology providing assessment, treatment and consultation services for children, adolescents, adults and families as well as individuals with special needs with a particular focus on supporting children in care or being adopted, and those who care for them. He has over 25 years of experience as a therapist and counselor. Charlie is also an experienced trainer of professionals.
Teresa Jarosz, BSW, Durham
Teresa is an approved adoption practitioner and a social worker with over 20 years experience. She provides supportive counseling for adopted youth and parents and assisted families in locating and accessing mental health services. She is an experienced PRIDE trainer and is a trainer of foster parents. She is also an adoptive parent.
Barbara Jones Warrick, M.Ed. Counselling, London
Barbara is a mental health professional at Vanier Children’s Services and in private practice. She is a child and family therapist specializing in play therapy and provides individual, family and group services to diverse populations. She is also a member of the Early Years Team at Vanier. Barbara trains and instructs professionals in various forms of therapy. Barbara brings her own personal experience as an adopted person to her work.
Loralin Tansley, MSW, Brantford
Loralin is a child welfare professional with over 16 years of experience. She works at the Brant Family and Children’s Services and for the past 11 years she has been specifically working in the areas of adoption and foster care. She has been a trainer since 2004, has been a PRIDE trainer since 2007 and has been a trainer with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies since 2010.
Cindy Stewart, CYW, London
Cindy is a mental health professional in private practice. She offers post adoption support to adoptive families and co-facilitates an interracial adoption support group and an adopted teen group. She has child welfare experience facilitating successful foster placements and providing individual counseling to children and youth. She also worked in group homes for eight years with teens and youth. Cindy brings her personal experience as a parent to biological and adoptive children and as an adopted person to her work. Cindy is also a private investigator interested in search and reunion work.
Central Ontario - west of GTA
Mary-Jo Land, Registered Psychotherapist, Priceville/Hamilton
Mary-Jo is a private practice clinician offering individual and family therapy. Her primary focus in therapy is resolving early childhood trauma and facilitating (secondary) attachment of children to their parents, foster and adoptive parents. She offers consultation and supervision to therapists in the field and offers workshops internationally in the fields of attachment, bonding and trauma to parents and to therapists. Mary-Jo is a parent to biological and adoptive children and an experienced foster parent.
Caroline Sears, MSW, Dundas
Caroline is a social worker with many years of experience working as a grief counselor in the healthcare field. She is now working as an adoption therapist providing counseling for pre-adoptive and adoptive parents to address infertility and adoption, grief and loss, trauma and neglect, attachment difficulties, emotional effects of parenting children with learning disabilities, FAS, medical concerns and developmental or social concerns. She also has over 15 years of experience parenting adoptive and biological children.
Elaine Ash, MSW, Toronto
Elaine has been working in the field of mental health for over 35 years. She has experience working in child welfare and working with First Nations children. She worked for many years at the Out-Patient Child and Family Clinic at Trillium Health Partners, Credit Valley Hospital and has a private practice with the primary focus being Post-Adoption Integration work and addressing the mental health needs of children and youth who are navigating their lives as adopted children. Elaine is an experienced instructor and trainer and is an adoptive parent.
Darby Crosby, MA, RMFT, RP, Stouffville
Darby is an adoptive parent, a Registered Psychotherapist and on the Registry of Marriage and Family Therapists. She works full time at Family Services York Region and has a small private practice. She has provided counselling to individuals, couples and families who are dealing with various issues such as parenting, adoption, trauma, grief, anxiety, depression and domestic violence for over 15 years. Her experience includes working with all members of the adoption constellation. Darby has been a PRIDE trainer since 2007.
Lorraine Franco, MSW, Mississauga
Lorraine is a mental health therapist and an approved adoption practitioner. She worked as a Child and Family Therapist at a children’s mental health agency and now works in private practice. She provides counseling to children, adolecents, adults, couples and families struggling with issues such as anxiety, depression, addictions, trauma, attachment, grief and loss, infertility, identity, parenting, adoption and domestic violence. She has been providing mental health therapy to clients for over 17 years. She has also experience working in child welfare.
Marguerite McCarron, RP, Toronto
Marguerite is a mental health therapist in private practice. She has experience working in both child welfare and children’s mental health settings providing a range of direct clinical and management services. She has over 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents presenting with complex social, emotional and behavioural needs. She specializes in attachment focused and trauma informed services to fostered and adopted children, youth and their families.
Elaine Quinn, RSW, Toronto/Calrgary
Since 1987, Elaine has worked in Ireland, Australia, England, South Africa and Canada in the field of child welfare and adoption. She has worked with all parties in the adoption constellation at every stage of the adoption journey. In her role as Manager of the Permanency & Adoption Support Service program at the ACO from 2013 to 2016, she continued her passion to advocate for and support adoptive and kinship families to ensure permanency for all children. Elaine is an experienced trainer of both professionals and families.
Jacquie Tjandra , MSW, Scarborough
Jacquie is a mental health professional working at a counselling agency in the GTA. Jacquie has over 25 years’ experience in child welfare as an adoption worker and adoption reunion counsellor. She has also provided consultation services to Children’s Aid Societies working with families where mental health concerns were identified. Jacquie has a private practice focused on supporting adoptive families and providing counseling to all members of the adoption constellation. She is an experienced PRIDE trainer and has also delivered training to various community agencies and groups.
ACO staff – Toronto/GTA
Kimberley Miller, RSW, Mississauga
Kimberley is a clinical social worker with the Adoption Council of Ontario and the staff-lead of the ACO’s Youth Network Group. Kimberley has over 24 years of extensive child welfare experience. Kimberley imparts both professional and personal adoption experience; as an adopted person and as a single, adoptive parent. Kimberley is an experienced trainer of professionals, families and youth.
Joanne Hoffman, MSW, RSW, Thornhill/Vaughan
Joanne Hoffman is an Approved Adoption Practitioner and worked as a Social Worker in children’s Mental Health for the past 20 years. She has worked with many adoptive families who are parenting children with complex needs. In 2014 Joanne joined the Permanency and Adoption Support Services at the Adoption Council of Ontario as a clinical social worker.
Judy Archer, MSW, Toronto
Judy is a mental health professional who has recently joined the ACO as Manager of Permanency and Adoption Support Services. Judy has over 40 years of experience working in the field of adoption, children-in-care, and special needs. She has also had the privilege of providing a myriad of mental health services in First Nation communities on Vancouver Island and at family service agencies in Northern Ontario. Judy is an experienced trainer and has also been involved in writing adoption related curriculum for the Ministry in British Columbia.