What is QPI?
The Quality Parenting Initiative, a strategy of the Youth Law Center, is an approach to strengthening foster care, refocusing on excellent parenting for all children in the child welfare system. It was launched in 2008 in Florida, and as of 2018, over 75 jurisdictions in 10 states (California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin) have adopted the QPI approach.
In order to thrive, all children and youth need excellent parenting. When parents can’t care for their children, the foster or relative family must be able to provide the loving, committed, skilled care that the child needs, in partnership with the system, to ensure children and youth thrive. Both the caregiver’s parenting skills and the system’s policies and practices should be based on child development research, information and tools. QPI is based on five core principles:
- Excellent parenting is the most important service we can provide to children and youth in care. Children need families, not beds;
- Child development and trauma research indicates that children need constant, consistent, effective parenting to grow and reach their full potential;
- Each community must define excellent parenting for itself;
- Policy and practice must be changed to align with that definition; and
- Participants in the system are in the best position to recommend and implement that change.
QPI is an approach, a philosophy and a network of sites that share information and ideas about how to improve parenting as well as recruit and retain excellent families. It is an effort to rebrand foster care, not simply by changing a logo or an advertisement, but by changing the expectations of and support for caregivers. The child welfare system commits to fully supporting excellent parenting by putting the needs of the child first. The key elements of the approach are:
- Defining the expectations of caregivers,
- Clearly communicating expectations (the Brand Statement) to staff, caregivers and other stakeholders, and
- Aligning system policy and practice with those expectations.
When QPI is successful, caregivers have a voice. They work as a team with agency staff to support children and youth. Caregivers receive the support and training they need to work with children and families, understand what is expected of them, and know what to expect from the system. Systems are then able to select and retain enough excellent caregivers to meet the needs of each child for a home and family. When these changes are accomplished, outcomes for children, youth and families will improve.