NUMBER 785• 13 JULY •HISTORICAL APPROACH TO TRAINING
Historically, some programs have not incorporated training requirements into personnel selection and development but rely instead on existing skills. A five-state survey of foster care conducted in the 1970s (Vasaly 1976) found that training for foster parents was functionally nonexistent. Foster parent candidates who had experience in child rearing, who seemed emotionally stable and interested in children, and who verbalized values compatible with those of the placing agency were thought to possess the skills necessary for foster parenting. No further training was provided other than exposing the parents to agency policies and operation.
This nontraining approach was consistent with a belief that the professional caseworker, not the foster parents, should be accountable for any decision making. With such an approach, formal training was not essential for direct care providers who were held accountable only for meeting the physical and emotional needs of children. Decisions about what behaviors to teach and how to teach them were apparently either left to the discretion of the foster parent or considered the responsibility of the professionally trained caseworker. In this approach treatment was not the responsibility of foster parents, but, when provided, was the responsibility of a mental health professional.
The university or lecture approach
During the 1970s, the child care field as a whole moved in the direction of placing treatment accountability in the hands of direct service providers. There was a growing demand for child care and treatment personnel who had received formal training (Bryant 1980). Naturally, the most economic process was to hire persons who were already trained. The most readily available training resource was the university system. Courses in social work, psychology, education, and counseling were already in existence and agencies sought to hire persons whom the universities had trained. Programs applying this approach assumed the completion of course work or a degree program qualified a person for service in particular types of programs. The credits, certification, or diploma received symbolized a person's complete readiness to assume certain roles in the human service field. In some instances, personnel with university-based human service training were hired as foster parents in therapeutic or specialized foster care programs (Bryant 1980).
However, the typical college program does not prepare personnel for roles in TFC programs. For one thing, the university or lecture approach used in most degree programs is predominantly a conceptual/ verbal one. Conceptual/verbal training does not necessarily generalize to improved on-the-job performance. Readings and lectures are the primary input to trainees in this approach, which assumes that most conceptual mastery will translate into the implementation of specific skills. Of course, some practical experience is included in university-based human service training, but it is usually a rather modest fraction of the training. Furthermore, practical experience training is more difficult to evaluate and seldom conducted so thoroughly that the faculty can say with certainty that a student has mastered specific skills.
Daly, D. L. (1989) Ensuring Quality Child Care and Treatment through the Program-Specific Skill Training and Supervision of Personnel. In Hawkins, R.P. and Breiling, J. (eds) Therapeutic Foster Care Critical Issues. Child Welfare League of America. pp 132-133
Bryant, B. 1980. Special foster care: A History and Rationale. Verona, VA: People Places, Inc.
Vasaly, S. 1976. Foster care in five states: A synthesis and analysis of studies from Arizona, California, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont. (BHEW Publication No. OHD 76-30097) Washinton, DC: George Washington University, Social Research Group.