Eileen Mayers Pasztor, a social work professor at CSULB, was recently honored by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) with an award for “Outstanding Curricular Design” for her efforts in the design and implementation of a comprehensive competency-based curriculum to develop and support foster and adoptive parents. The curriculum is known as PRIDE, an acronym for Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education.
Pasztor began working on the PRIDE project during her 10 years of service at the CWLA, the nation's oldest national child advocacy organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the social work faculty at CSULB in 1999, Pasztor served as CWLA’s national program director for kinship care, family foster care and adoption services.
“PRIDE began as a request from foster and adoptive parents and child welfare professionals in the state of Illinois who were looking for a competency-based approach to caring for children with special needs; children who have been physically and sexually abused, and neglected,” Pasztor recalled. “It was designed to help prospective foster and adoptive parents learn, along with the child welfare agency, whether they were a right fit together for the children.
“While I was the principal designer, the program was actually written by a team of 150 people – foster parents, adoptive parents, social workers, and other advocates – from advisory committees in 13 partnering states, including California” Pasztor explained. “The foster and adoptive parents were clear about what they needed – emotional strengths, specific skills and system supports. Their stories and experiences were compelling.” Pasztor has a special understanding – she and her husband are foster and adoptive parents for children with special needs.
PRIDE was designed to focus on five competency areas – protecting and nurturing children 24/7, meeting children’s developmental needs and addressing developmental delays, supporting relationships and feelings of children for their birth parents, connecting children to safe and nurturing lifetime relationships (known as permanency), and working as a member of a professional team with child welfare social workers and the courts.
Training videos to support the curriculum were also produced with support from the San Felipe Humanitarian Alliance, a grant-making and service foundation. “Writing scripts was a special challenge, but the videos enriched the learning experience,” according to Pasztor. PRIDE helps prospective foster and adoptive parents, along with child welfare agencies, make mutual decisions about whether fostering and adopting is right for these families and, if so, for which children.”
PRIDE is now being used in 31 states, five Canadian provinces and 19 countries, including the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Serbia and the Ukraine. She admitted that she never imagined PRIDE would reach the parts of the world that it has.
“To know that former Soviet countries are using PRIDE to move children from institutions to families is especially meaningful,” Pasztor said. “At the award event, I received copies of training materials from some of the international colleagues there.” A PRIDE poster from Finland hangs on her office wall. Pasztor received her award at the PRIDE International Roundtable, which was hosted by CWLA in Washington, D.C. With the participation of colleagues from Canada, Europe and the United States, the roundtable was an opportunity to share experiences and ideas, problem-solve, and plan the future directions of the program.
Pasztor said that people often ask how a curriculum that began in one American state could be relevant from coast to coast, border to border and overseas. “Our answer is that the needs of children know no borders. There are certain basics about the way that you protect and nurture children and do these competencies and meet their developmental needs,” Pasztor noted. “And, wherever you live, these dynamics are the same. The currency, language, customs and culture are dramatically different in many cases. But keeping children safe, nurturing them, and advocating for social justice is quite similar wherever we go, and that is the humanity in all of us.”
Pasztor described her attendance at the roundtable in Washington, D.C. “like the end of an era,” meeting with former colleagues, reminiscing about the start of PRIDE, and meeting a new generation of PRIDE developers and trainers who have expanded the curriculum from the original 27 hours to almost 100 hours of training. Still, her involvement with the organization and the program isn’t finished just yet."We, all of the original team members, are going to do one more journal article,” Pasztor said. “CWLA collected data at the roundtable on what is working and what is not, what’s changed, how has the world changed for children in various jurisdictions. We will do the data analysis and write an article on the impact of PRIDE from a global perspective. This has been an amazing experience that I can share with my students, too, in our child welfare and social welfare courses. I appreciate that the department affords me the opportunity to continue my research agenda on foster care, adoption and kinship care issues.”