A mentor parent is a mother or father with previous lived experience in the child welfare system who has successfully reunified with their children and completed their legal case. A mentor parent cannot have any open legal case and the court cannot have jurisdiction over their families. If substance use disorder was an issue in their juvenile dependency case, the mentor parent must possess a personal commitment to a clean and sober lifestyle and understand recovery programming. This is a full-time mentor parent position for DAC’s innovative pilot program, First Call for Families (First Call). First Call is a collaborative, prevention-focused endeavor with Santa Clara County’s First 5 and Social Services Agency (SSA).
One of the first of its kind in California, this attorney-led interdisciplinary team will offer parents who are at risk of having their children removed crucial early access to legal advice and resources designed to help stabilize the family and, where possible, prevent unnecessary entry into the foster care system. Consisting of an attorney, a social worker and two mentor parents with lived child welfare experience, First Call’s interdisciplinary team will provide a creative, holistic approach to pre-petition advocacy and family-strengthening, focusing on parents who have been contacted by the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) within the last 12 months or who are currently receiving informal DFCS services. Using their own lived experience as a guide, the role of the mentor parent is to provide peer support to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system, to help families navigate interactions with DFCS and other systems, and to provide targeted case management and referrals to community based services in order to stabilize the family.
In addition, the mentor parent will assist with breaking down barriers that may be preventing parents from effectively advocating for themselves and their families. Mentor parents will support clients in their interactions with DFCS social workers and participate in conferences such as Child and Family Team (CFT) meetings. The First Call for Families program will provide the following core services: (1) advice calls from eligible parents on a toll-free warmline, (2) “know your rights” community presentations about child welfare system involvement, and (3) limited scope representation to assist with family stabilization and address specific areas of vulnerability such as housing instability, substance use disorder, mental health and domestic violence issues. If a formal DFCS petition is filed, the First Call team will proactively encourage a successful and communicative relationship with the family’s DFCS social worker to support the goals of family reunification and family preservation.