The Value of a Foster Parent: Part I
by Abdul Seraaj Edited by Intisar Seraaj-Sabree
The Walt Disney Company has a policy that every employee and contractor must fully understand the importance and history of Mickey Mouse as it relates to Disney. Seraaj Family Homes, Inc. (SFH) must engage in this same practice; requiring all employees to understand the importance of the role of foster parents or Professional Family Teachers (PFT), as we call them at SFH. Every SFH employee must clearly understand the history and value of the PFT as it correlates to the financial stability and growth of SFH. Many staff positions that SFH currently offers would not be available or functional if we had not established therapeutic foster care (TFC) services years ago in 1994. Before we were therapists or any other type of child welfare professionals, Nadiyah Seraaj (the original Chief Financial Officer and cofounder of SFH) and I worked as foster parents in the early years of our entrepreneurship, which gave us the vision and understanding to establish TFC in Montgomery, Alabama. Thus, we learned about the importance of foster parents by becoming surrogate parents ourselves.
The first group of PFTs that SFH had was established in Montgomery, Alabama (the company’s corporate region). This group included Andre Burke, Eliz Corely Brown, Betty Moore, Emma Osborne, and Herb Weary. This group had previously worked as family support workers and case managers, and then they became licensed PFTs. They all understood how to provide individualized, supportive wrap-around services to the children in foster care and to their biological families due to their experience in providing in-home wrap-around services. Some of SFH’s corporate office employees were also PFTs and some have provided respite care. Thus, these individuals knew the importance of the PFT’s role and understood this role from a professional perspective due to their background in human services. When SFH of Birmingham, Alabama was established, it grew considerably because of the establishment of TFC. SFH’s brand was taken to new heights because of the recruitment of quality PFTs that were willing to take the most challenging children in foster care. It was these earlier groups of PFTs who truly understood the importance of child and family visitation, reunification, and permanency. They understood because the majority of them had worked as family support workers and case managers. We cannot grow without quality PFTs. This is why everyone, even PFTs, must clearly understand the importance of the role of foster parents as it relates to SFH’s history and growth.