Costa County Employment & Human Services, Children and Family Services

Agency Contact

Contact Name: Neely   McElroy
Title: Division Manager
Contact Phone: 925-335-7100
Role in the Agency: Staff
Agency Name: Costa County Employment & Human Services, Children and Family Services
Address: 2530 Arnold Drive, Martinez, CA CA
Contra Costa County
Web Address:

Brief Agency Overview

The Children and Family Services Bureau of the Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services protects children from abuse and neglect and promotes the well-being of children and their families. The Bureau provides specialized services to the families we work with in order to maintain children safely in their own homes. We provide emergency response services to assess the risk some children may be in. If we have to remove children for their own safety, we provide reunification services to their families. We also license foster homes for the placement of children and we screen families for adoptive placement when children cannot be returned to their own homes.

Direct Services - Casework Support

Casework Support - in partnership with staff, Parent leader/Mentor/Partner engages in role as navigator,broker, advocate and/or coach for other parents/caregivers.

Program Name: Parent Partner Program/Family Engagement Unit

Start Year: 2005

Program Description:

The Contra Costa County Parent Partner Program is the result of a visionary partnership between Children and Family Services and the Child Abuse Prevention Council. This program was designed to enlist as staff parents (both mothers and fathers) who have experienced child removal, services and reunification to work with parents currently involved in the system. The Parent Partners are trained and supported to provide direct services to parent clients seeking reunification with their children. This program encourages Parent Partners to serve as mentors, guides and advocates. Parent Partners can be flexible in the roles they play and in responding to a range of needs parent clients might present. The principal goal of their work is to help parent clients gain awareness of their rights and responsibilities, and to assist parents toward reunification with their children. Parent Partners carry out their roles in three distinct ways: * Parent Leaders – In this role, Parent Partners serve as the “parents’ voice” as participants on various committees and workgroups. Two Parent Partners from Contra Costa County were invited to represent the parent’s voice on the last California Program Improvement Plan (PIP). They have participated in redesign efforts, focus groups, the State Improvement Plan (SIP). * Parent Advocates – In this role, Parent Partners mentor parents currently involved in the system. They meet parents at court at the time of detention and then offer to help the family navigate through the complicated Child Welfare System. They attend TDM Meetings, Icebreakers, and serve as a supportive voice for the family; * Parent Trainers - the Parent Partners provide training to parents, as well as to various professional and non-professional groups. The Parent Partners are able to enhance the training experience by sharing their own unique perspectives and real-life experiences. They participate in foster parent training, new worker training, intern training as well as training for CASA’s attorneys, the Bar and a number of California and national trainings. The Parent Partner Program is committed to helping families develop supportive relationships and enhance their abilities to draw on family strengths and resources in order to facilitate timely permanency for their children. Parent Partners provide parents involved in the system with a Handbook entitled “Parent Handbook – Navigating the System One Day at a Time.” In addition, the program staff have developed and present a training “Navigating the Child Welfare System” to anyone who is dealing with the child welfare system and wants more information. This program has demonstrated that a well trained, highly motivated Parent Partner can work collaboratively within a child welfare system and make a significant impact on favorable outcomes for children and families. The model developed in Contra Costa County is an important approach to helping parents make good permanency plans and reunify with their children. Recent research on this program showed promising results that families reunite at a significantly higher rate when they have a Parent Partner. This research was conducted by faculty at the School of Social Welfare, University of California Berkeley, including Elizabeth K. Anthony, Jill Duerr Berrick, Ed Cohen and Elizabeth Wilder.

Population Served

  • Child Protective Services Involved Families
  • Families affected by developmental disabilities
  • Families affected by substance abuse

Is this program based on a specific model? No

If yes, what is the name of the model?

Specific curriculum for training Parent Leaders/Mentors/Partners:

No specific curriculum; training developed internally


Is evaluation conducted on this program? Yes
If yes, please list the name of evaluation tool(s).

  • Customer Satisfaction Form
  • Focus Groups

Are there published articles/reports? Yes

Please describe results of program:

Recent research was conducted on the Contra Costa Parent Partner Program by Elizabeth K. Anthony, Jill Duerr Berrick, Ed Cohen and Elizabeth Wilder at the Center for Social Services Research, School of Social Welfare, University of California at Berkeley. Findings from this study suggest that the Parent Partner model may hold promise as a child welfare intervention designed to support reunification. The study showed promising results that families reunite at a significantly higher rate when they have a Parent Partner. The principles of partnership, family engagement, joint decision making and empowerment to change, indicated an important paradigm shift for child welfare. A copy of the Executive Summary and Final Report entitled "Partnering with Parents: Promising Approaches to Improve Reunification Outcomes for Children in Foster Care" Is posted on the California Parent Engagement Center under Research and Evaluation. The study was released in July 2009.

Program Contact:

Contact Name:Neely McElroy
TitleDivision Manager
Email Address:

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