Richard Allen, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – Training Foster Parents in Positive Behavior Support

On Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Week: Foster parents are always needed.

Richard Allen, assistant professor in the department of school psychology, delves into how to train parents for this endeavor.

Dr. Allen has extensive experience providing psychological assessment, consultation and intervention services in home, community and school based programs, serving both children and adults with developmental disabilities and children with emotional and behavioral disorders.

He is licensed as a psychologist in Pennsylvania and Delaware and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP).

Dr. Allen has presented frequently at both regional and national conferences on a wide-range of topics including program-wide positive behavior support, clinical outcomes in community behavioral health services, functional behavior assessment, treatment foster care and social skills training for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Prior to his current position at PCOM, Dr. Allen was the Director of Clinical Services at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health where he oversaw the clinical services for home, school and community based programs, serving both children and adults on the autism spectrum, as well as other developmental disabilities and/or mental health concerns. He was also involved in Devereux’s program-wide-PBIS autism initiative and served as a member of the training faculty for the Doctoral Internship in Health Service Psychology.

Training Foster Parents in Positive Behavior Support


The US Department of Health and Human Services has reported an increase in children in foster care, and that comes with it a growing need for trained foster parents. Typically this training does not provide the support and therapeutic skills needed to manage the behaviors of a foster child.  But training foster parents in treatment models focused on positive behavior support can help both parent and child cope and have a productive relationship.

Positive Behavior Support uses strategies based on the principles of applied behavior analysis to reduce an individual’s problem behaviors and enhance their overall quality of life.  It emphasizes prevention before problems develop, making changes to a person’s environment and teaches meaningful skills to the child.

Together Facing the Challenge is a treatment foster-care training model that has been shown to significantly reduce negative foster youth behaviors and symptoms compared to typical foster care programs.  The model focuses primarily on training foster parents in a positive behavior support approach that is also trauma-informed.  This model also includes case workers coaching parents in their homes to use these critical parenting skills so they can meet the unique needs of each child.  Case workers also help foster parents develop their own self-care plans to reduce burnout and increase their overall effectiveness.

Taking in a youth from the foster care system can be a challenging endeavor, but it can also lead to enriching growth experiences for both the youth and foster parent.  It is critical that we ensure foster parents have the skills needed to support these vulnerable youth so they reach healthy physical and emotional outcomes as adults and experience a high quality of life. 

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