The Welcoming Strangers Project is an initiative of the Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice (CEPS) at SUNY Cortland that seeks to train foster parents and caseworkers in the principles and practice of intentional nonviolence. The Founders of the Welcoming Strangers Project, Dr. Andrew Fitz-Gibbon, Professor of Philosophy, Department Chair, and Director of CEPS, and Dr. Jane Hall Fitz-Gibbon, CEPS Visiting Scholar and project coordinator, have developed a method of “loving nonviolent re-parenting,” as an effective approach to work with children in foster care by providing an intentionally nonviolent caring environment in order to help children find healing from violence-induced trauma. Together they have cared for over 100 children in a foster care career spanning more than three decades.
The Welcoming Strangers Project seeks to work with Departments of Social Services to provide training for foster parents, adopters, care staff, and caseworkers in the nonviolent re-parenting of children in foster care. The Fitz-Gibbons designed and taught a ten-week course based on their 2016 book Welcoming Strangers: Loving Nonviolent Re-Parenting of Children in Foster Care, and 2018 book Nurturing Strangers: Strategies for Nonviolent Re-Parenting of Children in Foster Care, piloted in Cortland County in partnership with Cortland County Department of Social Services in the fall of 2016. The course has been offered twice in 2017, in 2018, and again in 2019. The ten-week, one-evening a week course is followed by two follow-up sessions two months later in order to implement a number of qualitative measures to gauge the impact of the project. Data collected from the courses demonstrates that the project is already having significant effect in changing behavior patterns of foster parents. The Project, grounded in their recent scholarship and decades of experience, continues to grow.