CURRENT ISSUES FOR CHILD WELFARE PRACTICE IN RURAL COMMUNITIES FALL 2007 PART 2
Permanency, Part II: Continuing Our
Focus on Current Issues
By Susan Brooks, Director, Northern California Educational permanency (see article in our
Training Academy, The Center for Human Services, previous issue) addresses the right of children
UC Davis Extension in foster care to stay in the same school. There is
stability of an assigned social worker and, as
We had so many good articles on the topic of
discussed by Peter Pecora, research on the
permanency that we couldn’t print them all in
impact of the number of assigned workers on a
one issue—so we decided to devote a second is-
child’s chances at permanency is startling. (He
sue of Reaching Out to permanency. For those of
found that the change from having one social
you who did not get a chance to read the previ-
worker to two decreased a child’s chance of
ous issue, you can read it online or download it
finding a permanent placement from 74 percent
WHAT’S INSIDE: at www.humanservices.ucdavis.edu/academy.
to 17 percent.)
What is permanency? What is stability? The
And finally, there is also permanency of
child welfare system has long struggled with
Introduction Cover family and community. This includes the right
defining these concepts, integrating them into
Research to Practice 2 of children to stay in touch with their siblings,
service provision, and then measuring the
Top 10 List 3 other family members and the important adults
results. As we know, the initial mission of child
Resiliency 4 in their lives. Furthermore, children in foster
welfare agencies was to remove children from
Family Finding 6 care have the right to have ongoing support for
unsafe homes. As research has shown this to be
their cultural identity and background. Breaks
Tips for Social Workers 7 a shortsighted approach, child welfare, as a field,
in any of these different types of permanency
Butte/Shasta ILP Success 8 moved away from the model of safety and care-
have proven impacts on children’s mental and
Humboldt’s HOPE Program 9 taking to that of safety and permanency.
physical health and their successful transition to
Issues for Administrators 9 But as articles in this and the previous issue
Resources 11 of Reaching Out illustrate, there are differ-
While making a commitment to this multi-
Announcements Back Cover ent kinds of permanency. Legal and physical
faceted definition of permanency may prove
permanency is what the state most often tracks
more challenging, it more aptly recognizes the
(e.g., the number of placements and the number
complexity of life.
of children who permanently exit the system).
Emotional permanency—as demonstrated by the
Family Finding model—is a permanent connec-
tion with family, a place to belong, not just
during childhood, but for life.
Just as a tree needs roots, a proper environment and a strong framework
of branches from which to send out its new shoots and fruit, so youth need
supportive and caring relationships, a nurturing environment and culturally
competent and responsive services upon which they can depend in order to
become successful, healthy and responsible adults.
—Quote from “Family, Community, Culture:
Roots of Permanency. A Conceptual Framework
on Permanency from Casey Family Programs.”
Casey Family Programs. 2003.
Research to Practice 2007: Summary of Strategies
and Findings Presented by Main Speakers
Mark Courtney, Chapin Hall n Most young people value and benefit from their connections to
the CWS. Engagement with CWS is possible and should be
This presentation described the study completed with selected fos-
ter youth in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The study evaluated the
n Connections with family are important to the transition and
adult self-sufficiency outcomes achieved by youth at emancipation.
should be encouraged/continued.
Conditions of foster youth n Policymakers should reconsider the federal and state policies that
approaching age 18 curtail responsibility for youth at age 18.
n Other policies regarding health care, mental health care, educa-
The following areas were evaluated in the study: current living
tion and employment should also be reconsidered.
situation, total number of foster placements, number of group
home/residential treatment centers, runaway episodes, mental Rosemary Avery, Cornell University
health status, education, educational aspirations, employment, legal
Avery presented findings from studies done in the area of
involvement, victimization (previous 12 months), feelings about
adolescent brain development. Two findings are significant:
foster care, receipt of ILP services, future use of foster care system,
relationship with family and optimism about the future. n Recent studies have found that the parts of the brain needed to
perform cognitive operations don’t finish developing until much
Findings: Conditions at “exit” (age 18) later than prior research has suggested—perhaps as late as age
n Youth about to age out of foster care in the U.S. face many chal- 30. Arnett’s theory of emerging adulthood1 fits better with what
lenges: educational deficits, limited employment experience, we seem to be observing in our youth today—later brain develop-
significant psychosocial problems and unstable relationships ment resulting in later adulthood.
resulting from unstable placement histories. n The impact of stress/trauma (generally greatly increased among
n These same youth also have many assets including strong rela- foster youth) is not just a psychological issue. Stress/trauma actu-
tions with members of their families and foster families, connec- ally changes the developing brain, leading to deficits that affect
tion to the child welfare system and optimism about their future. maturation and learning.
Findings: Conditions at re-visit Outcomes of imposed emancipation
(age 19) n Youth living without a safety net
n Young people entering early adulthood from foster care are, on n Youth unequipped for “independent
average, are doing poorly. They experience poor outcomes in edu- living”
cation and employment; and they experience economic hardship, n Ethnic minority youth that are more
victimization, justice system involvement, premature parenting vulnerable
and mental health issues.
Recommendations n Eliminate inflexible, rigid policy models in child welfare.
n Service providers and the courts must take into account that n Services and supports must be aligned with realistic expectations
many foster youth are not prepared to make the transition to for “interdependent” living.
independence at age 18. n Continue federal/state support beyond page 18.
TOP TEN Reasons
To Adopt a Teenager
1. No diapers to change.
Peter Pecora, Casey Family Programs, University of Washington
2. We sleep through the night.
Pecora’s presentation focused on how multiple placements can be minimized
resulting in greater permanency and better results for children.2 3. We will be ready to move out
Reasons why reducing placement change is important sooner…but we can still visit.
n It minimizes child pain and trauma.
n It lessens child attachment, behavior and mental health disorders. 4. You don’t just get a child, you
n It decreases school mobility and increases academic achievement. get a friend.
n It maximizes continuity in services, decreases foster parent stress and lowers
n It increases the likelihood that a child will establish an enduring, positive 5. We will keep you up to date
relationship with a caring adult. with the latest fashion.
6. No more carpools, we can drive
Reduce staff turnover. Losing workers drains knowledge and connection for
children and families.
n Place children with relatives—this cuts the possibility of a placement change almost
in half. 7. No bottles, formula or burp rags
n Place children with relatives at entry to care. This affords a better chance for stability required.
without having to endure a change to create it.
Consider treatment foster care as an early resource.
8. We can help out around the
n Consider using these services when available to help stabilize current placements:
n mental health services
n caregiver assistance—respite, transportation, recreational, after-school programs,
foster family counseling, etc. 9. We can learn from you.
n developmental disabilities support services and/or case management
n worker-youth matching
10. We can teach you how to run
n Consult others: supervisors, more experienced workers, mentors.
Arnett, J. (200). “Emerging adulthood: A theory of the development from the late teens through the twen-
—Developed by Oklahoma’s Youth Advisory
ties.” American Psychologist, 55, 469-480.
Board–2000. Contact Pat O’Brien,
Pecora’s research and recommendations are taken from a variety of studies done by many researchers. The
resource information is available through The Casey Foundation—particularly in a document created for the
presentation at the California Permanency Conference, 2007.
Fostering Resiliency in Child Welfare Practice*
In the world of child welfare, we often see the worst in people. 3. Build a “Web of Resilience” around each child. Henderson
We see children who have been neglected and abused. We see has compiled a list of six strategies that build and maintain a
families torn apart by violence. Yet, we also see the strength and child’s resilience. The first three mitigate the impact of risk in the
beauty of the human spirit. We see children overcome adversity to lives of children and youth. The second set of three helps young
become successful in school and community. We see families rise people bounce back from risk, stress and adversity. Ideally, the
from the ashes to become whole again. Humans have a wonderful Web of Resilience consists of all areas of a child’s life (family,
capacity to survive devastating situations and become productive, school, peers, community), supporting the consistent practice of
functioning adults. all six strategies:
Nan Henderson, M.S.W. and expert in research on resilience, de- a) Increase bonding: This involves increasing the connections
fines resiliency as: “The capacity to spring back, rebound, success- between young people and resilience-fostering peers and
fully adapt in the face of adversity and develop social, academic adults and between young people and any pro-social activity
and vocational competence despite exposure to severe stress or (sports, art, music, community service, etc.).
simply to the stress that is inherent in today’s world.”
According to Henderson, fostering resilience b) Set clear and consistent boundaries: This
is a process that occurs first and foremost The Resiliency Wheel involves the development and consistent
in relationships. As detailed from her implementation of family rules and
article,* Henderson has four steps to norms, school policies and procedures,
help foster resilience in people: and community laws and norms.
These expectations should be de-
1. Always communicate Provide
Increase veloped with input from young
“The Resilience Attitude.” Prosocial people, clearly communicated
Fostering resilience starts Participation
and coupled with appropri-
with an attitude expressed ate consequences that are
verbally that communi- Set and consistently enforced.
cates: “I see what’s right Communicate
with you, no matter High
Consistent c) Teach behavioral life
what you have done in Expectations
Boundaries skills: These include co-
the past, no matter what operation, healthy conflict
problems you currently Provide resolution, resistance and
face. Your strengths are
Caring Teach assertiveness skills, com-
& “Life Skills”
more powerful than your munication skills, problem
risks. And, whatever risks, solving, decision making and
problems and adversity you healthy stress management.
face are steps on the road to When these skills are adequately
bouncing back—they are not the taught and reinforced, they help
end of the road!” The Resilience At-
Adapted from the book Resiliency in Schools: people successfully navigate the
Making It Happen for Students and Educators by perils of adolescence.
titude is also one in which caring and Nan Henderson and Mike Milstein, published
support are expressed in as many ways as by Corvin Press, Thousand Oak, CA (1998) d) Provide caring and support: This
possible. Listening with compassion, validat- includes providing unconditional positive
ing the pain of the child’s problems while conveying regard and encouragement. This caring does not neces-
his or her ability to overcome them, and providing sarily have to come from the child’s family, although that is
thoughtful and nurturing gestures—great or small—are ideal. Optimally, every child should have several adults he or
all part of this attitude. she can turn to for help.
2. Focus on strengths with the same or an even greater meticu- e) Set and communicate high expectations: It is important
lousness as you use in cataloguing weaknesses. Identify, rein- that expectations be both high and realistic to be effective
force, nurture and use strengths in your professional interactions motivators.
with children and youth. Teach people about their strengths: f) Provide opportunities for meaningful participation. This
name them, share how they are being used and suggest how strategy means providing children and youth with opportu-
they can be used in the future. Use the Resiliency Characteristics nities for problem solving, decision making, planning, goal
Table as tools to help identify your clients’ strengths. setting and helping others. It involves adults sharing power in
real ways with children.
4. Never give up. Resilience is a process that
ebbs and flows throughout an individual’s *All of the material in this article
life. Many resilient survivors of diffi- was excerpted from an article by Nan
cult childhood circumstances share Henderson titled “Resiliency in Practice.
how crucial persistence by caring Fostering Resiliency in Children and
Youth: Four Basic Steps for Fami-
adults around them was in their
ability to both become resilient lies, Educators, and Other Caring
and maintain their resiliency. Adults.” This article was reprinted
Remember, “Things take Is often a place, but always a safety net with from the book RESILIENCY IN
time.” (Emmy Werner, a major at least one parent, that provides a youth and/or ACTION: Practical Ideas for
researcher on resilience.) Overcoming Risk and Building
young adult with the opportunity to not succeed
Strengths in Youth, Families
Fostering resilience doesn’t (or perhaps even fail) until he or she can succeed. and Communities. Resiliency
come as a result of putting kids in Action, Inc. 2006. Information
through a program. It is an ori- —Submitted by You Gotta Believe! The Older Child Adoption
available at www.resiliency.com.
entation that all caring adults can & Permanency Movement, Inc.; 1728 Mermaid Avenue,
convey to the youth and children Brooklyn, N.Y. 11224. (800) 601-1779
with whom they interact through www.yougottabelieve.org
an attitude of optimism and encour-
agement, a focus on strengths and
persistence in these approaches.
Individual and Environmental Characteristics that Facilitate Resiliency
Environmental Characteristics (in families, schools,
Individual Characteristics that Facilitate Resiliency
and other organizations and relationships
1. Gives of self in service to others and/or a cause 1. Promotes close bonds
2. Uses life skills, including good decision making, assertiveness,
2. Values and encourages education
impulse control and problem solving
3. Sociability/ability to be a friend/ability to form positive relationships 3. Uses high warmth/low criticism style of interaction
4. Sense of humor 4. Sets and enforces clear boundaries (rules, norms and laws)
5. Internal locus of control (makes life choices based on connection
5. Encourages supportive relationships with many caring others
to self rather than outer influences)
6. Perceptiveness 6. Promotes sharing of responsibilities, service to others, “required helpfulness”
7. Provides access to resources for meeting basic needs of housing, employment,
health care, and recreation
8. Positive view of personal future 8. Expresses high, and realistic, expectations for success
9. Flexibility 9. Encourages goal setting and mastery
10. Encourages pro-social development of values (such as altruism) and life skills
10. Capacity for and connection to learning
(such as cooperation)
11. Provides leadership, decision making, and other opportunities for meaningful
12. Is “good at something”/personal competence 12. Appreciates the unique talents of each individual
13. Feelings of self-worth and self-confidence
14. Personal faith in something greater; spirituality
(Richardson et al., 1990, Benard, 1991, Werner and Smith, 1992, Hawkins et al., 1992, Wolin and Wolin, 1993)
Adapted from the book Resiliency in Schools: Making It Happen for Students and Educators by Nan Henderson and
Mile Milstein, published by Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA (April, 1996).
A 15-year old, who for 10 years
had been through multiple
placements in the child welfare
system, ended up in a
A 17 1/2-year old showed up
at the local Independent Living
Program office asking for help
to find an adult to live with
before she turned 18 and would
have to leave foster care.
Raised from infancy in foster
care and with no contact with
anyone from his biological fam-
ily, a 17-year old ran away and
lived on the streets.
Lighting the Fire of Urgency: The Family Finding
Model for Establishing Permanency for Youth
Young people like those above are some of “the loneliest people permanency. These families may end up providing the children
on earth.” They are children who were removed from their parents with permanent homes, but minimally, they will give the child in-
due to neglect or abuse but were never adopted by new families. formation about who he/she is, a possible place to visit for a holiday,
These young people are described by child welfare departments as and most importantly, a family to belong to.
“hard to place” because of their ages and their behaviors. But these The Family Finding model doesn’t condone jeopardizing a child’s
are also the children who some child welfare professionals are safety by placing children with adults just because they are family.
driven to help, and, thanks to the Family Finding model, all three It does propose that healthy, functioning family members are out
of the young people described above now have regular contact with there for almost every child in foster care, many of whom either
family members. One is even living permanently with a relative. don’t know the child’s whereabouts or the child’s situation.
A number of years ago, a small group of child welfare profession- And, it is never too late. According to the National Scientific Council
als began to research the parallel between children in foster care on the Developing Child:
who had no permanent family connections and children in war- There is no definitive evidence that the influence of relation-
torn countries who had been separated from their families. These ships is more important at one stage of a child’s life compared
researchers believed the Red Cross’ approach to finding families to another. It would be more accurate to say that the impacts
could also work with kids adrift in foster care. This was the begin- of relationships continue throughout the lifespan but the
ning of the Family Finding model. nature of those impacts varies by age and developmental
The Family Finding model is based on two beliefs: 1) humans status.
have a burning desire and the right to know where their families
are and to have a permanent connection with them; and 2) families The Family Finding model uses a deceptively simple process. It
are the normative setting in which to raise children. The goal of the starts with gathering the names of a child’s family members both
model is to find the families of children in long-term foster care and from a thorough search of his/her child welfare file and from the
to make lifelong connections between the child and family mem- child him/herself. The next step is to use the Internet and genealogy
bers. The model works with the idea of emotional as well as legal techniques to search for the people mentioned either by the child or
Tips for Working with Youth
in the file. According to the model, each person has between 100 and 300
living relatives! on the Issue of Permanency
Once the person using the Family Finding model has located a large While the material in this article comes from a report
group of family members, the next step is to contact them. Using care- titled “Best Practices on Permanency for Older Youth,”
fully devised scripts, the caller lets the family members know about many of these tips are also appropriate for working with
the child in foster care and asks for their help in providing information children and younger youth in foster care. Thanks to Ann
for the child. The worker gathers this important information including Gibbons and Nancy Bolen for their feedback.
names and addresses of other family members, always with the aim of
Light your own fire for permanence for each of your
building permanent connections and possibly providing a permanent
clients, no matter what the client’s age. Make finding a
permanent home, cultivating permanent connections for
The next step is to include the located and screened family mem-
the child with caring adults, and maintaining a child’s
bers in the child’s permanency planning process. The social worker is
family, school and community connections your most
responsible for crafting the final plan to present to the court, but the
pressing goal right alongside safety.
family must be part of that plan.
Take some time to talk with your clients about what they
The final step in the process is to provide adequate support for the
want in a permanent living situation. Really listen to their
child and his newfound family. Some children who have been in long-
hopes and fears for their present and future family life.
term foster care have experienced chronic trauma and are struggling
When youth in foster care are adolescents, help them
with depression or severe behavioral issues. Family members need help
acquire the necessary concrete living skills they will need
to understand what the child has been through and the best way to sup-
to become independent, functioning adults.
Include the older child or youth in his/her own case plan.
A number of counties and states have adopted the Family Finding
Avoid power struggles with the child/youth whenever
model, and the results have been very positive. For example, a project
possible while persistently working toward permanency.
in Orange County worked with youth in long-term foster care who had
Reassure the child/youth of his/her power in the process.
virtually no connections with family members. After social workers
Young people are the best source for information on their
used the Family Finding model, the youth had made solid and mean-
own strengths and needs.
ingful connections with an average of seven family members each.
Include the family and other caring adults in the child/
In Illinois, the State Department of Children and Family Services
youth’s case planning. Identify potential family connec-
initiated the Intensive Relative Search/Lifelong Connections Project.
tions already known to the child/youth. Listen for
The director of this project, Brian Samuels, made the following powerful
family connections that the child/youth may already
have. Keep these names in one place.
It is never too late to look for family for a youth in care. Success n Think broadly about the definition of family when look-
will be achieved for more children if work is begun early in the ing for possible adult connections. Contact significant
case—both in terms of availability of family information and adults whom the young person identifies, and if possible,
making the connection before the youth is damaged by years of engage that person in planning for the child/youth’s
changing placement and separation from family. permanency.
Finally, the most powerful statements about the success of the Family n Connect youth with other youth who are either also in
Finding model come from the young people who found their families: foster care or have graduated from foster care. There are
a number of wonderful Web sites for youth in foster care.
I never had family gatherings. I never had cousins or even a real
Please see the Resources section in this issue of Reaching
birthday. I always wanted things like my friends had, but I never
had it. Now I know I had a family all along; they just didn’t know
n Support the process of family making. Recognize that
where I was…
relationship building is a process, provide ongoing inter-
I didn’t have a Christmas with my family. I didn’t have a Thanks- ventions and support to children/youth and caring adults
giving with my family. I didn’t have a New Year’s with my family… to move it forward. For example, a young person who
and now I have that, you know, I have that… has gone through multiple placements may have some
behavior problems. You can help the adults in this child’s
life understand and have empathy for this and offer strat-
egies to help the youth.
 National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Young Children n Remember, permanency is a relationship not a place. Do
Develop in an Environment of Relationships, October 2004. not let a child/youth’s need for treatment in a group set-
ting undermine potential family connections.
*All the information in this article was taken from the proceed-
ings of the 2003 National Convening on Youth Permanence
hosted by the California Permanency for Youth Project and
funded by the Stuart Foundation. The information comes,
specifically, from the workgroup report, “Best Practices on Per-
manency for Older Youth”.
Butte and Shasta Counties: Models for ILP Success
Learning job skills in a retail clothing store…volunteering at ILP Gives Back: Based on the knowledge that people feel
the local humane society…eating pizza with friends…learning to better about themselves when they help others, this workshop
change a tire. offers volunteer community service opportunities for youth
Sound like the activities of typical teenagers? Yes, they are. But in foster care. Opportunities include anything from the local
these are also activities of teens in foster care in Butte and Shasta senior center to the humane society.
Counties who are preparing to emancipate.
The Butte and Shasta County Independent Living Programs In addition to the experiential workshops, the ILPs also offer
(ILPs), both run by Northern California Youth and Family Pro- regular opportunities for the youth to get together to talk, such as
grams, have terrific programs that are a balance between individual the monthly pizza night hosted by the Shasta ILP, and a bimonthly
case management and group activities. They are driven by what “Girls Night Out/Bowling with the Boys” night through the Butte
adolescents want and need and are designed with input from cur- ILP.
rent and former youth in foster care. Additionally, they offer lots
of opportunities for youth to get to know each other and to build When they get the referral, ILP
relationships with caring adults. staff assigns the teen an individual
In interviews with the program coordinators, Tami Thompson caseworker who will meet with the
in Butte County and Lisa Goza in Shasta County, the programs are
teen a minimum of once a month until
described as well as the successes and challenges. Eligibility for
their programs starts when a youth in foster care turns 16. When
the youth turns 21 and graduates
asked what percentage of the youth who turn 16 participate in their from the program.
programs, both Thompson and Goza said: “One hundred percent.
We have a great relationship with both the probation and children As a larger project, Butte County ILP has partnered with local
and family services departments. As soon as the social worker has agencies to set up a thrift store. Interested youth must apply and
written up the Transitional Independent Living Plan for a teen, we interview with the store manager. Once hired, they participate in
get the referral.” typical retail activities: restocking clothes, helping customers and
When they get the referral, ILP staff assigns the teen an indi- working the cash register. When the youth work 40 hours, they
vidual caseworker who will meet with the teen a minimum of once receive a stipend as well as an evaluation/reference from the store
a month until the youth turns 21 and graduates from the program. manager.
The young person and case manager meet to talk about the teen’s This year, Shasta County ILP recently initiated a vegetable
needs, the plan to emancipate and anything else on the teen’s mind. garden project. The youth harvest and eat what they grow. What-
Both Goza and Thompson talked about the strength of the relation- ever vegetables they don’t use, they give to the youth in transitional
ships between the caseworkers and the youth. Because they don’t housing. Next year, they hope to have a booth at the local farmers’
have a lot of staff turnover, some caseworkers have worked consis- market.
tently with the same youth for years. Goza and Thompson agreed on their ILP programs’ challenges:
Both programs also offer regular group activities. These include serving the large number of youth from other counties who are
monthly topic-driven experiential workshops and regular social placed in foster care in Butte or Shasta. (Shasta County has approxi-
groups for youth in foster care. They also include drop-in meetings mately 200 group home beds. In Butte County, about half of the
for youth who have emancipated from foster care and may need on- kids in foster care are from out of county.) Difficulties range from
going information and support. Some examples of these experiential working with staff from different counties to the transience of these
workshops include the following: placements.
When asked what would help their programs and clients, both
Transportation: Using a real car, participants learn to change coordinators agreed that, aside from more funding, increasing the
a tire, check the oil and add windshield wiper fluid, among eligibility age for ILP to 24 years would benefit youth. It would bring
other things. They also learn how to get a driver’s license and ILP eligibility in line with eligibility for the Transitional Housing
the ins and outs of car insurance. They figure the differences Placement Program Plus, and, reflecting both coordinators’ knowl-
in cost among riding the bus, taking a taxi and owning a car. edge of youth development, this older age eligibility would give
Putting Food on the Table: This workshop looks at budgeting young people the chance to try things on their own and then to
and food purchase and preparation. Some past activities have come back and ask for help.
included teams of youth working to come up with the best To learn more about these two exciting Independent Living
menu to feed five people for $10, the best three-day grocery Programs, go to www.butteilp.org or www.shastailp.org. Both pro-
list for $5, and the Food Game to guess the prices of various grams have monthly newsletters that are available in hard copy and
items. All activities involve actually going to the grocery store. electronically. You can also contact their coordinators directly: Tami
Thompson, Butte County, (888) 893-8933 or tthompson@youthand-
family.info; and Lisa Goza, Shasta County, (888) 893-9197 or lgoza@
Issues for Administrators:
The Permanency and Youth
Transition Plan for
As a result of the passage of two major pieces of state legisla-
tion, the California Department of Social Services has been
Humboldt Offers Permanency engaged in an exciting process of improving its child welfare
for Everyone (HOPE) services, accountability and outcomes. The first state initiative,
passed in 2000, charged a statewide stakeholders group with
researching best practices and developing a consensus-based
The belief that every child deserves a permanent family plan for redesigning child welfare services. The second, passed
relationship has been adopted by Humboldt County with the in 2004, established a statewide accountability system that mea-
development of the HOPE (Humboldt Offers Permanency for sures progress and encourages county governments to engage
Everyone) project. It is known and documented that older chil- the community in evaluating and improving child welfare
dren in foster care have a poor chance of finding a permanent practices.
family. This is where our path to permanency begins. At 18, our Through recommendations from the stakeholders group,
youth “age out” of our continuum of care and are left with few CDSS is focusing its efforts on creating new approaches in im-
family ties. One of the primary focuses of HOPE is to restore proving in three distinct areas: 1) differential response, 2) safety
life connections that were lost upon entering the system and to assessment and 3) permanency and youth transition. The man-
build a stronger path for them. Placement is not the priority, but date for the third task was to develop strategies that increase
it can be an outcome. stability, build permanent relationships, and help children and
In December 2005, Humboldt County started HOPE, taking youth who come into contact with the child welfare system
15 of our most lonely youth and beginning a new strategy of develop life skills. The process included developing a plan and
planning for their care. HOPE began with assistance from CPYP then piloting this plan in 11 California counties: Humboldt,
(California Permanency for Youth Project) and Kevin Campbell. Tehama, Los Angeles, Placer, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, San
The 15 youth selected had few family connections and nothing Mateo, Glenn, Trinity, Contra Costa and Stanislaus.
consistent in their lives except the mandated connections with In June 2006, CDSS completed the initial assessment phase of
their service providers. As a result of the hopelessness they felt the 11-County Pilot Implementation and published a report in
about their future, these youth were acting out in ways that put November 2006. The following information summarizes their
them in danger. Since the start of the program, HOPE found findings.
connections for all 15 of the original participants. We engaged By identifying family as the core unit of permanency and
families to have continued involvement with the youth. stability for children, the 11 pilot counties focused on programs
One child has made it all the way through the process. She and processes that reinforced these values. They planned and
started as a teen in trouble, suicidal, behind in school and in implemented programs that engage families and youth in the
trouble with the law. A search was completed, and a team was process of identifying the best solutions for the problems they
established. Her mother was invested in reuniting, and with face and the homes they need. Strategies that build lasting
the support of the team, was able to develop a safety plan. The relationships and life skills for children and youth in foster care
youth feels like a part of a family and now has plans for her fu- are at the heart of permanency and youth transition improve-
ture. She now attends school on a regular basis (making up the ments. The stakeholders group identified three core strategies in
time she lost), has been searching for a job and has been placed its framework:
back with her mother. She no longer exhibits stress behaviors n Team decision making: A process that is based on the belief
like cutting or suicide attempts. Everything isn’t perfect, and that a child’s well-being is best served when the family, com-
there will be setbacks and roadblocks, but things are drastically munity and child welfare agency collaborate to make deci-
better. Now she has more of a chance to break the cycle that sions about the child’s placement.
threatens all of our transitioning youth. n Family participation in case planning: A case planning pro-
We can see that HOPE is working. In 2007, Humboldt County cess that actively engages families in defining their strengths
started with a new group of 15 youth. This included only three and identifying resources that will address the problems that
from the previous year and 12 new participants. A new plan for resulted in the disruption of their family.
the year was also developed to help promote permanency for all n Youth inclusion in case planning: A process in which social
youth in Humboldt County. One of the new focuses is to engage workers engage youth to discuss the issue of permanency
staff to use these practices at all levels and stages of a child and transition at each interaction with them, focusing on
welfare case. establishing reunification, adoption, guardianship or other
permanent lifelong connection with a trusted, caring adult.
Including family members and youth in the case permanency n The number of available services for youth transitioning out of
planning process improved outcomes for children and youth in foster care is insufficient to the need.
establishing permanency. It also enhanced and strengthened the n Caseload size makes it difficult to implement some of the recom-
counties’ relationships with families, youth and members of the mended practices.
community, and it strengthened community partnerships. n The court process continues to impede the ability to achieve
Parents and foster children have responded positively to the timely permanence. Counties often were unable to achieve initial
inclusion, and they have been active in participation. Foster youth jurisdiction until 12 months after a detention hearing, much less
in particular have voiced their appreciation of being asked, on a termination of parental rights.
regular basis, to have a say in their own planning. The invitation to n While Team decision making works very well, it requires training
youth currently in (and graduates of) foster care to participate in the and a new skill set that takes time to develop.
discussion of permanency and successful transition has resulted in
an invaluable resource for child welfare staff. Engaging the youth in Recommendations
their placement and permanency decisions has decreased behavior
Pilot counties encountered some barriers in the process of imple-
problems and resulted in a reduction of youth in long-term care.
mentation that could not be resolved and may require changes in
Team decision making (TDM) meetings result in a demonstrated
statute, regulation, policy or practice. The pilot counties, therefore,
reduction in the number of removals and, when children have been
proposed the following recommendations:
removed, an increase in placement stability. TDMs have also helped
strengthen relationships and communication between CDSS, birth
Considerations for the legislature, program and court
parents, foster parents, service providers and community partners
by bringing them together and sharing the responsibility for deci-
sions and plans for the family. n Require emancipation and transition issues be addressed in any
Employing community partners to give presentations through- multi-disciplinary team meeting (e.g., TDM, conferences or per-
out the community about family and youth involvement improves manency staffing) for all emancipating youth.
reception and perception of CWS. Hiring parent partners as perma- n Expand current training requirements for children’s attorneys to
nent CWS staff has markedly increased counties’ ability to engage include a focus on permanency issues of older foster youth.
parents and assist them in successfully completing their case plans.
In addition, contested court hearings have declined as a result of Services, resources and capacity
regular inclusion of the Foster Parent Association in TDM meetings n Institutionalize federal/state/county sharing of fiscal responsibil-
and conferences, conducting cross-agency trainings, and inviting ity to ensure expanded services. (For example, current statutes
community partners to serve on committees. provide Transitional Living Programs to children emancipating
Social workers are learning to listen better to families and youth from foster care; however, the current funding structure requires
and building on their assessed strengths to develop more individu- primary county funding, which prohibits some counties from
alized and effective case plans. participating in these programs.)
Technical assistance grants with private organizations, such as n Increase ILP funding to provide services to children from 14 to 24
California Permanency for Youth Project, can help permanency case years of age.
managers identify and facilitate permanent connections for youth. n Provide specialized rates with cost of living rate increases and
training for foster parents who care for adolescents.
Administrative considerations: monitoring, training and
n Recruit more foster families for adolescents and develop training
to educate them about the unique needs of teens and permanence
n Provide ongoing supervisor and staff coaching and mentoring.
n Develop a tracking system to follow youth through after care.
n Implement education monitoring and tracking activities to ensure
that youth get credit for their educational experience.
n Develop Permanency and Youth Transition public awareness
and educational materials at the state level to provide clear and
consistent information about the program for communications
with staff and community partners, with a focus on the need for
strong leadership and involvement of former foster youth, foster
parents and birth parents.
n Secure funding for transition-related programs, such as housing, The overall finding of the 11-county pilot program is that perma-
employment and education. nency should be a component of all child welfare services. The use
n Reduce caseload sizes and/or create manageable workloads to of strategies such as team decision making, family participation in
enable social workers to employ critical program elements such as case planning, and youth inclusion in case planning, ensure that
family and youth engagement and team decision making. children remain in (or return to) their homes whenever possible
n Provide funding for non-case carrying staff, such as community and, when that is not possible, family relationships and connections
workers and educational liaisons, to implement Permanency and are promoted and preserved.
Youth Transition activities such as team decision making, fam-
ily conferencing, supervised visits, mentorships and leadership
development opportunities. The material for this article was excerpted from two California Depart-
ment of Social Services reports: “Child Welfare Services System Improve-
ments: 11 County Pilot Implementation Evaluation Initial Assessment
Phase July 2003 to June 2006” and “Child Welfare System Improvements
in California, 2003-2005: Early Implementation.”
Annie E. Casey Foundation Web sites for youth who are currently in, or have
701 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD 21202
graduated from, foster care
www.aecf.org http://fosteryouth.net/Home_Page/Home_Page.asp Bust N Out is a Web site
California Department of Social Services dedicated to helping youth find their way in life.
744 P Street, Sacramento, CA. 95814
www.dss.cahwnet.gov www.calyouthconn.org Web site for statewide organization of former and
California Permanency for Youth Project current foster youth.
663 13th Street, Suite 300, Oakland, CA 94612
www.caseyfamilyservices.org Web site for Casey family Services.
Site includes a section for youth in foster care.
California Youth Connection www.chafee.csac.ca.gov Web site for the California Chafee Grant, a program
Statewide Office that gives money to foster youth and former foster youth to use for career
604 Mission Street, 9th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105 and technical training or college courses.
Toll-free: (800) 397-8236
www.calyouthconn.org www.fosterclub.com/index.cfm National network for youth in foster care.
Casey Family Programs
1300 Dexter Avenue North, Floor 3, Seattle, WA 98109-3542 www.fyi3.com/fyi3/index.cfm This is Foster Club’s Web site for youth who
(206) 282.7300 are getting ready to emancipate.
www.fosteryouthhelp.ca.gov State Web site of the Foster Care Ombudsman.
Center for Social Services Research
Toll-free phone number: (877) 846-1602.
School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley
120 Haviland Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-7400 www.youthcomm.org/ Web site for a national organization. Site includes
(510) 642-1899 an “e-zine” for youth in foster care.
Center for Public Policy Research
University of California, Davis
1632 Da Vinci Court, Davis, CA 95618
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C. 20201
The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Chadwick Center for Children and Families, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego
3020 Children’s Way, MC 5017, San Diego, CA 92123
Northern California Training Academy and The Center for Human Services
UC Davis Extension, University of California
1632 Da Vinci Court, Davis, CA 95618
Youth Transition Funders Group
207 E. Ohio Street, #392, Chicago, IL 60611
• In Our Next Issue •
Look for more articles, research, success stories and
resources in our next issue of Reaching Out.
Children with Incarcerated Parents The next issue will provide information on research-based tools
and methods which support the professional development of
A unique workshop that provides valuable, practical support tools for people those serving children and families in the child welfare system.
living or working with children of incarcerated parents.
November 6 in Davis
Supporting Child Welfare Clients in AOD Treatment
and Recovery About the Northern California Training Academy
This new series examines the widespread prevalence of parental drug and
The Northern California Training Academy provides training,
alcohol abuse within the child welfare system.
technical assistance and consultation for 33 northern Califor-
Women in Recovery nia counties. The counties include rural and urban counties
December 11 in Davis with various training challenges for child welfare staff. The
December 12 in Redding focus on integrated training across disciplines is a high prior-
ity in the region. This publication is supported by funds from
Treating the Adolescent Substance User:
the California Department of Social Services.
From Screening to Recovery
January 15 in Redding
January 16 in Davis About The Center for Human Services
Voices: A Program of Self-Discovery and The Center began in 1979 with a small grant to train child
Empowerment for Girls welfare workers in northern California. It has grown to
February 20 in Davis become an organization that offers staff development and
February 21 in Redding professional services to public and private human service
agencies throughout the state. The Center combines a depth
Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Child Welfare of knowledge about human service agencies, a standard of
Professional excellence associated with the University of California, exten-
sive experience in developing human resources and a deep
This new workshop provides helpful information on the nature of traumatic
stress and what child welfare professionals can do to prevent this in their work. dedication to public social services.
October 31 in Davis
November 27 in Redding
January 17 in Eureka
Grief and Loss
This class discusses the 3-5-7 model for working with children in the child Northern California Training Academy
welfare system and how issues of attachment, loss and grief reconciliation
UC Davis Extension
impact children in foster care.
University of California
February 7/8 in Davis 1632 Da Vinci Court
Davis, CA 95618
Research to Practice 2008
Phone: (530) 757-8643
The theme for the 2008 Research to Practice symposium will focus on the needs
of those who serve children and families in the child welfare system. The sym- Fax: (530) 752-6910
posium will provide participants with ideas, tools and empowerment needed Email: email@example.com
to thrive as professionals in the field while providing high quality services to Web: www.humanservices.ucdavis.edu/academy
children and families.
March 25 in Redding
March 26 in Davis