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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

This blog has MOVED - update your bookmark please!

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As of February 7, 2013, this blog has moved to its permanent location on our new website, located at http://cascw.umn.edu. New posts will be available there.

This blog has also been consolidated with our two other blogs: the Child Welfare Policy Blog and Notes from a Cluttered Desk. We also have created a new blog, Field Notes, which will highlight MSW students' experiences in their field placements.

View the new consolidated blog (sortable by category according to former blog names) here: http://cascw.umn.edu/blogs/

This blog post was written by Joan Riebel, LICSW, Executive Director of Family Alternatives in Minnesota. Family Alternatives is a licensed foster care and adoption agency.

Teens.jpgAndrea Brubaker's blog post on San Pasqual Academy caused me to share our experiences as well. For any child, being removed from her family is a traumatic experience, regardless of how well that family did or did not care for her. Family Alternatives has begun to address how kids "make sense of the situation" by providing programming and by developing new protocols around our social work practices. In the fall of 2009 we implemented Creating Ongoing Relationships Effectively (CORE), which has helped us address the socio-emotional needs of older youth in foster care who are nearing transition into adulthood. Evaluated by Chapin Hall, University of Chicago, it was found to have statistically significant impact on several key outcomes regarding supportive relationships.

CORE employs a holistic approach to developing and enhancing trusting and supportive relationships between youth and adults that will be lasting, particularly through their transitional years. With CORE we have learned what it takes to turn around the system's failure to help young people in care develop caring relationships with each other, sharing experiences and offering supports. The components of our CORE programming are designed to enhance youth decision-making and relationship building skills. We have found that these experiences, which are both fun filled and therapy based, empower these emerging adults to feel capable and competent in taking charge of their own lives.

Since CORE's inception, over 88% of our youth in care have maintained their placement and nearly 93% of our eligible youth have graduated from high school--dramatically higher than both local and national averages. Over 85% of those graduates have been accepted into post high school educational experiences, many in four year colleges. Again, this is significantly higher than both local and national averages. These youth have all identified adult mentors who will support them and guide them as they transition to adult living. Most of them maintain their connection with their foster family.

We do this by ensuring that we have foster families who are well trained and are committed to helping youth cope with their grief, loss and trauma. We do this by developing our staff, and by continuing to offer them opportunities to learn new ways to help young people be successful. We do this by offering CORE programming: programming that emphasizes youth empowerment, giving young people more control over the decisions that affect their lives, and acknowledging, often for the first time in their experience, that this is their life and we are there to support them. These opportunities enable youth learn about decision-making and to build lasting and healthy relationships with people who can, and want to, be there for them for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

Achieving Permanency for Youth Based in the Community

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This post is written by the Stability, Permanency, and Adoption MSW Intern, Andrea Brubaker.

As an alternative design to placing children in foster care in permanent families, the non-profit group home San Pasqual Academy near San Diego, CA offers a place for youth in foster care to live, attend high school, learn job skills, and be a member of a community.

The Academy has seen many successes, such as a 90% graduation rate, which is twice the statewide average for children in foster care. Accepted students at San Pasqual Academy range in age from 14-18 and must have no previous record of violence or substance addiction. They must also be in good academic standing.

The Academy, modeled after a youth village in Haifa, Israel, aims to create an alternative to family reunification and conventions of contemporary foster care. San Pasqual Academy has shown that positive outcomes for children who have gone through the foster care system can be achieved through peer and mentor support in a community based model.

This article highlights an interesting difference between traditional practice that puts connecting youth with a permanent family first and using a group home setting to extend permanency connections for youth as they age and grow out of the system.

To read more on this model and research on San Pasqual Academy go to:
http://www.psmag.com/education/best-remedy-broken-family-family-65379/. View the Academy's website: http://www.sanpasqualacademy.org/admission_guidelines.htm

In a case similar to the controversial "Baby Veronica" situation, another Oklahoma father is fighting to have his baby daughter returned. Baby Desirai's pre-adoptive parents have refused to turn the child over to the Absentee Shawnee tribe, despite an Oklahoma's court ruling last month in favor of the tribe, according to Oklahoma's News One 6.

The similarities to the baby Veronica are many; a father who wants custody, the involvement of a tribe, and the same attorneys - Raymond Goodwin in South Carolina also represented the Capobiancos who adopted Veronica and Paul Swain in Tulsa who also represented the Capobiancos.

For more about "Baby Desirai":

We often talk about the "adoption triad" and yet most of our attention is spent on the adopted child and the adoptive parent. There are few resources available for the birth parent who places the child for adoption and what needs they will have after the adoption is finalized. While pregnancy counseling is available through pregnancy centers and adoption agencies, what happens once the placement happens? How do birth parents - birth mothers - continue to get support for their healing from the grief and loss of placing a child for adoption?

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One place where women who have placed a child for adoption can receive ongoing support is On Your Feet Foundation (OYFF), with locations in Chicago and California.

In an article for Adoptive Families, authors Diane Landino, Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander and Susan Romer write about life for a birth mother after placement and how OYFF help birth mothers receive ongoing support. The authors write:

Birth parents remain the most under-served members of the adoption community, with little access to meaningful services, pre- or post-placement. Much research has been conducted on the health and development of adopted persons, but little attention has been devoted to birth parents. Pre-placement counseling for expectant mothers has become more common in the last decade, with many domestic agencies requiring sessions and attorneys recommending it as best practice, yet women may not be aware of or ready to explore their complex emotions at that time. And while there is more recognition that placing a child is one of the most significant, painful, and traumatic life events a woman can experience, that understanding has not yet led to comprehensive development of post-placement supports and services. It is not uncommon for women to feel that, once they leave the hospital, they are left to fend for themselves.

OYFF hopes to dispel myths about birth mothers through education and outreach - why they place and what post-placement is like for these women. Services they provide include peer suport, counseling and mentoring and educational supports. They also offer birth mother retreats where women can be part of a supportive community.

To read the rest of the story in Adoptive Famliies click here. And as National Adoption Month comes up ahead and we think about the celebration of adoption, it is worthwhile to remember that the joy of adoption is borne from loss. While everyone is celebrating adoption, remember that for the birth family all the media and news about adoption may bring up feelings of sadness and grief.

Click here for the website for On Your Feet Foundation - Northern Californa.

November is only a few weeks away and to herald the beginning of National Adpotion Month, Minnesota Adoption Resource Network (MARN) is celebrating families that have adopted Minnesota Waiting Children with its annual Circus of the Heart on November 3rd.

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Funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Circus of the Heart has fun activities for children, youth and famlies including art projects, games, prizes, pony rides, face painting, and a petting zoo.

For more details about this event, contact Minnesota Adoption Resource Network at 612-861-7115.

Click here for the flyer.

The American Academy of Pediatrics as part of their Healthy Children series, has created a brochure for parents who have or are considering adopting a child internationally. Their brochure, "A Healthy Beginning" offers advice on things to consider prior to bringing the child to the U.S., what to expect in the first medical visit, a check list of information to bring to the first medical visit with their doctor and resources.

To download the brochure, click here.

The organization also has a lot of helpful resources about foster care and adoption. Click here for the website.

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The Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis, Missouri got inspired by the show Extreme Makeovers and thought, why not "extreme recruitment" for youth in foster care?

Thus, Extreme Recruitment was created. In Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a house is build in a week through the efforts of professionals and volunteers working together to build a house for a family in need. Inspired, Melanie Scheetz, Executive Director of Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, thought professionals and volunteers could work together to quickly find permanence for childen in foster care.

The Extreme Recruitment model focuses on a 12-20 week intensive plan to place children considered "hard to place" - children with special needs, older children and youth (10-18 years), children of color and sibling groups.

So far almost 70% of the youth involved in the Extreme Recruitment program in 2012 were matched with a permanent family. If you are interested in learning more about Extreme Recruitment, you can download their Toolbox and learn more about how Extreme Recruitment is done at their website.

You can also learn more by reading this feature in Time Magazine and watch this video below.

Reuters investigation into re-homing

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[Photo by Samantha Sais for Reuters]

A few weeks ago, Reuters journalist Megan Twohey's in-depth investigative report about rehoming in adoption was big news in the adoption world, particularly for those interested in intercountry adoption. The five part series included:

For those of you who have never heard of the term "re-home" it refers to when an adoptive parent decides they cannot parent their adopted child and seeks to have the child placed within another adoptive family. Often times the "re-homing" is facilitated by an adoption agency, but unfortunately there have been times when this action is done without agency or legal oversight and the Reuters report focuses on those types of re-homing.

Many adoptive parents were angered by the report by Twohey, which focused on the use of internet forums such as Yahoo groups and facebook as places where adoptive parents sought other families who would take on their adopted child. The report focuses on the cases where such re-homed children were abused by their next adoptive parent and called for oversight and regulation. Not all families, of course, seek to "re-home" using these methods and many adoptive parents have used agencies and ensured that the family that was going to adopt or take guardianship of their adopted child had been adequately screened and supervised.

As with any family issue, re-homing is a complex story. While many people, particularly adoptive parents and adoption agencies, have been distressed by the Reuters investigation, it is nonetheless a practice that everyone involved in adoptions must know clearly and squarely where the gaps are so that children and families can be supported and practiced. Most of the families who choose to re-home have attempted to seek help and have found post-adoption supports lacking, unaccessible, or inadequate to help the family. Rehoming as a practice is not new; but the attention toward it is relative new. One aspect of this story that needs to be highlighted is that many adoption agencies did not know about this practice.

The lesson to be learned from the Reuters report is that the more we know that these issues exist, particularly unethical re-homing practices, the more responsibility adoption professionals and child welfare/adoption agencies must take in finding responses that reduce as much as possible the trauma that a re-homed child will suffer, and provide adequate support to adoptive parents. While in adoption, the saying "forever family" and "permanency" is a goal, it is sadly not always the reality. As the media hype over this story subsides, what must remain is a commitment to better prepare and support adoptive families and of utmost concern is to reduce the trauma to a child that has already experienced rejection and abandonment. Any re-home or placement must be done with the concern of the child through the transition into their next placement with care and appropriate support.

Back to regular programming - While we were gone...

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We are back to our regular posting. The lack of posting on our Stability, Permanency and Adoption (SPA) blog the last two weeks was a result of our blog writer's trip to Russia to attend the 3rd Russian American Child Welfare Forum.

To see what CASCW was doing there, here is a link to the blog staff Traci LaLiberte, Tracy Crudo and JaeRan Kim wrote about our travels and activities. We had an inspiring and eye opening experience, with much learning, sharing and collaborating with Russian child welfare organizations and child welfare front-line workers.

Minnesota Russia Child Welfare Blog.

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Next week we will be back to our regular posting schedule. In the meantime, check out our blog!

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