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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

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Recently in permanency Category

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

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.

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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.

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Last week the Donaldson Adoption Institute released its newest policy perspective titled, "A Need To Know: Enhancing Adoption Competency Among Mental Health Professionals. The report highlights the difficulty that adoptive families face when seeking clinical therapeutic services in finding practitioners who have a deep level understanding and training in permanency and adoption. While many therapists may say they work with adoptive families, surveys have found that knowledge about permanency and adoption are at best minimal. A study by Atkinson, Gonet, Freundlich and Riley (in press) found that of 485 respondents, fewer than 25% considered that the professional they worked with was adoption competent. Alarmingly, 26% of the respondents noted that none of the professionals they worked with knew much about adoption and many stated that working with these therapists actually caused harm to the family.

Findings from the report:


  • Successful adoption is tied to good preparation of all parties prior to placement and to the availability and utilization of effective supports and other help, including counseling, afterward. Adoption-competent therapists are high on - and sometimes at the top of - the list of services that members of adoptive and birth families want and need.

  • Genetic risk and early trauma (primarily for children adopted from foster care or institutions) do not inevitably undermine development. Two key factors that facilitate their recovery are comprehensive pre-adoption preparation and education of families, along with the availability and utilization of informed mental health services.

  • Graduate education in relevant fields does not usually include adoption issues. A survey of directors of clinical training programs in marriage and family therapy, social work or counseling found only about 5-16 percent offered adoption-specific coursework. Two thirds of licensed psychologists in a national survey reported no such graduate coursework; fewer than one-third rated themselves as well or very well prepared to treat adoption issues, and 90 percent said psychologists need more adoption education.

  • The limitations of medical insurance can pose significant barriers to accessing adoption competent therapists. Most insurance doesn't provide sufficient mental health coverage to cover the complex, long-term needs of those involved, particularly children who have suffered early trauma and other adversity; and few if any carriers take into account that adoption-competent therapists may not be on their lists of covered, in-plan providers.

  • Which practitioners are adoption-competent is not always clear or easy to determine, in part because adoption counseling has not yet been identified as a professional specialty in the health care fields, with clear guidelines for training, practice and credentialing.

  • Without an appropriate process, many individuals and families will continue to be treated by professionals who are inadequately prepared to understand and help them.

In addition, the Donaldson Instiute made the following recommendations:


  • Develop Certification for Adoption Clinical Competence. People want and need to know that the professionals they are working with have the requisite knowledge, skills and experience to meet their needs. This should apply in the adoption realm as much as in any other, so a certification for adoption clinical competence should be developed.

  • Expand Adoption Training Programs across the Country. Nearly all existing programs require training in classroom settings, so the number of available professionals is restricted to those who live within commuting distance of current sites. Training needs to expand through more programs and the use of technologies such as webinars, "flip teaching" and "massive open online courses."

  • Strengthen the Clinical Components of Existing Training Programs. This can be accomplished by increasing the number of required clinical courses for mental health practitioners; offering additional clinical courses as electives; and/or offering additional clinical courses as stand-alone, post-certificate, continuing education courses. All programs also should offer some type of clinical supervision.
  • Develop Outreach Efforts to Inform Mental Health Providers about the Need for Adoption Competency and Opportunities for Enhancing their Knowledge. Broad-based outreach initiatives should be developed to increase awareness on the need for adoption-competence, to identify opportunities for training among mental health professionals, and to explain the benefits of developing this specialized knowledge.

  • Educate Insurance Providers about the Unique Nature of Adoption Issues and Advocate for Expanded Coverage. Concerted efforts must be made to educate insurance providersabout the unique clinical needs of individuals and families affected by adoption-related issues. This process will be greatly helped if the mental health field overtly recognizes the value of adoption clinical certification and supports its development.

  • Encourage Graduate Training Programs and Post-Graduate Clinical Training Centers to Include More Information about Adoption and Foster Care in their Curricula. The better grounding in these areas that professionals receive while in training, the better prepared they will be to serve the needs of adoption kinship members and to seek to expand their expertise on adoption- and trauma-related issues.

  • Encourage Research on Training Effectiveness and Outcomes. To better serve the training needs of professionals and the well-being of adoptive kinship members with whom they work, the Institute recommends that researchers examine the effectiveness of training programs in terms of knowledge gained by participants, changes in clinicians' practices as a result of training, and clients' progress and satisfaction with services.

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At the University of Minnesota we are pleased to be part of a growing network of centers offering permanency and adoption competency education through our Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program (PACC), mentioned in the Donaldson Adoption Institute report. We also offer an elective course in our MSW program at the School of Social Work, Permanency in Child Welfare. You can learn more about our PACC program here and view professionals that have completed the PACC certificate on our PACC Professional Directory.

For the full report, you can download a pdf and learn more about the report at the Donaldson Institute website here.

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Writer Cris Beam's new book, "To The End of June: Stories from Foster Care" offers in-depth stories of foster children and foster parents. Beam, a foster parent, spent several years with foster families, social workers, former foster children and other professionals who work with foster children.

In an interview with Publisher's Weekly, Beam states,

We have many studies about foster kids, but almost none about foster parents. Some are fantastic. The parents who talked to me, who come to group trainings, are the better ones. But I heard complaints from foster kids: "They locked me in the basement," "They stepped on my hands," [accounts of] molestation. Surveys reveal incredible abuse. Many foster parents are just okay.

Beam has an MFA and teaches at Columbia University, New York University and at Bayview Women's Correctional Facility. For more on Beam, click here for her website.

To read an interview with Salon's Laura Miller, click here.

You can also listen to Beam talk with WNYC station in New York abouther book.

Regina Calcaterra spent time in foster care, and in 1980, emanicipated herself at the age of 14. In her book, "Etched in Sand," Calcaterra describes her chlidhood of abuse and neglect and advocates for adoption, not aging out of foster care.

In an interview with Caroline Linton for Women in the World, Calcaterra shares,

Now we're going to fast-forward thirtysomething years later, and they're doing the exact same thing. What they're doing is for kids who are aging out of foster care, they try to teach them how to live independently on their own at the age of 18 or 21. It's because kids are pushed out of care at 18 or 21 based on what state they're in or based on what it is they're doing. In some states, if a foster youth will go to vocational training or college, they'll keep them in foster care until they're 21, but then they still cut them off when they're 21. All that means is that from 18 to 21, they're still getting the Medicaid card and they're still getting a couple hundred dollars a month to pay their rent and that's it.

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Etched in Sand is Calcaterra's memoir of her story as a child living with abuse, only to find themselves in a foster care system that was unable to meet their needs.

To view a video about Calcaterra's memoir, click here.

Calcaterra currently serves as Executive Director of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption in New York. She is also a board member of You Gotta Believe, an organization based in New York that advocates for moving children and youth in foster care into adoptive homes.

The costs of doing "nothing"

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The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative has created an infographic aimed at educating the public on the costs of "doing nothing" to prevent youth from aging out of foster care.

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In an op-ed in the Huffington Post, Executive Director Gary Stangler wrote, "for every young person who ages out of foster care, taxpayers and communities pay $300,000 in social costs like public assistance, incarceration, and lost wages to a community over that person's lifetime. Do the math and you can conservatively estimate that this problem incurs almost $8 billion in social costs to the United States every year."

This PSA from Jim Casey's Success Beyond 18 Initiative, illustrates what happens to foster youth when they are forced to "age out."

Jim Casey Initiative Success Beyond 18 PSA from Jim Casey Initiative on Vimeo.


You can follow the conversation on twitter and facebook. For more information about the Success Beyond 18 Initiative, check out their website.

When an adoption is finalized, it is the promise of a new chapter in the lives of children and parents. And while the majority of adoptive families thrive, there are some that don't fulfill the promise of a "forever family" for a child.

The National Council for Adoption (NCFA)'s August issue of the Adoption Advocate looks at ways to support children and families when an adoption dissolution occurs.

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Authors John Bergeron, Jr., PhD and Robin Pennington discuss what they have seen in their practices assisting families that dissolve an adoption. Some of the observations the author describe as typical among parents that end up dissolving an adoption include difficulty understanding a child's attachment behaviors (particularly over-pathologizing what might be "normal" attachment problems for a child with a trauma background); marital stress, difficulty not getting into control power plays with the child; and interestingly enough families with higher incomes and higher educated mothers have been found to be a factor in dissolutions. Bergeron and Pennington also point out that in their clinical experiences it is usually when the adoptive mother decides she is not able to continue the adoptive relationship that a dissolution occurs.

Although the process of dissolving an adoption varies depending on the children and parents involved, the authors reiterate that the primary focus should be on ensuring the child's needs are at front and center. These needs include:

  • The child's safety and stability
  • A truthful explanation that is sensitive and thoughtful for the child
  • Assisting the child in creating a narrative of what happened, focusing on the family's inability to meet the child's needs and that it is not the child's fault

Information on the needs of the family and future recommendations for research are also included. And for the families who may be adopting a child that has experienced a previous dissolution, the authors state,

The receiving or re-adoptive family has its own distinct set of needs that must be addressed when a dissolution has occurred. The first area of need is that of recruiting and training these families. Children in need of re-adoption have, on average, a level of greater need than the typical adopted child. In addition, they have experienced yet another major loss - relinquishment by parents they thought were their "forever family" - that will assuredly make subsequent trust and attachment more difficult for them. Families re-adopting these children need to be even more psychologically healthy, stable, and experienced than typical adoptive families. They require specialized training that will give them the knowledge and tools they need to establish and maintain a family environment of support, healing, and growth.

For the whole guide, click here.

Camp To Belong is a special summer camp. Along with swimming, hiking, and other fun summer activities, the children who attend get to participate in something many of us take for granted - they get to do these activities with their brothers and sisters who live in other foster or adoptive homes.

Camp To Belong was started by Lynn Price who herself was separated from her sister when they were placed in separate foster homes. Price wanted to create a place where children separated from siblings, through no fault of their own, could maintain their relationship even if they didn't have the opportunity to live together.

This story featuring the camp was aired a few days ago on NBC news.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Camp To Belong is currently in ten states. I have long thought Minnesota should have one as well. How would having a Camp To Belong or a similar venue for reuniting siblings separated through foster care and adoption impact how we practice permanency in our state?

Thoughts?

As of last Thursday, August 1 2013, the Family Reunification Act went into effect. This law allows foster youth 15 and older who were never adopted to have the option to reunite with their birth parents.

The law stipulates that the birth parents must be able to demonstrate that they have resolved or addressed the issues that were the reason for the youth's removal. According to the Children's Law Center of Minnesota, only a county attorney may be able to file a petition for reunification under this act. There are some issues that would prevent restoration of parental rights to a child; for example, if a parent had a termination of parental rights due to sexual abuse, death of a minor, or was convicted of egregious harm/ specific crimes (see Minnesota Statute 260C.007, subd. 14).

Other restrictions include the length of time the child has been in foster care since the termination of parental rights has occurred as well as the following:


  • Both the responsible social services agency and county attorney agree that reestablishment of the legal parent and child relationship is in the child's best interest;
  • The parent is willing and has the capability to provide day-to-day care and maintain the health, safety, and welfare of the child;
  • The child has been in foster care for at least 36 months after the court issued the order terminating parental rights;
  • The child is 15 years of age or older at the time the petition for reestablishment of the legal parent and child relationship is filed;
  • The child has not been adopted; and
  • The child is not the subject of a written adoption placement agreement

For more on the Family Reunification Act, please check out MPR news story from February 26, 2013.

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For those of you interested in all things permanency and adoption related, the Child Welfare Information Gateway has some terrific materials.

Last week I learned about the Enhancing Permanency For Youth in Out Of Home Care publication. You can download a pdf of this guide at the CWIG website.

This guide discusses:

  • The importance of focusing on youth and family connections
  • Federal legislation supporting youth permanency
  • Strategies for permanency planning with youth
  • Barriers to permanency for youth

This guest post was written by Bahjo Mahamud.

Phyllis Korkki wrote the article Filling up an Empty Nest, In the New York Times press. It was published in May 14 of 2013. This articles is written to awaken households and the our society that is never too late to adopt children and especially age should never be a factor on why you can't raise children who need a loving and caring parents.

Gawboy who is 60 along with her husband Jim who is 76 is taking care of children ranging from 8 to 19 year olds. They have always thought more retired people ought to adopt kids instead of playing gold. The article shares with us other retirees who adopted kids for many different reasons. Some parents had empty-nests who apparently didn't have their fill of child-rearing the first time, others are caring for older blood-related relative children who were unable to be cared for and others who just have the desire to give it a go. But Gawboy says, people "should guard against overly inflated expectations" that they expect kids to be grateful or that they should be grateful to have loving parents or the immediate loyalty." Because those are all wrong reasons to be adopting children.

While many retirees all adopt children for different reasons whether it is to fill up that empty nest or to do for the joy of raising children they all receive mutual benefits. Like the Gowboy's family, who live in a farm in Tower Minn., they said they get the help they need and ask all children to do 20 minutes a day of weeding in their one acre-garden as they benefit from that extra hand. They eat their fresh food from their garden, raise farm animals, and hunt and fish which is both necessary survival skills and work habits for the children. Despite the lack encouragements and support from family and friends they still have the need to do more as they live their life in different order than other retirees she said.

This article is so inspirational and motivating for all types of people to consider to adopt despite their age young or old and it think that's one of the strong strength of the this article.

A limitation is the idea that "it is easier said than done," and we all know raising children is not that easy and requires a lot, especially being financially stable. The family did not touch much on that and it would be more helpful to the readers if they talked or shared one experience at least.

I believe this article did a great job in promoting retire couples to consider adoption and have changed my thinking about the myth of older people not having the energy children require to raise children. This has being the tradition for so many years and know I believe that as long as adults are physically and emotionally fit and ready for children than they can do better job than younger adults.

You can read the article here.

Celebrity adoptions

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This guest post was written by Abdifateh Ahmed.

Article: Why Are So Many Celebrities Adopting Black Babies?
Writer: Kristen Howerton
Posted: 06/14/2012 11:10 am
Journal: Huffington Post

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Summary
The article sums up why celebrities are adopting children and why higher percentages of celebrities are adopting trans-racially and specifically black children. The writer's motive in the article is not only to support and advocate for the celebrities adopting black babies, but also brings the audience attention to the current issues of racial bias in adoption preference which is very prevalent in our existing system. Black children quite often are trapped in the waiting list to find a home. The article mentions statistical evidence mentioned in the article says it all about the reality in the permanency and adoption. She mentions a significant gap among adoptive white parent who are not open to adopt black children and rather chose to adopt from other race (88% to 14%).

Strength
The writer's strength in terms of knowledge in the adoption and permanency subject is depicted in the title and the body of the article. As an audience I am attracted to the title simply because of the curiosity of wanting to answer the question, and improve my awareness of the subject. The statistical evidences and her knowledge of celebrities say it as well. She also have a drive for advocacy and very articulate in her writing. She seems to know what she is writing about.

Limitation
Although, the writer is very knowledgeable and defending her stand on what she believes, I feel the anger in her voice while reading the article. I thought she should have done a little better in her approach.

Reference:
Howerton, Kristen,. Why Are So Many Celebrities Adopting Black Babies?.Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2013, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristen-howerton/celebrity-adoption_b_1579737.html

Opening up foster "cold cases"

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This guest blog post was written by Linda Gross.

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Youth Today recently published an article about a program in Georgia where "cold" foster care cases are being reopened to consider adoption options for children that have been otherwise left alone for multiple years. The project began a few years ago, and is managed by an attorney named Michelle Barclay who works under Georgia's Committee on Justice for Children.

The article serves to provide insight into the long-term experiences of foster care youth and resurfaces myths supporting the passive allowance of youth living and aging-out of foster care. One such myth is that during the child's initial case, all that could be done, was done. While ideally this would be true and could be assumed, given tight timeframes, limited budgets and the occasional bad worker, it could easily be that the child has never truly had the child welfare system work intensively on his or her behalf to find a new family for them to build permanence with. The second myth is that once all options are exhausted in the search for a permanent place for the child, they are exhausted for life. An important example of this are kin who at the time of the child's first need for placements, may have been under life circumstances that didn't allow them to feel they could take on caring for the child. However, several years later a more stable life situation combined with a child closer-aged to self-sufficiency and independence, could result in kin able to open their homes to another person.

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The article also brings to light the interesting collaboration between child protection and the hire of private investigators for the purpose of family finding. While several agencies have begun incorporating more formal family finding models, the use of investigators for the purpose of finding additional kin to broaden placement options, this is a collaboration we can only hope grows. In 2006, a 60 Minutes broadcast entitled Lost and Found featured Kevin Campbell, an expert on family finding. The episode demonstrated his field's ability to contribute to the connectedness these youth have, with one two-hour search providing enough for one young woman to have a virtual depiction of her own family tree.

Bringing these lost youth, discounted to becoming foster-care children for life, into new and resurged prospects for permanency is a true demonstration of hope and potential for the future of America's next generations.

To read the article at Youth Today click here.

To view Lesley Stahl discussing her 60-minutes feature, Lost and Found, click here.

Contested adoption pits family against foster parents

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This guest blog post was written by Emma Siebold.

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The article, Split the Baby: Two Sides of an Adoption Battle, was published in the Minnesota City Pages newspaper on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 and written by Olivia LeVecchia. It discusses the court battle between the Grossners and Dunnings, two families fighting for custody of two young African American girls, currently three and two years old. The two girls are the biological children of Princton Knox, the son of Dorothy Dunning. They were put into foster care with the Grossners after their births because drugs were found in their systems. The article mentions briefly their biological mother, Javille "Angel" Sutton, but does not comment on her current whereabouts and involvement in the case. The older of the two girls has been living with the Grossners since 2009 and the younger was born a year later. It was ruled by the lower court that the girls were to remain in the care of the Grossners. This decision was appealed by the Dunnings but the ruling was upheld; the case is currently being contested in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

A strength of this article is that the information is presented in a way that is easy to understand to the general population. It provides general legislative information pertaining to permanency laws such as the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) and federal and state laws regarding race and permanency decisions. This tone is appropriate because this article is featured in a public newspaper, as opposed to a scholarly journal, which may require more scholarly language. The author seems to take on a sense of neutrality when discussing the viewpoints of the foster parents and paternal grandparents. The article does not seem to side with either party. One limitation of this article, however, is that it does not include very much information about the role of the biological parents in this case. The biological mother is mentioned briefly, the author mentions she has had several other children removed from her custody due to drug addiction. The author discusses the biological father's drug addiction, noting that he is no longer using drugs and has another family. In order to present a well-rounded discussion of all the parties involved in this case, including the foster parents, paternal grandparents and child welfare system, the article should include more of a discussion of the biological parents.

The article seems to take the position that the Child Welfare system fractured. It subtly comments on how the adoption process is very slow and provides a disservice to children and families; foster, adoptive, and biological alike. On several instances the article seems to critique the slowness in finding relative placements for children, citing federal and state mandated timelines that were not followed. The article also comments on the discrepancies in the federal and state laws around race considerations and permanency. The article seems to take the position that it is not as simple an issue to eliminate race completely in permanency decisions; race and culture are inevitably intertwined.

Permanency through international adoption

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This guest post was written by Chris Murphy.

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Elizabeth Bartholet wrote this article on achieving permanency through international adoption, and it was published in the Harvard Law School Journal. Elizabeth Bartholet is a professor at New York Law School. This article was developed from a lecture that Professor Bartholet gave at the Permanency for Children Conference on March 5, 2010.

Professor Bartholet is adamant that just simply providing permanency for children is not enough. She pointed out that multiple children are growing up in homes recognized as permanent, but are still suffering from abuse and/or neglect. Professor Bartholet stressed the need for all children to have early, permanent, and nurturing parenting in order to flourish.

Professor Bartholet said both nurturing and permanency can be given to children. One way is for policy around international adoption to become less strict. Professor Bartholet would like to see the restriction lessen on international adoption so all children have an opportunity to be adopted and nurtured in homes which are prepared to adopt children. Professor Bartholet argues that international adoption will help other countries in reducing costs associated with raising multiple children who are without parents. Her point is that thousands of international children are raised without parents. These children essentially end up having issues as adults such as homelessness, incarceration, and/or unemployment.

Professor Bartholet suggests all interested parties recognize the international adoption system is currently in crisis. She feels individuals need to maintain hope, work together, and fight for the goal of providing all unparented children with nurturing and permanency early in life.

Professor Bartholet said there is a push to keep children in their countries and find solutions which will assist them in staying connected to their birth family. However, Professor Bartholet said racial matching profiles for adoption should not occur. She is not saying culture and/or ethnicity isn't important. What she is saying is a child being allowed to grow up in a nurturing and permanent home from early on is crucial. Professor Bartholet also points out that the unparented children in other countries are generally hidden away in institutions or growing up on the streets.

The system of international adoption has flaws. Individuals need to come together in order to ensure children have an opportunity to be nurtured and parented from early on in childhood. This may take a change in policy and/or law. There are different rules and regulations depending on what country the international adoption is occurring. Professor Bartholet gave an example of twin boys from Guatemala who was to be adopted, at their birth, by a couple in the United States. The birth mother wanted the children adopted so badly she made a video so nobody would question her consent to adopt her children out to a new family. Delays in the international system held the boys in Guatemala until they were almost one year of age. One of the twins developed meningitis while waiting and almost died. He had delays and such that would have been rectified had he been in the United States for medical treatment. This is just one small example of the laws not being conducive to the need for children to have early nurturing and permanency in order to flourish.

Bartholet, E. (2010). Permanency Is Not Enough: Children Need the Nurturing Parents Found In International Adoption. York Law School Law Review, 781(55). You can download the pdf of this article here.

A look at permanency planning challenges in the U.K.

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This guest blog post was written by Jessica Hansen.

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Planning for permanency in adoption can be a challenging process not only in the United States, but also in other parts of the globe. Judy Selwyn, author of The Challenges in Planning for Permanency, is the Director of the Hadley Center for Adoption and Foster Care Studies at the University of Bristol in England. Selwyn discusses that in England, permanency planning became a major focus of concern as children started drifting into the care system without plans of permanent homes or relationships

Selwyn gives insight to a very important issue regarding youth in the care system: the importance of children's relationships. Very early on in the United Kingdom (UK), permanency planning became one and the same with adoption and the focus on a child's relationships was replaced with the importance of a placement in general. Services in the UK for birth families and for children in the system started to dwindle. Children were spending far too much time drifting through the system and not enough time in the permanent care of secure, healthy placements.

Selwyn states that in 2002, the Adoption and Children Act stressed the importance of permanency planning, reducing delay in decision making and securing better outcomes for children through the timely planning of a permanent placement secured by legal order. This act also reinforced the importance of relationships and long-term support from adults to help children thrive in school, gain self-esteem and have a greater out-look on life. Selwyn does a great job explaining that the challenge of permanency planning is not to find a placement, but to ensure that every child and young person has lifelong connections to people who will continue to offer positive relationships and support.

Selwyn also gives some reasons why children are not connected through the foster care system. She makes the point that older children are harder to adopt out, but those children are still able to make strong connections with healthy, reliable adults that help to foster children's growth into adolescence or young adulthood even without permanency. One limitation I discovered while reading this article is that although Selwyn focuses on children's current relationships, she does not go into much detail about how to build relationships with children who lack a presence of these relationships. I think she could have identified how adults can make it a point when working with or supporting children in foster care, to maintain and continue to build these relationships on their own and also by connecting these children to other healthy relationships or mentoring programs that can facilitate this process.

Overall, I think this article does a great job stating the importance of stable, healthy relationships with children in the foster care system. I found it written very clear within the article that the reality is, not every child will be adopted, but if these same children have safe, secure relationships with adults in their support networks, children can build a safety net with these social supports for their transition into adulthood.

To read more, go to this link or you can read the journal here:

Selwyn, J. (2010). The Challenges in Planning for Permanency. Adoption & Fostering, 34(3), 32-37.

The Family Reunification Act

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This guest blog post was written by Azeb Gebretsadik.


20130226_ramsey-county-attorney-john-choi_33.jpeg [Photo of County Attorney John Choi by Sasha Aslanian for MPR]

"The Family Reunification Act could restore parental rights in some lost custody cases" by, Sasha Aslanian Minnesota Public Radio.

The article discussed about how the Act would allow the option of reversing TPR, which before this act was impossible to do. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi says county attorneys formerly opposed efforts to reunify families after parental rights have been terminated because they wanted to avoid creating false hopes for children to move on to permanent homes. But older teens face long odds for adoption and Choi said reunification with birth parents who have overcome their problems may be the best outcome for some of them. (MPR Sasha Aslanian)

I am interning at Ramsey County Permanent Connection Unit. The past week adoption workers have been asked to consider their caseloads to see if the youth over age 15 who have no interest in being adopted or their adoption fail for various reasons who fit the description of Family Reunification Act to help support the Act and maintain relationship with their biological family. The basic intent of the Act is that for any adolescent over age 15 who has been in foster care for over three years, has no prospect of being adopted, and maintained a relationship with his or her biological family, if Human Services and the County Attorney agree, Ramsey County could approach the court to reverse the TPR.

Youth in the foster care system deserve to have connection with their families who have been looking to be reunited once they leave the system. I am working with a youth who 16 and don't want to be adopted, but have contact with his birth mother. Mom lost custody over educational neglect. This youth is doing really well in his current foster home and they are supportive of his contact with his birth mom. I think now with Family Reunification Act may be there will be a chance for him to be back with his mother and older brother. The Family Reunification Act encourages parents who lost legal right of their children to have hope. There might be another chance if they are able to change and bring positive outcome to show the court that they are doing everything that is expected of them.

As Aslanian reports, "Gina Evans of Forest Lake is one mother who for six years has pushed for a chance at redemption. Evans, now 39, lost custody of her son and daughter in 2001 due to neglect. She left her children in the care of her parents, sometimes for long periods of time, when she was using drugs. Evans said the state had every right to terminate her parental rights. She went through treatment and has been clean for nine years. She was able to overcome her felonies to find work again, but when she talked to child protection workers, her county attorney and state lawmakers, she learned there was no second chance at parenthood." However now after this Act there might be a chance for some.

On the other had the Family Reunification Act has very strict guidelines. Even the biological parents who overcome their problems wouldn't be able to get the chance of reunification if the child is under age 15 or been in the foster care system for less that there years. I believe that while the act has strength in connecting families again, it also has limitations, which are the very strict guidelines hard to reveres. The Reunification Act addresses only some part of permanency issue in the system. Shouldn't all families who lost custody of their biological children get a second chance if they turn their lives around to be better parents? What is the best interest of the child?

You can read the article here.

Review of the new ABC Family show about a foster family

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This guest blog post was written by Courtney Knoll.

ABC Family recently started airing promos for their upcoming series, produced by Jennifer Lopez, "The Fosters," set to air in June. It was highlighted this on the website BuzzFeed. Featuring a "multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological kids being raised by two moms," the show is already creating a stir of backlash. The trailer asserts, "It's not where you come from, it's where you belong," and highlights a few short moments that bring to light some tension within fostering, such as developing trust amongst foster parents/siblings and the desire to reconnect with biological parents.

It appears the show will wrestle with the definitions of family and what constitutes family, a topic crucial in supporting foster youth with identity and a sense of belonging. "The Fosters" are not only unique because of the blended nature of the family, but also because the parents are two lesbian women, bringing to light that LGBT folks are equally equipped to parent and parent well. (See the 3/5/13 posting of this blog).

The primary voice in opposition to the show is a group that calls themselves "One Million Moms," who are a group of Christian women trying to protect their children from the influences of media. In the case of "The Fosters," they claim
"While foster care and adoption is a wonderful thing and the Bible does teach us to help orphans, this program is attempting to redefine marriage and family by having two moms raise these children together" (see full statement here).

Defining family is proving an ever increasing topic in the modern day, but is especially pertinent to youth in the foster care system where the people they consider to be "family" might not conform to everyday norms and typical definitions. As we continue to wrestle with gay marriage, it is becoming clear that adoption by same-sex couples is an intertwined conversation, since adoption can be one of the most feasible ways for LGBT couples to build their families. For youth in care, it maybe be potentially healing or affirming to see more atypical families glorified in the media. However, the risk of the show is the potential that it could perpetuate stereotypes of foster youth and also, of LGBT families. Several comments on Jennifer's website as well as on the show's Facebook Page, One particular post stood out on JLO's website of a former foster youth who hopes the show will show the diversity of foster youth. She said,

"I myself was a foster kid and hate how tv shows portray us foster kids to be, not all the kids are bad and shoot careworkers and the system is not as nice as they pretend to be..."

We will have to wait until June to find out how JLO and the show's writers will present family and foster youth. Hopefully, the power of the media will bring a positive, accurate light to foster care and adoption!

Here's a sneak peek at the trailer!

This guest post was written by Brittany Kellerman.

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The New York Times published an article on January 26, 2013 entitled "Focus on Preserving Heritage Can Limit Foster Care for Indians" by Dan Frosch. The article discusses the impact that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 continues to have today on Native American children and families. It highlights the fact that Native American children are highly overrepresented in child welfare systems around the country, including in Minnesota. It also points out the extreme shortage of licensed Indian foster families in particular states, such as in New Mexico, where in Bernalillo County there are 65 Indian children in state custody, but only 5 Indian foster homes. This discrepancy leads Native American children waiting in shelters for significant amounts of time while searching for relatives or native foster homes and in many cases ultimately placing the children in non-native foster homes.

While the article provides important facts around disparities that are beneficial to dispelling myths, it does not dig deep into why these disparities continue to exist. It is however quick to point to the poverty and the substance abuse endemic in American Indian communities as being the reasons for low rates of Native foster homes, while the issues of institutional racism and historical trauma are simply skimmed over.

As an example of a case where ICWA impacts the outcomes for native children, the article discusses a highly publicized case of Baby Veronica. In this case, a judge ordered a white couple to return a 27-month-old girl they raised since birth to her biological Indian father. In this case, the father was estranged from the mother and was unaware that his daughter was going to be put up for adoption. The facts of the case demonstrate that the father engaged in seeking custody as soon as he was notified of the request for adoption. The decision to return the child to her father was based upon the child's tribal status and the ruling that the birth mother tried to conceal the father's tribal affiliation.

The case of Baby Veronica, while governed by ICWA in this case due to the father's tribal affiliation, brings up questions around all fathers' parental rights that were not addressed in the article. If this case were involving a non-native father, would the child be returned to the biological father? If a biological father is willing/able to provide a loving home for the child, it only seems right to keep the child connected to their biological roots. The case of Baby Veronica will be held before the Supreme Court in April 2013 and the court will be asked to consider the constitutionality of ICWA.

In summary, ICWA has made a significant impact on the Native American population by keeping many children connected to their heritage. Clearly, Native American families continue to face significant challenges and discrimination in their interactions with child welfare agencies and cases such as Baby Veronica's demonstrate a continued need for additional protection for Native families.

For more information on the Baby Veronica case, click here.

This guest post was written by Emily Wesely.

JuvenileJustice.jpeg [Photo from www.adeca.alabama.gov]

Published in the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, "Number of Kids Behinds Bars Reaches 35-Year Low", written by Kaukab Smith on February 27, 2013, discussed the recent reduction in youth incarceration rates across the country, reaching the lowest it has been for 35 years. Smith referenced the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot (2013), "Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States", to share the recent trend toward more community-based services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. These alternative responses to juvenile delinquency are less punitive and cost saving for the public. Five states - Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota and Tennessee - reported declines in the number of incarcerated youth between 2001 and 2010 by more than 50 percent (Smith, 2013). These states have recognized that the reasons youth become involved in the justice system is different from adults; therefore, the response should be different.

Crossover youth, a popular term used to describe the several children involved in both the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system, are affected by these declining youth confinement rates. The number of crossover youth varies depending on the jurisdiction, however, estimates range from 9 to 29 percent of children in the child welfare system (Goldstein, 2012). This reduction in youth incarceration means that children who intersect in both systems are experiencing less confinement and out-of-home placements, increasing permanency rates and the overall outcomes for these said crossover youth. Youth in confinement are defined as young people under the age of 21 (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013), which includes those involved in the child welfare system given that children may remain in extended foster care until age 21.

One of the weaknesses of the article is that it fails to identify and describe the alternative measures and responses to juvenile confinement. The article is so focused on the reduction in incarceration rates that it overlooks the current trend toward permanency for youth by treating them in their home communities. One strength of the article includes Smith's discussion on racial disproportionalities. Despite declining incarceration rates, racial and ethnic disproportionalities still exist in the remaining incarcerated population. This disparity is also true for crossover youth. Youth who identify as African American are disproportionately over represented in both systems. Therefore, permanency rates for African American youth are lower given that they are more likely to be in out-of-home placements or incarcerated.

Since crime rates have not increased as a result of fewer incarcerations, this article dispels the myth that juvenile incarceration rates are correlated with the general public's safety and crime rates. This article promotes the myth that more permanency in placements for youth produces better outcomes, not just personally for the youth and their families, but also for the communities in which the youth reside.

References

  • Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2013, February). Reducing youth incarceration in the United States. Link.
  • Goldstein, B. (2012, November). "Crossover youth": The intersection of child welfare and juvenile justice. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Link.
  • Smith, K. J. (2013). Number of kids behind bars reaches 35-year low. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Link.

Two sides of an adoption battle

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This guest blog post was written by Ryan Lewsander.

Right now the Minnesota Supreme Court is tasked with making a tragic choice: who will they rip two children away from, their prospective adoptive family, or their biological grandmother and extended family in Georgia? The sad drama of this case is documented compellingly in Olivia LaVecchia's City Pages article "Split the Baby: Two sides of an adoption battle" published on January 13th, 2013.

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The story begins in October 2009 when Javille "Angel" Sutton gave birth to a baby girl, Princess, born with cocaine in her system. Hennepin County Child Protection Services (HCCPS) responded by placing the four-day old infant with foster parents Liv and Steven Grosser in Plymouth, Minnesota. Upon learning that her granddaughter was in the system, Dorothy Dunning, of Mississippi called HCCPS on December 2nd, 2009 and expressed that she wanted Princess with her. In April 2010, HCCPS sent Mississippi an Interstate Compact in the Placement of Children (MICPC) to approve Dorothy Dunning's home as a placement for Princess. This process was bungled, and after a year and a half HCCPS withdrew its' MICPC and told the Grosser's to move forward with their plans to adopt Princess and her baby sister, Hannah. Not long after that, Mississippi sent a completed home study of Dorothy Dunning to Minnesota, and in March 2011 HCCPS reversed itself and supported Dorothy's claim for the children in court. Now the Minnesota Supreme Court will decide the fate of the children after hearing the case this January.

Lavecchia's article does a good job of presenting the details of the timeline of the case, and the injustices done to both the Grosser family and Dorothy Dunning. The complexity of this contested adoption depicted in the article enables the reader to feel empathy for all parties in the case, as is appropriate. What's more, the article does not shy away from illuminating an important element of the dispute: race. The Grosser family is a White suburban family and Steven, the father, works as a Corporate Financial Officer. Dorothy Dunning is African-American who cleans homes professionally and whose son's crack addiction was a reason for the children's removal upon birth. The article provokes the reader to think about how race should be considered in cases of permanency. More specifically, it challenges many readers to wrestle with their prejudice that white affluent families are better caregivers for their children than poor black families, and should therefore be privileged in these kinds of disputes. A key question this article provokes is how would this case be different if Dorothy Dunning was white and middle-class and the Grosser family was black and working-class?

The article also hits on the widespread perception of permanency in child welfare as a confusing mess, and excessively bureaucratic. In this case, it appears that HCCPS made major mistakes by not searching out Dorothy Dunning as an option for the children, and by encouraging the Grosser family to adopt only oppose it three months later. Not to be outdone, Mississippi demonstrated extreme incompetence by taking a year and a half to complete a home study to approve Dorothy Dunning as a fit placement for the children. It is these kinds of mistakes that lead people to believe that the system does more harm than good for vulnerable children.

To read the article in full, click here.

This guest blog post, also about the Family Reunification Act, was written by Colleen Doescher-Train.

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On February 13th, 2013 five Minnesota State Senators introduced S.F.422; appropriately nicknames the Family Reunification Act of 2013. The Family Reunification Act, as currently written would allow parents who had their parental rights terminated at least 36 months ago to possibly be reunified with their child(ren). This bill requires certain criteria to be met in order for the county attorney to petition for a child to be returned to their parents. Children would need to be 15 years of age or older and never have been adopted. Parents would need to have the financial means and ability to take care of their child.

Following this, several articles emerged regarding this bill and what the potential effects are if the bill is passed. Specifically, Minnesota Public Radio published an article written by Sasha Aslanian on February 26th, 2013 titled Family Reunification Act could restore parental rights in some lost custody cases. Within the article, Aslanian appears to be a proponent of this legislation being passed. John Choi, who is currently an attorney for Ramsey County, unified with other supporters of the bill at a local addiction recovery center. He spoke regarding the proposed legislation and how it would affect children who are currently waiting in limbo in the foster care system to be adopted. Currently, there are about 35 children who meet all of the criteria to be reunified with their parents.

A positive aspect of this article is that it brings awareness that there is children who are currently aging out of the foster care system without being adopted. At the same time, a limitation of this article is that it does not go into full detail regarding the number of children who do age out of foster care. Nor does it discuss how the legislation differs from last year's proposed legislation that did not pass. The article briefly mentions the potential negative affects that aging out of the foster care system has on a child. Without a family to lean on for support, these children are at higher risks of homelessness, drug use, and other chronic problems.

Many current publications that are read by the general population on a daily basis do not depict the number of children who are aging out of the Child Welfare System without a permanent family. According to Minnesota's Child Welfare Report of 2011, there were 469 children who were under state guardianship who aged out of the foster care system during 2011. These children have no family and nowhere to call home. Children who have a permanent home when they reach the age of majority are more likely to become more productive members of society. Research has also shown that young adults who have aged out of the foster home system show a genuine want to return to their biological parents. Allowing a family to be reunified will have a lasting, positive impact on the child's life and on the parents.

To read the bill and track it as it moves through the Minnesota Senate, click here.

Further reading opportunities:


References:
Aslanian, Sasha. (February 26th, 2013). Family Reunification Act Could Restore Parental Rights in Some Lost Custody Cases.

Samuels, Gina M. (2009). Ambiguous loss of home: The experience of familial (im)permanence among young adults with foster care backgrounds. Children and Youth Services Review, 31:12, 1229-1239.

Minnesota Department of Human Services. (2012). Minnesota's Child Welfare Report 2011 (DHS Publication no. DHS-5408D-ENG 8-12). St. Paul, MN.

Family Reunification Act

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Today's guest post was written by Kris LaFleur.

What to do with children reaching the age of majority has been an ageless problem since the inception of the foster care system. Many youth are considered difficult to place; older children, sibling groups, African American and American Indian children. These lost children are forced to leave, often ill-prepared and without a supportive network of family and friends, entirely on their own to face the realities of independent living. Singer and songwriter, Amanda Williams' performance, Nobody's Child, was written to create awareness of the plight of these children. Despite laws that mandate permanency, it is a sad truth that this is an unobtainable goal for many youth. They are abandoned by a system that failed to meet their most fundamental need; belonging to a family.

Reporter Sasha Aslanian writes about a proposed bill in her MPR News article, Family Reunification Act could restore parental rights in some lost custody cases. Her article discusses Bill S. F. 422, a proposed alternative to some Minnesota youth facing the fear and uncertainty of "aging out." Published on February 26, 2013 the article reports that the Family Reunification Act could give some kids and their parents a second chance.

Dismissing the dual misconceptions that parent's cannot recover and heal from the adversities that led to the loss of their children and that children who have been victims of abuse and neglect do not continue to yearn for the love of their parent, this proposed law allows some hope. Parents who are able to meet the specific criteria would be able to reunify with their children once they have proven their ability to provide a safe, permanent home. Retired Supreme Court Justice, Helen Meyer understands this most basic bond. She is quoted, "children -- even those who have been through terrible things -- want to return home." Both parents and children would be given another chance to be a forever family.

Ms. Aslanian supports the intent of the proposal. By granting the opportunity of reunification, youth would be given the prospect of transitioning to adulthood with nurturing and support. Without the stress of attempting to meet their basic needs and the isolation of navigating unfamiliar territory alone, these youth are given a fighting chance to thrive rather than face the all too common destiny of homelessness, addiction, incarceration and other fates common to those that are unsupported. Eleven states currently offer a process for parents to restore their parental rights. Minnesota youth should have the same opportunity to have their family returned to them. While it is estimated that only about thirty-five Minnesota children would be affected, that is thirty-five that could be saved from becoming a statistic. Instead their right to the love and security only family can offer, would be returned.

What is missing form Sasha Aslanian's article? The answer to the ever elusive question; what can we do for the remaining lost and soon forgotten children that are not given a second chance and must continue on alone?

View Nobody's Child by Amanda Williams below.

Introducing student blog posts

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Starting next week, we will be posting posts from students enrolled in the Permanency in Child Welfare courses in the MSW program.

Students were asked to choose an article, either in the current media or in a peer-review journal, or other related item, related to permanency and adoption. The purpose of this assignment is to apply critical thinking skills to topics related to permanency and adoption and to educate a broader, general audience through analyzing writings about permanency and adoption in a way that is accessible.

Their analyses will include:

  • A short description of the article—who wrote it, name of publication, date of publication, topic
  • A discussion of the strengths and the limitations or weaknesses of the article
  • A discussion of the ways in which this article promotes or dispels myths about permanency or adoption
  • Links and citations

Enjoy the series!

Finding permanency for teens in foster care

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If you missed it, Ampersand Families, a local agency in Minnesota, made an appearance on KFAI's Morning Blend show in February to discuss finding permanency for older youth in care - the teens. Ampersand Families focuses on recruitment and placement for this population. You can hear Jen Braun, co-founder and co-executive officer at Ampersand, discuss permanency for teen here.

Ampersand Families also produced two videos featuring the words and thoughts of youth in foster care. These two videos, called "We Interrupt..." below are powerful.

The HuffPost Live blog aired a show on transracial adoption. Featured guests include an adult transracial adoptee, Rachel Noerdlinger, adoptive parent Mindy Smith, researcher Darron Smith and Toni Oliver from the National Association of Black Social Work (NABSW).

You can watch the episode on the HuffPost Live website or below.

Documentary about former foster youth changing the system

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A wonderful resource for those interested in youth aging out of the foster care system, the documentary From Place to Place follows two young adults, Mandy and Raif, as they share their lives and travel to Washington DC to advocate for system change.

View the trailer:

Their story is also documented in this article featured on the National Foster Youth Action Network.

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Lucinda Jesson, Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Human Services, appeared on KARE-11 to encourage people to consider adopting African American youth in foster care in Minnesota. Commissioner Jesson spoke of meeting one youth who, at age 17, was adopted. Commissioner Jesson also encouraged anyone interested in learning more about adoption to visit the mnadopt.org website. During the month, Africa American youth will be featured.

To view the video clip, visit KARE11.com.

What happens when adoption fails?

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Two weeks ago the City Limits newspaper published a series by Rachel Blustain on what she termed, "broken adoptions" - that is, adoption dissolutions.

adopt2.jpgPhoto by Marc Fader for City Limits.

The numbers of how many adoptions fail is a tough statistic to obtain, in part because many adoption dissolutions occur years afer an adoption has been finalized; families move, they may not seek help, and the agencies that facilitate the adoption do not always know when the adoption is dissolved. In addition, there is no centralized mechanism for obtaining adoption data.

The series began with the story, "Growing Concerns over Broken Adoptions" in which featured one young woman who was adopted at age 7, only to be abandoned and put back into the foster care system by her adoptive mother at age 13.

The difficulty in obtaining solid numbers about adoption dissolutions is the focus of the second article, "Adoption Numbers in Question." Social service agencies that serve children report that anywhere from 5 to 25% of the kids they serve involve adopted children re-entering out-of-home care.

The third article, "From an Option to a Mandate" explores what happens when adoption is the permanency emphasis without the needed post-adoption services to support the families.

In "Solutions to Broken Adoptions May Lie in "Gray" Areas," a discussion of a different conceptualization to permanency is introduced - one that is flexible, allows children to stay connected with biological family in one way or another, and focusing on the needs of the child rather than agencies, workers and parents.

Finally, the story of one child, S.D., and her attorney who advocated against her adoption, is told in "One Foster Child's Choice: Not to be Adopted." I found the most compelling statement in this piece to be the last paragraph.

When Zimmerman went to court to argue against adoption for S.D., he had no fantasy of a happily ever after. "It was not a slam dunk," he recalls. Still, Zimmerman says, when he convinced the judge to let S.D. remain in foster care for the remainder of her childhood, he felt that he had done the best he could for his client as an individual, not as a permanency statistic.

Using social media to connect foster youth with relatives

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An interesting story came out earlier in the week about using social media sites such as Facebook to connect foster youth with relatives.

We typically hear stories about the problems associated with social media use among foster youth. In this story however, it is not a foster youth - or a biological parent - that is using Facebook to connect, it is the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services!

So far workers have searched Facebook for 80 families. From KHAS-TV in Nebraska, watch the video for more information.

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Last week a local news organization, The City Pages, published a feature article about a contested adoption case that the Minnesota Supreme Court is reviewing. As with many of these cases, this story highlights systems issues in child welfare, the tension between biological family and foster families, racial differences, interjurisdictional placements between states and the differences in state's proceedures regarding adoption, and much more.

In "Split the baby: Two sides of an adoption battle" reporter Olivia LaVecchia's story delves into many of these issues but the main attraction, as is often the case, revolves around race. The placement of the two young sisters at the center of this story has been presented as one in which the African American paternal grandmother has been denied custody in favor of a white foster family.

Our executive director at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, Traci LaLiberte and I met with Ms. LaVecchia to provide background context for adoptions and child welfare practice in Minnesota and a few of Ms. LaLiberte's comments are featured in the article.

Among the issues we brought up include:

  • The pendulum swing in child welfare as the profession emphasizes relatives and kin over "new resource" adoptions, a change from the past when many thought that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree"
  • The interjurisdictional mistakes that were made in this case
  • The MultiEthnic Placement Act and Interethnic Provisions and how that legislation differs conceptually with the Indian Child Welfare Act
  • The difference between "active efforts" and "reasonable efforts"

While both parties in this case are arguing issues regarding race - that the children need to be raised in their cultural community according to the grandmother, over the argument by the foster parents that they are the only parents these children know and that race should not trump the relationship and bond they have with the girls.

This story, as with the baby Veronica case, pits the contested adoptions as matters of race, which often becomes the story and illustrates the very divided opinions people have about race and culture in America. However, what is often not as considered is that these issues are almost always about much more than race alone - they typically involve intense differences in opinions about whether biological families are more entitled to raise children than new resource families; the issues of class is often unspoken but foster families in these legal cases are almost always white and middle class while the relatives are often from communities of color and are working class; and finally in most of these cases one or more significant practices required by law were either not done properly (in the baby Veronica case, for example, the workers did not follow the procedures of ICWA) or they were not done to the effort they should have (such as following through with the state of Mississippi in the case of the Dunnings).

Some things to think about:

  • If the relatives, the Dunnings were white, do you think they would have been more likely to receive the children?
  • If the Dunnings had lived in Minnesota instead of Mississippi, do you think the case would have been ruled as it was?
  • If the foster family, the Grossers, were African American, how do you think this case would have been resolved?
  • Can race really be taken out of it, as the attorneys argued before the Supreme Court?


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The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) will graduate its first cohort of 39 adoption-competent mental health and child welfare workers through CASCW's Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC) program today. The graduation celebration will take place from 4 PM to 6 PM in the Minnesota Commons Room at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Student Center.

The PACC is a professional training program developed in response to community demand for an adoption-competent mental health and child welfare workforce able to serve the unique and complex clinical and practice needs for adopted individuals and their families throughout Minnesota. Through the PACC, mental health and child welfare workers are given the knowledge and skills needed to serve families and help prevent disruptions in the post-adoption period.

The PACC includes the nationally recognized Training on Adoption Competency curriculum developed by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) and additional modules focusing on child welfare permanency and the Indian Child Welfare Act. The PACC emphasizes the use of 'real world' case studies, small group work, and partner interactions in order to promote critical thinking and practice application discussions among participants.

"Going through the different case studies and having discussion was most helpful and relevant, as I can use the feedback [and] ideas to help in my job in engaging families I work with." Participant Response

Graduates of the PACC will be listed in a searchable online database. Families and professionals will have access to this database in order to locate adoption-competent practitioners in their area.

There are 37 additional participants in the current (fall 2012) cohorts in Rochester and the Twin Cities that will graduate in 2014.

For more information, please visit the PACC website.

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For the past 13 years, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has invited television viewers to consider adoption through their annual holiday special, A Home for the Holidays.

This year is no difference. Scheduled for December 19, 2012, at 8 pm, the Rascal Flats, American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, Matchbox Twenty, Melissa Etheridge, and Rachel Crow (an adoptee and singer and contestant on the X Factor) will perform on the annual special.

Crow, 14, was adopted from foster care. On the show information page, Crow says, "Everything I've done has been possible because of my family. They gave me the love and support to follow my dreams."

Other presenters will include Wayne Brady, Kevin Frazier and Jillian Michaels (also a recent adoptive parent).

For more information check out the show information on Wendy's website here.

Foster care by the numbers - from Casey Family Programs

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Casey Family Programs has a fact sheet with a breakdown of the numbers of foster youth in the U.S. You can access this fact sheet here.

FosterCareByTheNumbers.pdf

I recently came across this resource from the National Resource Center for Adoption, part of the Children's Bureau network of Technical Assistance programs.

The Youth Permanency Cluster or YPC, is a group of demonstration projects funded in October 2005 during which sites worked to create, implement and evaluate strategies for achieving permanency for youth that involve practices that have not always been encouraged in traditional paradigms of "adoption":


  • Open adoption, in particular with sibling groups and families of origin

  • Promoting a range of permanency options including guardianship and kinship care

  • Promoting

models that draw on collaboaration and youth leadership

More information on the projects can be accessed at this link.

You can also download a copy of a powerpoint presentation, "Successful Strategies in Achieving Youth Permanency" that provides an overview of the projects.

Remembering that adoption is complex

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During the celebrations and hoopla that National Adoption Month brings, it can be easy to forget or dismiss the reality that adoption is not always the fairy tale ending to a child's life. A child brings with him or her a lifetime of pre-adoption history that is often very difficult and filled with trauma.

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Trauma is not "cured" through a "forever family" alone. The adoptive or permanent family (and we must remember and acknowledge legal guardianship is also considered a permanent placement) that is best able to provide that supportive platform is one in which the child or youth's history, including trauma, grief and loss, is acknowledged and addressed.

Some children and youth continue to mourn and grieve at the same time as they embrace their adoption. This is, as many experts have acknowledged, a paradox - that one can understand the losses that adoption has brought as well as the gains.

This paradox is one that many children and youth understand very well. It is the adults in their lives - the social workers, the foster and adoptive parents, other family members, and society - that often has a harder time understanding or acknowledging this paradox.

So as we spend this month discussing the benefits of adoption, let us also be aware that there may be extra supports that children, youth and their adoptive or permanent families might need to stabilize and strengthen these placements.

Below are some resources for helping children and families:


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Resources to help families find a therapist that understands adoption is a challenge that many adoptive parents say is critically needed. Here are some resources for finding skilled therapists that understand the core issues and loss and grief involved in adoption:

Today's National Adoption Month post is aimed at foster youth. Although adoption is often presented as being about the best interests of the child, in reality the child or youth in foster care has very little say or input about their own permanency planning. Social workers, Guardian ad litems or CASA workers, judges and foster and prospective adoptive parents often appear to be talking about your permanency plans without actually asking you what you want or how permanency is going to impact your future.

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If you are a case worker, foster parent, prospective adoptive parent, GAL or CASA, and you are reading this post, you should be aware of these resources and offer them to the youth you are working with.

If you are a youth and you are reading this post, these resources might be interesting and helpful to you and you could use these as a starting point for discussion with your social workers, GAL/CASA or others in your life.

Permanency is about YOU and your future, and that is why you need to know what all the things your social workers or other people in your life are saying when they talk about permanency and adoption.

Here are some resources for you, to help you understand more about permanency and adoption:

To start, here is a video of foster youth, parents and social workers sharing their experiences

Here is a video developed for the 2011 Summit on Youth Permanency on the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation website. The youth featured in this video talk about what permanency and family means for them.

The Children's Bureau's National Adoption Month website has a page of resources dedicated just for youth in foster care. Check out the resources on their page.

Other resources:

Minnesota families celebrate adoption

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On Sunday, November 4th over 400 families participated in the Circus of the Heart, a joint effort of the MN Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network.

According to the Star Tribune, the event was created to celebrate the adoption of 540 children from foster care in 2011.

Commissioner Lucinda Jesson opened the event on Sunday, acknowledging that the state's efforts to increase foster care adoption has made a significant difference for the children in Minnesota. MN DHS spokesperson Beth Voight remarked that in the fifteen years since Circus of the Heart has been educating and celebrating foster care adoption that the numbers of children waiting for adoption has dramatically decreased from 800 in 1997 to just over 350 today.

Click here for the full story.

The 2012 Centennial Adoption Excellence Awards

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The Children's Bureau just released their 2012 Centennial Adoption Excellence Awards. The report is available <"http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/adoption-excellence-awards">here.

Awardees include agencies, organizations and individuals that have contributed to the adoption of children and youth from foster care. The program goes back to the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. The awards were presented on october 10 in Washington, DC.

One of the individuals listed this year is Natalie Lyons, who helped coordinate the webinar on adoption competency certificate programs that we at CASCW participated in last December with the National Resource Center on Adoption. A full description of Ms. Lyons' career is included in this pdf.

Past award winners are available on the Children's Bureau site.

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One of the ways adoptive families are supported are through the adoption tax credit. The adoption tax credit, first enacted in 1997 as a means to help offset the costs incurred to adopt children from foster care, the tax credit has since become available for all types of adoptions. However, the tax credit is soon about to expire.

So far the tax credit has never been successfully legislated to be permanent. The tax credit has been extended several times and along with the extensions or renewals, has included changes over the years.

House Bill H.R. 4373, which has bipartisan support, aims to renew the adoption tax credit, and even more significantly make the tax credit permanent, a flat rate for special needs adoption and inclusive for all types of adoption; however with the upcoming elections it is unlikely that Congress will review it until after the elections. The Senate version is S. 3616 and like the House bill, has bipartisan support. If the propsed bills do not pass, then the credit will be reduced to $6,000 for a limited number of special needs adoptions.


For more information about the Adoption Tax credit, see the following resources:

North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
Save the Adoption Tax Credit (NACAC)
IRS Adoption Benefits FAQ
Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute

Thumbnail image for 00262697.jpgAs the recent AFCARS figures show, approximately 22% of the children in the U.S. waiting for adoption are Hispanic (of all races). According to a recent report by the Casey Latino Leadership Group, the number of children in care more than doubled over the past 20 years, and issues such as deportation laws are a factor in this increased number of Latino children in care.

More on Latino children in the child welfare system and the recruitment efforts for Latino foster and adoptive parents, are as follows.

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One of the long-held myths about adoption has been that children become confused about the concept of having more than one set of parents. This became one of the rationales used to amend birth certificates identifying adoptive parents as birth parents once an adoption finalization has occurred in the United States, and to justify closed adoptions.

However, it is untrue that children can be confused about who their parents are, and it is untrue that children cannot love more than one set of parents. We don't expect parents to be incapable of loving more than one child. And children whose parents divorce and re-marry often end up having more than one "mother" and "father" figure. The onus is on the parents and adults to be secure in their parenting role and to communicate well with children about the parental figures in their lives.

In California, a bill has been introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D) that would allow for more than two legal parents for a child. That bill, SB1476, does not change the definition of a parent, but it eliminates the requirement that a child may only have up to two parents.

According to the article in the Sacramento Bee, examples of three-parent relationships that could be affected by SB 1476 include:

• A family in which a man began dating a woman while she was pregnant, then raised that child with her for seven years. The youth also had a parental relationship with the biological father.
• A same-sex couple who asked a close male friend to help them conceive, then decided that all three would raise the child.
• A divorce in which a woman and her second husband were the legal parents of a child, but the biological father maintained close ties as well.

The law was created to expand the possibilities of caregivers for children without having to place children in foster care, the situation that occurred for one girl when her two mothers (in a same-sex relationship) were both unable to care for her and her biological father could not be deemed the legal father because of the law limiting the number of parents to two.

Leno's website states:

This bill would reaffirm a family court judge's ability to recognize parent-child relationships based on the evidence and what is in the best interests of the child. The bill modernizes state law by giving courts the flexibility to protect children who have parent-child relationships with more than two

As expected the legislation is opposed by many groups, including the Association of certified Family Law Specialists. The organization's president stated in an interview that this law would "create confusion in the minds of children and in the legal system."

For more information:

MSN: Bill would let children have more than 2 parents
Sacramento Bee: California bill would allow a chlid to have more than two parents

I've mentioned before what a wonderful resource the Child Welfare Information Gateway Library subscriptions are to professionals, researchers and families.I subscribe to a number of their "Libraries" - adoption, permanency, prevention, well being, etc. Each month the CWIG gathers the newest research articles, practice guides and policy updates on a number of child welfare topics, and sends the subscriber a list with links to these resources. (Want to subscribe? Click here.)

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It was on the adoption library link that I came across this journal article by Annette Ruth Appell for the Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy.

Appell writes from the perspective of a legal scholar and as a former attorney working in family and juvenile court systems in Illinois, South Carolina, Nevada and Missouri. Appell's major argument in this paper is that the child welfare system has created a "myth of separation" - that parents are "fungible" (that is, replaceable in whole or in part for another of like nature or kind) and that the separation of children and their parents improves children's lives.

Appell argues that parents aren't just "replaceable" in the minds and hearts of children, that separating children from their parents ends up being a systematic way of blaming parents in a way that "individualizes and pathologizes deviations from middle class norms" rather than addressing systemic and social problems such as poverty and violence.

It's an intriguing article that challenges a lot of beliefs about adoption. Read the article here and let us know what you think!

When multiple caregivers fight to adopt

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for siblings3.jpgA story by Gail Rosenblum was published today in the StarTribune that is, unfortunately, not all that uncommon a scenario in the child welfare system these days.

Tomorrow, the MN Court of Appeals will hear arguments on behalf of two families that want to raise two young girls that have been in foster care.

We often say that a child can never have too many adults in their lives who love them, but what if these adults are fighting over who gets to claim parenting rights?

This case brings up many issues that permanency workers and families struggle with when making permanency decisions. When I read this article, I had the following questions:


  • Was the grandparent given the opportunity to be the foster parent?

  • Was there bias on the part of the agency toward the extended relatives of these children? (I once had a county worker tell me, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" regarding placing children with extended relatives)

  • Whose responsibility was it to ensure the grandparent's information was being submitted, particularly since it turns out Mississippi did not send her information to MN?

  • Why was Minnesota allowed to withdraw its request for the grandparent to adopt based on "frustration over lack of communication?" What follow up could or should the agency have had when this happened?

  • What recourse do families have when agencies fail to communicate and/or advocate on their behalf?

  • Was there bias on the part of the agency toward moving the children across state lines?

  • Was there racial bias, as the foster parents are white and the grandparent is black?

  • Was the county agency afraid of violating the MultiEthnic Placement Act/InterEthnic Provisions?

  • Have all the adults in this issue (foster parents and biological grandmother) discussed what an open adoption and/or open relationship would look like? Would the foster family, if they adopted, be willing to facilitate having the grandparent in an active role in the girl's lives?

  • Why wasn't there more effort to emphasize an open relationship that truly shows that there are never too many adults who can love a child?

For the full story, see the Star Tribune's article here.

The Exchange: Focusing on Outcomes for Youth: Permanent ConnectionsThe National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth have focused their latest edition of The Exchange on permanency connections for youth.

The issues focuses on helping youth who are homeless/runaway connect, build, and improve their permanent connections - that is, a stable living situation that these youth are not afraid of having to leave, with connected relationships (including but not limited to family, friends, mentors and other significant relationships).

To read the issue of The Exchange, click here.

Finding permanency & stability through supportive housing

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iStock_000005318605Large.jpgOn Friday, CASCW co-sponsored a reflective seminar that discussed the role of supportive housing in child welfare practice. I thought this seminar was particularly relevant to this blog, as recent research from CASCW has shown that supportive housing can greatly reduce incidences of involvement in child protection and out-of-home care, thereby increasing a child's chances of permanency and stability. These are some highlights from the seminar.

Definitions of supportive housing

Adult: Permanent, affordable, independent, with flexible (and voluntary) service integration (though services are not a condition of the lease agreement, clients following a case plan must participate).

Youth: Can be host homes, transitional living programs, or permanent housing; services are not voluntary, include youth development, activities, case management, and independent living skills. Also have rules and requirements.

Supportive housing services are also "sticky" in that case managers stay with clients regardless of the system in which they are involved, e.g. child protective services. They also help clients coordinate services among various systems, such as between child protection case manager and psychiatrist.

Issues to consider: Homelessness and older youth

According to Stephanie Harms, Chief of Staff of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, it's important to include (multiple) housing plans in a youth's SELF plan. Older youth may be more eager to leave the 'system' than to think about the very real possibility of homelessness. Unless that child's family had been homeless at one point, the reality of 'homelessness' may not be fully understood.

beth homeless youth.PNGAlso, an issue arises when one considers how funds received dictate service provision. For example, the federal definition of 'homelessness' does not include instances of substandard or inadequate housing. As Beth Holger-Ambrose put it, when you have to weigh the difference between a kid with no roof over her head versus someone living in a Port-a-Potty in Loring Park, the former will be more likely to be considered for programming because the latter at least has a roof over her head.

Permanency & stability through supportive housing

The concept of supportive housing can work to ensure that families stay together by providing low-income, vulnerable families with often-permanent subsidized housing while extending needed services at the same time. This in turn leads to both permanency and stability for the children in said families. Additionally, for those youth aging out of care, youth supportive housing can work to provide stability in an otherwise potentially tumultuous time in the lives of these youth, as they adjust to living on their own.

A week from today, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW), in collaboration with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), will hold a reflective seminar moderated by Professor Esther Wattenberg entitled The Role of Supportive Housing in Improving Responses to High-Risk, Young Parents and Adolescents in Cross-Sector Involvement:

Open to the public
Cost: FREE
Date: June 7, 2012
Time: 1:30pm-4:30pm
Location: The Wilkins Room, 215 Hubert Humphrey Center, University of Minnesota
Register at http://reflectivesupportivehousing.eventbrite.com/

The goal of the seminar is to explore supportive housing, both as a concept and as a resource for two deep-end groups that now engage our attention: young parents and cross-sector adolescents. The focal point, homelessness, will feature a discussion of resources that contribute to case planning.

Supportive housing has been shown to be effective in promoting permanency and stability in the lives of children and youth. For example, our recent Minn-LInK report analyzing the role of supportive housing in the lives of homeless children showed that those utilizing supportive housing were less likely to be involved in child protection, and out-of-home placements decreased over time. To understand policy implications of this topic, please review our Child Welfare Policy Blog post.

CW360-CEEDCover.gif Last week, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare published a special edition of CW360° on using a develomental approach to child welfare practice. The publication, created in collaboration with the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), is an incredible resource for anyone working in the areas of adoption and permanency.

Understanding child development is integral to child welfare practice, in particular for children and youth that are involved in adoption and permanency. Foster care and adoption workers, as well as foster, adoptive, and kinship/relative caregivers must understand the impact of early experiences of abuse, neglect, trauma, stress, multiple placements and institutionalization have on a child's development and how that affects children and youth's permanency outcomes.

This special issue of CW360° includes perspectives from child welfare workers, foster parents, judges, researchers, and policy experts. Topics include: higlighting innovative programs for parents and children; what foster parents need to meet the developmental needs of children in their care; influencing public policy to include child development; current research; and collaboration among child welfare, education, public health, child development and mental health arenas.

For a copy of this issue of CW360°, click here.

For past issues of CW360° including special issues on:
2009 Permanency or Aging Out: Adolescents in the Child Welfare System and 2010 Promoting Placement Stability
visit our CW360° page at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare.


Weekly news round-up

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Each Friday on the Stability, Permanency and Adoption blog we will provide a selection of news from the past week that you may have missed.

Today's news round up:

An article published in Pediatrics by Jones et al (2011) assesses the impact of missing or altered birth and medical information on internationally adopted children's health care in the United States. Among the chief concerns mentioned in the report is the tendency to alter the birth certificate once the child is in the United States based on American pediatric assessments, which doesn't always allow for time for the child to "catch-up" on developmental delays that result from pre-adoptive experiences. MedPage Today describes the report here. To read the article abstract, click here.

The Arizona Daily Star published an interesting article on how family courts struggle to respond to "changing definitions of family." From the article, ""We're redefining what constitutes a family," said McGeorge School of Law professor Larry Levine, an expert on sexual orientation and the law. "It's a whole new way of thinking about this." Read the full article here.

A perennial discussion in child welfare permanency is whether children are better off in relative placements or in a foster home where they have formed attachments to their foster parents. The Tampa Bay Times published an article that discusses one family's story and the tensions between two families when case workers do not do a diligent family search for placement. Read the article here.

fanciershawl_250x.jpgA controversial ruling by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding an Indian Child Welfare Act case has been brought to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Nation is asking the U.S. Supremem Court to determine whether the tribe has the jurisdiction to define their members regarding Indian Child Welfare Act cases.

As this MPR news story (originally aired November 30, 2011) reports, American Indian children have high rates of removal and are much more likely to be placed into out-of-home care. In Minnesota, that rate is 14 times higher than white children. The Indian Child Welfare Act was created to give tribes jurisdiction over the placement of their children. Prior to the enactment of ICWA, American Indian children were placed in non-Native foster and adoptive homes and boarding schools where the goal was to strip them of their culture. Today, many of those who experienced these placements are speaking out, as in this article, The Adoption Era, defined: Native Americans expose a forgotten period in their history.

The question raised by the Cherokee Nation is whether the courts violated ICWA because of the Cherokee Nation Citizenship Act that grants tribal membership to all infants up to 240 days after birth. The 10th Circuit Court ruled that ICWA does not apply to the Cherokee Nation Citizenship Act because by definition, an Indian child under ICWA must be already enrolled in the tribe and in this particular case the child's mother was not an enrolled memeber of the Cherokee tribune until after the placement.

For the full article, Supreme Court Approached on ICWA Issue, click here.

You can also listen to the NPR story by reporter Sasha Aslanian below:

or at the MPR website.

For more resources on Indian child welfare and the Indian Child Welfare Act, here are some resources:

A state by state guide to standby guardianship

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Standby guardianship is the transfer of legal guardianship of a child to a specifically designated person under certain circumstances and conditions. The original laws were designed to enable parents with disabilities or terminal medical conditions to provide a plan for their children upon their death or inability to provide care.

In most cases, in a standby guardianship provision, the parent's rights are not terminated, nor does the parent relinquish all of their legal authority over the child or children in the case of a parent whose transfer of guardianship is due to a disabling condition. However, there are a few states in which a standby guardian is given full authority.

For a helpful guide on standby guardianship, the Child Welfare Information Gateway has published a guide. You can read the full guide on the Child Welfare Information Gateway webpage or download a copy of the guide here

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