Foster - Adoption and Infant Adoption: Changes in Practice

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Foster - Adoption and Infant Adoption: Changes in Practice. Adoption Connections Training Institute: OneWorld Neighborhood Third Annual International Conference on Post Adoption Services Cambridge, MA February 21, 2007. Some Statistics About Youth In Foster Care.
Foster - Adoption and Infant Adoption: Changes in PracticeAdoption Connections Training Institute: OneWorld NeighborhoodThird Annual International Conference on Post Adoption ServicesCambridge, MAFebruary 21, 2007Some Statistics About Youth In Foster Care AFCARS data, as of September, 2005, indicates that there are:
  • 513,000 children and youth in foster care
  • youth ages 11 years and up accounting for forty nine percent (n=220,564)
  • Race/EthnicityNationally, 56% of the children and youth in care are children and youth of color: 32% African American; 18% LatinoReunification – 51% Adoption – 20% Relative care – 4%Despite the fact that it was stricken from the ASFA statue, 7% (n= 37,628) of these children and youth had a goal of Long Term Foster Care. 6% or 31,928 youth had a goal of emancipation.Permanency GoalsChildren And Youth Waiting to Be Adopted
  • On September 30, 2005, 114,000 were waiting to be adopted. Waiting children and youth are identified as those who have a goal of adoption and/or whose parental rights have been terminated.
  • Who Adopted These Young People?
  • During FY 2005, 51,000 children or youth were adopted from the public foster care system. 89% will receive an adoption subsidy.
  • 60% of young people were adopted by a foster parent
  • 25% were adopted by relatives
  • 15% were adopted by non-relatives.
  • What is the family structure of the child’s adoptive family?
  • Married Couple - 68% (34,898)
  • Unmarried Couples - 2% (797)
  • Single Females - 27% (13,822)
  • Single Males - 3% (1,483)
  • Defining Permanency Permanency planning involves a mix of:
  • family-centered
  • youth-focused
  • culturally relevant
  • philosophies, program components and practice strategies.
  • All designed to help children and youth live in families that offer continuity of relationships with a nurturing parent(s) or caretakers coupled with the opportunity to establish lifetime relationships (Maluccio and Fein, 1993). Family Centered Casework and Legal Strategies Which Support Permanency
  • Targeted and appropriate efforts to ensured safety, achieve permanence, and strengthen family and youth well-being.
  • Reasonable efforts to prevent unnecessary placement in out-of-home care when safety can be assured.
  • Appropriate, least restrictive out-of-home placements within family, culture and community - with comprehensive family and youth assessments, written case plans, goal-oriented practice and concurrent permanency plans encouraged.
  • Reasonable efforts to reunify families and maintain family connections and continuity in young people’s relationships when safety can be assured.
  • Family Centered Casework and Legal Strategies Which Support Permanency
  • Filing of termination of the parental rights petition at 15 months out of the last 22 months in placement - when in best interests of the youth and when exceptions do not apply.
  • Collaborative case activity - partnerships among birth parents, foster parents, the youth, agency staff, court and legal staff, and community service providers.
  • Frequent and high quality parent-child visiting.
  • Timely case reviews, permanency hearings and decision-making about where youth will grow up - based on the young person’s sense of time.
  • Essential Elements to this Process
  • Family-Centered and Strengths/Needs Based Practice
  • Service delivery which is community based
  • Cultural competency and respect for diversity
  • Open and inclusive practice, with full disclosure to parents and youth
  • Non-adversarial approaches to problem solving and service delivery
  • Concurrent rather than sequential consideration of all permanency options
  • Permanency for Youth They’re always talking about this Permanency stuff. You know social workers. . .lawyers . . . always using these big social work terms to talk about simple things. One day one of them finally described what she meant by permanency. After I listened to her description, which was the first time anyone ever told me what the term meant, I said, “Oh, that’s what you mean? Yeah, I want permanency in my life. I don’t think I ever had that! When can I get it?” Foster care youthPermanency for Youth Permanency flies in the face of typical adolescent development. I want to be on my own! I want my own crib! I don’t want nobody telling me what to do! I don’t want a family!Permanency for YouthBut . . . every youth needs life time connections with someone, not just for their childhood, but for their entire life! Principles of Youth PermanencySeven key foundational principles:1. Recognize that every young person is entitled to a permanent family relationship, demonstrate that the agency is committed to achieving that goal, and include multiple systems and the community at large in the effort to identify and support such relationships.Principles of Youth Permanency2. Are driven by the young people themselves, in full partnership with their families and the agency in all decision-making and planning for their futures, recognizing that young people are the best source of information about their own strengths and needs.3. Acknowledge that permanence includes: a stable, healthy and lasting living situation within the context of a family relationship with at least one committed adult; reliable, continuous and healthy connections with siblings, birth parents, extended family and a network of other significant adults; and education and/or employment, life skills, supports and services.Principles of Youth Permanency4. Begin at first placement. Efforts to effect reunification with the young person’s birth family must be made concurrently with immediate planning for other permanency options, ensuring stability when out-of-home placement is needed. 5. Honor the cultural, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious/spiritual backgrounds of young people and their families and respect differences in sexual orientation.Principles of Youth Permanency6. Recognize and build upon the strengths and resilience of young people, their parents, their families, and other significant adults. 7. Ensure that services and supports are provided in ways that are fair, responsive, and accountable to young people and their families, and do not stigmatize them, their families or their caregivers. Pathways to Permanency for Youth
  • Youth are reunified safely with their parents or relatives
  • Youth are adopted by relatives or other families
  • Youth permanently reside with relatives or other families as legal guardians
  • Youth are connected to permanent resources via fictive kinship or customary adoption networks
  • Youth are safely placed in another planned alternative permanent living arrangement which is closely reviewed for appropriateness every six months
  • I Always Thought I Was Adoptable . .I always thought that I was adoptable even though I was 16 years old, but my social worker kept saying I was too old every time I asked him about it. I worked after-school at this hardware store and the guy who owned it was so kind to me. He was such a good guy and I always talked to him. I never really told him I was in foster care, but one day when we got to talking, he started to ask me a lot of questions about my family and then about life in foster care. I invited him to my case conference because my social worker said I could invite anyone who I wanted to, and at that point he asked about adoption. I was shocked at first, but it made sense. We finalized my adoption three months ago. That day was the happiest day of my life. - Former foster youthAdoption of Adolescents
  • Adoption, has become the permanency goal for a growing number of children and youth in care since the enactment of ASFA
  • Adoption is considered the preferred permanency option, when youth cannot be safely reunited with their families.
  • Adoption of Adolescents
  • Reconceptualization of adoption for older youth will require expanded permanent options that meet the youth’s need for lifelong, meaningful relationships.
  • Open adoption, shared parenting, and practices which permit the adopted youth to maintain contact with their birth family members are contemporary approaches which support permanency and may be useful for practitioners to consider in exploring the array of permanency options for youth.
  • Adoption of Older Adolescents
  • ASFA explicitly rejects the notion that there is an “age limit” for adoption or that adolescents are “too old” to be adopted. Adoption is a viable option for adolescents, who have a critical role to play in identifying their own potential adoptive resources.
  • Too often, it is the misplaced fear that adoption will lead to the severing of their emotional ties with members of their birth families that leads some adolescents to reject the idea of adoption for themselves. Adolescents, along with child care staff, caseworkers, mental health professionals and others, need help to understand that the nature of adoption has undergone a radical transformation over the past several decades.
  • Adoption of Older Adolescents
  • The participation of adolescents in planning for their own adoption is critical. Adolescents need to be actively involved in identifying past and present connections that can be explored as potential adoptive resources.
  • Young people 18 and older should be informed by their caseworker that they can consent to their own adoption and that there is no need for legal proceedings to terminate their parents’ parental rights.
  • Leadership in Promoting an Adoption Positive ApproachIt is incumbent upon adults who have a relationship with the young person to help them to consider the option of lifetime connections by helping to reframe the initial “NO!” into a “YES” or “I’ll Think About it” response. It may initially help the young person to review their past connections and experiences to help put their thoughts and feelings into context. Leadership in Promoting an Adoption Positive Approach Helping youth to play an active role in their own planning and assisting them in developing a promising pathway to permanency that will be lifelong and sustaining can be a challenge, but it is not an unattainable goal. Helping youth to consider permanency and lifetime connectedness only becomes possible when adults who work with young people are committed to facilitating the identification of connections in their lives.Changing the Initial “NO” to “Yes” Exploring the permanency option of adoption is a process, not a one time event.
  • “I don’t want to give up past connections”
  • “I don’t want to lose contact with my family”
  • “I don’t want to lose contact with important people”
  • “I will have to change my name”
  • “No one will want me”
  • “I am too destructive for a family”
  • “Families are for little kids”
  • “I don’t want to betray my birth family”
  • “Mom said she would come back”
  • “I want to make my own decisions”
  • “I’ll just mess up again”
  • “I don’t want to risk losing anyone else”
  • How to Approach Adoption with Adolescents? What do you say instead of accepting NO
  • Who are the three people in your life with whom you have had the best relationship?
  • Would it help to review where you have lived in the past to help you recall important adults in your life?
  • To whom have you felt connected to in the past?
  • Who from the past or present that you want to stay connected to? How? Why?
  • How are you feeling about this process? What memories, fears, and anxieties is it stirring up?
  • What do you say instead of accepting NO?
  • Who cared for you when your parents could not? Who paid attention to you, looked out for you, cared about what happened to you?
  • With whom have you shared holidays and/or special occasions?
  • Who do you like? feel good about? enjoy being with? Admire? look up to? want to be like someday?
  • Who believes in you? stands by you? compliments or praises you? appreciates you?
  • Who can you count on? Who would you call at 2 am if you were in trouble? Wanted to share good news? Bad news?
  • What Else Can You Do?Carefully Review the Case Record Review the youth’s entire case record in search of anyone who has done anything that could be construed as an expression of concern for the youth, including former foster parents, former neighbors or parents of friends, members of their extended families (aunts, uncles, cousins, older siblings), teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, group home staff, or independent living staff. Given that some youth have been in care for prolonged periods of time, case records can have many volumes – the entire record – all volumes should be explored in an effort to uncover clues about possible connections both past and present. Third party reviewers can be helpful in the process of uncovering these possible connections as case workers who have been assigned the case may inadvertently miss connections that may be more visible to as fresh eye.Work With Youth to Identify Important Adults in their Life
  • Work with the youth to identify caring, committed adults with whom the youth would like to establish a connection or re-establish a former connection. Youth should be asked who they feel most comfortable with, who they trust (or with whom they might like to build a trusting relationship) and who they feel they have formed bonds to, such as former foster parents, former neighbors, parents of close friends, members of their extended family, group home staff, cafeteria workers, maintenance staff, administrators, teachers, coaches, and work colleagues.
  • Carefully Look at Foster Parents and Others Known to the Youth
  • Interview the young person’s current and former foster parents, as well as group home staff and child care staff to determine who the youth currently has connections to: who does the young person get telephone calls from? Who has the young person had a special relationship with in the past? Who visits the young person and whom does the young person visit? Has the young person formed a bond with any group home or child care staff that might turn into a permanent connection?
  • Unpack the “NO”
  • Discuss sensitively with the youth where they might like to belong and to address the strong feelings that might underlie a statement by a young person that he or she does not want to be adopted. A concurrent adoption plan must include plans to help the young person “unpack the ‘No’” and to find out what underlies their reluctance to consider adoption.
  • Provide Information About Adoption to Youth and Family
  • Engage the youth, his or her parents (if the youth is not currently freed for adoption) and foster parents or prospective adoptive parents in a discussion about shared parenting and ongoing contacts with members of the youth’s birth family after the adoption. Youth and parents need help understanding that although a termination of parental rights ends the rights of the birth parents to petition the court for visits or other contacts with their child, a TPR does not prevent the young person from visiting or contacting members of his or her birth family.
  • Keep Searching for Permanent Connections
  • Identify permanency leads if a record review and interviews with the youth and staff do not yield possible permanent connections.
  • Consider mentoring relationships
  • Prepare Families Who Wish to Adopt an Adolescent
  • Help prepare prospective adoptive parents to understand the commitment they are making when they undertake to provide a permanent home for an adolescent.
  • Provide On-Going Support
  • Post-permanency services must be put in place to support the adoptive placement
  • Promoting Life Time Connections
  • What would it take to maintain a life long relationship with this youth?
  • Be a mentor, be a visiting resource, be a friend . . . .
  • Supporting Permanency for Older Adolescents Through Positive Youth Development Approaches
  • Mentoring
  • Life Books
  • Person Centered Planning
  • Family Group Conferencing
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • Family to Family Approaches
  • Youth Empowerment Approaches
  • Involving Youth in Permanency Efforts
  • Youth must be involved in the process and must have input
  • Many youth do want to be adopted, even if they initially say no
  • Youth need to be involved in recruitment efforts
  • Youth need to be able to identify persons with whom they feel they have connections
  • Youth need to work with professionals who understand them and enjoy working with them
  • In Summary...
  • Believe that permanency for this teen is possible!
  • Don’t take “No” for an answer
  • Be ready to identify a permanent life time connection for every young person, one young person at a time
  • Be Youth-Focused!
  • Take The Risk!
  • The Permanency For Teens Project.February, 1999. State of Iowa. For a copy, email NRCFCPP ( or on line at for Teens. March, 2000. State of Ohio. For a copy email NRCFCPP. ( Planning: Creating Life Time Connections. April, 2000. National report. For a copy download it from NRCYD web site ( & ResourcesPermanency Planning and the Older Adolescent: Connections for a Lifetime. April, 2001. State of Oklahoma. For a copy, email NRCFCPP ( Care: What Young People in the System Say is Working. January, 2001. State of Washington, Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman. For a copy download from & ResourcesAssessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. December, 2001. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services For a copy, email Westat (, M., Piliavin, I., Grogan-Kaylor, A., & Nesmith, A. (2001). Foster Youth Transitions to Adulthood: A Longitudinal View of Youth Leaving Care, Child Welfare, 80, (6), 685-717. References & ResourcesFinding Forever Families: Making the Case for Child Specific Recruitment. (35 min.) Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. www.davethomasfoundationforadoption. 1-800-askdtfa Adopted children, administrators, workers and advocates from across the country discuss the importance of adoption for adolescents and young adults and share successful strategies for finding homes and matching children with families. References & ResourcesAdoption and Adolescents: A Handbook for Preparing Adolescents for Adoption, Virginia Sturgeon (859) 299-2749 This handbook is designed to assist practitioners working with adolescents freed for adoption. It outlines the steps needed to plan for the future and to help them achieve their highest potential.Mentoring An organization that links foster care youth with caring adults and promotes life-long connectionsReferences & ResourcesLewis, R.G., and Heffernan, M.S. (2000). Adolescents and families for life: A toolkit for supervisors. Boston, MA: Lewis & Heffernan. A guidebook for child welfare providers interested in developing skills in working toward permanency with adolescents.References & ResourcesLewis, R.G., and Communities for People, Inc. (2002). The family bound program: A toolkit for preparing teens for permanent family connections. Boston, MA: Lewis. A guidebook for working with families to promote and prepare teens for permanent family connections.References & ResourcesMallon, G.P. (2004). Facilitating permanency for youth: A Toolbox for youth permanency. Washington, DC: CWLA. A toolbox for practitioners, policy-makers, and advocates for promoting permanency and
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