Welcome to our Newsletter for Foster Adoptive & Kinship Care Parents

Welcome to the fourteenth edition! This newsletter is published by Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS). FAFS’ mission is to provide support, training and advocacy to meet the special needs of foster, adoptive and kinship families, who provide safe, stable and nurturing homes for children in foster care. We hope that you will find this information to be both interesting and informative. To learn more about FAFS, please visit www.fafsonline.org. Have questions or comments? Contact Us

#HackFosterCare: Taking Advantage of Technology in Foster Care

In May of 2016, the White House held a special “hackathon” for foster care as a part of the “#HackFosterCare” initiative. Hackathons are events in which problems are presented that the participants attempt to solve with programming solutions, and former foster youth and founder of Think Of Us Sixto Cancel embraced this idea as a way for communities to approach technology in foster care.

Coder working hard at developing new technology in foster care.

The child welfare system is large and, when including the sea of nonprofits and associated organizations, has many working parts. As the nation moves forward and attempts to ensure that the system serves its children as best as it can, the integration of technological solutions becomes a necessity. From social media to smartphones, foster parents, foster children, social workers and volunteers are constantly changing the technology they engage with and through. Because of the changing tides of tech, foster care organizations have a unique opportunity to re-investigate and resolve problems that crop up because of their own consistent evolution.

It’s this opportunity that Cancel hopes to seize by hosting foster care hackathons across the country.

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Trusting the Foster to Adopt Process

The journey from foster care to adoption can be a long, trying and uncertain road. The Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) annual Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report for 2015 found that the national average for time spent between becoming a foster child and being adopted was 31.7 months. While that may seem like a long time, it marks a noticeable improvement from 2003, when the ACF found the national average to be 44.5 months.

Foster to Adopt
Spending close to two years in foster care may seem like an eternity, but the process takes this long to ensure the best for the child. Prior to 1997, states ran foster care systems in accordance with the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. The act promoted permanency by requiring states to make reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of children from their homes, as well as reunite the children who had been removed. Continue reading

Aged Out Foster Youth Need Skills to Survive and Thrive

Everyone loves a success story. Whether it’s the teenage mom who quits school, goes on to get her GED and eventually becomes a successful executive, or the foster youth who, after enduring a childhood of abuse and neglect, goes on to graduate college and become a child psychologist, we not only root for them; we hold them up as examples. We want to encourage our young people to overcome adversity, to get a good education and to believe that, with hard work, every dream is possible. But in doing so, are we setting them up for disappointment?

Aged Out Foster Youth Need Skills to Survive and Thrive
Statistics show that youth in foster care are 44 percent less likely to complete high school than their non-foster care peers. People have various opinions on why this is the case. Ronald Richter, of the JCAA (formerly known as Jewish Child Care Association) told Naomi Schaefer Riley of the Independent Women’s Forum, “More and more, we understand that the 0-5 [years old] stage is critical for young people to develop self-regulation. You learn when you get up, when you go to sleep. The brain is trained to understand routine,” but, he continues, in most cases foster children have “a very poor 0-5 experience.”

So, children who are victims of neglect, who have grown up with no rules and no positive reinforcement for good behavior, are unlikely to be able to adhere to a schedule and meet demands from authority figures. This, of course, impacts their ability to finish school and/or hold down a job. Unless they receive the proper support services to make up for the guidance they lacked at home, it is likely they will become a statistic rather than an exception.

So where can foster youth who are aging out of care go for help? Riley writes that a group called America Works, a national organization that was recently contracted to work with foster youth in New York State, believes that “the first step to getting people to be independent, productive citizens is getting them a job.” But instead of focusing on getting a college education as a means to secure employment, American Works places youth in low paying jobs with benefits, so they can gain valuable work experience and personal discipline. Supervisors not only teach job skills but also life skills, helping youth learn how to interact with customers and colleagues, how to build a household budget and how to manage their time.

Mastering these skills is essential for foster youth; it allows them to keep the jobs they have, and it prepares them for something better in the future. When they’re ready, America Works helps foster youth with obtaining a GED or with registering for college courses.

In New Jersey, eligible aged out youth can receive funds towards tuition and fees through the New Jersey Foster Care Scholars program. Youth who have aged out of care can apply to the program up until age 23 and can receive funds for up to five years from enrollment if they are attending a public NJ postsecondary institution and meet NJFC eligibility criteria.

. To learn more about assistance for aged out youth in your state, contact your local child welfare agency.

A strong foundation of experience, education and enthusiasm ups the odds of foster youth thriving once they age out of the system, giving them a better chance of becoming the example everyone loves to root for.

To read the full editorial, click here.

Kinship Care Trends Across the Nation

Widely regarded by child welfare professionals as the best placement option for foster children, kinship care has been on the rise in the United States. Collectively, child welfare agencies have been pushing for more kinship placements as reports show that outcomes improve for children placed into the care of relatives.   These kinship care trends are signs that our child welfare system is working.  From a legislative standpoint, however, the major breakthrough in kinship care came in the form of the Fostering Connections for Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (FCSIA, also known as the Fostering Connections Act).

kinshiptrends

Laying the Groundwork for Kinship Care Trends

Passed in 2008, this bill paved the way for kinship care throughout the nation. Although “kinship care” as a concept was introduced to the US child welfare system as early as 1978 (way it was vs way it is link), it wasn’t until 1990s that it was regulated and supported by federal funds, becoming endorsed by the federal government as a specific program within foster care. At that time, more than 75% of the children in kinship care were in private or unlicensed homes.

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Individualized Foster Parent Support: FAFS’ Family Advocates

The number of children entering the foster care system across the country has steadily increased from 396,430 in 2012 to 427,137 in 2015. Most races, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, were victims of this surge, including children of Hispanic or Latin origin.
As of 2015, there were 91,101 Hispanic children in care, up from 83,637 in 2014. In fact, Hispanic children made up 21% of the children in the foster care system across the U.S.

individualized foster parent support
This influx, due in part the nation’s opioid epidemic, has put added stress on the foster care system, especially those foster parents who struggle with English and are not familiar with the system.

That’s why, now, more than ever, non-native English speaking foster parents are looking for support services to help them navigate a complicated system.

Most states have their own agencies to help Hispanic foster care families. In Washington, the nonprofit agency Friends of Youth specializes in helping Hispanic families become licensed. In California, the Latino Family Institute aims at preserving the integrity of Latin American cultures among adoptive families while promoting kinship adoptions. Continue reading

New Jersey Foster Care Scholar Success Story: Jacob Tucci

When teenagers think of turning 17, many probably think about getting their license, their first car and who they are taking to prom.
When Jacob Tucci looks back at being 17, he’s reminded of the year he entered the foster care system.

NJFC Scholars
“It’s hard to think that I entered the foster care system so late,” Jacob says, “because there are other kids that enter the foster care system at such a young age, but I don’t think there’s a right time to have that happen.”
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