Greetings Permanency Champions,
Permanency Tip of the Week: Fear of the Known + Fear of the Unknown = FEAR for Survival
Try to imagine what it would be like for a Youth with a history of abuse, neglect, trauma and loss in their birth family followed by a series of failed attempts at finding a new family. Most likely, the combined fear of the known (Families are unsafe and I am not loved) and the unknown (I cannot imagine a safe and loving family) will result in the Youth experiencing the world from a perspective of just trying to survive. When we can appreciate, and honor the potential for this being our Youth’s reality, we can begin to truly implement trauma informed care for our Youth by first focusing on helping our Youth to experience corrective emotional experiences. These will slowly enhance their internal feelings of emotional safety and gradually diminish their need to focus on survival.
Permanency Success Story of the Week: A Miracle in Courtroom 404
On a Monday morning in courtroom 404 James, 17, Gerry and Ruben became a family. When I entered the courtroom where the adoption finalization would occur, I was struck by the big smile on the judge’s face. He was telling James how happy he was to see him with his dads for his adoption. He shared that he has known James for six years and had long hoped that this day would come. I was so thrilled to be there that I had to collect myself so that I could take photos to capture the moment.
It’s Official – They are a family! James had been in the Weekend Miracles program for exactly a year when he first met Gerry and Ruben at the October Kidsave event in 2012. James was a smart, charming kid, who had a way of pulling people into a conversation. He was also living in a group home, had experienced multiple adoption disruptions, and was starting to lose hope that he would ever find a family. Ruben and Gerry immediately sensed something special about James when they met him, and requested they be able to drive James to the next Weekend Miracles event. James was a little slow to warm up to the guys, but they were patient with him and took things slowly. The rest is history. James began spending weekends with Ruben and Gerry and moved into their home 6 short weeks after the weekend visits began.
While leaving the courthouse James said something that touched my heart. ”I never have to come back here again”. It was truly a day to celebrate!
Permanency Related Articles:
Administration for Children and Families (ACF) – Daniel, a therapeutic foster care case manager, is constantly surprised by the resiliency and empathy demonstrated by resource families, which includes foster, adoptive, and kinship caregivers. Daniel described a foster parent support meeting he facilitates: “Every meeting, tears turn to laughter and sorrow gives way to hope as the foster parents hold each other up in a way that only another foster parent can.”
Compassionate and well-trained foster parents are essential to providing children and youth in the child welfare system with safe and stable homes. In 2015, there were 428,000 children in foster care. To honor the resource families that care for these children, the Children’s Bureau chose “Empowering Caregivers, Strengthening Families” as the theme of National Foster Care Month 2017. Foster parents, when they have solid support and access to resources, can positively impact the lives of the children they care for in powerful and far-reaching ways. When describing foster parenting, Daniel said, “It is nothing less than the act of a hero…”
The Justice Department launched Changing Minds in October 2016, a national campaign that seeks to raise awareness, teach skills, and inspire public action to address children’s exposure to violence and the resulting trauma. ..
Changing Minds aims to: 1) Raise awareness about the prevalence, urgency, and impact of children’s exposure to violence and the trauma that may result; 2) Change perceptions of adults who interact with children from viewing them as “angry, bad, and withdrawn” to recognizing that they are children who “have been hurt and need our help.” 3) Engage and change practices in schools, homes, and communities; 4) Motivate adults who interact with children in schools, communities, and health settings to be caring, concerned, and supportive figures in the lives of our children.
One of the biggest predictors of children’s ability to be resilient in the face of trauma is having loving and caring adults in their lives. Studies show that adults who provide consistent emotional and physical support can buffer the “fight or flight” stress response in children.
The Donaldson Institute for Adoption – 1) Peace of Mind – There are many couples who fear the idea of birth parents being involved with their children’s lives after placement. What they don’t understand is the blessing openness can be for both children and biological families. 2) Finding Self – Children spend a lot of their adolescent and teenage years trying to find their place in the world: who they are, what’s their purpose, and what makes them. Story after story, I hear of how adoptees feel a sense of loss or emptiness when they are separated from their “first families,” 3) R.E.S.P.E.C.T – Respect is a big deal in our home. It is something we are constantly trying to teach our children. 4) Family = Presence – On our daughter’s third birthday, the same day of our son’s blessing, we were excited to share this day with many of our family. At least one person (although there were many) from all seven families attended the event. 5) Power to Heal – Adoption. The word alone can make some wince with fear, possibly having experienced it in some way or knowing someone that has experienced it…Real healing is when we accept those wounds and own them. Openness in adoption builds confidence and peace from our experiences and allows honest healing.
Children’s Bureau Express – Family visits help maintain strong family connections, and foster parents play and important role in facilitating these strong connections. When children in foster care have regular and frequent contact with their birth families, they experience shorter placements, less reentry into foster care, more successful reunification, and improved emotional well-being. A guide using information collected through interviews with foster parents, social workers, children, and birth parents aims to help foster parents understand how to be a strong resource for children and their birth families.
Family Connect: Putting the Pieces of Family Visits Together: A Guide for Foster Parents highlights typical reactions children and parents may have before and after visits, how to relate effectively with birth parents, and strategies in preparing and transitioning children to and from family visits. Foster parents identified children’s transition from family visits back to the foster home as the most challenging aspect of visitation. The guide offers a transition check list to help foster parents understand their own feelings about family visits as well as how the children in their care may feel after a visit.
The Youth Connections Scale (YCS) was developed in order to fill a need in child welfare: To evaluate and measure the increased efforts of agencies to improve the relational permanence of youth in foster care. The YCS was developed by the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) at the University of Minnesota in partnership with Anu Family Services. Experts in the field were consulted in development of this scale, including scholars, social workers, supervisors and administrators of public and private child welfare and youth serving agencies. Specifically, items such as the Support Indicators within the YCS were informed by existing practice tools, such as the Permanency Pact, which was developed by young people from FosterClub (2006); the BEST tool developed by Casey Family Services* and the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets.
Chronicle of Social Change – Los Angeles’ child welfare system – like many others – has a relative caregiver program that takes effect when a child is removed from their home, notifying known relatives of the removal within a 30-day period and giving them preferential consideration for the placement of the child. Blood or legal marriage-affiliated relatives who might be contacted include grandparents, great grandparents, sisters, uncles, cousins or even relatives of a spouse after death. Per state and federal law, the courts are in favor of reunification or relative placement. I understand that perspective, and I respect it, but from my personal experience, I cannot say it is always truly the best living situation for a child.
In my personal opinion, I believe by continuing to have these relatives and families go through the classes, it is therapeutic for the relatives to see and understand what the kid might be feeling in this tough situation. I believe all the procedures and follow-up visits that a foster parent or adopting parent has to do should apply to relative caregivers everywhere. I believe relatives should not be given any shorter or easier way to become the legal guardian of a child. In addition, I believe the courts should look at them as they would any other person, and not assume their blood makes them best option, because sadly, some cases, they are not.
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Take care and keep up the Permanency work – Our children, youth, young adults, families and communities are depending on it!