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Resolving Conflicts With Tech: 10 Strategies in Child Support Case Management

As a child support case manager, you play a pivotal role in ensuring children receive the support they need. However, managing child support cases can be complex, with many parties involved and the potential for conflicts. Fortunately, technology offers innovative...
by Casebook Editorial Team 15 min read

Using Data for Enhanced Nonprofit Performance: Insights and Strategies

Whitepaper, Driving Nonprofit Impact With Data and Technology, synthesizes the findings from a survey Executive Directors of 27 agencies in human services.Survey Insights Data Utilization The survey illuminates a crucial gap, with 73% of agencies underutilizing data in...
by Casebook Editorial Team 7 min read

AI Tools for Human Services Nonprofits

Following are some AI tools for you to consider. There are many others available as well. These solutions will take some of the heavy lift off staff so your organization, and those you serve, can thrive! AI Solutions - Administrative With these tools, you can easily...
by Casebook Editorial Team 13 min read

Buy or Build Your Own Case Management System for Human Services?

You run a social services organization and you're keeping all of your records in a spreadsheet, and now you are wondering if the investment in a case management solution is right for you. You're probably already having trouble getting the reports you need and making...
by Andrew Pelletier 20 min read

Best Practices

The Ultimate Guide to Grant Funding Success

UPDATED for 2024: Discover best practices to securing grant funding with our comprehensive guide. From identifying opportunities to crafting winning proposals, we cover everything you need to succeed.

Download now and start your journey towards grant funding success.

Secure Your Funding Pt. 3 — Emphasis On The Data

So far, we’ve reviewed watchdog sites’ standards, detailing indicators for a nonprofit’s success, and articulating metrics. What do all of these have in common? DATA! Ratings, program development, case-making…all are driven by a drumbeat of qualitative and quantitative data. How the public v...

Reporting Impact and Communicating to Grant Funders

The previous post outlined the primary types of capacity-building projects and reviewed how transformational successful capacity-building implementation have been, for example, nonprofits...

by Sade Dozan4 min read

Capacity-Building Grants | Nonprofit Case Studies

In the previous post, we touched on how capacity-building grants are identified and developed in an effort to better position organizations for growth. Now, we’ll review the power of capacity-building g...

by Sade Dozan4 min read

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How a Plastic Garbage Bag Became the Unofficial Luggage of Foster Care

It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned i...
It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down. It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down. It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down. It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down. It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down. It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down. It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down. It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down. It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down. It was a scene that I would see play out time and time again during my 13-year career, serving some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. A child comes into care needing foster care, and the youth and their caseworker shows up with a couple of black garbage bags full of everything the child owned in the world. Now, I’m not really trying to play on your sympathy by asking you to imagine what it must feel like for a child to be removed from their family and watch their clothes and toys bagged up like trash. That such a scene requires empathy is self-evident, but not the point of this article. I Tried the Obvious Only To Fail Lest you think I was incompetent, let me reassure you that I tried all of the obvious answers. As a private provider, I didn’t have access to the youth prior to their arrival in state custody and their placement with our agency. So in that regard, there was nothing I could do to stop children from showing up with all their belongings in a garbage bag. Starting where I could, we put out the call for donated luggage, and the public readily supplied us with enough baggage to get the job done. My next step was to issue the directive that any child who showed up in our building with garbage bags as luggage was to be issued proper luggage. As a seasoned manager, I knew how to deliver the message with the appropriate intensity, and as a Marine veteran, my directions were rarely ignored. Moreover, I knew this was taking place as I would see staff helping the youth with luggage, and so it was a win in my mind. I’d solved the problem, or so I thought. I Kept Seeing Garbage Bags Over and Over The first time I knew that I had a bigger problem on my hands was when I started to notice youth, who I personally knew received luggage, sitting in our lobby with their belongings in black garbage bags. I question the staff and the foster parents, and no one seems to know what happened to the luggage. You see, it is common for youths placed into foster care to occasionally have to replace from one home to the next. Somewhere between them leaving our office for their first home and returning to the office to go to another new home, the plastic garbage bag came back to life. In some cases, it was just that their personal belongings grew in number, and thus, they had a nice piece of luggage next to two or three garbage bags full of belongings. So we would give them some more luggage, and lo and behold, the garbage bags kept coming back. A National Problem with No Easy Solution In doing some basic research, I realized that I was not alone with regards to this problem. It’s a nationwide issue in the foster care system, and there are actually countless nonprofits that exist solely for the purpose of providing foster kids with luggage. There was actually no shortage of luggage in the foster care system, and rather, a lack of a functional answer seemed to elude us all. Towards the end of my time in foster care, I had finally settled on the belief both the adults and youth involved were just overwhelmed. As much as I tried to impute the importance of a piece of luggage on foster parents and staff, the truth of the matter was that when a child is disrupting a home, the luggage isn’t your primary concern. Sadly, and perhaps most tragic, no matter how much we try to impress upon the youth that they have value, as does their belongings, they don’t believe it enough. The youths themselves readily load up their belongings in a garbage bag as they feel a garbage bag is indeed where their property belongs. I don’t accept defeat easily, but Hefty and Glad would be thrilled to know their garbage bags were sturdy enough to take me down.
by Jeff Edwards 14 min read

How Collaborations Can Help You Improve Outcomes

For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children current...
For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with. For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with. For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with. For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with. For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with. For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with. For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with. For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with. For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with. For the vast majority of teenagers turning into adults, turning 21 represents a time of wonder and excitement. This is a time of planning for the future that includes job training, college applications and attendance, and learning practical skills. However, for the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, this is not always a time of wonder and excitement, but rather of anxiety and the unknown. Aging out of the foster care system is not always a seamless process due to the lack of resources that are often available for transition services, however, when child welfare workers use their strong cross-systems collaboration skills, foster care children in transition are often far more prepared to enter the adult world than they would otherwise be. What is cross-systems collaboration? Cross-systems collaboration is the process to which professionals partner with other professionals and agencies for the wellbeing of the client. Because many children who enter the foster care system have experienced trauma, may have mental health disorders or behavioral concerns, and often have few skills to utilize, the child welfare workers job is to support the entire person and not just find them housing. Picture this: a 15 year old boy enters a foster care facility after his mother dies of an overdose. This is a vulnerable time for him that could result in his own substance use, lack of finishing high school, and other negative outcomes because he has no family to support him and is in the middle of terrible grief. His child welfare worker finds him foster housing that meets his needs and allows him to continue attending the same high school he was enrolled in prior to the death of his mother. This welfare worker also helps him access mental health services for processing grief, attend a driver’s education program to get his driver’s license, and apply for grants and funds for college tuition. She did this by supporting him in getting a case manager in the community mental health system, connecting him to an after school tutoring program, and continuously answering his calls and processing through his feelings. She coordinated quarterly meetings with his counselor, school counselor, herself, and him to meet and discuss his needs and progress. They met quarterly for several years until he was prepared to graduate high school and age out of the foster care system, as he was never adopted. In the meetings they discussed the following: How he was feeling What is going well and not going well What his goals were and plans to achieve them How his mental health was He was always able to self-direct the meetings and be his own advocate. This example of strong cross-systems work with providers who were equally as invested in his wellbeing really made the difference for him. Every quarter, he knew he had a team of people who would show up and care for him. He knew that this team would support him, plan with him, and answer any and all questions he had that his mother was no longer around to answer for him. Why is cross-systems work essential during transition for foster children? Foster children, not unlike children still living in their biological parents homes, are complex. They have complex needs, desires, and wants. They often have been witness to adversity that is difficult to understand and contextualize. This puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes such as substance use, houselessness, and mental illness during foster care and after they transition out. Cross-systems collaboration supports a trauma-informed approach to care by recognizing those complexities and understanding that no goals can be supported and achieved in isolation. For example, a student with a mental illness will have a difficult time in school. Therefore, their school and counselors should work together to ensure they have the skills and resources needed to be successful. A student with a disability and a trauma history may find coping with their disability difficult because their trauma makes them feel hopeless. Therefore, their direct care provider and their mental health counselor should partner with them to develop a plan for the best way to complete daily tasks. Cross-systems work believes the following: systems are inherently connected to other systems when they work towards similar goals; systems should focus on the common interest of the youth they are supporting; and agencies must make commitments to partner for the best partnerships to occur. Because of this, any person who is going into child welfare or a system that operates in partnership with child welfare to support foster care children, should be knowledgeable about cross-systems planning and be prepared to partner with other professionals, while also allowing the child to lead the way based on their interests and goals. All foster care children in transition have the ability to, like this child, graduate and be successful after foster care. To do this, they need to know that they have people supporting them and helping them. This kind of strong support by foster families, child welfare providers, teachers, mental health professionals, and other people supporting them is what will empower them to support themselves. This is how foster care children realize they are worthy of love and belonging: by being shown that to begin with.
by Joshua Cruz 18 min read

Transitioning Out of Foster Care and Into Opportunity

How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions tha...
How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living. How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living. How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living. How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living. How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living. How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living. How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living. How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living. How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living. How to best serve the needs of youth aging out of foster care? The law may believe they’re old enough for independent living, but in reality the barriers to doing so can feel insurmountable. It’s a challenging question for even the most seasoned child welfare professionals, but there are actions that government agencies and non-profit organizations can take that tangibly improve the lives of transition- age youth. Below are a few examples of what social service agencies can do, from programs around the country. Extend the age of eligibility for services in all states: More time means more access to the other factors discussed below including housing assistance, education opportunities, and job training. A 2010 University of Chicago study of transition-age youth in Illinois and Wisconsin found that “the number of years a youth remained in care from age 18 to 21 is positively associated with wages...youth remaining in care attain higher educational credentials and earn higher wages.” Facilitate social capital and connections: How many of us had a family member, teacher, or mentor guide us through milestones like finding our first apartment, opening a bank account, looking for a job, even finding mental health care? Long-term support networks are critical for all of our development, but often harder to access for foster age youth. A 2017 report from Child Trends cites the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency as an example of an organization that breaks that pattern. Their programs include the Foster Alumni co-Mentoring Experience (FACE), which pairs youth in transition with alumni who have previously aged out, providing youth in foster not only with a mentor, but one who understands their unique situation and can help guide them through it. Provide transitional and supportive housing, financial literacy, healthcare, and access to transportation: A 2014 report from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) calls this category permanency support. It’s the foundation on which all of the other important factors are built. After all, you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have an address, and it’s harder to get paid if you don’t have a bank account. Covenant House, an organization with branches across North and Central America, developed their Continuum of Care services with that in mind, including an 18 month long semi-independent housing program that includes classes ranging from cooking to saving money. Expand access to and funding for post-secondary education, job training, and obtaining employment: Many states offer some kind of post-secondary school and support, but only 17 provide state-funded scholarships for transition-age youth, and not all pair education with employment support and training, or professional mentorship. Exceptions include Friends of Foster Care which pairs internship participants with mentors, in Arizona, and Virginia’s Great Expectations program that starts in high school. Great Expectations helps youth gain access to community college education, supports them while they’re in school, and provides additional services that help ease the transition from foster care to independent living.
by Ilana Novick 10 min read

The Impact of One Trusted Adult in a Former Foster Youth’s Life

For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me...
For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand. For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand. For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand. For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand. For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand. For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand. For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand. For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand. For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand. For most of us reading this article, we didn’t have life completely figured out when we turned 18 years of age. I turned 18 in the middle of boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. I declined to notify my Drill Instructors that it was my birthday, lest they plan a special “celebration” for me. When I emerged from boot camp, I was a United States Marine who had little discipline and income. However, I also had a family to fall back on if things got hard. Most of us who achieved some level of success in life benefited at least one trusted adult during our coming of age into adulthood. Sadly, that’s not the case for many foster youths who age out of our nation’s child welfare system. So let’s talk about those youth for a moment. The Impact of a Trusted Adult is Obvious to All Now, it wouldn’t take a massive research initiative to prove the impact of having a trusted adult in a young person’s life is beneficial. We saw it in our own lives when we became adults. Those of us who have children now can’t imagine abandoning our children during that pivotal season of life. Not to mention, most of us know people we grew up with who did not have such a support system, and we can see the hardship that brought our peer’s lives. So we don’t need the data. Fortunately for you, we have the data anyway. Youth Villages is an organization based in Memphis, TN, which currently operates the most extensive program in the country, showing positive results for former foster youth in multiple areas of life. These results were quantified in a massive research study from MDRC, which spanned multiple years. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, and this study was funded by grants from The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study showed improved outcomes related to immediate needs, such as housing, food, clothing, and avoiding violent relationships. In areas where it did not show an improvement, Youth Villages went back to the table to innovate and follow the data wherever it would lead them. What Youth Villages does for former foster youth is truly remarkable, and I’m not just saying that based on the data or due to the fact that I worked for them for over 13 years. Yet, because I worked for them, I can testify to the impact of transitional living services first hand.
by Jeff Edwards 9 min read

A COVID-19 Call to Action for Foster Parents

Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most ...
Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time. Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time. Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time. Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time. Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time. Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time. Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time. Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time. Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time. Nearly 20 years ago, I embarked on what would be a fascinating career serving some of our nation’s most troubled youth. A remarkable career considering that when I started, I didn’t know anything about kids. I was a Political Science major in need of a job post-college when one of the nation’s most respected youth services organizations was looking for a few good men. I use that term figuratively and literally as I was also a United States Marine, and I think the agency was looking for a little muscle to help out with the older troubled youth at a campus. Unfortunately for them, I’m much smaller than my deep voice on the phone would lead you to believe. A COVID-19 Dose of Reality When the COVID-19 shutdowns came to fruition, I knew that there seemed something oddly familiar with all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that came about. “Where will my kids go to school” or “my child is missing graduation, prom, and all their youthful milestones” were the pleas coming from parents from sea to shining sea. Loss of income put stress on households, and families wondered if they would have a place to live next month or even next week. Mental health came into the focus as the chronic toxic stress exacerbated issues like substance abuse and trauma coming from life in frequent fear. “I’m going to lose everything I’ve ever known in an instant” is the lamentation coming from business owners who don’t understand the decisions being made against their will and supposedly on their behalf by the government. That’s when it hit me. “Oh, America has turned into a nation of foster children,” I said to myself. A Day in the Life of Foster Care All of the anxiety and uncertainty that you and your family are facing right now is but a shadow image of what our foster children face every single day in the child welfare system. You may not know where your child is going to school or what that school environment will look like? Neither does a foster child who has moved from the only home they have ever known. Did your child miss milestones like prom and graduation? So do foster children as they often have to move from home to home and school placement to another. You may not know if you are going to be able to make rent and if you will be able to keep your home and many foster children have no idea if “the new placement” will keep them any longer than the last. If you are struggling with trauma or substance abuse that is triggered by the stress of the unknown, well, kids who live daily in the unknown are not any different. Finally, if you have lost everything you have even known or worked for, then I am genuinely sorry. Just know that when a DCS worker shows up to a child’s home with a black plastic garbage bag, aka the luggage of foster care, they too have lost it all. They are also told it is for their own good, and the fact that it may be true doesn’t lessen the sting or the pain. Empathy is the First Step Towards Action I told you the story about unpreparedness for the career that laid ahead of me for a reason. As a young supervisor working on a residential campus where youth came to live temporarily, I didn’t get it. I did well by the kids and always treated them fairly and with care, but I didn’t have the empathy to fully understand what I was seeing. I can remember a youth crying profusely on his first night there, and I had nothing to offer or console. Fast forward about seven years later into that career, and I was married with my first daughter. During that time, I received a tour of our new residential treatment center for girls when a young teen girl was being restrained for self-harm. She began sobbing, and then, just then, it finally hit me. Behind those tears, I could finally hear the pleas of “I shouldn’t be here” or “why did this happen to me” that rang out in the halls. It took having my daughter to finally gain the proper empathy, and for the first time in my career, tears came to me. I fully understood, and that moment informed the rest of my career. Empathy is the first step towards taking action and truly transforming a youth’s life. If COVID-19 has stressed you and your family, I plead with you to search for empathy for youth who experience those stresses every day. I’m no longer in child welfare services, but I’m confident that front line workers are working harder than ever to support those youth. However, those youth need a family - If you have ever considered answering the call, those youth need you right now. COVID-19 be damned, let empathy carry you forward to action and create change in the child welfare system, one family at a time.
by Jeff Edwards 17 min read

Adoption and the Never Ending Pursuit of a Forever Family

Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child ...
Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do? Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do? Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do? Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do? Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do? Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do? Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do? Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do? Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do? Without exception, perhaps the most tangible reward for a job well done in the child welfare service is seeing a young child find their forever family via adoption. Yes, it’s great to see children go back home to their birth families as well. To say that I enjoyed witnessing the adoption of a child is not to say that I prefer that outcome to the latter. Birth family reunification is a wonderful sight to see, but to see a child whose parental rights have been terminated emerge from the precipice of disaster to now having a place to call home for life is amazing. It’s like a 4th quarter comeback in football where the odds of success were slim to none. It is Appropriately and Disappointingly Hard to Terminate Parental Rights At the end of the day, it should be difficult to terminate the rights of one or both parents. Yet, at the end of that very same day, it is frustratingly difficult to watch a child languish in foster care while this process drags on. I’m not smart enough to offer a solution, and it is unlikely anyone would listen to me if I did, but I do want you to understand what this means for the youth in care, namely, that they will spend a very long time in care. Years in care as I’ve never seen a quick solution to this dilemma. Now, I don’t think that I need to share with you all the dangers associated with prolonged stays in the child welfare system. That’s not to disparage the staff, foster parents, agency works, and others involved. It’s just a messy system, and even when it goes well, it’s still messy. So what’s the harm of waiting years of care if the child is already living in their soon to be forever home? Over 13 years working in the field has taught me that no home is forever until the judge makes it official. Permanency Only Matters If It Is Permanent I’ve watched loving families take in a 2-year-old under the hopes of adopting them, but by the time the parental rights were terminated, that couple now had a kid of their own and are no longer interested in adoption. So the kid, who is now 4 or 5 years old, must leave the only home he remembers. I’ve seen a moderately well-behaved 10-year-old land in his potential forever home, and then, by the time the parental rights are terminated, he is an angry 13-year-old, and the parent can no longer handle his behavior. I’ve seen a potential adoptive parent back out the week the adoption was to be finalized. My friends, permanency only matters if it is indeed permanent. A forever family is only forever if it lasts. So when I see a child in a “forever home” while awaiting the termination of parental rights, I watch it with a great deal of anxiety. When the forever family is in court for the finalization, and the judge makes it official, I cheer like I’ve been watching a last-second hail mary float through the air for three years and finally come down and land in the endzone. So what’s the point of this story, and what can you do?
by Jeff Edwards 11 min read

All Foster Homes Are Not Created Equal in the Child Welfare System

To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a plac...
To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely. To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely. To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely. To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely. To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely. To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely. To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely. To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely. To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely. To be clear, the title of this article is not one of equity or opportunity regarding foster homes in the child welfare system. Rather, it is one of competency and confidence. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is not a significant deficiency in the number of foster homes looking for a placement in America. When I was the Assistant Director for a fairly large foster care and adoption program in Memphis, TN, I could fill a sports stadium with the number of foster parents who were ready to take an infant with parental rights already terminated and ready for adoption. Aren’t All Teenagers Angry? Yes, angry and hormonal teenagers are not unique to the foster care system. This was a fact that I often had to remind foster parents when they first received a teenage placement. Not every behavior is driven by the fact that the placement is a foster kid. In fact, I’d go ahead and make the unscientific claim that foster parents best suited to take teenage placement are those who have their own teenage kids with their own myriad of behaviors. That’s because they can recognize teenage behavior for what it is and they are not calling the office to complain the first time their foster kid drops a curse word in the house. Foster teens are not the first teens to sneak out of a window to meet up with a teen boy or a teen girl and they are certainly not the first teens to be caught with alcohol or marijuana. However, foster teens can often come with a history of trauma and lack of attachment that has been forged over years of involvement with the child welfare system. In fact, I found it rare that a teenager’s placement in foster care was their first brush with the system. As such, the teenage foster kid has more experience than the newly minted foster parent. The teens knew the rules and culture of foster care better than anyone and as such, they were not easy placements. For them to succeed, a special kind of foster parent was required and when those foster parents come around, they are worth 20 baby- seeking foster homes if I am being completely honest. As I said, not all foster homes are created equal. Training Does Not Make a Good Foster Parent Training is most certainly helpful when it comes to preparing new foster parents for what to expect. However, it is not the training that makes the average Joe foster ready to foster a teenage placement. Nor does compliance with every agency rule become the difference between a successful placement or a disruption. As long as they are not violating any of the safety protocols, I’ve found that foster parents who take ownership over their own home and scoff at some of the rules often compose some of the most loving and nurturing homes. Now, this is something I never would have told them at the time as a department administrator, but now that I’m out of the game I can speak the truth more freely.
by Jeff Edwards 11 min read

Fire for Effect: Using Evidence in Foster Care

Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a ...
Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence. Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence. Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence. Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence. Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence. Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence. Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence. Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence. Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence. Despite my 13-plus year career in the child welfare sector, I was never a clinician. I managed clinicians in an administrative capacity for a large number of those years and as such, a good deal of the information stuck with me. Yet, I could always count on my beloved clinicians to remind me that a fellow clinician, I was not. In truth, the relationship worked great. I leveraged the sum of my administrative ability to put the right clinician in the right place and armed with the right tools to make a difference in the lives of the children we served. Now, I had it better than many of my administrative peers with other organizations because I could truly say I belonged to an organization dedicated to following the evidence of what works. Looking back at my career now, I don’t know how any organization could do anything other than heed the evidence given what is at stake. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the moral responsibility of child welfare agencies nationwide to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead them. There is No Debate About Evidence Based Practices Now, to be clear there is certainly a good and robust clinical debate about which EBPs were the most effective. Personally, I’d like to weigh in from time to time just to rustle the jimmies of the clinicians that an administrator has an opinion. Yet, for the most part I let clinical services do what they were designed to do. So when I say there is no debate about EBPs, what I really mean is that there is no debate on whether not the evidence should guide our decisions. Relying on good luck, fortune, and whatever clinical approach pops into your head at the moment seems criminally negligent given the young lives that we are asked to steward. On a good day the American foster care system must seem like a cruel game of Frogger to the youth that must endure and if they knew how many of the adults responsible for their care were guessing about their future they’d have another reason, among many, to be angry. The Moral Responsibility to Follow the Evidence If there is not evidence to support your approach or you are not actively gathering the evidence to evaluate your approach, then you don’t belong in the field. I’m amazed at how we take the most vulnerable youth in America and accept the notion that guessing and doing our best is sufficient. NASA doesn’t operate that way, billion dollar multinational corporations don’t operate that way and It confused me as to why some organizations would do anything other than follow the evidence. Keep in mind, this is not a knock on the actual clinicians as they can only be armed with the tools that administrators give them or allow them to use. In a previous life, I was, still am, a United States Marine. When the artillery is attempting to locate and destroy a target, there will be a variety of adjustments called out in between rounds. However, when artillery is locked on target, the call to “fire for effect” is given and all hell reigns down upon that unfortunate location. In the United States of America, when we find evidence for what works to transform the lives of most vulnerable children, there should be a nationwide call to fire for effect. Doing anything else is simply morally irresponsible. I do realize that I get to say that with ease as I’m no longer in that field, but through the power of writing I can at least sound out the call to action. So please subscribe to our blog below or follow us on Linkedin and let us all cry out “fire for effect” together for public and private agencies to follow the evidence.
by Jeff Edwards 13 min read

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