An Instagram Live Conversation: How Foster Care Data Can Drive Solutions

Posted May 30, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A graphic promoting the Instagram Live discussion, entitled, “Ensuring a Brighter Future for Young People in Foster Care.” The image features headshots of the speakers: Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, Vice President of Casey’s Center for Systems Innovation and Lisa Guillette, Executive Director of Foster Forward.

Child wel­fare sys­tems are find­ing fam­i­lies for few­er than half of teenagers and young adults in fos­ter care. How can sys­tems bet­ter sup­port per­ma­nence for old­er youth to improve their out­comes and equip them to become thriv­ing adults?

To explore this ques­tion, San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s vice pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Sys­tems Inno­va­tion, led an Insta­gram Live dis­cus­sion with guest Lisa Guil­lette, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Fos­ter For­ward.

Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, they dis­cussed approach­es that give young peo­ple the pow­er and oppor­tu­ni­ty to build life­long con­nec­tions that work for them. In addi­tion to her pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ences, Guil­lette shared her fos­ter­ing jour­ney with her daugh­ter and how it has fur­ther inspired her advo­ca­cy, offer­ing that, As some­body who’s been on both the pro­fes­sion­al and per­son­al side, it real­ly is about giv­ing peo­ple pow­er and agency to make the deter­mi­na­tions that are right for them.”


Fos­ter­ing Youth Tran­si­tions 2023

As May is Nation­al Fos­ter Care Month, the live­ly con­ver­sa­tion also cov­ered insights from the Foundation’s lat­est brief, Fos­ter­ing Youth Tran­si­tions 2023: State and Nation­al Data to Dri­ve Fos­ter Care Advo­ca­cy.” The pub­li­ca­tion exam­ines 15 years of fos­ter care data, the expe­ri­ences of teenagers and young adults in and exit­ing fos­ter care and rec­om­men­da­tions for child wel­fare sys­tems and pol­i­cy­mak­ers. To offer ideas on how states can think about their own fos­ter care sys­tems, Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez and Guil­lette dis­cussed Rhode Island’s data and the approach­es that have helped young peo­ple and fam­i­lies there. For exam­ple, Prov­i­dence-based Fos­ter For­ward builds hous­ing for young peo­ple who have aged out of care and runs a com­mu­ni­ty shop where fos­ter fam­i­lies can pick up new and gen­tly used cloth­ing at no cost.

They also dis­cussed SOUL Fam­i­ly, a pro­posed per­ma­nen­cy option that allows young peo­ple to make legal con­nec­tions with car­ing adults with­out sev­er­ing their legal ties with birth par­ents and sib­lings. This would help to ensure young peo­ple exit fos­ter care with a sup­port sys­tem as they nav­i­gate the tran­si­tion into adulthood.

The con­ver­sa­tion explored oth­er top­ics such as strate­gies for expand­ing kin­ship care and strate­gies for keep­ing sib­lings togeth­er. They dis­cussed the strug­gles that fam­i­lies are fac­ing as a result of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, par­tic­u­lar­ly when a child is removed due to neglect. Neglect often relates back to pover­ty, so it is impor­tant to ensure there are com­mu­ni­ty sup­port ser­vices and oth­er resources so all fam­i­lies have what they need. Guil­lette empha­sized the need for more invest­ments across com­mu­ni­ties, so fam­i­lies across the coun­try will not con­tin­ue to struggle.

Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez dis­cussed how the pan­dem­ic became an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the child wel­fare sys­tem to cal­i­brate itself a dif­fer­ent way and… have a dif­fer­ent men­tal mod­el” about fam­i­ly sep­a­ra­tion. When you look at the pan­dem­ic data, we saw a remark­able drop in the num­ber of chil­dren com­ing into fos­ter care because we were in a mas­sive health cri­sis. It wasn’t safe to remove chil­dren. Work­ers and sys­tems had to take a real­ly hard look at… are kids safe? Do we real­ly need to sep­a­rate them from their fam­i­lies or do we just need to pro­vide a dif­fer­ent kind of resource to keep fam­i­lies togeth­er? Let’s give them the sup­port they need in the home so that they can stay together.”

Learn More About the Impor­tance of Permanence

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