Improving Child Welfare Practice With the Power of Adolescent Brain Development

Posted July 23, 2017, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog improvingchildwelfarepractice 2017

Every year in Amer­i­ca, too many young adults leave fos­ter care with­out a fam­i­ly or the oppor­tu­ni­ties need­ed to succeed.

Yet, child wel­fare pro­fes­sion­als and care­givers can help these youth bet­ter nav­i­gate the path toward a healthy adult­hood — and a new report from the Casey Foun­da­tion’s Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive tells how.

The Road to Adult­hood: Align­ing Child Wel­fare Prac­tice With Ado­les­cent Brain Devel­op­ment explores the lat­est research on ado­les­cent brain devel­op­ment through the lens of racial and eth­nic equi­ty and inclu­sion and then relates this research to youth who have expe­ri­enced fos­ter care.

The report offers rec­om­men­da­tions for help­ing fos­ter care youth and alum suc­ceed in four areas: 1) per­ma­nence; 2) edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment and eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty; 3) sta­ble hous­ing; and 4) par­ent­ing of their own children.

Watch a Face­book Live event about this report

These rec­om­men­da­tions include:

  • Train­ing child wel­fare pro­fes­sion­als to under­stand and address the roles of trau­ma and racism in the lives of many young peo­ple in care.
  • Ensur­ing that all young peo­ple leave fos­ter care with a legal, per­ma­nent con­nec­tion to fam­i­ly, and using data to chal­lenge assump­tions and stereo­types that pre­vent this from happening.
  • Using coun­selors, coach­es and peer sup­port to pro­mote pos­i­tive path­ways — from lead­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice to job shad­ow­ing and intern­ships — that can help guide young peo­ple toward col­lege and careers.
  • Build­ing con­nec­tions with hous­ing providers to ensure ade­quate, safe and equi­table hous­ing choic­es for young people.
  • Learn­ing how to sup­port young peo­ple who are preg­nant or already par­ents so that they can con­tin­ue pur­su­ing their edu­ca­tion­al and employ­ment goals.

In too many cas­es, adding years of eli­gi­bil­i­ty for fos­ter care is not lead­ing to a per­ma­nent, rock-sol­id con­nec­tion with a car­ing adult that is so crit­i­cal to last­ing well-being,” notes San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez, direc­tor of the Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive. This report under­scores that child wel­fare sys­tems have the oppor­tu­ni­ty — and respon­si­bil­i­ty — to embrace the pow­er of ado­les­cent brain devel­op­ment to pro­mote bet­ter out­comes in every facet of a young person’s life, espe­cial­ly for youth of color.”

The Road to Adult­hood builds on a 2011 Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive report enti­tled The Ado­les­cent Brain: New Research and Its Impli­ca­tions for Young Peo­ple Tran­si­tion­ing from Fos­ter Care. This ear­li­er pub­li­ca­tion helped launch the Suc­cess Beyond 18 cam­paign, which spurred a grow­ing num­ber of states to extend fos­ter care ser­vices beyond the age of 18.

Read The Road to Adulthood

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