Spotlighting Youth Engagement and Preventing Teen Placements

Updated on March 28, 2020, and originally posted March 20, 2020, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Young person talks with family about future plans

A spe­cial two-vol­ume issue of Child Wel­fare jour­nal fea­tures two arti­cles penned by staffers of the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. The arti­cles address two sig­nif­i­cant aspects of young peo­ple in fos­ter care. The first high­lights the impor­tance of child wel­fare pro­fes­sion­als under­stand­ing ado­les­cent brain sci­ence and authen­ti­cal­ly engag­ing young peo­ple in plan­ning their futures. The sec­ond arti­cle explores how entry-pre­ven­tion pro­grams can help keep fam­i­lies togeth­er by reduc­ing the need to remove young peo­ple from their homes for rea­sons unre­lat­ed to neglect or abuse.

View the free Casey-authored arti­cles in Child Wel­fare

Youth Engage­ment

The first arti­cle, Ensur­ing Young Peo­ple Flour­ish: Apply­ing the Sci­ence of Ado­les­cent Devel­op­ment Through the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive,” reviews the work of the Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive®, chal­leng­ing pro­fes­sion­als to reex­am­ine their assump­tions about devel­op­men­tal needs and oppor­tu­ni­ties for teenagers and young adults.

The arti­cle was writ­ten by the Casey Foundation’s Leslie Gross, Alexan­dra Lohrbach, Jef­frey Poiri­er and San­dra Wilkie, along with Leonar­do John­son, a Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive Young Fel­low. It details:

  • the Foundation’s efforts to trans­form child wel­fare pol­i­cy and practice;
  • recent advances in ado­les­cent brain sci­ence, includ­ing con­clu­sions from a 2019 Nation­al Acad­e­mies of Sci­ence, Med­i­cine and Engi­neer­ing con­sen­sus report;
  • com­po­nents of authen­tic youth engage­ment that build on the ado­les­cent brain sci­ence and data doc­u­ment­ing its ben­e­fits; and
  • addi­tion­al resources sys­tems and com­mu­ni­ties can use to effec­tive­ly engage young peo­ple and sup­port their tran­si­tion to a suc­cess­ful adulthood.

From 2013 to 2018, young peo­ple who engaged with adults in eval­u­a­tion, com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ship and advo­ca­cy work helped influ­ence 122 of the 175 poli­cies advanced under the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive net­work. This includ­ed poli­cies that pro­vid­ed a fos­ter care bill of rights, sib­ling and grand­par­ent vis­i­ta­tion, increased sup­port for guardian­ship and increased access to preg­nan­cy pre­ven­tion services.

Young peo­ple are the experts of their own lives and should be treat­ed as such. When they are engaged effec­tive­ly and authen­ti­cal­ly, they are capa­ble of impres­sive achieve­ments,” Gross said. We hope this arti­cle will inspire sys­tem lead­ers to part­ner with young peo­ple and val­ue their exper­tise to design bet­ter prac­tices and approach­es to get bet­ter results.”

Strength­en­ing Fam­i­lies With Teens

The sec­ond arti­cle, Meet­ing Teens’ Needs and Pre­vent­ing Unnec­es­sary Out-of-Home Place­ments in Delaware,” describes a trou­bling nation­al trend: the ris­ing num­ber of teens placed in fos­ter care whose needs could be met at home. The piece explores how the part­ner­ship between the Casey Foun­da­tion and Delaware’s Divi­sion of Fam­i­ly Ser­vices launched the Fam­i­ly Assess­ment and Inter­ven­tion Response (FAIR). FAIR keeps teens in their fam­i­lies by offer­ing pre­ven­tive, home- and com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices. The ser­vices strength­en rela­tion­ships and address men­tal and behav­ioral health challenges.

The arti­cle was writ­ten by Casey’s Karen Angeli­ci, Pamela Clark­son Free­man and Jaime Dohn. It sug­gests that child wel­fare sys­tems build and improve entry pre­ven­tion pro­grams by:

  • review­ing the needs and expe­ri­ences of teens and fam­i­lies by race and ethnicity;
  • devel­op­ing con­sis­tent cri­te­ria for the youth and fam­i­lies their pro­gram will serve;
  • involv­ing the judi­cia­ry as ongo­ing part­ners; and
  • devis­ing a staff recruit­ment and reten­tion pol­i­cy to alle­vi­ate case­work­er stress and burnout.

While the nation’s child wel­fare sys­tem was built to address neglect and abuse, too many teens today find them­selves in the sys­tem for rea­sons unre­lat­ed to that mis­sion. For a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of teens, child behav­ior” (often the result of con­flicts between par­ents and chil­dren) is the rea­son for entry. In 2017, child behav­ior was cit­ed as the entry cause for 37 per­cent of youth over the age of 12 who entered fos­ter care — a rate nine times high­er than for younger children.

Delaware’s FAIR pro­gram illus­trates that these entry-pre­ven­tion pro­grams can offer many ben­e­fits,” Angeli­ci said. They can meet the needs of teens and fam­i­lies, they are cost effec­tive and they can help reduce the use of cost­ly — often inap­pro­pri­ate — out-of-home placements.”

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