Spotlighting Youth Engagement and Preventing Teen Placements

Updated March 28, 2020 | 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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