Supporting Expectant and Parenting Youth in Foster Care and Their Children

Posted November 28, 2014
Blog Supporting Expectantand Parenting Youth 2014

As more child wel­fare sys­tems extend fos­ter care to the age of 21, these agen­cies will have an increased num­ber of expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth in their sys­tems. These young peo­ple will con­front mul­ti­ple obsta­cles as they bal­ance their own tran­si­tion into adult­hood with the respon­si­bil­i­ties of becom­ing nur­tur­ing par­ents. Rec­og­niz­ing the urgency of improv­ing out­comes for these youth and their chil­dren, the Foun­da­tion part­nered with the Cen­ter for the Study of Social Pol­i­cy (CSSP) to devel­op and test a com­pre­hen­sive set of pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions geared to child wel­fare sys­tems. New York City’s Admin­is­tra­tion for Children’s Ser­vices and the Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices divi­sion of the Sacra­men­to Coun­ty (Calif.) Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices have been select­ed to imple­ment and test these pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions by devel­op­ing a multi­gen­er­a­tional approach for expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth and their chil­dren. 

Twice the Oppor­tu­ni­ty: Pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions to sup­port expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth in fos­ter care and their chil­dren, out­lines key ele­ments to guide pol­i­cy­mak­ers and child wel­fare admin­is­tra­tors in devel­op­ing a set of com­pre­hen­sive strate­gies to improve out­comes for these young families. 

As the two juris­dic­tions begin imple­men­ta­tion, all activ­i­ties will be tracked and mon­i­tored with a strong focus on the fol­low­ing three pol­i­cy areas:

  • Data
    Child wel­fare sys­tems cur­rent­ly lack a con­sis­tent and reli­able source of data for expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth in fos­ter care and their chil­dren, which com­pro­mis­es the system’s abil­i­ty to under­stand their com­plex needs and iden­ti­fy strate­gies to address them. CSSP’s pol­i­cy guide rec­om­mends the inclu­sion of a data point to trig­ger entry for data col­lec­tion and track­ing with­in admin­is­tra­tive data sys­tems. This is a pow­er­ful tool to iden­ti­fy the needs of these young fam­i­lies, to track and doc­u­ment pro­gram out­comes, to assess a policy’s impact and to com­mu­ni­cate how they are far­ing com­pared to expec­tant and par­ent­ing youth not in fos­ter care. Sacra­men­to and New York City each will put in place sus­tain­able strate­gies for ongo­ing data col­lec­tion and analysis. 
  • Evi­dence-based and evi­dence-informed practice 
    To sup­port these young fam­i­lies, child wel­fare sys­tems need a range of evi­dence-rich ser­vices that are respon­sive to the devel­op­men­tal needs of ado­les­cents and young chil­dren. CSSP rec­om­mends that all poli­cies and prac­tices be informed by research, evi­dence of effec­tive­ness and cred­i­ble the­o­ry. As part of the ongo­ing work to sup­port child wel­fare sys­tems in achiev­ing results on behalf of these youth and their chil­dren, CSSP has com­piled a com­pendi­um of evi­dence-based, evi­dence-informed ser­vices for this pop­u­la­tion. This tool allows juris­dic­tions to eas­i­ly iden­ti­fy effec­tive strate­gies geared toward their par­tic­u­lar objec­tives in address­ing the unique needs of these young fam­i­lies, and will be used to iden­ti­fy appro­pri­ate pro­grams in Sacra­men­to and New York City. 
  • Per­ma­nen­cy and Fatherhood 
    Giv­en the com­plex demands of tran­si­tion­ing to adult­hood while tak­ing care of a child, young par­ents need the sup­port of a per­ma­nent fam­i­ly more than ever. CSSP’s pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions under­pin the val­ue of ensur­ing that these youth and their chil­dren have access to all per­ma­nen­cy ser­vices and are not exclud­ed from options due to their par­ent­ing sta­tus. Addi­tion­al­ly, it sug­gests poli­cies that set expec­ta­tions for father iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and engage­ment to help fathers become a pos­i­tive force in their children’s lives. We expect to learn from New York City and Sacra­men­to about their efforts to increase both per­ma­nen­cy and father­hood engage­ment for these young families. 

In addi­tion to the areas above, the doc­u­ment out­lines key ele­ments of vol­un­tary return poli­cies for youth who exit fos­ter care pri­or to 21, as well as ele­ments of key pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions for address­ing the health, safe­ty, per­ma­nen­cy, edu­ca­tion­al, hous­ing and finan­cial needs of both the youth in fos­ter care and their children.
CSSP and the Foun­da­tion are com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing child wel­fare sys­tems in design­ing poli­cies and prac­tices that address the needs of these youth and their chil­dren and cre­ate a sys­tem of oppor­tu­ni­ties through which they can thrive.

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