What SOUL Family Means to One of Its Young Advocates

Posted June 20, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The right side of the graphic depicts a headshot of the Casey Foundation’s Patty Chin. On the left side is a quote attributed to her during the INNOVATE! podcast: “SOUL Family allows a young person to identify and design their chosen circle of caring adults.”

In 2018, a group of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Fel­lows pro­posed a new form of legal per­ma­nence, one that would cre­ate a cir­cle of car­ing adults to pro­vide sup­port, oppor­tu­ni­ty, uni­ty and legal rela­tionships for young peo­ple as they move from fos­ter care to adult­hood. Today, Kansas is lead­ing the way in devel­op­ing poli­cies and prac­tices that could one day make SOUL Fam­i­ly a reality.

Patri­cia Chin, one of SOUL Family’s young design­ers, is now a pro­gram asso­ciate at the Casey Foun­da­tion. She recent­ly told INNO­VATE! pod­cast lis­ten­ers how her peers’ fos­ter care expe­ri­ence, and her own, shaped the SOUL Fam­i­ly proposal.

Lis­ten to the Episode Now

SOUL Family’s young advo­cates aim to main­tain legal rela­tion­ships with their birth par­ents and sib­lings while they estab­lish legal, sup­port­ive rela­tion­ships with one or more trust­ed adult care­givers in their com­mu­ni­ties. Also, they want states to allow young peo­ple in SOUL Fam­i­lies to keep their eli­gi­bil­i­ty to receive ser­vices and resources that help with col­lege, jobs and hous­ing. In some states, young peo­ple in fos­ter care lose access to some forms of assis­tance if they gain a per­ma­nent family.

Many of us felt that we were up against this time clock,” Chin says. Do I achieve per­ma­nence? Or do I lose out on these ben­e­fits? Do I lose out on all of the things that could poten­tial­ly get me to col­lege or get me hous­ing… and many of us chose the latter.”

If SOUL Fam­i­ly became a legal per­ma­nen­cy option, young peo­ple ages 16 and old­er wouldn’t have to choose between hav­ing a fam­i­ly or hav­ing the ser­vices and sup­port they need to thrive, Chin says. They would also have a say in their future: They would iden­ti­fy poten­tial care­givers from their own com­mu­ni­ty of rel­a­tives, adult fam­i­ly friends and men­tors. She shares how an option such as SOUL Fam­i­ly would have helped her and her birth fam­i­ly heal their rela­tion­ship after she aged out of fos­ter care in Hawaii.

Too many young peo­ple leave fos­ter care with­out the con­nec­tions with adults and men­tors they need to thrive, Chin says. That’s a major rea­son why inno­va­tions in per­ma­nence are needed.

There’s about 51% of young peo­ple, age 16 and old­er, who don’t achieve per­ma­nence at all,” Chin says, cit­ing data in a brief from the Casey Foun­da­tion: Fos­ter­ing Youth Tran­si­tions 2023.”

The brief rec­om­mends that states bet­ter equip child wel­fare agen­cies to pro­mote long-last­ing con­nec­tions for old­er youth with car­ing adults and pri­or­i­tize arrange­ments with kin and trust­ed adults.

The INNO­VATE! Podcast

INNO­VATE! fea­tures inter­views with Re-Envi­sion­ing Fos­ter Care in Amer­i­ca (REF­CA) Cham­pi­ons, recip­i­ents of an hon­or from the Tree­house Foun­da­tion. The award and the pod­cast show­case peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced fos­ter care and who are work­ing to trans­form the child wel­fare sys­tem for cur­rent and future generations.

Chin received the Cham­pi­on Award in 2022 for her work on fos­ter care sys­tem improve­ments in Hawaii, includ­ing her tenure on the HI H.O.P.E.S. Youth Lead­er­ship Board, a pro­gram of EPIC Ohana Inc., a part­ner site with the Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive®, and for her work with 16 oth­er young lead­ers on the SOUL Fam­i­ly proposal. 

Learn More About SOUL Family

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