Over 30 YAP leaders recently received training in "Family Finding" from Mike Mertz of the National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness. Family Finding, a model developed by Kevin Campbell, offers methods and strategies to locate and engage relatives of children currently living in out-of-home care with the goal of creating permanent, lifelong connections to family.
The connection to family is as basic of a need to a young person as food and shelter, and arguably as important. Unfortunately, close to 400,000 children find themselves in the foster care system each year; of these youth, there are over 20,000 a year who exit the foster care system through "emancipation," meaning that they age out of the system without achieving permanency through reunification, adoption or guardianship. Research on homelessness and poverty found that 49% of youth who aged out of care in 2002 and 2003 were homeless at some point over the next three years. Additionally, 43% dropped out of high school. Despite these outcomes, long-term foster care is the permanency goal for 5% of youth in foster care.
YAP’s mission and expertise for nearly 40 years has been on the safe, stable reunification of youth with their families. In the past 10 years, we have also gained experience in finding families for youth who were languishing in care without a permanent discharge resource. From urban New York City to rural St. Lawrence County, NY, YAP has succeeded in supporting youth to achieve permanent connections with both biological and fictive kin.
The recent training in "Family Finding" enables us to strengthen our current efforts through integrating elements of their model, such as "mobility mapping'" into our existing practice. The philosophy and approach of Family Finding actually extends beyond exclusively working with youth in an out of home placement or without an identified permanent resource; rather, its principles can be applied to all vulnerable youth and families.
For example, most children have anywhere from 100-300 relatives, most of whom are never identified and engaged by the child welfare system upon their removal from their homes of origin. Through utilizing the strategies learned in Family Finding Training, YAP will be able to deepen and strengthen our Child-Family Team process for each youth- regardless of their placement- in an effort to discover and engage even more family connections to improve and expand their permanency options and supports.