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Indiana Youth Connections Program. Department of Child Services Indianapolis, Indiana. Topics to be covered:. The Youth Connections Program (YCP) Why connections? YCP basics Certificate of connection Family finding approaches Foster parents and the YCP Program outcomes

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Indiana Youth Connections Program

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Indiana youth connections program l.jpg

Indiana Youth Connections Program

Department of Child Services

Indianapolis, Indiana


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Topics to be covered:

The Youth Connections Program (YCP)

  • Why connections?

  • YCP basics

  • Certificate of connection

  • Family finding approaches

  • Foster parents and the YCP

  • Program outcomes

  • Future of program


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Why connections?

  • Connections to family are critical for healthy child and youth development. They give children and youth a sense of their community of origin, their ethnic and cultural roots, and their family histories and traditions.

  • Children and youth need many different kinds of connections with family members.

  • Paternal and maternal relatives are important to children and youth.

  • Family members have a right to know how the youth is doing and deserve the opportunity to restore hope, by providing support to the youth, if appropriate.


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Why Youth Connections?

Research on young adult development and youth transitioning from foster care shows that:

  • Outcomes are very poor for youth who age out of the foster care system without a family or committed, caring adult to provide supports and a safety net.

  • These youth face joblessness, homelessness, serious health issues, low education, and another generation (in their children) of contact with child welfare.

  • On average, young adults do not become fully independent until well into their twenties, relying on their families for support during challenging times.

  • Foster youth who leave the system without a permanent family often do not know who to turn to for help as they struggle to become fully functioning adults.


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The Youth Connections Program

Goal: To ensure that all youth aging out of foster care have a permanent family, or a permanent connection with at least one committed, caring adult who provides guidance and support to the youth as they make their way into adulthood.


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Connections can provide:

  • A home for the holidays.

  • Someone to talk to about their problems.

  • Help finding housing, services, educational opportunities, and/or a job.

  • Assistance with money and household management..

  • Assistance with health issues, relationship counseling, and/or babysitting if youth is a parent.

  • Advocacy, motivation, mentoring.

  • Emergency cash.

  • A place to do laundry, use a computer or phone.

  • A link to community resources and social activities.

  • Transportation, clothing, occasional meals.


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Who can be a connection?

  • Extended family members, both maternal and paternal, including siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles

  • Foster parents

  • Group home staff and other professionals

  • Fictive kin, people who are not “blood relatives” but have had or now have a relationship with the youth or the family, including family friends, step-parents, teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends’ parents, spiritual advisors, etc.

  • YCP volunteer connections


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Program principles:

  • Supportive adult relationships are critical to the wellbeing of youth transitioning out of foster care.

  • Every youth should have a permanent family they can turn to during times of need. In the alternative at the very least, each youth should have one committed, caring adult whom they can count on to be there for them when they need love, support, information, and resources.

  • The youth must take the lead in identifying who these committed, caring adults should be.


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The Youth Connections Program currently serves foster youth:

  • Ages 14 to 18 years old.

  • Whose parents’ rights have been terminated.

  • Who express that they no longer desire to be adopted.


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The YCP includes the following key program elements:

  • Voluntary participation by youth

  • Case file review by a specialist

  • Meetings with youth to discuss possible connections

  • Use of the latest search tools to find connections

  • Ongoing input from and communication with family case managers (FCMs)

  • Close coordination with IL services and others

  • Certificate of Connection

  • Help building permanent connection


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YCP partners:

YCP work requires close partnership with:

  • The youth and his or her family

  • Family case managers

  • Independent Living workers

  • Group home staff, including therapists

  • Foster parents

  • Other professionals working with youth, such as CASAs

    YCP specialists work with others to

  • Identify youth eligible for the program

  • Find committed, caring adults for the youth

  • Solidify and support those connections so that they are maintained after the youth leaves foster care


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YCP procedures:

  • The family case manager makes a referral to YCP

  • The YCP specialist reviews the youth’s case file to find names and contact information for relatives

  • The youth and family case manager recommend adults as possible permanent connections

  • The YCP specialist works with group home staff, foster parents and others to share information, schedule meetings with youth, and support youth throughout the process


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YCP procedures, continued:

  • The YCP specialist uses family finding approaches to locate and contact relatives and other possible connections for the youth

  • The YCP specialist facilitates meetings with the youth and the adult, as appropriate.

  • The youth and adult sign a certificate of connection defining their relationship and the supports the adult can provide

  • The YCP specialist works with FCM, foster parent, group home staff, IL worker and others to maintain the connection the youth and adult have made


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Family finding strategies include:

  • Gathering information about the youth’s family history and background

  • Working with youth to identify important adults in his/her life

  • Case mining to find their contact information

  • Contacting known relatives to locate other extended family members

  • Using search tools to obtain contact info

  • Working with family members to see how they can support case goals


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How specialist may work with the youth to identify family:

  • Through ecomaps and genograms to learn who is important to the youth

  • By asking the youth who is important to them and whom they would like to contact

  • By asking youth about names the specialist found in their case file

  • By having youth describe or draw their old neighborhood to help them remember who was important to them then


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Sample questions the specialist may ask the youth:

  • Where would you feel most comfortable living right now if you cannot live at home for a while?

  • Who are the grown-ups whom you love the most? Who are the grown-ups who love you the most?

  • Who do you turn to beside your parents when you have something to celebrate?

  • Who do you go to for advice? Who do you call when you’re feeling upset?

  • Who are the grown-ups you like to spend time with or feel close to? Is there an adult who is especially nice to you?


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Family finding can support many child welfare goals like:

  • Reunification

  • Relative placement

  • Placement stability

  • Permanency, including adoption through the special needs adoption program

  • Permanent connections for youth (This is the goal of the YCP.)


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Family case managers may engage in family finding to:

  • Assess cases to determine how family finding strategies can support case goals

  • Work with the foster youth to identify their wishes regarding contact with birth family members

  • Partner with other professionals involved in the case to locate relatives

  • Engage relatives in the process of determining and supporting the youth’s case goals


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What foster parents can expect:

  • The YCP specialist or FCM may ask you if you have any new information about the youth’s family

  • The YCP specialist or FCM will work with you to arrange meeting times with the youth and relatives

  • The youth will have feelings about the process of reconnecting with family

  • You may have more contact with the youth’s extended family than you thought you would

  • The specialist and FCM will always keep the youth’s safety and well-being paramount throughout the YCP process

  • The specialist will work closely with you and others to do all they can to ensure a good outcome for the youth


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How foster parents can help:

  • You may have helpful information about the youth’s family that is not in the case file or known to the family case manager, and can share that information with the YCP specialist

  • You can support the youth as they go through this process of reconnecting with family members

  • You can help ensure the success of the relationship between the youth and the connection by facilitating the scheduling of meetings

  • You can be a permanent connection for the youth

  • You can communicate with the specialist about any concerns or suggestions you have regarding the YCP process


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Current YCP outcomes:

In Year One (January through December 2007)

  • 57 youth were referred to the YCP.

  • 25 youth participated.

  • 480+ contacts were made with possible connections.

  • Permanent connections were found for 19 youth.

  • 1 youth was moved from a group home to a placement with a relative. Another, at emancipation, went to live with relatives instead of going to a homeless shelter.


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Future of the program:

  • YCP specialists continue to carry YCP caseload and provide trainings and technical assistance in family finding approaches.

  • Family finding is now being used in other areas of permanency, including Independent Living (IL) and the Special Needs Adoption Program

  • Service standards have been created for private IL services contractors to bid to provide lifelong connections for foster youth.

  • FCMs and other DCS staff receive training in family finding to use as appropriate to reach case goals.


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Questions about the YCP or family finding techniques:

Contact IN DCS permanency manager:

Cassandra A. Porter, JD

317-234-4211 (w)

317-650-6626 (c)

[email protected]

Or YCPspecialist for Southern Indiana:

Julie A. Deckard

812-895-3585 x206 (w)

812-830-9245 (c)

[email protected]


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