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Creating Family Connections Pursuing Permanence. Don Koenig, Family Preservation Director Vancouver, Clark County, WA Family Search and Engagement Training and Technical Assistance Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. There but for the grace of God…. Valuing the Family.

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Creating family connections pursuing permanence

Creating Family ConnectionsPursuing Permanence

Don Koenig, Family Preservation Director

Vancouver, Clark County, WA

Family Search and Engagement

Training and Technical Assistance

Catholic Community Services of

Western Washington

What is family search and engagement
What is “Family Search and Engagement”?

  • Finding family is tip of the iceberg.

  • The art of creating life long connections

  • Major shift from looking at family for placements to creating connections.

  • Exploring multiple ways to engage relatives to increase safety, stability and improve permanency outcomes.

  • Real Family Centered Practice.

Ccsww who are we
CCSWW – Who are we?

  • Serves all Western WA counties & NW Or

  • Largest not-for-profit multi-service organization-WA

  • COA accredited

  • Licensed in Mental Health

  • Licensed Child Placing Agency

  • LTC, AHA, FP, FC’s

  • Annual budget, $85 M

  • Number of employees, 3000+

Family preservation hx
Family Preservation - HX

  • 1974 Homebuilders –CPS referrals, preventing FC placement by strengthening families

  • 1978 expansion to Mental Health and DDD to prevent hospitalization and residential care

  • 1989 Wraparound Implemented

  • 2000 FAST and Crisis Stabilization Services

  • 2003 Initial Training and Technical Assistance

  • Ongoing provision of T/TA throughout the USA

    National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice and Permanency Planning, NY, NY

Important lessons learned
Important lessons learned

Homebuilders–home based services can strengthen families, reduce risks and increase safety through family connections (CPS)

Wraparound-recognize family strengths, empower and partner with families in solution focused team based process (MH-multi-system)

FAST & Crisis Stabilization Services-treat psychiatric hospitalization like other medical hospitalization. Involve family in emergencies

If FSE can work under extreme circumstances why not with youth in ordinary child welfare services?

Fast results 7 06 6 07
FAST Results(7/06 – 6/07)

  • 510 completed (90 day) services in the fiscal year

  • 154 at imminent risk of hospitalization at referral

  • 354 at high risk of placement disruption

  • 6 had a brief hospitalization (of the 510)

  • 8 ended services in detention or homeless (of the 510)

  • 26% of children were not enrolled in school at referral. At exit, 91% were enrolled in school.

  • 84% were living with a parent or extended family member at close of 90-day FAST

    The Washington Institute for Mental Health Research & Training (WIMHRT)

Why we do this family centered practice
Why We Do ThisFamily Centered Practice

Children need their families and families need their children.

What would you want for your own child?

Why we do this cultural relevance
Why We Do ThisCultural Relevance

Family resources are

the most culturally

appropriate and

available resources

providing access to

ethnic, racial and

cultural traditions

Why we do this emotional security
Why We Do ThisEmotional Security

Behavioral stabilization, a sense of identity and belonging

Why we do this
Why We Do This

Global practices: In times of crises and natural disasters family resources provide stabilization.

International Red Crescent-Family Tracing

International Social Service—USA Branch, Inc.200 E. Lexington Street, 17Th Floor, Suite 1700,Baltimore, MD 21202 (443)

Aging out of foster care
Aging Out of Foster Care

Foster care is supposed to be a temporary haven for children living in unsafe conditions. But about one-quarter of the 500,000 children in foster care in the U.S. end up in the system until they become adults.

Two-thirds are unable to function successfully on their own… Mark Courtney, University of Chicago

According to the Child Welfare League of America, 25% become homeless, 56% are unemployed, 27% of male children end up in jail. Less than 5% finish college.

Chapin hall placement stability
Chapin Hall Placement Stability

Evaluation of 201,573 children served from 1990 to 2002 and web-survey of 1,191 DCFS and private agency case workers…

Majority of (76%) of prior foster care placements ended because foster parents were “unable or unwilling to continue fostering”.

Statistical analyses found that placement with relatives “almost halved the likelihood that a child will experience a placement change”.

Is kinship care good for kids
Is Kinship Care Good for Kids?

More than 2.5 million children are being raised by grandparents and other relatives because their parents are unable—for a variety of reasons—to care for them.

children in foster care are more likely to live with their siblings if they are placed with kin

Fewer children in kinship care report having changed schools than do children in non-relative foster care or those in group care

Is kinship care good for kids1
Is Kinship Care Good for Kids?

Children who reunify with their birth parent(s) after kinship care are less likely to re-enter foster care than those who had been in non-relative foster placements or in group care facilities.

Both teachers and caregivers tend to rate children in kinship care as having fewer behavioral problems than do their peers in other out-of-home placement settings.

Children in kinship care Less likely to report having tried to leave or run away

Myths and mindsets
Myths and Mindsets

TX should be completed or the child should be stabilized before we search for or involve family in planning or visits

Some kids would NEVER see their family again if we waited for emotional or behavioral challenges to completely stabilize.

Myths and mindsets1
Myths and Mindsets

If the current placement is working we should not disrupt it by involving family members.

Myths and mindsets2
Myths and Mindsets

Placements are easier to access and are more stable than relatives

Myths and mindsets3
Myths and Mindsets

“Teenagers don’t want or need family”

“This child is not adoptable”

Myths and mindsets4
Myths and Mindsets

“We tried this before and it didn’t work.”

“We already do this!”

What did we learn from initial family reunification attempts?

How can we support the relative better?

How do we create rest and relief, back-up and crisis plans to support the youth and family?

Myths and mindsets5
Myths and Mindsets

Belief that behavior is too challenging

for a family

Myths and mindsets6
Myths and Mindsets

  • Middle class bias

  • Size of the family

  • Appearance of the home

  • Awareness and application of social graces

Myths and mindsets7
Myths and Mindsets

“This child has no family”

Rule them IN before you rule them out.

People change, circumstances change and children grow up. What was once a concern may not be one now.

If family is available why have they not come forward
If family is available, why have they not come forward?

  • Fear system involvement

  • Feel powerless to advocate for their children.

  • Just don’t know their child is in need

  • Believe they have been adopted.

  • Afraid of damaging family relationships.

  • Cannot find their lost children.

Published in 2003 model programs for youth permanency california permanency for youth project

CCS-EMQ Collaboration

Published in 2003, Model Programs for Youth Permanency. California Permanency for Youth Project

  • EMQ Children & Family Services and Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services.

  • In a six month period, Jan to June 2003, thirty children moved out of high level group care to kinship and foster family situations.

  • By June 30, 19 went home to parents or relatives, 11 went to foster families that continued to support family search and engagement.

In six months youth had an average of 6.8 established family connections

Orange county 3 month follow up
Orange County 3 Month Follow-up established family connections

Of the youth for which connections were made:

  • % of new family connections that have been sustained since the project ended: 88%

  • % of youth for which there is a positive difference in the youth’s functioning (as defined by the SSW): 63%

  • % of youth that have transitioned (or are being considered for a transition) to a lower level of care or family resource as a result of the CFC project: 63%

  • % of social workers who participated in the CFC project that think it is valuable and should be continued: 100%

Safety stability and connections
Safety, Stability and Connections established family connections

  • Differences between working with younger and older children

  • Considerations with children with serious MH/behavioral challenges

  • Advantages of Cultural strengths and kinship resources

Download free copy of Family Search and Engagement Guide established family connections


National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice and Permanency Planning

Setting the stage
SETTING THE STAGE established family connections

  • Gather professionals, supports. Orient Team

  • Prepare youth for participation

  • Identify youth’s need for family connections (include fictive kin)

  • Negotiate Team mission & desired outcomes

  • Identify known family network (other siblings in care) Withhold judgment!

  • Discuss permissions and safety considerations

  • Discuss expectations. Responsibilities and time frames are agreed upon

DISCOVERY established family connections

  • Due diligence, permissions and safety

  • Consider ALL of the resources to find information about the family

    • Explore of files and records (list ALL)

    • Talk to the family that we already know

    • Don’t screen out possible sources of information

    • Use all available search and discovery tools

  • Documentation of contacts and quality of relationships

Internet search tools
Internet Search Tools established family connections

Free Search Sites

Helpful Internet Search Hints

Boolean Search Tips


Public Records:

Other Helpful Search Sites and Resources

Prisoner Locator Services

International Search Sites

Review of discovered information
REVIEW OF DISCOVERED INFORMATION established family connections

  • Review discovered information with the key players. Question/verify all “historical” info

  • Discuss and approve newly found family (participation-visits)

  • Discuss safety considerations and strategies

  • Due diligence (court and other permissions, HIPPA compliance)

  • Complete background checks (child welfare assistance)

  • Identify invite and support newly found family members to participate

Engagement creating connections
ENGAGEMENT: CREATING CONNECTIONS established family connections

Team plans the engagement of new family members

  • Supports family connections, visits and activities (transportation, etc)

  • Extends invitations based upon…

    • The youth’s strengths: interests, talents, hobbies

    • The youth’s needs: education, employment, medical, emotional, spiritual and cultural

    • The need for connectedness and belonging

    • The youth’s need for a place to live and a future

Creating family connections
CREATING FAMILY CONNECTIONS established family connections

“Permanency Pact”

45 ways to support a child in care

Identify opportunities how relatives can contribute

Team with families to create sustainable plans

Uncle’s landscaping business to provide part time work

Cousin to provide tutoring in Spanish class

Grandma to teach piano lessons

Grandpa to provide weekend respite

Aunt to teach driver’s education

Cousins to take youth to church youth group

Preparation for sucessful visits meetings
PREPARATION FOR SUCESSFUL VISITS & MEETINGS established family connections

  • Safety planning and structuring meetings

  • Prepare professionals for meetings (contingency planning)

  • Prepare foster parents or residential staff for normal reactive behavior pre and post visit.

  • Prepare youth and family members regarding expectations (reality vs. fantasy)

  • Initial visits…..

    • are brief, supported and occur in natural settings (pizza parlor, the park, try to have fun)

    • are opportunities to create memories (bring a camera, share photo album, etc.)

  • After visit: discussion, planning, and debriefing.

Increasing family voice and decision making

  • Support and develop family connections

  • Encourage greater family discussion of placement options and/or long term planning for youth

  • Family helps develop multiple placement options

    • recruits family resources to support each other

    • develops circle of support (breaks and crisis respite, etc)

    • is allowed time and opportunities to put plans into practice

    • considers necessary professional and community resources

Staying together
STAYING TOGETHER established family connections

  • Legal status is explored including reunification, adoption, guardianship, kinship foster care possibilities

  • Financial assistance and all available resources are utilized

  • The family members and other resources are organized to support one another with contingency plans

  • Formal resources are in place to support the youth and family

  • Follow up with the family as needed

Cautions lessons learned
Cautions: Lessons Learned established family connections

  • “Love is all you need” (truth in lending)

  • Ambivalence (assess & address concerns)

  • Honeymooners (anticipate & practice)

  • All eggs in one basket (plan A, B, C, D, etc)

  • Incomplete planning (Wanna get away?)

  • Insufficient support (professional services)

  • Isolation (it takes a village)

One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody

One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody. established family connections

Mother Teresa

Contact Information: established family connections

Catholic Community Services

of Western Washington

[email protected]