Practical Guidelines Offered to Help Adolescents Transition from Foster Care to a Safe, Permanent Future
WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 12, 2006 – The population of adolescents in foster care is steadily growing, with 532,000 children in foster care in September 2002, the latest available statistics. Too often adolescents are maintained in care until they “age out” at 18, with little preparation or thought for permanency. In order to provide judges and practitioners with useful guidelines to help adolescents transition from foster care to safe, stable, permanent futures, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law has released “Achieving Permanency for Adolescents in Foster Care: A Guide for Legal Professionals.”
Achieving Permanency addresses the legal, medical, psychological, economic and social issues that often pose challenges to teens seeking permanent families. The book offers guidelines that describe different case types and propose specific solutions and approaches, including step-by-step legal and casework strategies. For example, the financial chapter features a case scenario that discusses the ramifications of a foster teen, soon to graduate from high school and wanting a college education, being adopted by his foster family. If he is formally adopted, he may lose medical aid or financial aid for college.
The book was written in collaboration with youth services’ providers and mental health experts. Achieving Permanency is available online at http://www.ababooks.org, or by calling the ABA Service Center at 800/285-2221. Funding was provided by grants from The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, The Freddie Mac Foundation, and the Partners in Program Planning for Adolescent Health Project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views expressed in the book have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association or the United States Department of Human Services and, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the ABA, or the Partners in Program Planning for Adolescent Health.
Permanency may or may not include adoption of a teen – the teen’s preferences should be taken into consideration. Financial considerations – particularly when the child has special needs – may come into play, and a family that invited a youth into their home may need financial assistance to support their becoming permanent guardians of the youth.
Finding potential homes for teens is a specialized skill. The chapter on recruiting adoptive homes and preventing adoption disruptions explores the elements that contribute to a successful recruitment campaign. Through this chapter and the rest of the book, Achieving Permanency seeks to enrich the body of knowledge and experience on the issue of adolescent and teen permanency and adoption.
Finally, Achieving Permanency aspires to help child welfare advocates consider and reach a decision on the best option for the adolescents they serve. For example, child welfare advocates should determine whether the adolescent wants to be adopted or whether reunification with birth parents is a possibility in the future, and should involve the adolescent in court hearings to ensure that he or she is fully heard.
“Our nation’s future is in the hands of today’s youth. Yet the problems they face are more numerous and complex than ever before. Foster children are released to the streets at age 18 with little preparation for life,” said ABA President Karen Mathis. “Our courts and schools are often unable or unwilling to cope with ‘status offenders’ and the problem is getting worse. Achieving Permanency will be a valuable tool in helping advocates serve their client, our nation’s most important asset.”
“The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is committed to improving the lives of older youth in America’s foster care system who are waiting for permanency,” said Rita Soronen, executive director of the Foundation. “We were pleased to help with this important project giving the professionals who impact these children’s destinies every day a critical tool to help improve the outcomes for adolescents.”
“One of the [Freddie Mac] Foundation’s commitments is to help foster children find safe, permanent homes. Achieving this goal becomes more urgent, and also more difficult and complicated, as children grow in years, and approach a time when they age out of the system and are left alone in the world. These thoughtful guidelines present options for foster youth, and we hope will help more adolescents in foster care achieve a healthy transition to a safe and stable future,” said Maxine B. Baker, president and CEO of the Freddie Mac Foundation.
With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.
The Freddie Mac Foundation grant that made this book possible joins other Foundation efforts to improve the lives of foster children in the nation’s capital and nationwide. As one of the largest corporate funders in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, Freddie Mac and the Freddie Mac Foundation have invested nearly $250 million in organizations serving the community.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a nonprofit public charity dedicated to dramatically increasing the number of adoptions of foster care children in North America. Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s and an adopted child, created the Foundation in 1992 in support of the vision that every child needs a permanent home and a loving family. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption focuses on increasing foster care adoption awareness while supporting model adoption service programs and is committed to ensuring that adoption from the foster care system is streamlined, affordable and accessible to any family wanting to adopt.