How to Create and Maintain Partnerships to Achieve Permanency for Older Foster Youth
Written By: Monica Testa, LGSW
Permanency Opportunities Project (POP)
The Permanency Opportunities Project (POP) has one main goal: find permanent connections for youth in the DC foster care system while engaging youth in that process. Our areas of focus are working with teens in care on their openness to permanency; case mining; family finding; profiles; specialized recruitment; and trainings for professionals and families. For all aspects of what we do, partnership is key – partnering with youth, clinical team members, families, and agencies.
noun 1. the state or condition of being a partner; participation; association; joint interest.
What does a good partnership look like? In working with professionals, families and youth, three answers came up time and again:
Everyone has an equal voice; each partner has rights and responsibilities, and everyone has the same goal.
In encouraging our parents to partner, we know that parents can get support with adoption transitions from their own support network, and we encourage them to reach out for help on behalf of their family.
How about partnership with youth? This is the basis of all we do. Good questions to ask in preparation are:
Is the youth participating?
Do they even want to associate with you?
Do you have the same goals?
What is the #1 trait for good partnership with youth? We feel that the #1 trait for partnership with youth is adaptability/flexibility. Past trauma doesn’t mean we should stop talking about future permanency. While you wait, work on less obvious aspects of permanency.
Case study ‘ Brianna’ – 17 year old youth, substance abuse and defiance and multiple abscondences who suffers from depression. The POP team started working with her on her permanency goal. THEN, she had a long abscondence. Some members of the team talked about removing her from the program because she was running away and probably not interested in permanency.
But…. The team was patient and persistent, and Brianna came back and was ready to work. She was ready to do her lifebook, ready to help us get her connected to Life Long Connections and a mentor, and ready to continue her education. Some take-away tools from this case regarding partnering with youth are:
Abscondence ≠ disinterest in permanency, and defiance ≠ disinterest in permanency.
While you wait, be consistent and persistent.
Focus on something they WANT to accomplish or something they NEED.
Listen, and use the Dan Hughes Model: Be Playful, Accepting, Curious & Empathic (PLACE).
Give kids age-appropriate choices within safe boundaries.
Achieving permanence cannot be accomplished without the buy-in and commitment of youth. Engaging youth as partners in the permanency process requires patience, understanding and consistency, but the end result is well worth the investment.