A Case for Family Finding
Leslie Worley, MSW
Family Finding has become somewhat of a phenomenon in the child welfare system in the past decade. Met with resistance at first, family finding has proved to be successful in many ways. The following is a past case example that this social worker was involved with first-hand:
The children involved in this particular case were a sibling group of 3 African American girls. Their ages were 13, 8 and 14 months. The oldest girls had entered care when they were 10 and 5 years old. They were placed together in a foster home while the baby was with another foster family. Had they stayed in foster care, the oldest girls would have most likely moved from place to place in different foster homes and the baby would have been adopted by the initial foster parents who were caring for her. The eldest girl had some behavioral issues related to the trauma she had experienced in her life and her odds of being adopted were decreasing every year, as per statistics of older foster care youth. The foster care mother who was caring for the baby wanted to just adopt the baby and did not want the other two girls. Had an intensive family finding program not been utilized for these girls, it’s hard to know if they would’ve even grown up with each other.
Once the intensive family finding program was utilized, the family recruiter found nearly 80 family members for the three sisters, including second cousins, third cousins, and other extended family that the team had never known about. Some of these family members were not viable resources due to incarcerations or histories of abuse, and some physically or financially could not take on three children but still wanted to be in the youth’s lives. Eventually, a few cousins did come forward who were interested in adopting all three girls.
With an intensified effort from the whole team – including the GAL, AAG, case worker, permanency specialist, family finder, and foster parents – a cousin and her husband filed a petition to adopt the girls. The couple had already raised children of their own and so the girls had even more family with whom to make connections. The girls were able to all attend a big family reunion and got to meet many cousins who were close in age, as well as various other cousins who were now adults. Their cousin’s husband even attended a ‘father-daughter’ basketball game for the oldest girl. These cousins were truly the best adoptive placement for these girls.
These are the kind of results that family finding can produce. The cornerstone of permanency services at Adoptions Together is family finding, and by utilizing this critical tool, many life-long connections have been found for foster care teens.