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Achieving Permanence for Older Children and Youth in Foster Care

Achieving Permanence for Older Children and Youth in Foster Care

Benjamin Kerman
Madelyn Freundlich
Anthony N. Maluccio
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Achieving Permanence for Older Children and Youth in Foster Care
    Book Description:

    Through a novel integration of child welfare data, policy analysis, and evidence-informed youth permanency practice, the essays in this volume show how to achieve and sustain family permanence for older children and youth in foster care. Researchers examine what is known about permanency outcomes for youth in foster care, how the existing knowledge base can be applied to improve these outcomes, and the directions that future research should take to strengthen youth permanence practice and policy. Part 1 examines child welfare data concerning reunification, adoption, and relative custody and guardianship and the implications for practice and policy. Part 2 addresses law, regulation, court reform, and resource allocation as vital components in achieving and sustaining family permanence. Contributors examine the impact of policy change created by court reform and propose new federal and state policy directions. Part 3 outlines a range of practices designed to achieve family permanence for youth in foster care: preserving families through community-based services, reunification, adoption, and custody and guardianship arrangements with relatives. As growing numbers of youth continue to "age out" of foster care without permanent families, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers have increasingly focused on developing evidence-informed policies, practices, services and supports to improve outcomes for youth. Edited by leading professionals in the field, this text recommends the most relevant and effective methods for improving family permanency outcomes for older youth in foster care.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51932-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Older children and youth in recent years have come to comprise an increasingly larger proportion of the foster care population in the United States. Their needs differ in significant ways from those of younger children for whom permanency has long been a primary goal. Traditionally, child welfare systems have focused on preparing older children and youth for adulthood—with far less attention directed to efforts to reunify them with their birth families, find new families for them through adoption or guardianship, or help them forge lifelong connections with caring, committed adults who will “be there” for them as they transition...

  5. PART I: Describing the Problem

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 9-12)

      A necessary foundation for the development of a successful policy and practice response to the permanence needs of youth in foster care is an accurate and detailed description of the challenges. It is essential to clearly frame the problem, specify the questions that must be answered in order to develop sound policy and practice, and use data to address those questions as fully as possible. Only through clarifying what is known and what needs to be known is it possible to set priorities within policy and practice and identify the needed levers for change.

      Historically, national child welfare data have...

    • ONE Foster Youth in Context
      (pp. 13-31)

      According to national statistics, upward of twenty thousand children left foster care in 2002 after their eighteenth birthday; among children in care, emancipation was listed as the case goal for more than thirty-four thousand children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007). Not surprisingly, the issue of foster youth has attracted considerable attention, particularly over the past decade since the beginning of the twenty-first century. For the most part, that attention has focused on the transition to adulthood by children who reach the age of majority while still in foster care (that is, while in state custody). Policymakers at...

    • TWO A Comparative Examination of Foster Youth Who Did and Did Not Achieve Permanency
      (pp. 32-39)

      Between federal fiscal years 2000 and 2005, there were approximately 1.66 million exits of children from the public foster care system.¹ The number of youth aged fifteen and older² who exited care during this period was approximately 473,000, equally distributed over the five fiscal years.³ The achievement of permanency for these youth is a primary goal of the child welfare system because permanency is critical for well-being. The identification of youth at greatest risk for not achieving permanency can assist child welfare agencies in targeting limited resources. Using national data, in this chapter I provide an analysis of the relationship...

    • THREE Outcomes for Older Youth Exiting the Foster Care System in the United States
      (pp. 40-74)

      Interest in the transition of foster children to adulthood is not new. Over eighty years ago, the State Charities Aid Association of New York commissioned Sophie van Senden Theis (1924) to attempt to find 910 of their former wards who, by that time, were adults. Working with a thoughtfully selected sample and achieving a respectable follow-up rate, Theis provided a rich description of the post–foster care well-being of the association’s former wards. Although some were doing well, many of the former foster children experienced problems that troubled the leaders of the State Charities Aid Association. To this day, youth...

    • FOUR Outcomes for Youth Exiting the Foster Care System: Extending What We Know and What Needs to Be Done with Selected Data
      (pp. 75-87)

      Mark Courtney (chapter 3) has written a comprehensive and compelling analysis of the current research regarding outcomes for youth exiting the foster care system and the implications of the research for policy and program design. In this chapter, I highlight two studies to underscore the need to refine services and strengthen community collaborations on behalf of youth exiting from foster care. First I describe the Reilly Nevada study and provide greater detail on the Casey Family Programs longitudinal study of nineteen-year-old, twenty-two-year-old, and twenty-five-year-old foster care alumni. I then discuss policy and program improvements for placement stability, educational remediation, life...

    • FIVE Permanence and Impermanence for Youth in Out-of-Home Care
      (pp. 88-108)

      Although research makes clear that many children do not achieve permanency, it offers little detail about these children or their paths to impermanence. Much attention has been focused on youth who never achieve permanence and leave foster care without a “forever family” (e.g., Massinga and Pecora, 2004). But there are also many youth who spend time in out-of-home care in a heightened state of impermanence. These youth include those who are not successfully reunified with their birth families and who experience multiple placements while in foster care and youth who no longer have a legal family because their parents’ rights...

    • SIX Permanence Is a State of Security and Attachment
      (pp. 109-122)

      Richard Barth and Laura Chintapalli (chapter 5 in this volume) provide a rich review of recent research documenting the challenges of achieving permanence for adolescents in the child welfare system. They describe evidence that adolescents in foster care are likely to experience “a heightened state of impermanence” as a result of placement instability, failed reunification and reentry, lengthy stays in group care, and termination of parental rights (TPR) without subsequent adoption. Poor outcomes among youth who age out of foster care are viewed as a direct result of the failure to achieve permanence for youth in care. Both interventions and...

  6. Part II: Policy Responses to the Permanency Needs of Youth

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 123-126)

      Intervention into a family’s life represents one of the most significant intrusions by the state in the private affairs of its citizens. Public child welfare agencies are authorized to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect and, when maltreatment is substantiated and children are at imminent risk of harm, to remove children from their parents’ custody and place them into foster care. The state’s obligation is twofold: to intervene into families’ lives only in cases when it is necessary to protect children from harm and to take on the responsibilities of a parent when the state removes children from their...

    • SEVEN Permanence for Older Children and Youth: Law, Policy, and Research
      (pp. 127-146)

      Policy has long played a pivotal role in shaping child welfare practice in the United States. Beginning with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) and the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-272) and continuing through the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) and, most recently, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, federal law has had a significant role in shaping child welfare practice, in general, and in setting the contours of permanency planning for children and youth in foster care, in particular. At the state level,...

    • EIGHT Federal Law and Child Welfare Reform: The Research-Policy Interface in Promoting Permanence for Older Children and Youth
      (pp. 147-155)

      In this chapter, I respond to and elaborate on observations made by Madelyn Freundlich in chapter 7 regarding policy issues surrounding youth exiting from care. I discuss independent living programs and the lack of emphasis on family and social connections for youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood, health care coverage and health service access issues for youth who have exited foster care, and service coordination issues. Recent research has focused on the exit end of the foster care system—that is, youth aging out of care—and has well demonstrated the perilous position that federal policy creates for young...

    • NINE Guardianship and Youth Permanence
      (pp. 156-175)

      Before the 1980s, only a small fraction of children in foster care were in the care of relatives (Hill, 1977). Between 1986 and 2000, however, the proportion of children in foster care living with kin rose from 18 percent to 25 percent (Barbell and Freundlich, 2001). One out of four of the 513,000 foster children in the nation in 2005 were cared for by relatives (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006). Several factors contributed to the surge in kinship care families. An early factor was the 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decree in Miller v. Yoakim, which declared that...

    • TEN A Fine Balancing Act: Kinship Care, Subsidized Guardianship, and Outcomes
      (pp. 176-186)

      Like most helping professions, child welfare struggles with how to minimize harm while taking necessary action. In chapter 9, Robert Hill addresses one of the core and ongoing challenges faced by child welfare professionals: how to safely and effectively provide natural supports in the care of maltreated children. For many of the reasons highlighted by Hill, kinship care has emerged as a key strategy for responding to child maltreatment while helping children maintain important lifelong relationships with their birth families. In general, the field has recognized that families have strengths that can be called on in cases of abuse and...

    • ELEVEN Dependency Court Reform Addressing the Permanency Needs of Youth in Foster Care: National Evaluation of the Court Improvement Program
      (pp. 187-209)

      Since the early 1980s, court processes for periodically reviewing plans for children removed from the custody of their parents and approving key decisions made on their behalf have been established and refined. Judicial and public agency officials agree, however, that the delineation of the respective roles of public agencies and the courts and the manner in which courts periodically review and approve decisions made on behalf of children in the care and custody of the state remain a work in progress. Ongoing research in this area is essential. In this chapter, we provide a summary of the sources of dependency...

    • TWELVE Facilitation of Systems Reform: Learning from Model Court Jurisdictions
      (pp. 210-218)

      In chapter 11, Karl Ensign and colleagues outline a number of federal programs, legislation, and directives that have significantly changed court and child welfare agency expectations, outcomes, and timeframes for processing child welfare cases. After a description of overall judicial reform efforts, they briefly discuss the development of field-initiated practice guidelines, various national demonstration projects, and the increasing recognition of the need for effective collaborations between courts and child welfare agencies. In this chapter, I add to that discussion by providing additional information on the Resource Guidelines of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), describing national...

  7. Part III: Practice Responses to the Permanency Needs of Youth

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 219-222)

      In Parts I and II of this volume, we described the problems related to achieving permanence and preparing youth for adulthood, and we examined some of the policy levers that have shaped and will continue to shape the practice landscape. In this section, we highlight some of the evolving practice responses to the permanency needs of youth in foster care, including their needs for family support into adulthood and beyond. Practitioners provide a critically needed understanding of the needs of the children and families they serve from an “on the ground” perspective. As they strive to meet the permanency needs...

    • THIRTEEN Permanent Families for Adolescents: Applying Lessons Learned from a Family Reunification Demonstration Program
      (pp. 223-243)

      Family reunification is the primary permanency goal for children in out-of-home care. Although most children in care will eventually be reunified with their families, there is a growing body of research suggesting that many of these children will return to foster care at some point. For these reasons, there has been renewed interest in family reunification practice, particularly with regard to developing a clearer understanding of which programs are most effective with which children and families. In this chapter, we describe a family reunification program that provides intensive family-based and family-centered services. We delineate the features of the program, linking...

    • FOURTEEN Youth Permanence Through Adoption
      (pp. 244-265)

      According to the most recent data, adoption is the permanency goal for 114,000 of the 513,000 children in the nation’s foster care system, and almost 50,000 of the children awaiting adoption have been in continuous foster care for three years or more. Although the average age of children in foster care waiting for adoption is 8.6 years old, almost one-third (32 percent) are twelve years of age and older. About 53 percent of these children are males, and the majority of the children are members of ethnic minority groups. Some 55 percent of waiting children live with a foster family,...

    • FIFTEEN Family-Involvement Meetings with Older Children in Foster Care: Promising Practices and the Challenge of Child Welfare Reform
      (pp. 266-290)

      In the 1980s and 1990s, professionals in child welfare and allied disciplines around the globe came to a similar realization: decisions about removing children from their parents should include convening a meeting of the children’s family and community and asking for their advice and support. In locales that included Alabama, New Zealand, Ohio, and Oregon, meetings of family and community were assembled to help develop a plan for the care and protection of at-risk youth. Because each community’s response was shaped by its own history and service context, drawing inspiration from different cultures and social service traditions, the specific practices...

    • SIXTEEN Developmentally Appropriate Community-Based Responses to the Permanency Needs of Older Youth Involved in the Child Welfare System
      (pp. 291-312)

      The foster care system faces unique challenges in meeting the development needs of youth in out-of-home care. Placement instability, educational interruption, extensive use of congregate care, and discharges to “emancipation” too often describe youth’s experiences in foster care (Center for the Study of Social Policy, 2003). These realities are at variance with adolescents’ developmental needs for autonomy, structure, continuity of relationship, and extended support—needs that place a premium on a nurturing environment that is created by family, supportive friends, effective and secure schools, and well-resourced communities. Fortunately, philanthropy and state policy are increasingly focusing on the use of preventive...

    • SEVENTEEN Social and Life Skills Development: Preparing and Facilitating Youth for Transition into Young Adults
      (pp. 313-336)

      All youth find the transition to adult life challenging. Youth who are exiting the foster care system may be particularly challenged as they may be less equipped to handle adult responsibilities. Most youth develop life skills through their family relationships and other long-term relationships marked by continuity (Gutierrez et al., 2001). Unfortunately, the foster care system often hinders the development of life skills. Changes in foster care placement, which many youth in foster care experience, is strongly associated with the development of behavior problems (Newton et al., 2000), which, in turn, may affect life skills development. Youth who lack stable...

    • EIGHTEEN From Research to Practice: Improving Permanency Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care
      (pp. 337-356)

      As the chapters in this volume demonstrate, much has been learned from the research that can inform youth permanence practice and result in improved permanency outcomes for youth. In chapter 15, David Crampton and Joan Pennell describe the growing body of research on family involvement models that can support the achievement of permanence outcomes for youth. Other authors focus on research that has illuminated effective approaches to achieving and sustaining youth permanence in different ways. In chapter 13, Barbara Pine and Robin Spath provide information on the positive outcomes of a family reunification program that offers intensive family-based and family-centered...

  8. Afterword: Making Families Permanent and Cases Closed—Concluding Thoughts and Recommendations
    (pp. 357-368)

    With growing attention to permanence as a primary goal for all children in foster care, attention has begun to focus on the needs of youth for lifelong families, as well as safety and well-being. Historically, the child welfare system did not work to ensure that youth in foster care had enduring family relationships that would last a lifetime. Instead, child welfare agencies focused their efforts on preparing them to leave foster care to live “independently.” In both policy and practice, the emphasis was on providing youth with a range of social and life skills with the expectation that they would...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 369-374)
  10. Index
    (pp. 375-402)