Page 1

WINTER 2016 | ISSUE 2

STARTING NOW

- Yout h in Need - Em er g ency Placem ent - Child Care Resources The quarterly magazine of ExtraordinaryFamilies: A Winning Merger of Southern California Foster Family & Adoption Agency + Child Welfare Initiative Page


Content s 3

Q&A

4

IN FOCUS

6

VOICES

7

ACTION ALERT

9

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

12

OUR EXTRAORDINARY FAMILIES

A Conversation with Sarah Boone, CEO

Youth in Need of a Place to Call Home

A Quarterly Glimpse into the Lives of Foster Youth

The Need for Child Care & Early Education

Emergency Placement, Helping Children in Crisis

Meet Emma and Gareth

Interested in learning more about ExtraordinaryFamilies? Follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn for more information. Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

2


Q&A A Conversation with Sarah Boone, CEO Q: How did you come t o work in families, and enthusiastic f ost er care and adopt ion? co-mentors. This positions us very well to continue our excellent A: I began my career as a social services as well as explore other worker with Child Protective opportunities. On Feb. 26, we are Services. While incredibly hosting a Summit on AB 403 challenging, it was rewarding and (Continuum of Care Reform), which fueled my passion, personally and will provide a space for the FFA professionally, for foster care and community to translate policy into adoption. I went on, always staying "on- the-ground" solutions for one in child welfare, but in various of our most pressing challenges ? capacities from trainer to adoption the recruitment of resource families. social worker to clinical supervisor To that end, this year we intend to for a treatment foster care agency. increase our pool of resource Through these experiences, I families to meet the needs of became all too aware of the high children and youth with a wider number of foster youth in range of emotional and behavioral congregate care who wanted to challenges. To best support our join a foster/ adoptive family, but children and families, we will apply were unable because of the for a Department of Mental Health shortage of foster families. So I contract to provide therapeutic became a foster parent exclusively services in-house, and make for teenagers. I fostered six young Ext raordinaryFamilies a sort of men and ultimately adopted my ?one-stop shop.? three sons. Becoming a mother through foster care/ adoption was Through our Gala on April 20, we the most humbling and fulfilling have a phenomenal opportunity to experience of my life. It raise funds to help secure a larger significantly influenced my building. We've simply run out of professional decision- making and space and need additional visitation certainly shapes my values and rooms to make parent-child vision in my role as CEO. visitation a truly meaningful experience, and space for our Youth Q: What do you see as t he primary in Transition program to bolster opport unit ies f or Ext raordinary co-mentoring, internship and job Famil ies in 2016? opportunities for our youth. A: Well first I need to say that we Q: What signif icant pol icy issues are are so fortunate to have an af f ect ing LA Count y? exceptional staff and board, highly caring and dedicated resource A: The passage of AB 403 is a critical Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

step forward to ensure our most vulnerable youth receive the care and support they deserve. A primary goal of the reform is to limit the length of time foster children are in congregate care and join them with supportive, stable families, so implementing this reform depends heavily upon recruiting more resource families, whom are provided quality training and support. All caregivers ? whether relative or non-relative, whether the intent is to foster or adopt ? will be trained together, assessed and approved as resource families. The hope is that by completing comprehensive assessments with every child, supporting them with a child-family team, and linking them to appropriate services, a child?s first placement will be the best placement, and thus limit multiple moves. I know from personal experience with my sons, one of whom was moved 13 times, that placement disruptions are highly traumatic and so it?s incumbent upon us, as the adults in the system, to do better at serving the child in his/ her home and community to avoid placement instability. This must be a collective effort, so we are working with the greater child welfare community (DCFS, other FFAs, DMH and the Philanthropic community) to explore how best to implement this crucial legislation. 3


In Focus In Your Communit y... There are yout h in need of f ost er and adopt ive homes Be someone who matters to someone who matters According t o t he U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are over 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States as a result of neglect or abuse, with more than 250,000 children entering every year. In LA County alone, roughly 20,000 children and youth are in out-of-home care, with just under 10,000 entering each year. Although more than half of these children and youth successfully reunify with their families, the remainder stay in the system awaiting a permanent home. According to LA County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), there are currently over 500 children ? ranging in age from less than one to 21 years old ? waiting to be adopted. The majority are school aged and older, and African-American and Latino children are disproportionately over represented. Adol escent s in part icul ar are the least likely to be adopted and are at risk for a host of negative outcomes as a result. In addition to facing normal developmental challenges typical of the transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency, these youth do not have similar safety nets and support networks as their peers who have not been in foster care. This is complicated further by the long-term consequences of having been abused or neglected and removed from their families. According to a summary of findings gathered by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, young adults who exit foster care are more likely than their peers to drop out of school, be unemployed or homeless, experience health

Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

Over 400,000 children are in foster care in the U.S. Roughly 20,000 are in LA County alone

Over 500 children are currently ready and waiting to be adopted in LA County

Adolescents are least likely to be adopted, but are no less deserving of a place to call home

4


In Focus and mental health problems, become teen parents, use illegal drugs, and have encounters with the criminal justice system. Additionally, fewer than 50% of foster youth graduate high school and only 3% graduate from college. Despit e adverse hist ories, foster youth often have remarkable resiliency and the potential to adapt to their circumstances, develop healthy relationships, and demonstrate positive behaviors. This is particularly true if they are exposed to protective factors, such as close relationships with caring adults and opportunities for positive contributions and recognition through participation in youth advocacy, school activities, and community involvement. Arguably, these factors are more likely to be present in an adoptive setting. To that end, according to research by Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiatives, youth who are adopted from foster care are more likely to finish high school, go to college, and be more emotionally secure than their peers who remain in or age out of foster care without a permanent home.

Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

"When I was in t he group homes, I saw some of t he kids being moved int o f ost er homes wit h t he pot ent ial f or adopt ion. I remember wel l asking a social worker if I coul d f ind a home, t oo. I was t ol d I was 't oo ol d' and 'no one want s t o adopt a 16-year-ol d.' I f el t hopel ess and al one." -Angel a Feat herst one, Act ress

Ext raordinaryFamilies recognizes the profound need for and the extensive benefits of adoptive homes for foster youth. We urge all who are interested in adopting to consider offering your home and heart to a youth in need and allowing us the opportunity to support you through this journey. From the outset, our social workers develop strong relationships with our prospective foster and adoptive families, and they are highly skilled at assessing parents? capabilities and determining the best possible matches between these families and a foster child. In fact, Ext raordinaryFamilies secured adoptions for 63% of the children exiting our care in 2015, compared to LA County's overall adoption rate of 16% . While the majority of these adoptions were of infants and small 5


Voices

?Now we don?t ever have to move again. This is going to be our forever home!? -Young girl, age 7, overheard sharing the news of being adopted by one of our extraordinary families.

children, with your support we hope to significantly increase the number of families or individuals willing and wanting to give an older youth a place they can call their forever home.

If you are int erest ed in adopting an older youth, please contact us at info@extraordinaryfamilies.org.

Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

6


Act ion Aler t Ensuring Avail abil it y of Qual it y Chil dcare A Resource Guide

Access t o qual it y

early child care and

education is critical to the healthy development of children under the age of five. This care is especially important for foster children, who are already at risk for an array of poor outcomes. In fact, children in the child welfare system are five times more likely to have developmental delays. Despite the significance of early care, many foster children still do not receive it. According t o LA Count y Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, in 2011, only 13% of the DCFS caseload under age five were receiving early education services, and this disparity continues to be concerning to child welfare experts. A 2014 Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection stated, ?All children under the supervision of DCFS between ages 0 and 5 should be prioritized for access to Early Childhood Education programs.? Ninet y percent of brain development occurs before the age of five. The trauma and placement instability that a child taken into foster care experiences is detrimental to a developing brain. As a result, emotional and behavioral disorders are much more common in foster children than in the general population. Though current law grants automatic eligibility and priority enrollment in state child care and developmental services for foster children, lack of awareness and confusing policies continue to serve as barriers to access.

Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

Several decades of research demonstrate that high-quality, developmentally appropriate early childhood programs produce short- and long-term positive effects on children's cognitive and social development. Children with access to such quality care engage in more complex play, demonstrate more secure attachments to adults and other children, and score higher on measures of thinking ability and language development. In March 2015, the LA County Board of Supervisors directed the Interim Chief Executive Office to work with advocates in Sacramento to support legislation to clarify existing law for state-subsidized child development services and aid in closing the current gap. Lack of access to quality care and early education is also a significant barrier to recruiting resource families for foster children under the age of five.

7


Act ion Aler t Unt il pol icy changes occur or additional services are made available to foster children, the following information is a guide to current services that families can take advantage of. Earl y Head St art / Head St art Earl y Chil dhood Educat ion Programs are federally funded, and all foster children have priority in the programs at no cost to the caregiver. Early Head Start provides services for infants and toddlers from ages birth to three years. Head Start provides services for children three to five. You can locate a Head Start Program near you by visiting the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) website at www.prekkid.org or call (562) 940-1770. Additional Head Start Programs not affiliated with LACOE are: -

University of Southern California School for Early Childhood Education: (213) 743-4653 Options Heat Start: (626) 459-4299 California Hospital Medical Center: (213) 742-6385 Center for Community and Family Services Head Start: (626) 585-6506 Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Project Head Start: (310) 605-0154 ext. 256 Venice Family Clinic: (310) 664-7557 El Nido Early Head Start: (323) 971-7360 Long Beach Unified School District Head Start Program: (562) 427-0833 Vista del Mar Family Services Early Head Start: (323) 934-7979

Los Angel es Universal Preschool (LAUP) is a non-profit whose mission is to advance early education program quality and capacity. LAUP has waived the fees for four-year old preschoolers in foster care. Visit http:/ / www.laup.net or call (310) 568-9430 for a list of preschools affiliated with the program. Many licensed state-funded child care programs are available and have reduced or no fees for children in foster care. Check http:/ / childcare.co.la.ca.us. Child Care Connector can help you locate quality child care in your area. Visit http:/ / www.childcareware.org or call (800) 424-2246.

Recruit ing in a New Era: FFA Summit on Continuum of Care Reform In light of the recent Continuum of Care Reform (AB 403), Foster Family Agencies and other child welfare providers share a desire for answers about how the community will work together to implement and meet the goals of this reform.

mean for recruiting resource families, with the goal of developing practical solutions to guide policy implementation and recommendations to share with the state to inform further roll-out of the legislation. The intended audience includes all organizations and foundations with a focus on children and youth impacted by the child welfare system.

On February 26, 2016, Ext raordinaryFamilies will host a summit featuring a panel of experts, with a keynote speech by Dr. Khush Cooper, a renowned expert in policy implementation within child welfare and social services. Participants will discuss what upcoming changes Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

8


Making A Difference

Ext raordinaryFamilies = Ext raordinary Care New name, same quality of care Ext raordinaryFamilies was created through the merger of two well-established, innovative Southern California non-profit agencies with the common vision of improving the daily and long-term outcomes of children impacted by the child welfare system. Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency (SCFFAA) was established in 1994 and became well known for its dedication to the community and the children it served. SCFFAA?s outreach, recruitment, training and home study process of resource families earned the organization a significant reputation and one of the highest Prospective Family Conversion rates (prospective families becoming certified) in LA County as a result. Further, SCFFAA?s commitment to family-centered and individualized social work practice, performed with integrity and empathy, set the precedent for exceptional service in our community. Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

The

Child Welfare Initiative (CWI) was established in 2009 as an organization dedicated to ensuring and supporting the implementation of effective child welfare practices and policy within LA County. Examples of CWI's priorities included improving the system's transition planning process for foster youth before they become adults and exit care, facilitating cross-systems coordination to ensure older and former foster and probation youth access valuable employment services and opportunities, and improving County-wide recruitment and support practices of therapeutic foster parents. With SCFFAA?s 20-year history of providing groundbreaking foster care and adoption services to children and families, and CWI?s seven years of innovative program implementation and in-depth policy expertise, Ext raordinaryFamilies is destined to be? . extraordinary! 9


Making A Difference Emergency Pl acement Helping Children in Crisis According t o a prel iminary report released September 2015 by the Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families, Los Angeles County?s two intake facilities - called Welcome Centers - have seen an ?alarming? increase in the number of incoming children. As foster children are taken to a welcome center when workers cannot identify a suitable relative or foster home, this rise in entries reflects a longstanding challenge for LA County: the lack of available, individual foster homes for children who have been removed from their families and are in immediate need of safe and nurturing homes. The report indicates that 3,680 children entered the centers during the first six months of 2015; between January and June, the number of children in the centers increased by 40% . These centers, which are unlicensed facilities, can only shelter a child for 23 consecutive hours, lack sufficient restroom and dormitory facilities, and lack the sophisticated and rigorous mental health resources necessary to address complex trauma or meet the specific needs of each child. Of particular concern are entries of infants and very young children, whom are particularly vulnerable during critical developmental stages; a quarter of all children entering the centers in the first six months of 2015 were aged five and under. The Commission ident if ied four key barriers to securing safe and supportive placements for foster children: an insufficient number of available foster homes, particularly for very young children and older youth with mental health needs; an insufficient number of temporary emergency shelter homes, especially for infants and very young children; an insufficient number of intensive treatment foster homes; and a lack of support available to foster parents to assist them in successfully caring for children with mental health needs. In light of this, the Commission urged the County to ?design and transition to a system in keeping with the direction and vision of the state? to address this crisis. Soon to play into this complex equation are recent state-wide legislative changes (AB 403) designed to reform the state's foster care system with a focus on family-based care over group care settings. AB 403 will phase out current treatment and services provided by congregate care in favor of offering greater support and resources for foster parents and children, with particular attention to those with significant mental health needs and youth involved in the probation system. Much of this overhaul, however, is dependent upon effective and expanded foster parent recruitment, retention and support. Ext raordinaryFamilies supports the goal of prioritizing family-based care and urges those interested in fostering to consider certification as an emergency shelter home. These homes provide safe, temporary care for children and help to ensure they are not moved in and out of various homes and welcome centers or group homes. Placement instability has proven to be a substantial detriment to children's well-being, increasing the likelihood of depression, life dissatisfaction, and low self-efficacy. Emergency shelter homes can care for children for up to 21 days, allowing the County time to secure an appropriate, longer-term home. Emergency shelter homes must be available to receive a child 24-hours a day, 7-days-a-week. Most of the children in need of emergency shelter are under the age of five. For more information, please contact us at info@extraordinaryfamilies.org. Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

10


Making A Difference Ext raordinary Rol e Model s Cindy Vann, Department of Children and Family Services

Ext raordinaryFamilies would like to recognize and give thanks to Cindy Vann of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for her tireless efforts in promoting the safety, well-being, and permanency of our children and youth in foster care. Vann began her career in social services over 20 years ago and has been with DCFS' adoption unit since 1997. She explained she has "always been passionate about advocating for people who can?t advocate for themselves, particularly children." Cert ainl y, working in child welfare is not short of challenges; but to Vann, "the most challenging cases are also the most rewarding. The cases where I get to make a difference by finding a safe and permanent home for a child are what keep me going. Some of these children are bouncing around in foster homes or are in a home that isn?t safe and nurturing for a child to grow up in. Evaluating and choosing a family for a child is challenging and can take a lot of work and time. What I do can mean the difference between a happy childhood and an unhappy childhood, and it is a huge responsibility. Yet, knowing that I made a difference in a child?s life, even if it was difficult, is what makes my job worthwhile."

Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

For resource f amil ies, Vann advised: Never be afraid to ask for help. Social workers and other parents don't expect you or the child to be perfect, "so don?t pretend everything is going great if you are struggling." There may be moments you question your decision to adopt or doubt your ability to parent, but even biological parents struggle with this at times. To cope, "develop a support network of other parents, especially adoptive parents who you can learn from and lean on when things are tough. Just remember the struggles pass and there will also be the days when you couldn?t imaging not having this child as part of your family because they make your family complete." 11


Our Extraord inar y Fam ilies "We knew t hat we coul d do it and t hat it woul d be rewarding." mind that the children were going to a good home. She also recalled advice given to her by another staff member who adopted from foster care: "If you want it, stick with it and it will happen." And so they did. In fact, Hunter was placed in their care before the siblings left.

The Clarkson-Simpson family on the day of Hunter's adoption

Emma Cl arkson and Garet h Simpson already had two wonderful children, but their family just didn't feel complete until Hunter and Wren joined them. Emma and Gareth knew they wanted to adopt and felt most comfortable beginning with fostering. Impressed by the testimonials from other parents about Ext raordinaryFamilies, they specifically chose to work with the agency because it "welcomed everyone." They were further inspired by CEO Sarah Boone's experience with adopting from foster care. Emma shared, "Working with someone who had been through the process gave us a lot of confidence." Hunt er and Wren, now three and two years old respectively, have been with Emma and Gareth since birth. They were not, however, the first foster children who joined the family. They first cared for two siblings who ultimately returned to live with relatives. Reflecting on this, Emma admitted it was hard but the "agency was really clear about how foster to adopt works and the importance of concurrent planning." She was left with peace of Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

Wit h Hunt er, there was little ambiguity about whether he would remain in their care. He has an older brother in relative care with an aunt who was unable to take in another child, and reunification with his parents was not an option. Emma and Gareth were able to bring Hunter home from the hospital at four days old and introduce him to their two older children as their new baby brother. A few weeks later, they met Hunter's extended family, and they continue to be in contact. Gareth described this as "A massive gift for which we'lll always be grateful." It was onl y a f ew mont hs after bringing Hunter home that Emma and Gareth decided to adopt another child. Emma explained they didn't want him to feel isolated in their family as "the only one without someone who looked like him." While waiting for a match, Hunter's grandmother informed them the mother was expecting another child; she asked if they would adopt that child too. Emma developed a relationship with Hunter's birth mother and was at the hospital for Wren's birth. Al t hough bot h chil dren have developmental delays, the parents relayed that "the kids received exceptional support from Regional Center" and are thriving. While Hunter is "an extremely boisterous toddler," Wren is "just incredibly feisty." Emma added, "Adopting them

12


Our Extraord inar y Fam ilies has been a better experience than we ever could have hoped for." Whil e in t he process of adopting Hunter and Wren, Emma and Garreth also provided emergency shelter care for over 20 infants. Emma explained, "It just seemed like something we should do. There's such a need and we knew that we could do it and that it would be rewarding." She added that Ext raordinaryFamilies was also "so supportive." Although most of the infants stayed for the standard 21 days, some only stayed for a night or two - but there was never a shortage of infants needing a safe place to stay. On occasion, some infants stayed beyond the 21-day time frame. Emma explained one infant remained in their care for 10 months. She was "particularly fragile" and they cared for her until she moved to live with a relative. Not long after, they took in her newborn sister until she, too, could join her family. Another infant stayed roughly two months due to illness, and she's now on track to be adopted by another Ext raordinaryFamilies' family. Emma and Garet h stated they feel "really lucky" to have taken part in the program and have it fit so well with their family. To other parents interested in providing emergency shelter care, Emma and

Wren with the Clarkson's oldest daughter

Gareth advised, "If you can do it, you should know what a massive difference you can make. It may only be for a few weeks, but you're a safe haven for these kids. They may not ever remember it, but you make a big difference in their lives. We came to [Ext raordinaryFamilies] specifically to adopt, but we're so glad we were given this opportunity as well." For those wishing to foster/ adopt, Emma and Gareth gave the following advice: "Go into it with an open heart. It can be hard, but the rewards are incredible. It's natural to be scared of reunification, but being part of a child's story is something you can be proud of even if they don't end up staying forever." This is yet anot her exampl e of one of our Ext raordinaryFamilies. If you are interested in emergency shelter care, fostering, or fost/ adopt, contact us at info@extraordinaryfamilies.org.

Hunter with the Clarkson's youngest daughter

Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

13


BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chair Juliet Musso Flournoy Professor of State Government, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy Secretary Joseph M. Costa Chief Executive Officer, Hillsides Treasurer Sean Reese Child Advocate & Adoptive Parent Sarah Boone, MSW Chief Executive Officer Brooke Kaufman Halsband Associate, Hilton & Hyland Lisa Kring, LCSW Instructor, Insight LA Jocelyn Tetel Vice President of Advancement, Skirball Cultural Center Charles White Senior Vice President, Boston Private Bank & Trust Co.

The mission of ExtraordinaryFamilies is to transform the daily lives of children and families in child welfare with innovative strategies and visionary policy reforms. Thank you for supporting ExtraordinaryFamilies. Your contribution w ill help a foster child find a home, secure a first job and achieve educational goals.

Rosanne Ziering Entrepreneur, Activist, and Philanthropist

155 N. Occidential Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026 info@extraordinaryfamilies.org www.extraordinaryfamilies.org (213) 365-2900 Extraord inar yFam ilies | W inter 20 16

14

Starting Now - Winter 2015  

The Quarterly Magazine of ExtraordinaryFamilies

Starting Now - Winter 2015  

The Quarterly Magazine of ExtraordinaryFamilies