Permanency Tip of the Week: Supporting Youth in the Employment Realm
For some people, seeking their first job may have been one of the most challenging experiences in their entire life. Imagine if you are trying to do this while at the same time your brain is functioning nearly 24/7 in survival mode! How do you present yourself as calm, collected, and confident when you are not sure if you will still be living in your same foster or group home tomorrow? Who do you list as a reference if you have had so many caregivers, that all of them start to blur together? How do you remember your address if you have lived in so many homes, that you have lost count? How will you be able to handle challenging customer service situations when yelling and screaming is often a trauma trigger for you? Before we start encouraging/forcing our youth out into the employment realm, let us make sure that they have a solid foundation of supportive relationships and a strong array of coping, social, and verbal skills.
Permanency Success Story of the Week:
Parents.com – Chris and Emily Norton became foster parents to a 17-year-old when they were just 23 and 24. The couple since fostered and adopted five kids (ages 3, 6, 8, 10, and 20), and are expanding their house to make room for even more kids in need…
Permanency Related Articles:
Lansing State Journal (MI) – People are shocked when they hear my story, one I often share before large crowds. I’m 20, and in the past five years, I’ve discovered how to use my voice in ways I never thought I could when in foster care.
Learning to use my voice has made it possible to tell my story of sexual abuse and recovery that started before my twin sister and I went into the Michigan foster system and continued with abuse and neglect inside a foster home. This I know – had we been encouraged to speak up when we were teens in care, things could have turned out differently.
Maybe my sister wouldn’t have been institutionalized in a mental health facility for her emotional scars; maybe I wouldn’t have lost 40 pounds in three months because of a preventable but neglectful placement that led me to hoard food with permanent physical and emotional injuries I will cope with for the rest of my life…
Chronicle of Social Change – People talk a lot about how important it is that every foster kid grows up in a loving home. While well-intentioned, most of them are approaching that idea from an abstract understanding. They have never known a loving foster home, and they certainly have not experienced the alternative. I learned the hard way how important this concept really is. I entered foster care in Washington, D.C., at 14, and I spent the first two years in residential treatment facilities — hospital-like settings where I was seen as a sick patient rather than a child in need of protection and love.
If it wasn’t for two extraordinary foster families, I spent time with afterward, those years would have broken me. You really can become a product of your environment, after all. Today I can proudly say that I am not a product of foster care, I’m a product of what happens when somebody loves me…I don’t know how I got blessed with such good foster parents. I know that’s not the case for everyone, especially foster kids who have experienced the juvenile justice system and institutionalization. But I got lucky. My foster parents were my big break, my saving grace.
These days, I’ve decided to pay that good luck forward to make things better for other foster youth. Thousands of youth age out of foster care each year without the kind of support I had, and many of them quickly become homeless — we’re working to be a part of the solution to this problem. A lot of people along my path never thought I’d make it to this point, but as Alan Turing said, “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
Whitney Gilliard is a 24-year-old former foster youth living with her husband and son in Savannah, Georgia. She and her husband have recently founded Gilliard & Company, a transitional housing program for youth aging out of foster care.
Fredericksburg.com – Jessica Porter and 15-year-old son Sam watch a movie at their Spotsylvania home. She’s cared for him since he was 7. After Jessica Porter finished her foster care certification through the Spotsylvania County Department of Social Services, she thought, “They’re never going to call me.” “There were stay-at-home moms in the class with me,” Porter said. “There’s no way they’re going to call me, a single woman who works full-time.” But only about four months after she completed the licensing requirements, Porter got a call from Spotsylvania DSS…Then the social worker went on to tell her more things about Sam—he was autistic, nonverbal and not potty-trained.
“They were very sweet about it. They said they would call a few other families. But I knew in the back of my mind that was probably a lie. They hadn’t been able to place him with anyone,” Porter recalled. “So I just said yes.” Though she worked as a preschool teacher for children with autism, she hadn’t intended to foster children with special needs, but, “it was one of those things where I couldn’t really think of a good reason to say ‘no,’ ” Porter said…
She didn’t know it then, but her home would become Sam’s forever home. She finalized her adoption of him four years ago—and she has provided long-term foster care to two other children with autism and one without. “I had not planned on focusing on kids with special needs at all,” Porter, now 35, said. “Sam started that trend…”
American Bar Association (ABA) – Federal and state laws increasingly support meaningfully engaging youth in foster care in their case planning and court hearings. This shift over the last decade is largely because of advocacy by youth with lived experience in foster care. Our understanding of adolescent brain development and its relationship to engaging youth in court is also more clearly developed. Adolescent brain science confirms that meaningfully engaging youth in their case planning and court hearings is critical for the child welfare case and, more importantly, for their healthy growth and development.
This guide provides 1) A basic framework of adolescent brain science; 2) A legal overview of laws relating to youth engagement in case planning and court hearings, and 3) Tips for attorneys and judges to engage youth and support their positive development.
The Road to Adulthood: Aligning Child Welfare Practice with Adolescent Brain Development, published by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, outlines the significant shift in brain development science. It builds on the findings of a previous Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative report, The Adolescent Brain. Building on the previous belief that most brain development happens before age six, science now shows that in addition to the 0-6 period of development there is another equally significant window of brain development during adolescence. This creates an opportunity to support healthy brain development and prepare adolescents for adulthood.
GV Wire – For the last three years, I have been working on public policy related to foster youth. But at a recent monthly foster care policy meeting in Sacramento, where experts were discussing the needs of foster youth fortunate enough to go to college, I found myself thinking, “They’re missing the point.” Getting the degree doesn’t fix the real problem that foster youth have, which is forming relationships…
As a former foster youth who is now middle-aged, it is sometimes difficult to sit in these meetings. Experts and advocates speak about interconnected challenges faced by foster youth aging out of the child welfare system: underemployment and job-hopping, educational disparities, housing instability and homelessness, and mental health issues related to childhood trauma and neglect. Advocates have helped to pass and implement many successful policies that have improved the odds and the outcomes for foster youth. In my estimation, though, the true root issue faced by foster youth has remained beyond the reach of policy even though everyone in the room knows what it is. My problem is not that I think the policy proposals are wrong. I have lived through my own version of the challenges faced by former foster youth, and I know the limits of policy as a tool…
Current and former foster youth need the opportunity to create and sustain relationships, and many of us aren’t even aware of that gap. I wasn’t aware of it myself until much later in life… Current and former foster youth are resilient and adaptable. I’ve anecdotally observed that we fare better than others with sudden and adverse changes. Been there, done that. You can’t do anything to us that hasn’t already been done.
At my current age, though, I can’t help but acknowledge that we can’t grow or succeed without stable relationships over time. That is prerequisite to everything else. This is a problem that requires something beyond the standard policy toolbox to address.
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Dr. Greg Manning