Friends of the Children's Work Along the Continuum: Exit to Permanency

Did you know that a recent study showed that youth in foster care with a Friend exit care almost six months sooner than youth without a Friend?

Exiting the System to "Permanency" Fast Facts:

When children go into foster care, the law requires child welfare systems to find safe, permanent homes for them as quickly as possible – preferably reunifying them with their families. On average, children remain in state care for over a year and a half, and five percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years. 47% of children who leave foster care do go back home (a record low number in the U.S.), while others find homes with relatives or are adopted. Black children spend longer in foster care than do white children. While many factors contribute to this disparity, one systemic cause comes from reforms enacted in the mid-1990s through the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Prior to ASFA, social workers were required by law (the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980) to make “reasonable efforts” to reunify children who were in the foster care system with their families. ASFA cut the “reasonable effort” requirement, shortened timelines for services and prioritized moving children into permanent adoptive homes rather than dedicate resources toward family strengthening, preservation and reunification efforts.

Friends as a Family Reunification Strategy

In our last email, we talked about the role of a Friend supporting youth who’ve experienced foster care to achieve their goals.

Because foster care is designed to be temporary, when children in our program experience foster care, Friends also work with all the adults in the child’s life to build positive relationships – maximizing connection, belonging and well-being. No matter the long-term plan that the child welfare system has for the child, Friends work hard to ensure that youth in care are connected to their parents and relatives. The data is clear that families stay together when they receive the services and supports they need to resolve the challenges that brought their family to the attention of the system in the first place. Data from the child welfare system confirms that when children in foster care have a Friend, they leave care almost six months faster than children in foster care without a Friend. Preliminary data from two of our chapters is also showing that when children with a Friend leave the system to go home, they go back into foster care less often.

A Story from our Portland chapter:

Sariah was struggling to get any schoolwork done during virtual school learning at their foster home due to various reasons. Earlier this year, Sariah was able to leave foster care to live with their mom. With mom’s encouragement and support, they went from turning in one assignment for the year to completing 24 out of 25 assignments! Sariah was very proud of themselves and acknowledged it took a lot of work, but it was worth it. With support and lots of encouragement from their Friend, Sariah and mom are continuing to build their relationship and care for one another. Mom is taking all the necessary steps needed, such as taking counseling and parenting classes, to get the support she needs to be there for her child. Friends will be walking alongside them, every step of the way – for 12+ years, no matter what.