Teenagers in foster care and group care face terrible odds. If they don’t have permanent families before they leave state care, there is a good chance they will end up homeless or unemployed. According to research at the University of Chicago, the girls are as much as 30 percent more likely to get pregnant at least once before they turn 19; the boys are twice as likely to become parents than those who have not been in foster care.
Often these teens live in group care or foster homes. Most of them have experienced trauma beyond what most of us can imagine. Many have been in the foster care systems for years and have moved so many times they can’t remember the places they’ve lived, or the people they’ve lived with.
Plummer Youth Promise uses specific permanency practices to help make sure youth enter adulthood with a family unconditionally committed to them. In our foster care and residential programs, every youth’s plan includes Family Search and Engagement, Youth-Guided Teaming and Permanency Readiness.
Family Search and Engagement:
At the core of our Promise to youth is a commitment to find a permanent, forever home. Often this means reconnecting with birth family or relatives; sometimes it means finding a new family.
We find and engage parents and family members to decrease the loneliness youth may be feeling, strengthen their sense of identity and belonging, increase their family network and develop a safe, emotionally secure, permanent parenting relationship. When there is no biological family able to provide that relationship, we recruit new families. About 70 percent of the youth who go through our group home or foster care program discharge with a safe, emotionally secure parenting relationship with someone committed to them.
Because older youth in care often have moved around for years, they may be confused about their personal history and may have internalized the idea that life is a series of temporary stops.
We help them clarify their past and prepare them to be part of a lifelong family. At the same time, we prepare families to parent and/or have sustained relationships with children who have experienced trauma. We help them understand challenging behaviors that stem from the youth’s life experience so they know what it will mean to make an unconditional, lifelong commitment to the youth. Addressing readiness for permanency from both the youth’s and the family’s perspective is essential to helping make sure the young person doesn’t re-enter the foster care system at a later date.
It’s critical that our youth participate and actively guide planning for family relationships and their future. To provide the needed support, we build a team around each young person. Teams include parents, relatives and other caring adults as well as professionals. Our teaming approach addresses all areas of youth safety, permanency and well-being and aims to build a network of lifelong relationships that continue after the youth exits the system.