Saturday, September 16, 2006

National conference focuses on permanency for older foster youth

In the United States, over 25,000 foster youth age out of care or run away each year, before being reunited with their biological parents or placed permanently with foster/adoptive families or relatives.

The 2006 National Convening on Youth Permanence focused on the challenges faced by foster youth ages 11 and older, in finding and maintaining permanent family connections.

According to 2004 federal data on youth in care:
- Almost 50% were 11 and older
- 20% were not living with families
- 58% were minorities (34% African American, 18% Hispanic, 2% Native American, 1% Asian)
- Over 20,000 would age out of foster care without establishing a permanent connection with a family member or caring adult.

The conference took place on September 13-15, 2006 in Washington, D.C. at the Renaissance Washington Hotel.

Attendees included approximately 400 participants, representing 41 states. Representatives from the Native American tribal nations and the District of Columbia were also present. These participants included legislators, attorneys, judges, researchers, child welfare commissioners, families and foster youth.

The first session, "Telling the Story" was based on youth perspectives of permanence. Panelists included foster youth and representatives from agencies such as Foster Club and Casey Family Services.

Other topics of interest were:
1.) Examining the racial disproportionality and disparities in foster care. This session was moderated by Carolyne Rodriguez, Texas State Strategy Director. Panelists (all from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services) included:

- Joyce James, Child Protective Services Asst. Commisioner
- Debra Emerson, Director of Policy and programs
- Vicky Coffee-Fletcher, Division Administrator for Family Focus

2.) Effective court and legal partnerships to achieve permanence for youth. This session was moderated by Gary Stangler. Panelists included Jennifer Rodriguez of the California Youth Connection.

Goal of this event
Before youth age out of care, there are several pathways to establishing a permanent connection.

These include:
- Reuniting a child with his / her biological family
- Giving custody to relatives
- Establishing a legal guardian
- Maintaining stability within a residential placement.

I was unable to attend this event, although I will be attending and assisting with the Casey Foundation's upcoming "It's My Life" conference in October.

A session that I personally would love to have notes from is "Teaming Strategies: Building Lifelong Family Relationships for Older Children and Youth in Residential Care."

I plan to contact the discussion moderator, Isabel Morales, and will post the information I receive from her.

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