Within each person is the desire to have relationships with others. The kinds of relationships we have, as well as those we possibly don’t, and the strength or depth of those relationships certainly impact our quality of life. When our youth enter the foster care system, it often impacts their relationships. Having the support of family and friends matters to our children, regardless of how young or old they may be. We need to help foster and facilitate loving, caring relationships for all our youth in care. We must never underestimate how much relationships matter!
The goal of the Safe Children Coalition’s Family Finders program is to have our children make lasting connections to their own family members, and if possible and needed, to find a home for them living with one of these family connections. Kevin Campbell, who developed the Family Finding model, has said “Our purpose in Family Finding is to restore the opportunity to be unconditionally loved, to be accepted, and to be safe in a community and a family.” The Family Finders program is not just about “finding” or locating family members or “placements.” It is designed to locate, engage, connect, and support family resources for the children we serve.
In our efforts to increase the connectedness our children have with their families and other supports, Family Finders and Case Managers must work together to achieve the best outcomes. Our roles in the process can be different, but our goal should always remain the same as we partner together through the process. Family Finders primarily focuses on locating, connecting, and engaging with relatives. Case Managers focus on assessing the various family members and looking at ways to incorporate them into the lives of our children in care. Just because a relative cannot take “placement” of a child, does not mean the relative doesn’t have anything of value to contribute in the child’s life. It is very important that we look for ways to rule family members “in” instead of “out”, as often as possible.
Communication is key to the successful teamwork between Family Finders and Case Managers. Family Finder Specialists regularly touch base with case managers in person, through emails, or over the phone to provide any significant updates on contacts with located relatives and family connections, as well as to plan with case managers how best to proceed in light of the current status of each case and any particular issues surrounding an individual child. Family Finders seeks to support and enhance the family work case managers are already doing. Partnering together will produce greater outcomes for connection and permanency for our children in care.