October 20, 2014

Meeting seeks to help foster care children find permanent homes

Child welfare advocates are meeting today at Boys Town, discussing ways to ensure children in the state foster care system feel a sense of permanence.

The Youth Permanency Summit has attracted more than 100 professionals in the system, from case workers to judges.

Judy Dierkhising, Grant Development Director with Nebraska Families Collaborative, says all youth need to have that sense of home even as they strive to become independent.

“But the struggles for foster youth are really much more complicated and sometimes they’re more lonely when they don’t have a permanent family to guide and direct their journey into adulthood,” Dierkhising tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Stephanie Clark, a consultant with Nebraska Families Collaborative, says “permanency” to foster youth means more than having legal connections with adults.

“But it’s more just that they have that life-long person that they can always count on,” Clark tells us. “And I think that the statistics show that kids who age out of foster care that don’t have those life-long connections, they don’t have good outcomes. Many of them will be incarcerated or homeless. It just doesn’t give them the opportunity to have someone to be there for them in their times of need.”

Homelessness, crime, drugs often plague youth who remain rootless in a state’s child welfare system. Clark says attachment to adults who care can make life-changing differences.

“If they don’t have someone who they feel that they can be there for them no matter what, there outcome is generally not good,” Clark says. “And that’s not for all of them, there are some who are very resilient and figure it out. But, I think their road is harder than for those kids who do have someone, at least, that they can turn to.”

The summit will be discussing five strategies to help youth find permanency: giving youth a strong voice and involvement; finding healthy permanent relationships; raising community resources and awareness; promoting good policies and procedures and providing funding.