Interdependence vs Independence
Sharon Vandivere, Karin Malm
This brief reviews the results from 13 evaluations of Family Finding that have been released over the past two years. Overall, the evidence available from the recent evaluations is not sufficient to conclude that Family Finding improves youth outcomes above and beyond existing, traditional services. At the same time, the evidence is not sufficient to conclude that Family Finding does not improve outcomes.
We identify three hypotheses regarding the lack of consistently positive impacts, which are not mutually exclusive, and explore the implications of each: 1) Family Finding may not have been completely and consistently implemented, 2) study parameters may not have been sufficient to detect impacts, and 3) assumptions regarding how intervention activities and outputs will result in outcomes are flawed.
Karin Malm, Sharon Vandivere, Tiffany Allen, Sarah Catherine Williams, Amy McKlindon
Child Trends evaluated Family Finding services in nine North Carolina counties through a rigorous impact evaluation and an accompanying process study. The impact evaluation involved random assignment of eligible children to a treatment or control group. The treatment group received Family Finding services in addition to traditional child welfare services, whereas the control group received traditional child welfare services only. Eligible children were in foster care; were 10 or older at the time of referral; did not have a goal of reunification; and lacked an identified permanent placement. The accompanying process study examined program outputs, outcomes, and linkages between the project components and other contextual factors.
Family Finding for Children and Families New to Out-of-Home Care: A Rigorous Evaluation of Family Finding in San Francisco
Karin Malm, Tiffany Allen, Amy McKlindon, Sharon Vandivere
A rigorous evaluation was designed to examine the impact of Family Finding on these “front end” cases and an accompanying process study examined outputs and linkages between the program components and other contextual factors. Random assignment of cases began in September 2008 and ended in February 2011, comprising a 25-month total intake period. During this period, children were randomly assigned from a waitlist of eligible children recently detained by the court, i.e., removed from home, either to receive Family Finding services (the treatment group) or to receive “services as usual” (the control group) prior to the beginning of treatment. The evaluation included 239 children in total; 123 in the control group, and 116 children in the treatment group. The evaluation sought to investigate how Family Finding services impact the likelihood of achieving reunification, and of a child’s goal being changed to something other than reunification.
Tiffany Allen, Karin Malm, Sarah Catherine Williams, Raquel Ellis
The purpose of the family finding model is to provide child welfare practitioners with intensive relative search and engagement techniques to identify family and other close adults for children in foster care, and to involve them in developing and carrying out a plan for the emotional and legal permanency of a child. This brief examines the discovery component of the model (see description of Family Finding model on page 7) and identifies promising techniques and tools that family finding workers reported using to help facilitate the discovery of family members or other important people in the child’s life. This is the second brief in a series summarizing findings from Child Trends’ evaluations of the family finding model. The first family finding brief, Family Finding: Does Implementation Differ When Serving Different Child Welfare Populations?, can be found in the resources section, under Family Finding Model in General.
Promising Approaches in Child Welfare: Helping Connect Children and Youth in Foster Care to Permanent Family and Relationships Through Family Finding and Engagement
Children’s Defense Fund
Foster to Adopt
30 Days to Family® is an intense, short-term intervention developed by the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition to: 1) increase the number of children placed with relatives/kin at the time they enter the foster care system; and 2) ensure natural and community supports are in place to promote stability for the child. The program model features two major elements: family finding and family support interventions.
Not Independent Enough: Exploring the Tension Between Independence and Interdependence Among Former Foster Youth in Foster Care Who are Emerging Adults.
Kim Hokanson, Kate E. Golden, Erin Singer, Stephanie Cosner Berzin
A long-standing belief in the value of independence has led to an emphasis on self-sufficiency in our programming, policy, and practice responses toward youth aging out of the foster care system—an ideal that often is difficult for young people to achieve. However, a growing body of research on interdependence suggests that healthy connections to trusted adults may better help youth navigate the transition to adulthood. Semi-structured interviews conducted with 20 youth explored conceptualizations of independence in the context of emancipation. Using thematic content analysis, themes indicate contradictory and deterministic ideas about self-sufficiency and adulthood. Findings imply tensions between independence and a developmentally normative need for interdependence during the period of emerging adulthood.
Brenda M. Morton
Foster care alumni face overwhelming challenges as they transition from care to independence. Torn between their desire to be independent, yet acknowledging they need support, they struggle to find their footing. Adopting a survivor self-reliance mind-set, they set out to earn a bachelor’s degree on their own. As they struggle, they compare themselves to non-foster peers who, by enlarge, have a support system enabling them a prolonged entrance to adulthood, which provides a safety net. Without a safety net, and with a focus on independence, decisions youth from foster care make, result in few alumni earning a bachelor’s degree.
E. R. Singer, S. Berzin, K. Hokanson
As the adolescent development literature has recognized the importance of social supports in the transition to adulthood, child welfare research, policies, and programs have turned their attention to the relational needs of youth emancipating from the foster care system. This study builds on the extant literature on social support among transitioning foster care youth; it goes beyond the sole identification of relational networks, to explore how youth actually utilize their network members, and the overall quality of their support system. This study collects data from twenty qualitative interviews with foster youth, ages 18–21. We analyze the data using consensual qualitative research methods in order to develop core themes around shared youth experiences. We found that while foster youth did identify a wide network of both formal and informal supports during their transition to adulthood, there were “holes” in the form of support, especially appraisal and instrumental support, provided by informal network members. Additionally, an unrealistic perception of supportive and permanent relationships may be contributing to poor outcomes in emerging adulthood. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Miranda J. Cunningham, Marcelo Diversi
Foster youth in the United States face significant barriers in a transition to independence which is markedly abrupt compared to the ‘emerging adulthood’ that is expected of most young adults. While many of the difficulties that foster youth face in this transition are known at the larger demographic level, first-person narratives of the process of ‘aging out’ of foster care are largely missing from academic literature. To date, most qualitative studies rely on methods that are not grounded in trust-based relationships between researchers and youth (e.g. hit-and-run focus groups, interviews conducted by research assistants unknown to youth, indirect assessment of youths’ emotional states). In an attempt to advance youths’ own narratives, we used critical ethnography to engage youth in sharing their perspectives on the process of ‘aging out’ of foster care. Youths expressed anxiety about their subjective experiences of ‘aging out’, including economic challenges and housing instability, loss of social support, and pressure to be self-reliant. Youths’ narratives during the early stages of transition from foster care provide insights for professionals, policy makers, and future research.
Ambiguous Loss of Home: The Experience of Familial (im)Permanence Among Young Adults With Foster Care Backgrounds
G. M. Samuels
Achieving a stable family context for foster children—permanence—is the philosophy within which nearly all child welfare policy and practice is embedded. Although debates endure over defining permanence and the ideal pathways through which it should be achieved, this discourse rarely includes foster youth perspectives. This article presents findings from an interpretive study of 29 young adults who transitioned from foster care into adulthood without legal permanence. Findings extend ambiguous loss theory to conceptualize participants’ experiences as an ambiguous loss of home, highlighting three patterns in the strategies used to manage familial impermanence: (1) creating a self-defined permanence, (2) rejecting adoption—navigating multifamilial memberships and allegiances, and (3) building permanence after foster care. Recommendations for policy, practice, and future research are offered, including a shift toward a multisystemic framework of permanence attending to both legal and relational definitions of family among youth in foster care.
Jennifer Propp, Debora M. Ortega, Forest NewHeart
Youth who transition out of foster care are often overlooked and unprepared for a life outside of the child welfare system. As youth begin to grow up in the foster care system, they are encouraged to move toward the goal of self-sufficiency. This article examines the idea of self-sufficiency as it relates to youth transitioning from the foster care system and proposes a different approach to the state of transition, an approach called interdependent living. Through this examination, the authors suggest a way to reshape practice approaches by emphasizing the values of interdependence, connection, and collaboration. Together these values lead to an empowerment model of practice for youth who transition from foster care.
Caryl E. Rusbult, Paul A. M. Van Lange
Interdependence theory presents a logical analysis of the structure of interpersonal situations, offering a conceptual framework in which interdependence situations can be analyzed in terms of six dimensions. Specific situations present specific problems and opportunities, logically implying the relevance of specific motives and permitting their expression. Via the concept of transformation, the theory explains how interaction is shaped by broader considerations such as long-term goals and concern for a partner’s welfare. The theory illuminates our understanding of social-cognitive processes that are of longstanding interest to psychologists such as cognition and affect, attribution, and self-presentation. The theory also explains adaptation to repeatedly encountered interdependence patterns, as well as the embodiment of such adaptations in interpersonal dispositions, relationship-specific motives, and social norms.
This contribution focuses on the family as the major context for children’s development, it includes con- cepts of the family as an institution for the transmission of meaning on the one hand, and it formulates implications for new theoretical and methodological approaches in the field of family research on the other. The idea of transmission of a society’s meaning system via the family is discussed under the perspective that the socialization of children in the family provides a continuous basis for the aggregation of common knowledge over generations. The systems approach is taken as a promising model for dealing with the complex continuity and change issues during development. Data will be presented from two longitudinal studies, in which parent-child communication behavior was analyzed over time during two critical developmental periods, during the first two years after the birth of a second child and during the transition from childhood to adolescence.