Finding a permanent family is the often the primary goal when children and youth enter out-of-home care, but they also may need to establish, re-establish, or strengthen meaningful connections with people who are not immediate members of their permanent families. Children and youth may wish to maintain contact with relatives, friends, or other supports that were part of their lives when residing with their birth families. Additionally, youth may be greatly assisted by creating and maintaining connections with caring adults as they potentially transition out of foster care and into independent living situations. Resources include State and local examples.
Care and Connections: Bridging Relational Gaps for Foster Youths (PDF - 722 KB)
Denby, Gomez, & Reeves (2017)
Brookings Institution, Center on Children and Families
Explores the challenges of implementing and evaluating relationship-based interventions in child welfare and presents implications and recommendations for child welfare professionals and agencies working to increase relational capacities for children and youth in foster care.
A Family For Every Child
Discusses A Family for Every Child's Family Finding program, which works to find safe, loving kin connections for youth in foster care to help create a lifelong support system for youth, help children learn about their family history, and reconnect them with loved ones.
The Importance of Permanent Connections for Youth in Foster Care
Discusses the importance of creating permanent connections for children and youth in foster care so they have support during the transition to adulthood and how those who leave foster care without these relationships are at a higher risk of not achieving education goals, becoming pregnant at an early age, being homeless, and facing incarceration.
Promoting Supportive, Lasting Adult Connections for Older Youth in Foster Care: Good Shepherd Services' Permanency Pact Program (PDF - 2,560 KB)
Good Shepherd Services, Redlich Horwitz Foundation (2018)
Highlights permanency pacts, which can be used to increase permanency by strengthening and formalizing existing relationships between a youth and a close adult. The paper provides an overview of the importance of having a supportive relationship with caring adults and existing efforts to support older youth as they transition to adulthood.
Sibling Connections in Foster Care, Why They're Important
Foster Care Alumni of America (2018)
Reviews the importance of sibling connections for children and youth in foster care and how sibling groups are more likely to be separated the longer they remain in care.
Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions
Reviews challenges for youth transitioning out of foster care and into adulthood, including unstable housing; lack of education, employment, and job training; physical and behavioral health problems; lack of access to health care; justice system involvement; and lack of social connections. The resource also discusses the fact that having mentors during this difficult transition can enhance outcomes in these areas for foster youth.
The Youth Connections Scale
Semanchin-Jones & LaLiberte (2018)
The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Describes the Youth Connections Scale, which identifies the quality and quantity of meaningful connections a youth has with caring adults. This tool can help child welfare agencies work with youth in foster care to strengthen and build relationships with others and a support network for relational permanence.
Building Relationships: The Importance of Permanent Relationships
Virginia Department of Social Services, Project Life
Reviews the importance of developing meaningful, lasting relationships for youth in foster care and those aging out of foster care to prevent poverty, homelessness, mental health and medical problems, and involvement with the criminal justice system.
The Colorado Teen Project
Colorado Teen Project
Works with youth ages 16 to 24 who are aging out of foster care to create permanent relationships with supportive adults. The program helps youth with education plans, career goals, and building resources, resilience, and a network of positivity and support.
Fostering Advocates Arizona
Explains family finding services for youth in foster care in Arizona, which helps youth locate their families and family history. The resource includes steps to begin the search, links to search sites, searching tips, and more.
Helping Youth in Foster Care Maintain Important Connections
Examines the importance of keeping foster care youth connected with a network of supportive adults and how they can maintain these connections.
The Lifelong Connections Initiative: An Examination of Exemplary Engagement Practice (PDF - 436 KB)
Martin & Friend (2016)
Examines the evolution of a Family Finding/Family Group Decision-Making model used in San Francisco. Findings showed that enough planning along with effective staff selection and training were vital to the program's success and that establishing consistent continuous quality improvement cycles to track progress was necessary.
Real Connections Mentor Program
Foster Forward (2019)
Offers a program in conjunction with the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families that connections foster youth ages 8 to 21 with adult role models who can provide guidance and emotional support to young people that need supportive connections in their lives.
Youth Connections Program
Indiana Department of Child Services (2019)
Explains the youth connections program in Indiana, which is a youth-led program dedicated to working with youth 14 and older in foster care who would like to form caring connections with adults. The program matches youth with a supportive adult and then helps them build a strong relationship.