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Ask Youth for Placement Options

The Play

Ask youth, both at initial removal and at regular intervals afterwards, about the supportive adults and connections in their lives. Even young children may be able to tell you about the important people in their lives.

Who Can Do This?: Anyone
Cost: Free
Timeframe: Immediate
Difficulty: Easy

The Problem It Solves

Youth are often placed in general foster care or in group homes when they actually DO have placement options with adults they already know and trust.

How To Do This

  • Develop a practice of asking child welfare workers “What did the youth say?”
  • Develop a practice of asking youth about their supportive connections at every placement change, and at regular interveals (e.g. annually)
  • Phrase inquiries carefully. A youth should not feel like they have to supply a placement option or they will be homeless. Helpful prompts include: “Who came to your last family gathering?” and “Who would you call if you needed a ride home from school?”
  • Even if the adults a youth identifies cannot serve as a placement option, it’s still critical to help keep those connections in place through regular phone calls, visits, or other contact.

Outcomes Data

  • New Mexico increased initial kinship placements from 3% to 40% in one year by shifting to youth-focused practices that include asking youth about their supportive connections.

Who’s Doing This?

  • Fairfax County, VA
  • Indiana
  • New Mexico
  • Rhode Island

Real-World Examples

  • Indiana is piloting a practice of asking child welfare workers for a youth’s input whenever they call the placement desk.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rhode Island set up a Zoom meeting with each group home facility, and met with each youth one on one to discuss their placement options. They were able to move many youth from group homes into kinship placements as a result.
  • Fairfax County, Virginia conducts family finding for youth annually, and at every placement change.