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Plan to Keep Kids Connected to Their Supportive Adults

The Play

When a child enters care, make a list right away of all the supportive connections in their lives: family members, school teachers, friends, and even pets. Then make a plan to maintain each connection for the duration of time the child is in care.

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

The Problem It Solves

Most youth enter foster care with more relationships than they exit with. Supportive connections are critical to a youth’s well-being, but often, if a connection cannot serve as a placement resource, child welfare systems do not actively work to keep that connection in place. When these plans are in place, youth have more people than they can count on for emotional support, rides, tutoring, advice, and everyday connections.

How To Do This

  • Make a list with the youth of all their existing connections. A heart map template can help.
  • Locate contact information for each connection. You may need to use social media to find them.
  • Make a plan to stay in touch with each connection. Plans could be Facetime or phone calls once a week, exchanging letters or emails, in-person visits, transportation to school or appointments, attending school events, and/or visits. You can even make a plan to stay in touch with a pet, such as visits to the dog park.
  • Include the expectation that foster parents support these plans in your foster parent training.

Outcomes Data

  • Olmsted County, MN demonstrated significantly better outcomes for older foster youth when a ratio of 3:1 unpaid adults to paid staff attended their planning meetings (roughly 12 family members to 3 staff members). They also pay attention to the balance of family present from both sides of the family. source

Who’s Doing This?

  • Virginia uses mobility maps with foster children to map out important relationships.
  • Indiana’s practice model includes developing plans for maintaining connections for foster youth.

Real-World Examples

  • Uplift Human Services in San Jose, CA uses a heart map to help kids identify and make plans with their supportive connections.
  • Michigan explicitly asks identified kin to commit to staying in touch with youth on their Relative Notification Form
  • Michigan has a “Maintaining Contact when Placement is Not an Option” policy:
    • Relatives who are not considered for placement are encouraged to maintain contact in other ways, which include but are not limited to: Supervising parent/child visitation; Transporting the child to appointments, visitation, etc.; Attending school programs, athletic events, etc.; and Visits, phone calls, and letters.
  • California State Code requires that the child welfare system make a plan for maintaining supportive connections for foster youth 10 and older.