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News and Information from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association

Ben Wilkins

Partner Perspective

Foster-Adopt Placements Lead More Quickly to Permanency for Children

Ben Wilkins, LCSW
Director of Recruitment and Training
Dallas CASA, Inc.

In the child welfare system, where leaders and front-line workers struggle to find and maintain efficient ways of working, foster care adoption is one sure way of making the system work better for children.

The idea is simple: Children need safe, loving homes long before we know the outcome of the legal case. When children leave foster care to return to parents or kin, the expert care they received in a foster-adopt home bridges the gap between removal and reunification. "Foster-adopt" refers to foster parents who have indicated a willingness to adopt children placed in their care if appropriate.

But if children are unable to return to family, they will have a strong foundation of trust and familiarity as they face the loss of the connections they once knew. For abused and neglected children, foster-adopt care means finding out that your new home is with the family who have loved you and cared for you for months. For child welfare professionals and volunteer advocates, foster-adopt care means building on established relationships and preventing unnecessary turbulence and multiple moves for these children.

When courts terminate the rights of parents, the foster-adopt model shortens the remaining time the children must spend under the jurisdiction of those courts by eliminating two time-consuming requirements: the search for a new adoptive family and the minimum span of time children must spend with their new family before the adoption may be finalized. While this reduction in time is important for all children, it is especially important for infants, who are forming vital attachments to their caregivers—key building blocks of healthy development. With foster-adopt care, if children are not able to return home, these attachments need not be broken in order to find permanence.

As CASA volunteers and staff, we can advance the important role of foster-adopt care by advocating for our children to have foster-adopt placement while the court decides what will happen next. Promoting foster-adopt care allows us to support the reasonable efforts made to reunify families while also advocating for the loving new connections required if those efforts are unsuccessful.

CASA programs coordinate with other groups to improve services and to advocate for change in conditions that adversely affect the children we serve. Our efforts span the full range of permanency options, from family reunification to permanent placement with kin to adoption. Although we always hope that children can return home, promoting foster-adopt care is our best chance to help make the system work better for children who cannot. As we venture out to tell our communities about child abuse and the work of Court Appointed Special Advocates, we can provide information about the need for loving foster-adopt homes. The most powerful way to do so is to share, in a manner that protects confidentiality, the stories of individual children finding permanence through foster-adopt placement.

Another excellent opportunity for CASA programs is to support National Adoption Day. By getting involved in its planning and implementation in your jurisdiction, you help remove barriers to adoption and increase public awareness of the many children waiting for their forever families.

As CASA organizations, we have only one agenda: safe, permanent homes for children. When children we serve are unable to return safely to their families of origin, foster-adopt care provides the happy new beginning that all children deserve.

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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