Local Youth-Led Foster Program Helps Others

Posted on:

< < Back to

It can be hard for older children going through the foster care system to be adopted; they lack the permanent status with a family they so long for. A new program allows the 12-18 year-olds to explore ways to help control their own future.

Six Ohio counties – Athens, Fairfield, Guernsey, Hamilton, Montgomery, and Summit – participated in the pilot program in 2014, and it has since grown to 11 counties across the state. Fawn Gadel, with the Family and Youth Law Center at Capital University and the pilot program’s coordinator, said the Youth-Centered Permanency Roundtables (PRTs) use a model that helps establish permanent connections for foster children and allows the children to be included in the process.

“This initiative was started by Casey Family Programs as a means to reduce the number of children emancipating from foster care without a permanent home and is part of Ohio’s larger initiative to reduce the number of children emancipating from Ohio’s foster care system without a form of legal permanency,” Gadel said.

Led by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and Public Children Services Association of Ohio, the PRTs focus on finding permanency for those older children who have been in foster care for 17 months or longer.

Most PRTs consist of the child, his or her caseworker and supervisor, a facilitator, and someone with experience in helping children establish permanency. A support person identified by the foster care child is also included in the PRTs team that empowers the youth by selecting goals and people who are important to them and creating an action plan to achieve some kind of “permanent support relationship” for the child. The child directs his or her action plan and the adults help guide them through the process.

“I believe the Youth Centered Permanency Roundtables help youth in foster care by creating a sense of urgency surrounding creating permanency for each youth involved in the initiative,” Gadel said.

Tim Beasley, Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services permanency planning coordinator, said there are generally three types of child welfare custody:

  • Temporary custody, parental rights haven’t been terminated with a goal of reunification with the parent.
  • Long-term foster care called “Planned Permanent Living Arrangement,” where the child is not available for adoption and generally remains in foster care until he or she turns 18.
  • Permanent custody, parental rights have been terminated and the child can be adopted.

Beasley said the PRTs entrust the children when making important life choices.

“Those involved in the Montgomery County PRT program credit its success to the fact that the roundtables are youth-driven,” Beasley said. “The meeting focuses on what the youth wants for their future – where they want to live – and allows them the opportunity to formulate the plan on how to make that happen. The youth is empowered and sees that oftentimes – for the first time – they are being heard and valued.”

Subsequent meetings throughout the year are led by the foster care children to evaluate the progress of their plan and change or add goals if needed until permanency is achieved, Beasley said.

Nearly 40 children have gone through PRTs in Fairfield County, and Juvenile and Probate Judge Terre Vandervoort said a third wave of roundtable sessions soon will include 13 more youth.

“In court, we have seen motions and requests for different alternative permanency planning at either the annual review or oral hearings on those motions,” Judge Vandervoort said.

The Fairfield County court receives reports from Child Protective Services that includes what PRTs have happened or will be happening and the result or outcome of the PRTs. Judge Vandervoort said some of the court’s staff members have been asked to be the youth’s support people during the PRTs sessions.

“The court has noticed an increase in creative permanency outcomes and planning through the use of permanency roundtables by Child Protective Services, which the youth embrace by being involved in decisions for their future,” Judge Vandervoort said. “I feel it is a positive step toward permanency for the youth in the system and promotes engagement of the youth in planning for their futures.”