CHS has worked in partnership with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to develop a leading-edge practice model to build on the strengths of its Foster Care to Permanency program. A CHS and Chapin Hall team, as well as foster parents, birth parents, and youth with foster care experience, partnered to develop this practice model with the goal of improving stability, permanency, and well-being outcomes for the children in our care, and beyond. This work has led CHS to a focus on a few specific areas including shared parenting and reunification.
At CHS, we believe that children do best when they grow up in a family, and that the goal of our program is to create the best opportunity for children to leave foster care and transition to a permanent family, whether it be through reunification, guardianship with relatives or fictive kin, or adoption. “Our work in developing the practice model and creating an intentional process for what’s best for the child in the system we work in has prompted a shift in our role in reunification,” said Matt Anderson, CHS Vice President of Programs. “Since we began this process, we have seen a significant increase in the number of our youth reunified with their families of origin. We want to continue to partner with others to lead a shift in practice that supports birth parents in their goal to reunify with their children.” Reunification is the first desired outcome for children and their families involved in the foster care system. When children are removed from their family of origin, they experience a tremendous loss. They are separated from not only their family, but their friends, their school, their community, and their culture. By prioritizing reunification and shared parenting, we can create opportunities for the birth family to remain engaged with their children while they are placed in out-of-home care. Foster parents become partners with birth parents in the everyday care of their children, helping them to remain connected, dignified, and empowered in their role as a parent. “Families come in all shapes and sizes, and blended families are important,” said Jaquia Wilson, alumni of foster care and SaySo (Strong Able Youth Speaking Out) Community Engagement Coordinator. “Young people in foster care should have more rather than fewer people in their lives. Youth shouldn’t be forced to choose between foster parents and birth family. They should be helped to learn how to navigate all of the complicated, important, and even unhealthy relationships in their lives.”
Additionally, the children can see their birth parents and foster parents work in partnership to meet their needs. Foster parents can also play a mentoring role to birth parents as they work to reunify with their children. CHS is fully committed to supporting the successful reunification of children in foster care to their families, and shared parenting is an excellent way to strengthen these efforts. “It’s about finding the best solution for the child and their family, and how we keep them intact with all the meaningful relationships they have, have had, and will have,” Anderson added.