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July/August 2008Vol. 9, No. 6Family Search and Engagement Steps

In recent years, child welfare professionals have increasingly focused on the importance of permanent connections for older youth who might otherwise age out of foster care into an uncertain adulthood. A new guide outlines the steps to identifying, locating, and engaging family members who may offer permanency to youth in foster care. The premise of the guide is that there may be relatives who would gladly adopt or support youth currently in long-term group or foster care, if they just knew about them. In Six Steps to Find a Family: A Practice Guide to Search and Engagement, author Mardith J. Louisell builds on the family search and engagement model, designed to find permanent relationships for youth by helping adults make realistic decisions about their involvement in a youth's life.

The guide outlines steps for agencies in this process:

  • Setting the stage—ensuring that both the youth and adults involved in the search process are prepared
  • Discovery—using personal interviews, files, and technology to locate and document as many relatives as possible
  • Engagement—contacting relatives and fictive kin and preparing for visits between the youth and interested adults
  • Exploration and planning—merging the newly found adults with the youth's team to begin considering permanency options
  • Decision-making and evaluation—developing plans for legal and emotional permanency
  • Sustaining the relationship—reviewing commitments and resources and preparing the team/family to be self-sustaining

The guide also includes a number of resources to be used in family finding and engagement, including forms, checklists, sample letters, phone scripts, and tips for searching and for talking to youth about permanency.

The guide was developed by the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning (NRCFCPPP) and the California Permanency for Youth Project and is available for download on the NRCFCPPP website: (PDF - 2,899 KB)

Related Item

Children's Bureau Express most recently wrote about locating family members in "Improving Relative Search and Engagement" (May 2008).