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February 2012Vol. 13, No. 1Family Finding for Different Child Welfare Populations

The family finding model, which child welfare agencies may use to identify and locate extended family members for children and youth in foster care, can be implemented at any point in a child's case. A recent Child Trends research brief compared the use of the family finding model with two child welfare populations at two sites: 196 youth who had spent a long time in foster care and 70 children who recently entered out-of-home care. Data were collected between October 2008 and November 2010.

Differences were found in program approach and context, characteristics of the children served, and the program inputs and outputs at the two sites. According to the research brief, intervention with the family finding model for children new to out-of-home care tended to focus on finding family in order to strengthen reunification efforts and support systems. However, when applied to youth who had lingered in care and who had little or no contact with birth parents, the focus shifted to meeting the youth's needs by expanding the support network and engaging extended family members and other connections.

Results are discussed in terms of family meetings, family engagement, and family discovery. More family members were discovered for children who had been in care over time; however, the family finding model still increased the number of family members or other connections by more than three times for those new to care. While children who had been in care had more requests for family member meetings, children new to out-of-home care had, on average, slightly more family meetings. Results also show that there were more interactions between caseworkers and family members of children new to out-of-home care.

These findings may help child welfare systems understand when the family finding practice model would be the most effective and design programs to either prevent foster care placement or reduce the time children and youth spend in foster care. 
Family Finding: Does Implementation Differ When Serving Different Child Welfare Populations? by Karin Malm and Tiffany Allen, is available on Child Trend's website: (440 KB)