Research suggests that one of the strongest indicators for child well-being is the number of committed adults in a child’s life. According to Texas CASA, for children in foster care, having even one positive adult support person is a deterrent against future drug use, involvement in the criminal justice system and homelessness.
Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is working with the state's Child Protective Services (CPS) on a new Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) initiative that utilizes new technologies to identify, locate and engage family members and other committed adults who may want to be part of the child's life. The thinking is that foster children generally have many blood relatives and other adult connections who can be identified and involved in their cases from the beginning, which could reduce the time they are in foster care.
“A CASA volunteer provides crucial support while a child is in care, but Texas CASA is taking steps to provide lifelong, sustainable and natural connections for children even after their CASA involvement ends,” said Candice Dosman, Texas CASA Collaborative Family Engagement Manager. “Collaborative Family Engagement teams use tools and techniques focused on connection, engagement and an understanding of trauma with the hope of achieving permanency earlier, bolstering child well-being, and reducing the number of children and youth growing up in the foster care system.”
Connections kids may not know about
Along with tools to increase engagement and creative information gathering, CFE also utilizes various technologies, including GenoPro, a proprietary genealogy software, Seneca Search Services and Find Families in Mexico to search multiple databases and provide customized search reports.
"It has been wonderful to be a part of the collaboration between CASA and CPS, working together to identify and reach out to the family members in these cases -- achieving access to many vital connections children otherwise may not have known about," said a CASA staffer and adoptive parent.
The CFE model is currently used in Corpus Christi, Fort Bend County and Montgomery County and officials plan to expand it next year based on the success of the current pilots in their first three months of implementation.
"I anticipate this will start a fundamental shift in the way we approach children and youth in the child protection system," said Texas CASA CEO Vicki Spriggs.
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