I'm a youth who was in foster care. I know what it's like to meet with social workers and have conversations about my future. I think that planning permanency and adoption is a good thing because it gives youth a sense of stability and belonging. Permanency is important because it sets the ground work for the youth's future; it sets up a permanent family life and also might help to make sure that positive outcomes are possible for the youth in the long run. Here are some suggestions I have for people who work with youth in care or adoptees!
How should you give information to teens?
Do not give too much or too little information! From personal experience, I know that being told too much information at once can be overwhelming. At the same time, it's not good if a teen is given little or no information. That might make a teen feel lost or unorganized, kind of like a deer in headlights.
Don't judge a youth by their file
Do not judge the youth based on what is in their file because that's their past. The youth could be a totally different person that their file says.
What does it mean when a teen says NO to adoption?
What if a teen says, "no" to adoption? Give them time to let it sink in, then come back in a couple of days or a week or two so they can think about it. They may changed their mind and end up wanting to be adopted.
When they say "no", it might be because they aren't sure if they can trust who's adopting them. They might not know if it is the right fit. With any relationship there are ups and downs, but you never really know unless you take that first step. I know that if you don't even take a little step out of your comfort zone then everything you do will be repetitive. You'll be doing the exact same thing everyday and you won't grow and meet new people.
What roles should social workers play in planning permanency?
Social workers should be friendly and supportive. They should try to check in more than once a month so that they can connect more with the youth, even though it's hard with all of the cases that they have. When planning permanency, the social worker should make sure that the relationship with the possible adoptive family is a good fit for the youth. if it's not a good fit it can do more harm than good; almost like taking one step forward and two steps back.
What kind of questions should social workers ask youth?
1. Ask the youth what they want their permanency plan to look like.
2. Ask what the youth wants in their life and how they would like to be raised. A lot of youth will say that they want to party but when they grow up and look back on it they will realize that it's important to have rules, structure, and a stable environment.
3. Social workers should talk to kids about permanency planning when they first become a teenager because their whole life as a youth is important. It really starts to count when you become a teenager because you are coming closer to becoming an adult.
What roles should a foster parent play in planning permanency?
A foster parent's role in planning permanency is to help support the youth through transitions. They should be a guide and someone to lean on if the youth starts to change their mind and becomes unsure about the adoption process and the outcome they are hoping for. Foster parents should not raise a youth's hopes about adoptions unless they are 98-99% sure that it is what you want to happen.
What roles should a teen play in planning permanency?
A teen's role in planning permanency is the biggest part because they should have a voice on whether or not their plan is a good fit for them. If the youth or teen doesn't think that it's a good fit then they should be able to decide what they would like to do. It's important to listen to what a youth has to say.