Adolescents and Families for Life, A Toolkit

For Supervisors: An Overview


Adolescents and Families for Life, A Toolkit for Supervisors© is a unique workbook for child welfare supervisors who need to guide, train, and supervise staff in ensuring permanence for the adolescents in their case loads. The Toolkit© is organized into three sections:


·        Why? Making the Case for Permanency

·        Choosing, Using and Developing Permanency Tools with Teens

·       Supporting Permanence.


These sections are further divided in topic areas; the topics are broken down into more manageable units.


1.1 The first topic in Section 1, Making the Case for Permanency, includes three units:

The Need:

·       Lack of permanency has many costs for the adolescent

·       Independent Living programs are part of the answer, but only part

·       Permanency Planning is essential if youth are to have the family support necessary for adult survival

OK, But… Common Objections:

·       Workers and professionals from various fields make a variety of practical and philosophical objections to the idea of adoption/permanency for teens

·       Adolescence is not a “compelling reason” to discount permanency planning as required by the Adoption and Safe Families Act

·       The need for permanent family connections is there in the lives of the real teens we work with every day

What Does Permanency Look Like?

·       Key elements that should be considered when evaluating the quality of proposed permanency options

·       A variety of family constellations and relationships can be considered as permanency resources for teens

·       Creativity is necessary in removing barriers to family connections


1.2 The second topic is Adolescent Development & Permanency:

Adolescent Development:

·       A brief review of the principles of adolescent development

·       Age-appropriate developmental experiences of youth awaiting permanency

·       Common misconceptions which lead to undervaluing of the importance of family connections to adolescents

Adolescents in Our Care:

·       Unique life experiences and developmental considerations common to adolescents in out-of-home care

·       Key findings from current research concerning the long term effects of early neglect and/or trauma, including the concept of resilience

·       The repeated losses of typical child and adolescent activities, nurturing of talents, educational opportunities, learning experiences, etc.

Laying the Foundation to Restore Permanence:

·       Being separated from parents and coming into public care as a source of major trauma for children, much like the experience of war or a natural disaster

·       Several key elements must be addressed in order to help children heal and achieve alternative permanent family connections


1.3 The final topic is Impact of the System & Barriers:

System Issues:

·       Aspects of child welfare policy and practice which promote or impede permanency for teens

·       Attitudes, beliefs and culture which impact effect permanency planning

·       Successful strategies and programs

People Issues:

·       Personal factors in relation to kin, foster and adoptive families which pose challenges to adolescent permanency

·       Individual values, beliefs and developmental issues which impact the ability of staff to achieve permanent family connections for teens


2.1 Section 2 looks at how to work directly with teens. The first topic is Helping Teens Consider Permanency:

Changing a Youth’s Thinking:

·       The need for authenticity in interaction with teens around permanency issues

·       Engaging youth in the process of identifying permanent family relationships, including the necessity of informed consent

·       Responding to common objections raised by teens

Working With Those Around the Adolescent:

·       Anticipating reactions and responding to those around the child as permanency work takes place with the youth

·       Identifying strategies for engaging those around the child as helpful resources in the family seeking process

Working With Birth Parents To Allow Permanence Elsewhere:

·       Revisiting significant relationships with birth parents and others to address issues which interfere with the youth’s ability to commit to an alternative family

·       Planning for levels of openness in future placements as appropriate


2.2 Preparing The Youth For Family Living, the second topic, gives concrete examples in working with teens by working with the “Foundations of Permanence:”



·       Laying the Foundations for Permanence

·       Loyalty to other families


·       Grief is a learned skill

·       Addressing loss


·       You cannot give anyone self-esteem

·       Self mastery following loyalty and loss issues are key

·       Pivotal issue (behavior & self determination)

Behavior Management:

·       Most young people want to get themselves and their feelings under control

·       Following on from loyalty, loss, and self-esteem

·       Dealing with anger (rage): recognition, prevention, progress

Self Determination:

·       Working through the other foundations of permanence leads naturally to self-determination

·       The more empowered a youth, the better able to find and maintain permanent connections and to lay their foundation for permanence

·       Self determination is a reality that improves with respect


2.3 The third topic, Finding Connections, helps workers to reach out to find the family connections that may already exist in the teen’s own life.

Record Review:

·       Importance of thorough record review to all aspects of quality service delivery to adolescents

·       Format for utilizing the child’s record to identify possible family connections

·       Ways to involve the adolescent in review of his or her own agency record

Helping Teen Identify Connections:

·       Empowering youth to seek their “own family” and to share their dreams and efforts in this regard

·       Techniques for helping youth to identify adults with whom they have past or current relationships who may be resources in planning for family connections

Making Contact with Potential Connections:

·       Brief review of some techniques for locating past attachment figures

·       Methods of communication, explaining the process, samples

·       Common difficulties and strategies for success


2.4 The fourth topic covers Making Connections, including:


Relationship Building/Mending:

·       Exploration of the variety of relationships which may be uncovered

·       Review of services and supports which may be necessary for youth and potential family connections, including safety training for youth

·       Discussion of relationship building as an active vs. a passive process


Engaging Resources in Planning for Kids:

·       Discussion of rationale and methods of expanding the permanency planning process beyond the child welfare agency to include the teen and a variety of caring adults

·       Presentation of a model approach to teen-centered, collaborative planning


Preparing Permanency Resources/Families:

·       Home Study or Family Preparation

·       Adults need to learn…

·       Best Preparation Methods


Decision Making:

·       Significant considerations in assessing permanency options

·       Identify common problems & solutions related to suitability

·       Principles for decision making


2.5 The last topic in Section 2 discusses the challenges of Child-Specific Recruitment:

Engaging the Teen:


·       The role of the youth in planning for his/her future family connections

·       Techniques for empowering/involving youth in the recruitment process

·       Common sources of resistance and strategies for resolution


Child-Specific Recruitment:

·       Elements of a model child-specific recruitment plan

·       Techniques for effective targeting of recruitment

·       Potential recruitment resources

·       Responding to recruitment inquiries


Personal Interaction Events/Opportunities:

·       Personal interaction events are personal development opportunities and recruitment activities

·       Designing effective events & activities for youth

·       Youth preparation and follow-up


3.1 The Toolkit’s third section, Supporting Permanency, is about making things work after the youth and family connections are made. Living with Teens begins with:


Adjustments for Teens and Parents:

·       The process of joining a permanent family influences and is influenced by the tasks universal to adolescent development

·       The development of intimacy and attachment between teen and family is a process marked by periods of approach and avoidance on both sides

·       Survival behaviors which may have emerged as resilience strategies for the child often cause difficulties in family living

·       Many parents experience strong emotional responses


Parenting Strategies:

·       Separate your own stuff

·       Positive steps to take

·       Taking care of yourself


The last two topics are independent units because there is such excellent material available from a number of different sources. These two units are introductions to the topics and point toward to some of the resources.


3.1 Adoption:

·       Becoming a family

·       Common issues for adoptive families

·       The need for post-adoption support

·       Resources


3.2 Kinship:

·       Becoming a family differently

·       Common issues for kin families

·       The need for post-permanency support

·       Resources