Friday, June 10, 2016
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Pursuing Permanency Series #3

Where do fathers and their families fit into foster youth’s permanency plan? This is one of the questions the 2016 CYF Learning Cohort has been discussing. Too often fathers and their side of children’s families are overlooked when it comes to exploring family connections and placing a child who is in the child welfare system. This post looks at the benefits of a father’s involvement in his child’s life, and how to better engage a child’s father and paternal family when looking for a permanent home or even just a permanent connection for a youth in care. Also check out the National Fatherhood Initiative for more resources, including the free e-book “7 Steps to Starting a Successful Fatherhood Program,” and a tool to assess how well your organization engages fathers in its programs.

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Friday, June 10, 2016
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Pursuing Permanency Series #2

How large of a role should youth in foster care have in their permanency planning? Are adolescents ready for these big decisions? Can they be an asset in this process? These are some of the questions the CYF learning cohort is asking as they explore how to incorporate youth’s voices in their permanency programs. As it turns out, engaging youth in placement planning could actually help prepare them for adulthood. This post will look at two resources on engaging youth in transition planning, one from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative and the other from the Mississippi Teen Advisory Board. The first piece is “Authentic Youth Engagement: Youth-Adult Partnerships,” and the second, “Mississippi Youth Voice,” is a practice tool produced by a group of youth in the Mississippi foster care system which offers a look at their ideas for foster care improvement.

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Friday, June 3, 2016
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Pursuing Permanency Series #1

In April 2016, LSA CYF members launched a new learning cohort to identify and implement best practices for youth at risk of aging out of the child welfare system to achieve permanency, either with a permanent family (through reunification, adoption or guardianship) or through a lifelong connection to a committed, caring adult. The cohort’s objectives include exploring best practices, techniques and tools to support and assist organizations in integrating family placements for older youth into its culture and programming.

As part of this project, Natalie Goodnow from the Kennedy School at Harvard will share effective ways organizations can promote family placements for the older youth they serve.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016
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Who Is (Not) My Neighbor?

The Sunday of Independence Day weekend, I woke up bright and early to attend a worship service at a new church in my neighborhood. On previous weekends, you could find me at what I would consider to be a “popular church”- a well-attended, multi-satellite, free donuts before church kind of congregation located in a theater. You can picture it, can’t you? I’d chosen this welcoming community for the past weeks because I enjoyed the company of a friend who went there. The only inconvenience about this arrangement was that the church was located quite far from where we were living to the point where we had to take a train and walk a significant distance to get there. I had been wanting to support a local congregation for some time, so when my friend went out of town for the weekend I decided to do so then. I spotted a local United Methodist Church one night while roaming the area and had decided that this would be my place.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016
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People Who Make the Experience

Last week marked my halfway point with LSA. My first month in DC has been, quite simply, a whirlwind. From jazz nights to weekend markets, from baseball games on warm nights to shady lunches by the Capitol, my time here has been moving unevenly, creeping along at some moments but mostly leaping forward in bounds. It’s been exhausting and wonderful. But it wasn’t until this last weekend, when I spent some time away from DC, that I understood what has been making my summer here so special.
I spent my holiday weekend in Houston (a city where the Fourth isn’t so much unique and glamorous as it is a slightly bigger show of Texas’ daily patriotism), and as I told my boyfriend story after story about LSA and DC, I realized a truth that applies to most great experiences: the people I’ve come to know here are what have made my summer so meaningful.
And so, reflecting on my first month in DC, I thought I would talk about a few of those people who have so positively impacted my time here.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016
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Unconditionally Committed to Children

How can we prepare youth aging out of child welfare to be happy, productive adults? Is it important to for youth to have a permanent, positive adult relationship as they age out of the foster care system? How can we help them establish and maintain these relationships? These and many other questions were raised by members at the June meeting of LSA’s second learning cohort with the Provider Exchange®. The cohort met in New York at The Children’s Village, a nonprofit organization that works with children and families, to discuss improving permanency outcomes – both formal and informal – for youth aging out of the child welfare system.

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Monday, June 27, 2016
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A Space for Stories

After a late flight back the night before from a training with an LSA member in North Carolina, I felt a bit groggy as I entered the Falls Church, Virginia office of LSA member Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSS/NCA). Housed in an old Lutheran church, this location manages adoption and refugee and immigrant services.
I was there to volunteer with LSA’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Tania Hernandez-Andersen, interns Nura Zaki and Danielle Steinwart of the Valparaiso University CAPS Fellows Program, and Member Engagement Fellow Natalie Goodnow of Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016
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Preparing for the Firsts of Many

This week marks my fourth week living and interning in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Each day begins with me walking wide-eyed up Capitol Hill as government buildings and monuments peep through the trees on my daily commute. I’m participating in a fellowship where I live and work in intentional community. Being the first of my suitemates to arrive in the city set in motion a series of ‘firsts’; my first Metro ride, first wrong stop on the way home (not all Metro lines are created equal), first to realize our door can lock on its own (it’s not a loss if you learn?) and my first fire alarm scare (if it’s not right when you’re ready for bed, did it really happen?).

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016
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Finding My Destination

I remember there was no air conditioning on the metro car as Nura and I squeezed into it on my first day of work. The air was stuffy and hot, as if it all had already been breathed in, and as the doors shut and we pulled away from the bustling Rosslyn station, a morning quiet fell over the packed car. I’ve always loved public transportation, especially metro systems. I don’t know if it’s the maps marking how the lines overlap and run together, splayed and pumping through the city like a great, colorful heart. More likely it’s this idea that crammed in this metro car are men and women from many walks of life, with unique goals and passions, with different careers, from diverse political, spiritual, and ethnic backgrounds. Crammed into this metro car are people who would never otherwise interact with those four inches from them, and here we are, all together for a few moments, filling the same space, holding the same rails, going in the same direction. I think there’s something beautiful to that, even without air conditioning.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016
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In the Service of our Nation

My whole life I’ve been encouraged towards public service. “Always strive to be useful,” my mother told me growing up. “Ask what you can do,” urges my graduate school. Be “in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations,” my undergraduate institution charged students. Three years ago, when I graduated from college, I realized my vocation was public service, but I didn’t know yet in what capacity. Public service can take on a myriad of forms. Now, halfway through my master’s program in public policy, I find myself a neighbor to the Supreme Court in the LSA office. My passion, I have discovered, is for children and families, and what better place to serve and support them than LSA?

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