Social Services

New grant aims to improve permanency for foster youth

CASA of Tarrant County was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from Texas Bar Foundation to support CASA of Tarrant County’s Collaborative Family Engagement Pilot to improve permanency for foster youth & create replicable frameworks for other CASA programs. e.

In 2022 5,506 Tarrant County children were victims of child abuse/neglect. When the abuse or neglect is severe, judges may determine it is not safe for the child to remain in their home. This was the case for 555 Tarrant County children who were removed from their homes and placed in foster care in 2022.

Foster care is always supposed to be a short-term intervention, providing a temporary, safe place for children while the concerns related to child abuse or neglect are treated. Once the safety risks are resolved, the child is supposed to return home. If the safety risks are not resolved, children are then supposed to go live with other relatives or family friends, or they are available for non-relative adoption. Whether it’s being reunified with their parents, placed with relatives or family friends, or adopted, the goal is to always find a safe, permanent home for the child where they can live out their childhood within a family environment.

However, some children are never reunified with their parents, placed with relatives or family friends, or adopted, and those children turn 18 while in foster care and “age out” of the system. Aging out puts children at risk of multiple health, educational, vocational, and legal challenges as they navigate adulthood without a permanent family.

Since 2017 CASA of Tarrant County has used an approach to make sure more children find a permanent family and prevent children from aging out of care. This approach is called Collaborative Family Engagement, where CASA advocates collaborate with Child Protective Services and foster care partners like Our Community – Our Kids, to identify, locate, and engage relatives and family friends to become sources of connection and support for children in foster care. 

These supportive adults or “connections” can support the parents regain custody of their children, and if the child is unable to return home, the child may be able to be placed with supportive adults who then provide the child with a safe, permanent family. CASA of Tarrant County’s use of CFE has resulted in children with CASA volunteers experiencing less time in foster care, a greater likelihood of being reunified with their parents and placed with relatives, and overall a greater likelihood of finding a permanent home. CASA’s use of CFE has also led to creative projects with foster care partners, including:

  • Intensive Family Finding Project:  A temporary project created in response to a shortage of foster home placements in Summer 2021. The Intensive Family Finding Project placed eligible children with relatives and completed home studies within 90 days in order to open up more foster care beds. 
    • Within four months, 33% of IFFP children were placed with relatives and another 39% were waiting to be placed after a completed home study.At the end of the pilot, 100% of children who left foster care left by being reunified with parents or placed with relatives.
    • Overall, CASA had 87% retention of all family placements made during the IFFP project.
  • Investigation Family Finding Program: Beginning in 2023, OCOK Family Finders were approved to accompany CPS investigators and talk with parents about relative placements during removal.
    • Results show that as early as Q1, 40% Tarrant County of children were being placed in kinship care within 60 days of removal.

Based on the success of Collaborative Family Engagement, CASA of Tarrant County is the first CASA program in Texas to expand CFE into its standard advocacy services with its CFE Pilot, where a small team of Child Advocacy Specialists will provide the full CFE model to their cases under the guidance of our CFE Coordinator. This creative solution allows CASA programs to provide more CFE services without increasing expenses – a valuable approach for any CASA program to use in 2023 as agencies brace for ongoing cuts to federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding.

As part of the CFE Pilot, CASA of Tarrant County has created measurement frameworks to measure the impact CASA advocates have on the lives of children served. These measurement frameworks also help other CASA programs throughout Texas replicate CASA’s CFE Pilot, all to help generate better permanency outcomes for Texas children and to help the ongoing challenges of children without placements through increased relative placements. Much of the specialized CFE work and measurement framework data collection will be done by a new position, made possible with funding from the Texas Bar Foundation. CASA of Tarrant County’s new Intake Specialist/CFE Coordinator staff member is an integral part of our early assessment of the permanency needs of each child entering the foster care system, and this position is made possible due to funding awarded by the Texas Bar Foundation.

Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $25 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar foundation.

Overall by increasing permanency outcomes and decreasing time spent in foster care, CASA strengthens the administration of justice for victims of child maltreatment and reduces the burden on family courts and administrative services like CPS and Community Based Care, and support from the Texas Bar Foundation in 2023 is a vital piece of delivering better child welfare services not just for Tarrant County but for all of Texas. publishes every week.
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About the author

Barbara Clark Galupi