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Program Profile: Family Finding

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on February 10, 2020

Program Summary

This program is designed to find and engage kin and fictive kin to support the needs of foster care youth. The program is rated Promising. There was a statistically significant greater number of kin and fictive kin found and positive attachment figures identified for the intervention group, compared with the comparison group. However, there was no significant difference in proportion of relative placements to total placements, reunification rates, or externalizing and internalizing behaviors.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population
Family Finding is a program designed to identify and engage the kin or fictive kin (i.e., people identified as important adults but who are not blood relatives) of youth who have been in the foster care system for a long period of time. Studies have shown that many youth who age out of the foster care system experience negative outcomes such as homelessness, unemployment, poor health, and involvement in the criminal justice system (Garwood and Williams 2015). However, research also suggests that connections with family members may alleviate some of these risks and improve a youth’s likelihood of positive outcomes (Taylor, Seaton, and Dominguez 2008). The aim of the Family Finding program is to increase a youth’s sense of connectedness to their families and involve family members (or other important adults) in developing and carrying out a plan for the youth’s emotional and legal permanency.

Program Components
The program consists of six stages. In the first stage, discovery, Family Finding staff locate at least 40 relatives or fictive kin. This is done through interviews, word of mouth, internet searches, file reviews, and specialized genealogical search tools. During the second stage, engagement, the staff highlight the most appropriate family members and fictive kin for the specific needs of the child. Those identified as appropriate connections are engaged to commit to a relationship with the youth and to assist in the case planning. In the third stage, planning, the goal is to bring together as many family members and fictive kin as possible to share knowledge about the youth and discuss the ways they may need to work together to best address and meet the youth’s developmental needs.

During the fourth stage, decision-making, family members meet again to make concrete, substantial plans and commitments. Decisions during this stage focus on the specific roles, goals, and dates of plans. For the fifth stage, evaluation, family members share their individualized plans to support the child’s legal and emotional permanency and work together to review and evaluate the plans. This is also the stage when concurrent planning takes place, which involves the consideration of more than one permanency plan. This usually includes a plan to reunify the child with family and an alternative plan should reunification not work out. Finally, during the sixth stage, follow-up support, family members are introduced to supports in the community such as teachers, coaches, and church members. Relationships with these supportive figures are established to help family members achieve their goals regarding the child. Family Finding staff follow up with the family members intermittently after the formal case has ended.

Key Personnel
The Family Finding process is administered by independent workers referred to as Kin Connection Specialists or Family Finders. They are responsible for initially discovering the kin and fictive kin who may be appropriate for the program and help guide and assess the case moving forward.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Number of Kin and Fictive Kin Found
Leon, Saucedo, and Jachymiak (2016) found that a greater number of kin and fictive kin were identified for youth who participated in the Family Finding intervention, compared with comparison group youth, who received care as usual. An average of 19.3 kin and fictive kin were identified for the intervention group, compared with 12.8 for the comparison group. This difference was statistically significant.

Number of Kin and Fictive Kin Who Were Positive Attachment Figures
The number of kin or fictive kin who were determined to be positive attachment figures for youth was greater for the intervention group, compared with the comparison group. As determined through interviews, the average number of relatives per family who were found to be positive attachment figures for youth was 2.8 for the intervention group, compared with 1.2 for the comparison group. This difference was statistically significant.

Proportion of Relative Placements to Total Placements
There was no statistically significant difference found between the intervention and comparison groups in the proportion of placements with relatives to total placements.

Reunification
There was no statistically significant difference found between the intervention and comparison groups in the rate of reunification with family.

Externalizing Behaviors
There was no statistically significant difference found between the intervention and comparison groups in the presence of externalizing behaviors.

Internalizing Behaviors
There was no statistically significant difference found between the intervention and comparison groups in the presence of internalizing behaviors.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Leon, Saucedo, and Jachymiak (2016) conducted a quasi-experimental design study to determine the effectiveness of the Family Finding program for youth in the foster care system. The study took place in Cook County, Illinois. Participants were considered eligible if they were between the ages of 6 and 13, and if they entered the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Cook County between October 1, 2011, and October 1, 2015. To achieve a fair distribution of cases, the clerk’s office at the Cook County Juvenile Court assigned cases to either a ground-level or concourse-level courtroom by using a computer software program. During the first year of the study, children of cases assigned to courtrooms on the concourse level received the Family Finding treatment, and children assigned to the ground level received care as usual. This assignment was reversed in the second year of the study and alternated in 6-month intervals during the third and final year of the study.

The study sample consisted of 458 children. Of those, 196 children received the Family Finding intervention, and the 262 children in the comparison group received care as usual. In regard to gender, 50.5 percent of the intervention group and 52.3 percent of the comparison group were female. In the intervention group, 63.8 percent were African American, 12.8 percent were Latino, and 14.3 percent were multi-ethnic. In the comparison group, 59.5 percent were African American, 19.1 percent were Latino, and 13.4 percent were multi-ethnic. Of youth in the treatment group, 84.7 percent had experienced neglect, 26 percent had experienced physical abuse, and 9.2 percent had experienced sexual abuse. In the comparison group, 70.6 percent had experienced neglect, 32.8 percent had experienced physical abuse, and 9.2 percent had experienced sexual abuse. There were no statistically significant differences between the groups at baseline.

Outcomes of interest included the number of kin and fictive kin found, how many positive attachment figures were found, proportion of relative placements to total placements, reunification rates, externalizing behaviors, and internalizing behaviors. Information on the child’s demographics and family was collected through the Illinois DCFS Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) database. Externalizing and internalizing behaviors were evaluated using the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths Scale (CANS). Each item on the CANS consisted of a 4-point Likert scale ranging from 0 to 3 to determine severity of specific behaviors. Placement history and time in care were determined by using the Child and Youth Centered Information System (CYCIS) and the Management Accounting and Reporting System (MARS).

Independent samples t tests, chi-square tests, and analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) were used to determine the differences between the treatment and the comparison groups such as the number of kin or fictive kin identified. Structural Equation Modeling was used to determine the likelihood that children’s placements would be with relatives. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) was used to determine the effect of the intervention on longitudinal externalizing behavior and internalizing symptoms. The study authors did not conduct subgroup analyses.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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For more information about Family Finding, see www.familyfinding.org
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Leon, Scott C., Deborah J. Saucedo, and Kristin Jachymiak. 2016. “Keeping it in the Family: The Impact of a Family Finding Intervention on Placement, Permanency, and Well-Being Outcomes.” Children and Youth Services Review 70:163–70.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Garwood, Molly Murphy, and Sarah Catherine Williams. 2015. “Differing Effects of Family Finding Service on Permanency and Family Connectedness for Children New to Versus Lingering in the Foster Care System.” Journal of Public Child Welfare 9:115–33. (This study was reviewed but did not meet CrimeSolutions.gov criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

Northcott, Felicity Sackville, and Wendy Jefferies. 2012. “Family Finding and Engagement Beyond the Bench: Working Across International Borders.” Juvenile and Family Court Journal 62(1):31–47.

Taylor, Ronald D., Eleanor Seaton, and Antonio Dominguez. 2008. “Kinship Support, Family Relations, and Psychological Adjustment Among Low-income African American Mothers and Adolescents.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 18(1):1–22.

Vandivere, Sharon, and Karin Malm. 2015. “Family Finding Evaluation: A Summary of Recent Findings.” Child Trends Research Brief. Bethesda, Md.: Child Trends.

Vandivere, Sharon, Karin E. Malm, Tiffany J. Allen, Sarah Catherine Williams, and Amy McKlindon. 2017. “A Randomized Controlled Trial of Family Finding: A Relative Search and Engagement Intervention for Youth Lingering in Foster Care.” Evaluation Review 41(6):542–67. (This study was reviewed but did not meet CrimeSolutions.gov criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)
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Program Snapshot

Age: 6 - 13

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Home, Courts

Program Type: Crisis Intervention/Response, Family Court, Children Exposed to Violence

Targeted Population: Children Exposed to Violence, Families

Current Program Status: Active

Program Director:
Deborah J. Saucedo
Associate Executive Director, Cook County (Foster Care and Intact Family Services)
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois
1340 S. Damen Avenue
Chicago IL 60608
Phone: 312.949.4812
Website
Email

Researcher:
Scott Leon
Loyola University Chicago
1032 W. Sheridan Roa
Chicago IL 60626
Email