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Grantee Projects Bethany Christian Services

Youth Permanence Through Openness and Mediation (It’s U.P. T.O. Me) Project (May 2008)

The mission of the Reconnect, It’s Up to Me Project is to increase the number of older youth in foster care who achieve permanence and, at the same time, strengthen connections with their extended families through open adoption relationships and youth empowerment strategies.  Reconnect, It’s Up to Me is based on the premise that each youth in foster care will benefit from building lifelong relationships.  The program focuses on youth 9 years and older who have had multiple foster and residential placements and have no identified permanency placement. The majority of these youth have been identified as “unadoptable.”  Permanency planning with these youth is highly individualized and recruitment is child specific.

An integral component in finding permanent families is with the assistance of youth through interviewing them to discover who they consider important relationships from their past.  Other ways in locating key information is through file mining, Internet searching, and networking with supportive family members and community partners. Other important components of our project include individual, family, and group therapy to reduce complex trauma and conflicted loyalties regarding their birth family to increase the youths desire to be adopted. The final component of the project is to locate a mentor who can act as a liaison between the youth and birth family and someone who will provide ongoing support for the youth. The goal of the program is to locate a permanent family for the youth; if that is not possible the goal of the mentor would be for that person to become the one reliable adult person for the youth to connect with as they enter independent living. Other benefits for the youth could include gained knowledge about relatives and other relationships previously lost, as well as rebuilt sibling relationships with separated siblings.

Accomplishments:

  1. Support from the local family court and Department of Human Services
  2. Interest from Michigan Department of Human Services in duplicating the project
  3. After completing the Connect counseling group, youth have requested monthly support groups.
  4. A mentor newsletter has been developed to help provide support, training, and communication  to the mentors
  5. A permanency planning model which is individualized and child specific can be effective with youth who are identified as being the most difficult to achieve permanency for.

Barriers:

  1. Many of the youth are in residential foster care and placed throughout the state of Michigan.
  2. Broad geographies and increased referrals make it difficult to develop trusting relationships with the children, because less time can be spent with them by the case manager.
  3. Increased staff case loads makes it challenging to provide adequate support to the mentor/mentee matches. 
  4. Difficulty engaging youth in residential and foster care in the counseling component of the project to address conflicted loyalty, complex trauma, and faulty thinking about adoption options.

Tools Used for Program Evaluation

Openness to Permanency Scale (OPT)
Developed by: Internally developed by Sharon LaNoue, LMSW and Phillip Nienhuis, LMSW, of Bethany Christian Services for the ReConnect program.

The Purpose of this Instrument: This self-report questionnaire is designed to determine a youth’s willingness to be adopted.  The scale identifies issues such as conflicted loyalty, self-esteem, and worthiness.  The questionnaire consists of 22 brief statements rated by the youth on a four-point scale from Not True At All to Exactly True.  Directions are provided for administering and scoring the questionnaires.  This scale is used to measure change in a youth’s openness to permanency over time in the It’s Up To Me/ReConnect program.  It is also used for discussion purposes between the youth, case manager, adoptive parent(s), and/or birth family.

Interval of Administration of Instrument: This instrument is administered by the case manager at intake, 6 months into the program, 1 year into the program, and at termination.

Quality Relationship Scales (QRS)
Developed by: Developed by Mary Banghart Therrien, LMSW, Program Evaluator and Amber Lewandowski, BSW, of Grand Valley State University School of Social Work for the ReConnect program.

The Purpose of this Instrument: This is a complete packet of materials to measure the quality of an adult-youth relationship.  It includes a self-report questionnaire for an adult and a separate self-report questionnaire for the youth.  The questionnaire examines five important scales of the adult-youth relationship: communication, commitment, security, honesty, and respect.  The questionnaire consists of 25 brief statements rated by the mentor or youth on a 6-point scale from Not True At All to Very True, with one neutral answer Don’t Know.  Directions are provided for administering and scoring the questionnaires.  In addition, a comparison chart is provided to determine the variance between adult and youth scores. This chart is provided for discussion purposes between the youth and adult.

Interval of Administration of Instrument: This instrument is administered by the case manager at intake, 6 months into the program, 1 year into the program, and at termination.

Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC)
Developed by: John N. Briere, Ph.D.
Copyright: Psychology Assessment Resources, Inc.

The Purpose of this Instrument: This brief self-report inventory is an excellent way to assess posttraumatic stress in 8- to 16-year-olds who have experienced traumatic events such as physical or sexual abuse, major loss, natural disaster, or violence. Composed of 54 items, the TSCC includes six clinical scales: Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Posttraumatic Stress, Dissociation, and Sexual Concerns. In addition, two validity scales alert you to under- and over-reporting.

Interval of Administration of Instrument: This instrument is administered by the case manager at intake, 6 months into the program, 1 year into the program, and at termination.

For more information, please contact:
Jeremy Moore, Project Coordinator
901 Eastern NE
Grand Rapids MI 49503
jmoore@bethany.org
Phone:  616.224.7533

Dona Abbott, Director
901 Eastern NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
dabbott@bethany.org
Phone:  616.224.7530

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