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August 2014 Newsletter

Better Homes for Kids in Foster Care

FOREVER FAMILY: Graham Windham helped Georgette Wellington overcome obstacles to adopting Larinee.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and MFY Legal Service’s Barbara Graves-Poller spoke at a June 16 press conference urging legislation to protect children in the foster care system, as well as the 150,000 children being raised by grandparents and other relatives outside of the child welfare system.

Other Grants Improving Care of Children

  • Inwood House: $146,000 expands a program that helps child welfare agencies, including Graham Windham and Forestdale, respond to the needs of young mothers.
  • MFY Legal Services: $150,000 for the Kinship Caregiver Law Project, which works to increase legal and social services for grandparents and other relatives caring for abandoned children in the Bronx.

Sometimes one problem can derail a child’s adoption.

After caring for foster children, Georgette Wellington was ready to adopt. She and 5-year-old Larinee had become close, but Wellington had noticed something upsetting: The girl had a habit of lying.

The foster mom considered calling off the adoption. But Marie Beuns, Larinee’s caseworker from Graham Windham, one of the City’s oldest and largest child welfare agencies, stepped in.

Using an approach called solution-based casework, she helped the foster mom understand the bad behavior’s cause: the dishonesty was a survival tactic in the girl’s previous abusive living situation. Beuns and Wellington then worked to find solutions. Wellington learned how to communicate that lying is wrong, and to praise Larinee for telling the truth. “We also created a plan to nip troubling behavior in the bud,” says Beuns. With these tools, Wellington felt comfortable with the adoption, and Larinee found her forever family.

Caseworkers also use this approach to address destructive and ineffective behavior of birth parents who want to regain custody of their children. Before, caseworkers emphasized compliance: “We would just refer parents to services and track attendance at parenting or substance-abuse classes,” says Nosa Omoruyi, Graham Windham family foster care director. “Now, we get at the root of behaviors and find ways to change them.” Some judges and lawyers appreciate the approach.

“Family court is beginning to ask families to demonstrate how they can better care for their children, rather than just requiring them to complete classes,” says Graham Windham president Jess Dannhauser.

Trust grants totaling $600,000 since 2012 have helped Graham Windham, Good Shepherd Services, SCO Family of Services, Forestdale, and Episcopal Social Services use solution-based casework. Together, these agencies work with more than half the city’s foster care families.

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