Shaquita Ogletree
On Wednesday, September 12, the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth hosted a congressional briefing on effective interventions that are working to keep children and families intact and preventing entry into foster care. The panel included a discussion by Christen Glickman and Jessica Wooten from Youth Village, Chelsea Geyer and Ms. U from DC127, and Debbie Orduna and Lynn Poe from Boys Town.

Each program intervention described at the congressional briefing showed that home-based services (with family) is the one place where children thrive best. Ms. Orduna made the point during the discussion that if Congress wants to improve outcomes for children and families then more investments in the workforce will be needed. Another challenge that was raised is that when it comes to key social services the ability for families to qualify for programs like YVIntercept or Boys Town in-home services can be a barrier.

Youth Villages is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping emotionally and behaviorally troubled children, and their families live successfully. DC127 is an organization in Washington, DC that mobilizes faith-based organizations to recruit and support foster and adoptive homes and prevent children from entering the child welfare system by supporting families in crisis. Boys Town is a national organization that provides an integrated Continuum of Care based on a child’s or family’s needs.

The briefing allowed each organization to describe some of their recent efforts and programs.

Youth Villages’ YVIntercept program is based in twelve states is trauma-informed and an evidence-based intervention that was developed in 1994. YVIntercept is an intensive in-home service program for families with child welfare or mental health system involvement based upon each jurisdiction definition. 50,000 children, youth, and families have been served through the YVIntercept program. The outcomes of the intervention are positive with 83% of youth living successfully with family or independently and 83% of youth in school or had graduated from June 2017 data report.

DC127 Communities for Families initiative recruits volunteers from local churches that provides three services –a host home, a friendship with a parent, or team leader. MS. Geyer emphasized the need for parents to have social support when they are seeking social services from child welfare and community programs that are long-term. Ms. U, a parent served by DC127 spoke about the social support she received when she left a domestic violence marriage with her daughter. As an immigrant pursuing the American Dream, Ms. U came to America seeking a law degree and had an arranged marriage that changed her life. Living in a town with no family support or friends, Ms. U left her home (and marriage) with her daughter seeking help. Through assistance from a domestic violence shelter that linked her to DC127, she gained a family that supported her and her daughter. One thing Ms. U stated was that she wanted her daughter to witness what a “normal” family interaction was.

Boys Town served 522,000 children in 2017 with 95% of services provided in the family setting and communities. Eight sites across the country provide in-home family services with referral coming from the child welfare, juvenile justice, education systems, and self-referrals. Each site in-home service model is different for example in Louisiana a head start program identifies youth, and in Des Moines, where three elementary schools with high rates of truancy are served.

One panelist described her experience through a Boys Town In-Home Family Service model. Ms. Poe, who is a victim of domestic violence and had a substance use problem was referred by the local child welfare agency to Boys Town. She described how when they intervened, she had hope for the first time, her child welfare case worker, family consultant, and Guardian Ad Litem were inspiring. She was able to go into rehab for 30 days while her children lived with relatives and then transition to a family residential placement with her daughters. Now at ages four and five years old, Ms. Poe said that the true testament to social services success is the outcomes of the child(ren).