Each year, Ampersand Families represents the youth and/or the family in about 25 adoptive placements.  While every one of those youth and adoptive families are different, one thing they have in common is the excitement, fear and change that comes with move-in day and the first months thereafter.  By the time move-in day comes the youth and family have visited several times and both feel as ready as they can be for the big change of actually coming together as a family.  But, when that day comes it is still scary exciting for all involved.

Some families have plenty of resources and are easily able to afford the rush of expenses that come at the beginning of an adoptive placement of a teen – but, even relatively small things like setting up a room and signing up for before/after school activities can add up fast (especially if the family is adopting siblings, each with their own expenses).  Sometimes teens arrive with almost no clothes that fit and often they have neglected medical, dental and/or mental health needs that must be attended to on short order. Most kids do not have a bicycle when they arrive at their adoptive homes – in some communities that is a basic thing that virtually all kids have (and may need to get around).

In an effort to establish new family routines and activities to share together, many families decide to get a YMCA membership or sign up for a dance class together.  All of these things cost money – and all of them are central in helping a family come together to set the stage for success.

Very soon after youth move to their adoptive families it often becomes clear that the information provided by the county about the youth’s needs and strengths was not as complete as it might have been.

Many parents, after closely observing their new child, start to wonder if they might have been prenatally exposed to alcohol….very few youth in the foster care system have been assessed, even though we all know that about 60%+ have some damage from exposure.  Having a good assessment makes the difference between success because the right supports are in place at school and continuing to fail & flail – causing stress for all involved.  Similarly, all youth adopted out of foster care have experienced trauma, and thus have some resulting impact on their brain development as a result.  As is the case with FASD assessments, almost no youth have had comprehensive trauma/developmental assessments completed prior to adoption.  That means they are often trapped in ineffective therapies that do not address the most basic spheres like brain development.

Ampersand Families’ Welcome Home Package helps families rest assure that those key core things that need happen in the early days and months of an adoptive placement will be taken care of.

With the support of donors, each new Ampersand family will have access to $1,000 worth of support to help set the stage for success.  With the money, families may have up to $500 for direct expenses – room set up, classes, clothes, etc…  In addition, each family will have access to a full FASD/Neurological Assessment through the Adoption Clinic at the University of Minnesota and/or an Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT®) Assessment, through Ampersand Families.  The NMT® will help identify the specific impact that childhood trauma has had on their new child’s brain development – and makes concrete suggestions for mind-body approaches that will help get the youth on track with things like self-regulation (requirements for being able to effectively use traditional therapeutic approaches.  For families who get an NMT® Assessment for their child, up to $200 will be available to help them access mind-body practitioners who will help them establish routines and activities in their home that are proven to stimulate re-wiring of neural pathways that were neglected due to childhood trauma.

Far too many families that choose to adopt from the foster care system find themselves alone, without the support of the county or of adoption professionals, shortly after their child moves home.  Ampersand Families is unique in that we make a non-time limited commitment to our families- we will help for however long a family needs it, at no cost to the family.  In the past year, Ampersand Families has been building our innovative post placement supports to families – and our families are successful.  We want to offer as many tools as possible to new parents so they can access all the support their new child needs (and probably has not been receiving while in foster care).

If $1,000 a family sounds like a big investment to help ensure success…compare that to the estimated $300,000 in lifetime costs to the community for every teen who ages out of the foster care system.  Being forever in foster care is expensive – to the teen and to the community.

Having a permanent family, supported for success changes the trajectory for a teen.  And saves a bunch for our community.

Notes from Michelle

About Me Michelle is passionate about the need for system reform and the essential role that young people can take in leading child welfare to more effective, youth and family-focused strategies.

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