A couple of years ago a 16 year old young man, was referred to us for child specific recruitment. He had been in foster care since the age of 9, and his parents’ rights were terminated when he was 11. Over those years, he moved between foster homes and group homes. From the records we have, we know that he moved more than 15 times, including several hospitalizations.
When his county worker referred him to us, they noted “the youth is strongly opposed to adoption and will not waver from this.” Throughout the 15 months he worked with his Permanency Specialist from Ampersand Families, he expressed an unwavering interest in staying connected with his grandparents, mother, and his 2 younger brothers who had stayed in their mom’s care. Ultimately, in May of this year, after he turned 18, this teen moved back home with his mother and younger brothers.
For this young man the system just did not work the way it is supposed to work. He spent 9 years in care without achieving permanency by being returned home or through transfer of physical and legal guardianship or adoption. No one is supposed to be in care that long; foster homes are supposed to be temporary.
Ampersand Families helped this young man and his extended family stay in touch and deepen their relationships. It was clear that he was going to return to his mother the moment he ‘aged out’ of the foster care system. We wanted to help them develop as many skills as possible to make that move successful.
In the course of our work, Ampersand Families often serves youth who have been in foster care for several years. In some of these situations, their birth parents have changed their lives in positive ways, which might include better managing their own mental health, achieving sobriety from drugs and alcohol, and leaving unsafe relationships – putting them in a better position to parent their children. New legislation in Minnesota effective August 1, 2019 allows more opportunity for parents to petition for reinstatement of their parental rights if the following criteria are met:
- the child/ren are not yet adopted
- the termination of parental rights was at least 4 years ago
- the parent(s) can show that the issues which led to the initial removal of their children have significantly changed.
- the parent is willing and has the capability to provide day-to-day care and maintain the health, safety, and welfare of the child
- Under the new legislation, there is no longer a minimum age requirement for the child in foster care (previously a child needed to be 15 years old for reinstatement of rights to be considered)
Ampersand Families is exploring how this might impact some of the young people we are currently working with, in line with our values to keep kids connected to family, kin, community and culture.