Conversation with Karen Freedman

Yesterday I met with the executive director of Lawyers for Children, Karen Freedman, who has decades of experience working with children and youth in foster care. She said that the most important factor determining the success of an individual’s transition to adulthood is the presence of a strong and positive adult connection in his or her life. In the absence of family, relatives, or guardians, this means an adult who is wiling to remain in that person’s life outside the context of any institutional demands. The case plan of last resort is Another Planned Permanency Living Arrangement (APPLA). Compared to Independent Living (IL), APPLA explicitly recognizes the need for a caring adult in a young person’s life, even when reunification, adoption, guardianship, and placement with relatives (custody) are unachievable.

Karen emphasized that within the foster care population, the youths themselves have very different needs depending on their permanency plan and living situation. She said that youth aging out of foster care—meaning the truly disconnected youth who have no caring adults in their lives—are going to be very different from, say, pre-adoptive youths, even if they’re in the same age group. The same could be said of youths living in a residential treatment facility or a group home (and even group homes will vary, since some house only pregnant and parenting teens, for example). It’s something to keep in mind as I meet with different organizations and pitch my ideas.

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