FosterAdopt Connect serves children impacted by the child welfare system

So you know how we invest your sales tax dollars, we’re proud to put the spotlight on some of the many Jackson County organizations we fund.

Serving children who have been abused and neglected and the families who care for them, FosterAdopt Connect has been a partner organization since the very beginning of the Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County (CSF). The CSF currently funds initiatives at FosterAdopt Connect that support home and community intervention, individual/family counseling, and prevention service areas.  

“FosterAdopt Connect is a children’s services agency focused on programs and services that benefit children affected by the child welfare system,” explained Josh Hollingsworth, President of Advancement. “Whether biological kinship or foster or adopted relationships, we have wraparound services developed by individuals with lived experience.” 

Begun as a support group for foster parents in 1998, FosterAdopt Connect became a nonprofit in 2000 and has grown into a wide-reaching agency with 11 branch locations, 300 employees, and 26 different programs. With headquarters in Independence, FosterAdopt Connect has partnered closely with CSF to serve Jackson County’s young people since 2018. They offer holistic help, including caregiver support, behavioral health services, clinical services, legal advocacy, respite care, transitional housing, and more. 

“We have created a large agency with lots of tentacles,” said Barbara Kempf, Vice President of Family Programs. “All of those things serve a purpose and work congruently with one another to ensure that if there’s a gap, we try to fill it.”

Simplifying the Search for Clinical Mental Health Services

FosterAdopt Connect’s clinical services aim to simplify the complexity of getting children trauma-focused care. An overburdened mental health system and a shortage of providers, especially ones who take Medicaid, has made it difficult for foster and adoptive parents to secure necessary services. The CSF supports the organization’s core clinical services and a three-year program to train FosterAdopt Connect’s licensed counselors. 

FosterAdopt Connect began offering mental health services in December 2021 to meet families’ needs for assessment and treatment all in one place. Right now, most clients are referred to the program by word of mouth through Jackson County’s Children’s Division, the juvenile justice system, and other youth service organizations. 

With the funding received by the CSF, we’re able to train our licensed clinicians to provide thorough brain-based assessments to youth who’ve experienced developmental trauma,” said  Molly Ticknor, President of Clinical Services. “[They] give a whole picture of what is happening with the child’s brain, and how that impacts their ability to function in school, at home, and in the community.”

The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) was developed by Bruce Perry, MD, PhD, a leading researcher on how trauma affects child development. FosterAdopt Connect’s goal is to not only train counselors to use NMT but be certified to teach it to other providers as well. 

“We know that kiddos in foster care have a high level of trauma,” said Ticknor. “They enter the system and often continue to be traumatized by the system. Creating a program that is going to help not only mental health needs but connect them to additional supports is extremely valuable and separates us from a lot of organizations. It’s exciting that CFS has given us that ability.” 

Behavioral Intervention: One-on-one services at home

FosterAdopt Connect’s Behavioral Intervention program was born out of the experiences of President and CEO Lori Ross and other foster and adoptive parents whose children were cycling through residential and/or hospital care because of mental health issues. 

Trauma-impacted kids often act out to the point where the families they are placed with can’t manage; behavioral issues can escalate until the only option is a highly structured residential center. The Behavioral Intervention program is designed to treat children at home — and keep them there! Just like the organization’s clinical services, the Behavioral Intervention program uses trauma-informed practices to give children safety and stability.  

Behavioral Intervention professionals work with young people and their caregivers in home and community settings while family coordinators also help connect them to additional resources. There are 35 behavioral intervention professionals working in Jackson County alone to help maintain placement stability for children in the system. The program reduces hospitalizations, residential center placements, and placement moves. 

“It’s a whole-team approach to support the intensive needs of the kiddos,” said Ticknor. “It’s been so successful that we have a team now to replicate the program so other organizations and states can use it.” 

Fostering Prevention: Stability and safety for families in crisis

First funded by the CSF in 2021. FosterAdopt Connect’s Fostering Prevention program offers skill-building for parents, typically birth parents, who have children at-risk for entering foster care. 

“Our goal is the same as theirs: to keep the family intact and keep the kids at home,” said Kempf. “We partner in that journey with the family. We tell them: We’re not here to take your kids. We are a resource, and we’re going to walk hand in hand with you.” 

The program uses assessment tools to determine high-risk areas and then works with parents to reduce those risks. Facilitators build trust and engagement with families over weekly sessions for 9 to 12 months, with six more months of aftercare following program graduation. Fostering Prevention is homework intensive and connects families to additional resources, like rent support. By partnering with parents, FosterAdopt Connect has been able to help 95% of Fostering Prevention families keep their children at home. 

Kempf told of a Fostering Prevention mother who experienced trauma and abuse in foster homes as she was growing up. In addition to building the mom’s parenting skills, FosterAdopt Connect referred her to clinical services to begin treating her own trauma. They also helped her find tools to deal with hearing loss caused by chronic untreated childhood ear infections. 

“She has begun to work through her own trauma in an effort to allow her children to break the intergenerational cycles that have been a part of their family system for decades,” shared Kempf. “She has tools to help herself and her children overcome obstacles and improve their well-being.”

How the CSF supports FosterAdopt Connect

Funding from the CSF helps make stories like this one possible. 

“CSF is critical in providing that core funding to maintain these programs year after year, as well as the capacity building to allow us to provide new services,” said Kempf. 

FosterAdopt Connect also appreciates that the CSF provides the ability to work with like-minded organizations to amplify advocacy and educate county leaders on issues that affect youth.

“The CSF staff is invested in knowing, at a deep level, the issues facing our kids, and it shows,” said Ross. “They are also happy to consider trying new things and adjusting their funding priorities as the needs of the community change. Their dedication to improving the lives of children in our area is unmatched.”

The agency wants the wider Jackson County community to know they are available to assist children and families.

“FosterAdopt Connect exists to solve problems we’re seeing in the child welfare system,” said Hollingsworth. “If you feel someone needs help, please reach out; we can direct them to the right resources.”

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