The Children’s Home of Jefferson County (CHJC) has been awarded $1.5 million in funding through the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to extend services to families with adopted children and help ensure the permanency of the adoptions for the next five years.
CHJC’s family-focused, strength-based Family Permanency Program of the North Country (FPP) is designed to prevent adoptive family dissolutions/disruptions, provide in-home support services, and strengthen families to prevent out of home placements. The target population will exclusively be families who have finalized the adoption of their child(ren), and families with legal guardianship of their child(ren). CHJC will partner with local Departments of Social Services.
Adoptive families face complex challenges. Just as safety may not be enough to save a child, love may also not be enough to overcome emotional damages an adoptive child suffered prior to placement. This may result in behavioral difficulties. Adoptive parents need special training, guidance and support to help these children cope with issues of anger, rejection, and other emotional injuries hindering their personal and social growth. Many of these families have limited economic resources and are not always able to pay for the specialized services their adoptive children need. Providing these types of services is a primary purpose of the Family Permanency Program of the North Country.
Youth in out-of-home placement may demonstrate antisocial or inappropriate behaviors and attitudes, effects of exposure to violence, emotional instability, aggression, low self-esteem/self-worth, and poor academic performance. Many lack adult guidance, suffer from peer rejection, and have weak social ties. They generally are incapable of overcoming these obstacles without intervention. Finalizing adoption does not undo past trauma the youth experienced, or guarantee the absence of future problems.
Some families stationed at Fort Drum have also both publically and privately adopted children internationally or from other states, or have legal guardianship. As county residents, military dependents are eligible for county and state-provided services. The 10th Mountain Division is the Army’s most deployed unit, stressing family members left behind. Spouses effectively become heads of single-parent households. Children may become withdrawn and demonstrate depressive behaviors. Others act out with delinquent behaviors, testing the limits of the “single parent” or caregiver. As those left behind cope with worry, stress and fear, these shifting family dynamics, make military homes prone to anxiety, and child and substance abuse. When deployed soldiers return, stressors continue as the family structure again shifts to “normal” life.
Many strengths lie within adoptive families. Adoptive parents are willing to bring children into their homes, suffering from the sometimes overwhelming damages resulting from being let down by birth families. They care for and love these children as their own. Commitment to, and love of, their adoptive children gives these families strong motivation to seek and accept help, supporting positive youth development, fortifying family relationships, and creating opportunities for a bright and healthy future for their adopted children.
Since 2013, CHJC has successfully maintained a pre and post- adoption program in Jefferson County. Since its inception, CHJC has helped more than 95% of families receiving services remain intact. As the largest provider of Foster Care services in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties, CHJC daily serves more than 200 youth in out-of-home care.
For more than five decades, CHJC has been a provider of child welfare services in the region. CHJC recognizes prior to becoming eligible for adoption, many of the adopted youth have experienced abuse and neglect, separation from siblings, and multiple placements. They are primarily children of poverty, whose birth parents were unwilling, or unable to care for them due to economic distress and/or a lack of parenting skills. Often these youth come into placement from broken or single parent homes, neglectful/abusive family settings, or situations including personal or family involvement with alcohol or substance abuse. They may be the children of parents who themselves have involvement with the criminal justice system, including incarcerated parents.
Currently, OCFS funded post-adoption services are only available in Jefferson County. Therefore, families residing in Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Oswego counties have no access to post-adoption services. Existing services in Jefferson County focus on pre- and post-adoption support, meaning funding is shared for both populations. As a result of the rural nature of the region, access to services is limited. Families experiencing disruption, and at risk of an adoption dissolution, have nowhere to turn for assistance. When families do access services, the providers have little or no experience working with adopted youth. Providing specialized services to families is critical to their long-term success.
Family Permanency Program of the North Country services will be provided in the family’s home, community, and child’s school. Services will be offered at convenient times including after regular business hours. Through a case management approach, CHJC will help the family identify strengths and needs, establish a comprehensive family support plan, coordinate services to meet family needs, and facilitate collaboration between various service programs. Through support groups and parent advocacy, families will build relationships, form a mentoring community, receive education, and be provided socialization and recreational activities for their children. For the convenience of working families, evening trainings, support groups, and other opportunities will be offered.
For more information on CHJC’s Family Permanency Program of the North Country, please contact Victoria Peck, Director of Foster Care at 315-788-7430 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information can be found at www.nnychildrenshome.com.