Connecting Foster Teens With Their Family Roots
Amber grew up in foster care. She had no knowledge of other family members and her family history was a mystery. When her social worker put her in touch with Georgina Jones, Family Find program coordinator for LCS Northwest in Astoria, the veil began to lift.
Family Find partners with youth 15 and older with no known family connections. These kids face being released from foster care as young adults with no one for support. Our staff act like detectives doing genealogical research to find extended family members for each youth. They find, and then connect with relatives they hope can contribute to the lives of these youth.
Relationships with birth families provide a sense of belonging and help youth develop a greater sense of identity. Researching history and developing a family tree that usually goes back several generations is needed to identify extended family members, Georgina explained.
The next step is reaching out to living family members to find out who would like to be connected to this child and how they would like to be involved. Family Find’s goal is to have extended family members become permanent connections for the youth when they age out of foster care.
“Great aunts and uncles are often the key to unlocking family history. The kids are usually really receptive to and respectful of them,” Georgina said. “It’s kind of magical.”
Georgina helped Amber connect with an aunt in Bellingham and an uncle in Florida. She has had conversations with them both and has met her aunt in person. Today Amber has the family and sense of belonging she has longed for.
“I used to wonder: If I get married, who am I going to invite to my wedding?” said Amber. “Now I actually have people to invite.”
The psychological and emotional lift from connecting with extended family members should not be underestimated.
“The benefits of connecting with family can be amazing for these kids,” Georgina said. “To know that their grandparents or aunts love them, have missed them and worried about them all this time improves their mental health.”
Family Find is a collaboration between Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, Clatsop County Child Welfare and Lutheran Community Services Northwest. It is funded by a grant from Columbia Pacific CCO.
Watch Amber’s Story.