This year we celebrate 10 years of our 30 Days to Family® program in the St. Louis area with a BIG milestone: 1,000 kids served!
30 Days to Family® helps place kids with relatives, significantly reducing their time in foster care and creating stable placements by weaving together a robust support system. This short intervention has a long-lasting impact on children’s lives: kids experience a lot less trauma and develop strong family connections that will last a lifetime.
As we counted down to the milestone of 1,000 kids served by 30 Days to Family®, we kept thinking about the thousands of lives that have been reached by this program – the relatives of the kids we serve. Just think about it! If we’ve served 1,000 kids and our Specialists find an average of 150 relatives per case, it means we have connected with over 150,000 relatives and kin to rally behind the children we serve.
How powerful is that?! It makes a world of difference…
One of the pillars of success for the 30 Days to Family® program is its huge emphasis on robust supports. Crafting the kids’ genogram (family tree) makes it possible to create the most stable and supportive home for them; a home that not only focuses on one family or individual but a whole community to walk alongside the children. Supports are essential for a child’s stability – they are the folks who would lend a listening ear to an overwhelmed caregiver, pick up the kids from school, provide financial assistance, or simply provide encouragement to the family.
Most times, at the beginning of a case, Specialists might know only three to ten relatives in the kids’ lives. By the end of the case, through diligent family search and engagement, 30 Days to Family® Specialists end up identifying dozens or hundreds of additional relatives. These connections have a tremendous impact, especially for children just entering foster care.
By knowing their family tree, kids know about their history and culture and feel connected to a larger family. The kids take this family tree with them and know that they are not alone. It is the grandmothers, great aunts, teachers, neighbors, second cousins, and older siblings who have showed us, time after time, that when we take a closer look at their extended relative network, our kids can have family as one of their strongest support systems.
Now, we have also learned that creating a large, supportive family tree is not possible in every case. Still, even when the family tree can’t be expanded, or relatives are unable to take placement of the child, they often choose to remain in children’s lives as a family connection and support.
Regardless of the particular circumstances of each case, 10 years, 1,000 kids, and 150,000 relatives have taught us this: Family is everything.
A stable family is where kids can heal and thrive, like Devante and Trent:
In July 2018, two siblings, Devante and Trent, 5 and 3 years old, entered care due to lack of supervision. Mom had left the children in the care of others and could not be found. There was no contact with the identified fathers at the time. The boys’ maternal grandmother and grandfather wanted to take placement but could not meet the licensing criteria. There were only seven people identified at the beginning of the 30 Days to Family® case.
As soon as she received the referral, 30 Days to Family® Specialist Shonetta quickly located the identified fathers, who were both incarcerated. They provided additional contact names and supports for Devante and Trent. After extensive family searches, no one was willing or had the ability to take both boys or become licensed, but many relatives were willing to visit and support the kids in other ways.
Shonetta soon reached out to the maternal great grandmother, Deborah, who was willing to care for Devante and Trent. Shonetta completed the walkthrough of her home and found it to be safe and appropriate. During the home visit, Miss Deborah was very open. She was strong, with old-school values as the matriarch of the family. She shared about raising her daughters on her own after her husband passed away. She talked about her love for family and how she has spent her life taking care of her loved ones. Deborah also has guardianship of one of her adult granddaughters, who happens to be Devante and Trent’s maternal aunt.
Miss Deborah was self-sufficient and only requested assistance with getting beds for the boys. Thanks to generous donors, 30 Days to Family® was able to assist with purchasing the beds and the boys moved into the home within 30 days of entering care. At this point, Shonetta had extended the family tree to 207 relatives, many of which became supports for great grandma.
Shonetta developed an excellent relationship with Miss Deborah. Whenever there was a concern or she needed additional assistance, Miss Deborah would contact 30 Days to Family®. She would also contact the office to discuss how well the boys were doing in the home and at school. Miss Deborah was offering them a sense of stability, a scheduled routine, and in her words, ‘teaching them their manners’. The boys visited their grandfather on a regular basis. He picked them up for weekly haircuts and got them involved in sports. They also had regular contact once a month with their paternal families.
Miss Deborah supported her granddaughter, Devante and Trent’s mom, to work towards reunification. She often offered encouragement for her to complete all the tasks the courts had required for reunification. Miss Deborah became approved to supervise visits between the boys and their mother. In November 2020, the courts determined that Devante and Trent could return home to their mother.
Relative placements with robust support systems make a world of difference because they provide children entering foster care with stability. After all, children need consistency, predictability, and attachment to a caring adult to thrive.1 Lack of stability leads to longer time in foster care, poor educational outcomes due to changing schools, and increased mental health and behavioral issues for our kids. Research also shows that the more placement changes kids experience, the less likely they are to be reunited with their family. 2 Placement stability has a tremendous influence on whether kids age out of foster care or not.
The 30 Days to Family® program has proven that the little bit of extra effort to engage and support families at the front end pays off because our placements last! For children served by 30 Days to Family®, placement change rates were reduced by 81% after being placed with relatives.3 That added stability can literally be life-saving for kids entering care.