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Develop and Support Families

A Second Chance, Inc., Pennsylvania

This is one of 31 program profiles that appears in Support Matters, Lessons from the Field on Services for Adoptive, Foster, and Kinship Care Families (PDF – 2 MB), published March 2015.

Overview

A Second Chance, Inc. is a full-service kinship care placement agency, providing foster care licensing, training, and support services to relative caregivers. Support services include in-home clinical services, respite care, and support groups.

Population Served

  • Kinship care families in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia area, both those with a formal foster care placement and those caring for relatives outside of the system.
  • The organization serves about 1,300 children each year in Allegheny County and nearly 800 in the Philadelphia area.

Theory of Change

By providing needed services, such as case management and other supports, children and youth can be safe and thrive. Serving the entire kinship triad — child or youth, caregiver, and birth family — is the best way to strengthen and preserve healthy families for children.

Provider

A Second Chance is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and preserving healthy kinship families for children and youth. The services provided are a partnership of A Second Chance and Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. The organization has its headquarters near Pittsburgh and a regional office in Philadelphia.

Role of Public Child Welfare Agency

The Allegheny County and Philadelphia County child welfare agencies pay a per diem rate for each child or youth from the county who is served by the program. The counties’ child welfare agencies also identify the relative caregivers to be served by the program.

Key Service Components

The following services are offered in the Pittsburgh area:

  • Full-service case management — A case manager works with families to identify and address their needs. Services include:
    • Assessments at the beginning of placement, including a Kinship Strengths Assessment that examines parental capacity and the needs of the triad as the family works toward permanency; young children up to age five receive the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and children five and older receive the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths assessment to screen their developmental, social, and emotional strengths and needs
    • Discussion of the results of the assessments and any resulting service needs
    • Execution of a 60-day certification process where client-centered services work closely with the kinship family to ensure success
    • Ongoing case management services to assist with strengthening and stabilization of the kinship placement and achievement of permanency for the child or youth
  • In-home mental wellness services — When appropriate, a case manager works with the families to identify and address their mental health needs. Services include:
    • Review and discussion of the results of the assessments and any resulting service needs as identified by the ongoing caseworker.
    • Independent assessment to identify the family’s strengths and needs.
    • Development of a 60-day plan to provide in-home clinical services or connect families with services; the 60-day timeframe can be extended as needed.
    • For families under more stress, staff hold a critical case conference to identify sources of stress and areas of risk that can be addressed to avoid a crisis. Staff also develop a four-week stabilization plan.
  • Planned and emergency respite care — Respite is provided by approved foster parents.
  • Support groups — The agency offers separate monthly support groups for kinship caregivers, children, and birth parents.
  • A summer basketball camp — Youth 12 to 18 can attend the camp, which is offered four days per week.
  • Training for caregivers — Training is based on the Standards for Assessing and Recognizing Kinship Strengths curriculum, which addresses the behavioral, psychological, educational, social, and emotional well-being of the kin family. It is a trauma-informed curriculum that provides strategies, resources, and tools for caregivers on parenting, adolescent brain development, parenting at-risk youth, behavioral health of youth, trauma, and attachment.
  •  Family group decision making — At these meetings, families jointly develop a permanent plan for their children.
  • Reunification or adoption services — The agency provides special support for children, youth, and families when reunification or adoption is the chosen permanency plan.
  • Material supports — Supports include clothing and food banks and access to a computer lab.
  • Other programs — A Second Chance also offers an end-of-year holiday celebration, the Dance for Life etiquette classes and cotillion for adolescents, and a blood pressure screening event for caregivers to promote physical well-being.

Caregivers who are not part of the agency’s formal caseload also receive information, attend support groups, receive referrals to community resources, and have access to pro bono legal services.

The Philadelphia office offers kinship placement services, family group decision making, support groups, and training.

Outreach Efforts

The county identifies relatives who can care for a child who needs a family and does the initial clearance of that family. The county then refers the potential caregiver to A Second Chance for licensing, training, and support services.

Staffing

  • 4 master’s level social workers (2.5 full-time equivalent) who provide in-home services as well as other services for kinship caregivers
  • 1 support group leader (.25 full-time equivalent) who is a kinship caregiver
  • 9 trainers (7 full-time equivalent) run support groups and train caregivers; they also train staff and do other work at the agency
  • 14 master’s level social worker managers and executive staff who take case management cases as needed
  • Administrative support staff (.5 full-time equivalent) who operate the clothing bank

Training Requirements

  • Staff providing in-home case management services have master’s degrees in social work or related field.
  • All staff receive a minimum of 40 hours of training per year, in addition to specialized training for new employees. Mandatory annual training topics include recognizing child sexual abuse, cultural competency, de-escalation and passive restraint training, first aid, and CPR.
  • Staff also receive training in cultural intelligence, including race and culture, age, and socioeconomic status.

Evaluation and Outcomes

Evaluation Design

The agency’s evaluation includes tracking individuals served and the services they received, and assessing client satisfaction after every event and periodically while services are ongoing. In addition, the agency tracks disruption and placement rates and permanency for children in its care. Currently, evaluation for the mental wellness program centers on quantitative data (length of services, number of services, reasons for closure, etc.). The agency is beginning the process of identifying and measuring outcomes.

In addition, A Second Chance randomly select 60 cases for which to do a home visit and ask the family about the quality of services received. The agency’s quality assurance division monitors each aspect of the agency’s work to ensure it is meeting client needs.

Key Findings

  • Between January 2007 and July 2013, 81 percent of the 2,779 children served experienced only one placement.
  • Since January 2007, there have been no founded allegations of abuse for the 3,566 children in the care of A Second Chance families. Over its entire history, serving more than 13,000 children, there have been only eight allegations of abuse for children in A Second Chance families.
  • Since 2011, 75 percent of cases have closed to permanency. Since
  • 2006, 60 percent of all cases were closed due to the child’s or youth’s achieving permanency — 30 percent to reunification, 15 percent to adoption, and 15 percent to permanent legal custody.
  • Youth served have lower rates of teen pregnancy and higher rates of graduating on time than other youth in care. For example, in 2011, 78 percent of youth served graduated on time. In 2012, it was 74 percent.

Approximate Annual Budget for Services Described

$11 million

Funding

The primary source of funding is a per diem rate (for each child or youth on the agency’s caseload) provided by Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.

Other sources of funds include foundation grants, individual and organizational donations, and in-kind donations for the clothing and food bank.

Partnerships Required or Recommended

  • Allegheny and Philadelphia counties are the primary partners, as they refer families and provide the bulk of funding.
  • Agency staff also partner with local schools, community organizations, faith-based organizations, and others to inform them about the needs of kinship care families.

Challenges

  • Kinship care families need support even if the child or youth is diverted from the system, but it can be more difficult to find funding for those services.
  • Kinship caregivers often face more challenges than other resource families, including being older, having more health concerns, and having lower incomes.

Background and Future Directions

A Second Chance was founded in 1994 when, with support from a local foundation, the agency was able to hire a part-time staff member to organize its first support group for kinship caregivers.

The partnership with the Allegheny County Department of Children, Youth and Families began in 1994, and the organization expanded to the Philadelphia area in 2005. Now, A Second Chance, Inc., is a national leader in kinship care, providing training to more than 30 jurisdictions on how to license, train, and support relative caregivers.

Learn More

Sources

  • Dr. Sharon McDaniel, inteview, July 16, 2013.
  • A Second Chance, Inc. website, accessed July 2, 2013
  • A Second Chance, Inc. brochure.
  • A Second Chance, Inc. brochure “The Kinship Care Process From Placement to Permanency” (presentation slides, 2012).
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