Far too many children in foster care move too often and stay too long. Every year approximately 4,000 California children age out of foster care without the safety net of a permanent family. Within 2 years 50% will be homeless, victimized, incarcerated or dead.
View our Families NOW infographic to see how.
Charlie is a 17-year old foster youth who entered care at age five. He lived in 24 different settings while in care. His behavior and self-esteem reflected his history. His life changed when he was referred to the Destination Family Youth Permanency Project started by Families NOW executive director Gail Johnson Vaughan. These specialized youth permanency services changed his life, perhaps saved his life. Charlie was adopted by a family that believes in him and is committed to him lifelong.
Studies show that within two years 50% of youth who age-out without families are homeless, in prison, victimized or dead. The Destination Family Youth Permanency Project was created to demonstrate that no youth needs to age-out of foster care without a permanent family connection. The program that would allow Charlie to find his adoptive family was highly successful. 86% of the age 11-18 year old foster youth that were referred to Destination Family achieved a permanent family. In 2007, at the start of the last year of federal funding, and two years before Charlie was referred for services, the county announced their plans to close the program down.
That’s when Families NOW was born. Gail knew, without a doubt, that permanent families were possible for all youth in foster care. She also knew that moving youth out of expensive foster care into permanent families results in savings which could be used to continue services at no net cost to the county.
She passed the leadership of Sierra Forever Families to the skilled hands of Bob Herne and founded Families NOW (first called Mission Focused Solutions). Gail developed a fundamental budget reform methodology blueprint to demonstrate a no-cost plan for counties to sustain and expand youth permanence services like Destination Family. She worked with Sacramento County to inspire the political will to address the “moral and fiscal imperative” we have to create permanent families for young people.” Change is hard. She spent the first two years of her encore career educating county administrators and staff about the wisdom of the methodology. She briefed members of the County Board of Supervisors on the cost savings potential. Ultimately the Board mandated the new methodology. And it’s working: Seven years after sunset of federal funding youth continue to receive Destination Family services. One of them was Charlie.
Now the program is being replicated in other counties and states. Our goal is that youth in all jurisdictions receive child-centered specialized permanency services.
Please visit our Solutions page to learn more.