Volume XXVI | March 15, 2023

The Good Stuff in Child Welfare
Welcome to The Good Stuff in Child Welfare!
Our team at the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, & Research recognizes that between the all too frequent and grim child welfare stories that make us teary-eyed, clenched-fisted, and faint-hearted, there are inspiring accomplishments and heartening endeavors taking place all over this country at every level of practice. To elevate and promote these encouraging stories, we are pleased to bring you this monthly newsletter emphasizing news stories only about “The Good Stuff” from the broad field of child welfare. This month, we share uplifting stories of community intervention provided by individuals, non-profits, governments and courts. We hope this read gives you a few moments of hopefulness and a sense of possibility.
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Supporting Young Adults Transitioning Out of Foster Care: Arkansas’ Latest Program
LifeSet is an individualized, evidence-informed, community-based program of Youth Villages supporting young people aging out of foster care. Since 1999, it has helped over 20,000 young adults in jurisdictions across the country. Recently, LifeSet expanded to Northwest Arkansas, and has already helped 20 young adults in 6 months of operation. Clients are referred to the nine-month program that includes assistance with housing, finances, employment, education, health care, and more, by the state Department of Human Services. “Thanks to the LifeSet program, young adults aging out of foster care can now have the extra assistance they need to transition confidently into adulthood,” said LifeSet specialist Nichole Harmon.

San Diego Nonprofit Supports Former Foster Youth With Mental Health Services
Just in time for Foster Youth’s (JIT) mission is to develop a caring community to assist transition-age foster youth in achieving self-sufficiency and well-being. The nonprofit strives to reach vulnerable young adults recently aged out of the foster care system. Along with their outreach, JIT’s objective is to build a bridge for foster youth as they leave the system. It assists participants with housing, mentorship, job readiness, and other critical resources that aid their transition. Recently, they added a new mental health team as a crucial step to protect at-risk youth, because “It’s all about connections,” said Don Wells, CEO of Just in Time for Foster Youth.

It Takes a Village: Foster Program Is a New Model of Care for Indigenous Children
The Simply Smiles Children’s Village is home to a program to improve outcomes and reduce trauma for Indigenous children in foster care. Located on the Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota, the nonprofit aims to improve Indigenous foster care by keeping children in their tribal community. Trained professionals care for children in a village setting that provides cultural programming and mental health services. The program’s foster parents receive 70 more hours of training than the state requires, including education about Lakota culture. The program also offers telehealth therapy, evaluations, and medication management to foster parents, children, and birth parents.

‘Foster Hope’ Drive Fills 105 Suitcases for Kids in Foster Care
When a Bismark, ND mom found herself looking for a non-traditional resolution to commit to for the New Year, she came up with an idea that benefitted not just herself, but numerous others. Tracey Pruess realized that her son was growing out of his clothes so quickly that the garments barely showed any wear, so she decided to make sure they went to kids who could really use them. Drawing on her own lived experience in the foster care system, Tracy devised a plan that would not only help declutter her home but would also help area kids in foster care. She then used her social media as a platform to recruit others to donate with the goal of filling individual suitcases with items such as an outfit, a blanket and a few books in each. Soon they had more than expected to share with children in need. Tracey’s story of turning one idea of organization and giving into a blessing for so many others is truly inspirational. 

New Yellowstone County Treatment Court to Graduate First Class, Mother Shares Story of Recovery
Yellowstone County in Montana is set to graduate its first class from the ICWA Family Recovery Court in May. Kyle Spang, a Northern Cheyenne tribal member, is finishing the program now and has been reunited with her son. She says “I felt even more empowered, like I did this, I got this far. That was a reward, a blessing, from all the hard work.” Spang also said it was essential that her son was with family, something possible under ICWA. Montana Representative Johnathan Windy Boy said that ICWA is more than just protections for families, but also a “whole different layer of programs that tie into this for the best interest of the child.” The Montana legislature is working to codify the federal requirements under the Indian Child Welfare Act into state law, furthering protections for the cultural connections that Spang said were important to her recovery.

How a 12-Year-Old’s Night Light Nonprofit is Brightening Life for Foster Children
Twelve year old Amelia Lisowe from Arkansas aims to bring comfort to as many kids as possible with a night light of their own. Her nonprofit, Lisowe’s Lights, has raised funds to provide over 15,000 lights to children in the foster care system. Since 2018, Lisowe’s Lights have been delivered to all 50 US states and nine countries, illuminating kindness and encouraging others to support those involved with foster care. In addition to raising funds, Lisowe’s Lights hosts community events in partnership with Second Chance Youth Ranch, a private placement agency that serves and supports foster families.

The Field Center team would like to thank the staff and students who brought this newsletter together. Specifically, we recognize Felicia Saunders, Richard Wren, Meghan Chasar and Em Brandon for their contributions in providing readers with this uplifting content. Many thanks to our Associate Director Sarah Wasch for editing and our Administrative Coordinator Felicia Saunders for handling design and distribution. Special thanks to our Managing Faculty Director, Dr. Johanna Greeson for her idea to curate the “good news stories” happening in child welfare!