Our union – which represents thousands of Children’s Social Workers at LA County’s Department of Children and Family Services – took a strong stand today in support of expanding the Upfront Family Finding program to all regional DCFS offices on a motion authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
Designed to provide foster children with an alternative to living in group facilities or in foster homes with people they don’t know, the Upfront Family Finding program employs part-time and previously retired Children’s Social Workers to seek out and recruit family members who can care for children within their first 90 days in foster care.
The Upfront Family Finding program – also known as “UFF” – was piloted in ten of 20 DCFS regional offices with astounding results.
Nationwide, about 30 percent of foster children are placed with kin. LA County does substantially better, averaging between 40 and 50 percent placement with family members. By contrast, UFF in ten DCFS regional offices produced an impressive 81 percent placement with kin between January and June of 2020.
“With an average of 35,000 children under jurisdiction of LA County DCFS, LA County’s Children’s Social Workers have heavy caseloads,” said David Green, a veteran Children’s Social Worker who also serves as Treasurer of SEIU 721.
“Social workers have to juggle so many responsibilities in the first weeks after a child is removed from their parents, so it can be a challenge for them also to search for and recruit relatives,” Green said. “With UFF, specialized teams focus on recruiting placement opportunities with kin and the results are impressive.”
To be sure, finding an additional $8.3 million to fund the program is a challenge during a fiscal crisis brought on by a global pandemic. However, the program more than makes up for any increase in cost with a reduction in trauma in children’s lives.
UFF reduces the dislocation caused by moving children multiple times to different short-term placements. Over time, it will help reduce the disproportionate share of Black and Latino children placed in out-of-home care.
A wide body of research shows that children in foster care suffer less trauma and maintain better emotional health and stability when they are placed with relatives and can maintain connections with siblings. Research also shows children placed with relatives are more likely to find permanent homes through adoption or guardianship when they cannot be returned to parents.
For these reasons, our union strongly supports expanding UFF countywide. Together, we rise.