The Family First Act presents a challenge for advocates and policy makers to reorient the child welfare system to prioritize and support young people’s connections with family. This challenge is reflected in one of the most promising and exciting aspects of the law: incentives to reduce the use of group care and support youth’s connection to family and community. Systems and advocates should work to ensure that young people are not placed in group care and instead are supported in the “most connected placement”: settings where they can be with family or individuals who can provide nurture and care as a parent would. The challenge is to both eliminate group care and to provide—and build where they do not exist—the services, supports and resources families and caregivers need to parent youth. This is hard work, but in addition to the FFPSA, there are many existing legal requirements that can be marshalled on behalf of youth and your advocacy can make a huge difference.
JLC and YLC have released Advocating for the Most Connected Placement: A Guide to Reducing the Use of Group Care. This Guide is intended to be a practical tool that can be used by attorneys and advocates to ensure that youth are in living settings where they can be connected with family, the community, and a support system. The tool takes advocates through questions to guide their analysis and advocacy as they confront situations where youth are not in the most connected placement and instead are being moved to or continue in group settings. Each section provides concrete suggestions for actions you can take in and out of court to get your clients in the most connected placements where they can have their needs met and thrive. It also provides the legal and social science authority to support the suggested actions. Actions range from filing motions, holding hearings, researching licensing complaints of facilities, filing grievances and inviting family members and youth to team meetings related t