International Collaboration to Help Children in Foster Care
Russia and the United States are vastly different countries
in many ways, but they have some important things in common including a
significant population of children in foster care who are seeking permanent
homes. To help both countries do a
better job of addressing the needs of these children, an international exchange
was held recently at the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy at
Capital University Law School.
The United States and Russia Child Protection Working Group
conducted a site visit at the Center. The working group, consisting of six adoption
and child welfare experts from Russia and five from the United States, is part of the U.S.-Russian Social Expertise Exchange. During a week in Columbus, the group visited NCALP
to learn more about the center’s work related to permanency and connections for
youth through law and policy reform, education and training. The visit was part of a six-month project
aimed at sharing expertise on foster care.
In particular, the Russian experts were collecting information about
strategies that support permanency for children and youth in the U.S. foster
“This was a fascinating opportunity for each country to
learn about the other,” Denise St. Clair, NCALP’s executive director said. “I
was especially interested to learn about the changes being made in foster care
in Russia, including the increasing use of family foster homes.”
At the center, working group members heard about NCALP’s
work on supporting permanency and connections for youth, including initiatives
aimed at child abuse prevention, safe reunification of foster children with
their birth families and, where that is not possible, programs fostering the
creation of permanent connections through adoption, kinship care and other
St. Clair noted that the Russians were particularly
interested in learning more about U.S. courts’ participation in permanency
planning. “Unlike U.S. courts, Russian
courts have very limited roles in relation to children and youth in foster
care,” she explained.
In addition to NCALP staff, speakers included:
- Steve Hanson, manager of the Children, Families
and the Courts section at the Ohio Supreme Court, who spoke about the court-sponsored
permanency planning initiatives, including Beyond the Numbers, a program that
fosters collaboration on permanency goals among courts and child-serving
agencies at a local level.
- Judge Denise Cubbon of the Lucas County Juvenile
Court, who addressed court strategies, including a youth-directed transition
plan being piloted in four Ohio counties.
- Capital Law Professor Angela Upchurch, who spoke
about the experiential education offered at the Law School in these areas.
The formal program was followed by open discussion facilitated
by simultaneous English-Russian translation. Ultimately, the exchange between
the two countries will lead to a virtual conference to be held in April 2014 to
exchange lessons learned.