By Christy Lawton
Greetings colleagues. As many of you know, everything OCS does and is statutorily required to do directly correlates to ensuring the safety, permanency and well-being of the children we serve. Over the past eight years, we have given a heavy focus to improving practice and the outcomes around child safety. We have made great progress in many ways, but there is still improvement needed to refine and bring greater consistency to those efforts. Safety is and will remain an area of focus in conjunction with our many ongoing efforts.
During the past eight years, we have continued to practice and implement other initiatives or policy updates that coincide with our practices from the point of intake through to case closure.
However, we have not given any other program area the kind of laser-beam focus like we have done with safety. In the coming months and year, we are going to broaden our focus and really begin to home in on permanency. As we expand our collective expertise to begin working on areas we know are deficient, or that point to gaps in the system, we do so with a new way of looking at our work. That new lens sees the overarching umbrella of our work as ensuring “well-being,” with safety and permanency falling squarely and equally under that umbrella. Well-being can also be thought of as the way we work toward ensuring we are a trauma-informed and trauma-focused system in the ways we create policy, deliver training, practice and decision-making. This is a significant shift in the way we think about our work, but it is the wave of the future and direction child welfare across the country is moving. That is not to say one is more important than the other, but it is the framework we must readjust to in order to truly meet the needs of our children and families.
One way we are immediately shining a light on permanency is to promote the use of the Alaska Adoption Exchange (AAE). The AAE has been around for years, but the usage is minimal and there are some associated misperceptions or bad press associated with it. The AAE is a statewide and national strategy aimed at promoting the benefits of public adoption. The exchange offers and urges families to consider creating or expanding their families by adopting a child who is older, has special needs, or is a part of a sibling group. The value of public education about adoption should be and will be expanded by increasing partnerships and effectively using the power of social media. The AAE invites Alaskans to learn more about the children immediately available for adoption in their home state and community. The AAE puts a new face on public adoption by showcasing the beautiful, intelligent and diverse children who are featured there and provides a tasteful forum for highlighting these children who are in need of a loving family.
If you are a caseworker, GAL, attorney, concerned provider or party in a case where a child is desperately in need of permanency, I strongly encourage you to get with your Regional Adoption Specialist to work toward having your child listed. Alaskans care about our kids and many are interested in being forever families for them, but we’ve got to point the way. This was clearly evident recently, when, after posting a link and short blurb about kids seeking permanency via the exchange on the DHSS Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/alaska.dhss, we received 74 “likes,” it was viewed by nearly 6,000 people, and was shared 42 times by others to their own page. I personally received two calls from friends of my own wanting to learn more. The power of social media, if used appropriately, is a positive and valuable tool that we can and must be accessing on behalf of our children.
Click here to be directed to the OCS Alaska Adoption Exchange tab to see the wonderful children waiting for the right family to find them.