Supporting Youth Permanency Post-discharge: A Family-Focused, Culturally Sensitive Intervention Strategy

Room: Commonwealth 3

This workshop will provide an overview of am intervention model the Home for Little Wanderers has been offering both to support youth success at home post-discharge from residential, group home, or foster care as well as to avoid the need for out of home placement entirely. The Family First Prevention Services Act establishes a broad expectation for the provision of aftercare for youth being discharged from Qualified Residential Treatment Programs. This model is of interest to those providing aftercare as well as those providing community-based services geared toward preventing out of home placement. While work continues to help young people more safely and effectively regulate their emotions post discharge, the family system also needs to be strengthened and expanded to better support a young person during times of crisis or when communicating distress while at home.

This workshop will explore how to strengthen and expand a family’s existing social supports. The goal of this shift in mindset and subsequent network-building is to support families in responding to mental health crises in a way that keeps young people in their communities. We will emphasize the importance of maintaining a focus on youth permanency during moments when system-associated barriers to a successful permanency outcome remain. Permanency-focused safety planning begins with a culturally humble approach that asks how a family defines safety, and who they currently turn to when they feel unsafe. We will explore the ways in which unconscious bias can limit practitioners from fully understanding a family’s safety needs, and from involving community members who are important to a family’s well-being. Practitioners can also indirectly communicate a preference for paid professionals over natural supports, which can cause further harm to the family system and a young person’s identity development.

Participants will be introduced to a tool that explores the ways in which families will turn to different people for different needs or kinds of crises. This tool offers an assessment of existing supports, and an opportunity to think through how participants might strengthen these supports and better meet a family’s safety needs.


Elizabeth Woodruff, LICSW

Clinical Trainer, Workforce Learning and Development , Home for Little Wanderers


Ashley Arbuckle, LMHC

Clinical Coordinator , Home for Little Wanderers


Caryn Lister, LICSW

Program Director, Center for Permanency , Home for Little Wanderers