We have established our Family Visit Model in Colombia, Ukraine, Russia and the USA.
- Once people in the community meet and get to know older children growing up in government care, many will feel compelled to help and some will take steps to adopt or build other more permanent relationships.
- And, once kids get to know people in a non-threatening environment, they might find that special, permanent relationship that can make an important difference in their lives.
- Give kids a choice in the matter. When children have a voice in who they want to be with matches that are more likely to endure.
Kidsave’s Family Visit Model in the USA is branded “Weekend Miracles” in Los Angeles County, California, and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. It is also operating under the brand name “Choice” in Colorado, and as the DC Family and Youth Initiative in Washington, DC.
In the USA Kidsave serves foster youth who are:
- Ages 9 – 17 who are living with foster families who do not intend to adopt them, or in residential facilities and group homes
- Single children and sibling sets
- Youth on probation who are also in the foster care system;
- Kids whose family reunification services are terminated
- Kids open to a connection with an adult who choose to participate
- Be “customer friendly” — make it easier to get involved with a child in foster care;
- Let families interested in fostering safely meet kids right away – rather than having to wait months for home studies and clearances — thereby keeping them engaged;
- Give kids a choice in the matter. Matches where children have a voice in who they want to be with creates matches that are more likely to endure.
- Hosting has the potential to move a larger number of children into families.
How does it start?
Hosting starts with a short orientation prior to attending a community event. Families and kids interact in fun activities to help them get to know each other. Following the events families and kids indicate to Kidsave if there is someone with whom they would like to spend more time. Kids have the choice as to who their host family will be. Clearances and training are required before hosting can begin.
Once hosting begins relationships deepen. Some families are super-mentors only, focusing on finding the child a permanent family. Others decided that they want to adopt the child they are hosting. The program allows relationships to develop naturally, at the child’s own pace.
To Get Involved
Events that engage interested adults and the children help them get to know each other. Eventually, some Super Amigos welcome their host child into their home for weekends, holidays and school vacations.
Who Does Super Amigos Help?
- Kids 9-17 who are living in institutions, called “Foundations” in Colombia
- Single kids and sibling sets
- Children with and without disabilities
Expanding in Latin America
ICBF associated the importance of family engagement for institutionalized children through Kidsave’s evaluation of Lazos de Familia. With the recognition that children without parental care could dramatically benefit from a connection with a caring adult, ICBF began expansion of Super Amigos and Kidsave Colombia was instrumental in training ICBF staff in program implementation across many regions.
In 2001 Kidsave launched its first in-country program in the Smolensk region of Russia, giving 1,000 Russian orphans visits with Russian families during the summer, holidays and weekends. These visits allowed the children to experience family life and gave host families the chance to get to know the children in a comfortable environment. Of that group, 477 moved out of orphanages and into families and an additional 220 stayed connected with families who continued to mentor them, while the children remained living in the orphanage.
On Sakhalin Island, after just two years of the Family Visit Model Program, 177 children had moved to families and three orphanages were able to be closed.
How Did Family Visits Help?
In Russia family visits helped to destigmatize orphans in the community and connect them with caring, local families for summer, holiday and weekend visits. These visits enabled the children to experience family life and gave host families the chance to get to know the children in a comfortable environment, changing the stigma of adoption in Russia.Kidsave was told about an older woman who was one of the first to host a child in her village in Russia. Her friends did not approve, yet she took the boy with her wherever she went. As people got to know him, their attitudes changed. The following summer, several of her friends stepped up to host, and the Russian Orthodox Church provided funds to help supplement the cost of an extra mouth to feed by providing a food stipend.
Kidsave’s partner, Childhood Keepers, a Russian NGO offers training to central and regional government officials, orphanage workers and other local NGOs in how to implement the family visit model. We encourage local organizations to take on these programs and give more older orphans hope for committed, caring adults in their lives.
As part of the reform effort, Kidsave’s focus is to test our Family Visit Model in supporting the transition of 40 older children and teens who cannot be reunified (age 6-14) from institutions into families. Our focus, permanent family care, will be achieved through finalized adoptions, legal guardianships and placements in long-term foster care. When family placements cannot be made, long-term mentoring of institutionalized youth will be provided.
The pilot is located in two communities, Kherson and Mykolaiv. The pilot has a special focus on developing systems whereby social workers and citizens collaborate to move children through the entire permanency system, into families. Our three local partners support the effort.
- Moi Dom, a child-serving NGO in Kherson leads the effort,
- The International Leadership and Development Center (ILDC) adapted the Family Visit Model to the Ukranian context and supports some training of professionals and lay partners.
- Ukraine Without Orphans supports family recruitment, hosting and advocacy with an emphasis on engaging communities of faith.
The pilot is expected to be complete in 2019.