Nationally, more than 250,000 children enter foster care each year as the result of abuse or neglect, and more than 400,000 children and youth are in out-of-home care at any time (U.S. DHHS, 2020). Over the past decades, child welfare agencies have strived to identify and engage relatives with whom children can be placed or maintain close connections during and after their time in foster care. Previous research has found that, while in foster care, children placed with relatives experience greater placement stability and have better mental health and behavioral outcomes than children placed with non-relatives (Winokur et al, 2018). Additionally, children placed with relatives continue to reach permanency (reunification, guardianship, or adoption) and have lower rates of re-entry than children placed with non-relatives (Winokur et al, 2018, Wheeler & Vollet, 2017). Many agencies, including Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), have implemented relative search and engagement programs, known as “family finding,” to strengthen children’s family connections and to enhance the likelihood that children can live with kin when they are unable to remain at home.

Endnote

1 The six UFF expansion offices are: South County, Belvedere, West San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita, Wateridge, and Hawthorne. The first four began UFF in May 2019, and the latter two began in November 2019. Two additional offices, West LA and VT Corridor, began implementing UFF in January 2018. They were not included in this study because implementation was not during the same timeframe.