A Second Chance, Inc., is a private, community-based, not-for-profit kinship care agency committed to providing safe, secure and nurturing environments for children placed in kinship care. Our primary goal is to ensure child safety, promote family wellness and provide culturally responsive services aimed toward the initial goal of certification—through a licensing process assisting kinship caregivers to obtain approval in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—then moving on to maintain the home and eventually plan for permanency.
Additionally, A Second Chance, Inc., assists all communities in their efforts to preserve healthy families and support children in their right to have a safe, permanent and stable family environment. We support kinship families through the certification process and assist service providers to increase reunification of children with their birth families, whenever possible, and achieve other permanency arrangements, such as adoption, Subsidized Legal Permanent Custodianship (SPLC) or independent living, when necessary for a more permanent status for children and youth.
Vision, Mission and Goals
Agency vision: A world where all youth are given an equal opportunity to grow into responsible adults; where abuse and addiction cycles are broken.
Agency mission: Tostrengthen and preserve healthy kinship families for children.
Agency operating principles: A Second Chance, Inc. provides a full range of kinship care and support services based on a four-principle approach: Conviction, Dignity, Respect and Honesty.
A Second Chance, Inc., is a service provider for the Allegheny Department of Human Services, contracted to conduct emergency assessments and pre-certification activities for family members who want to become kinship caregivers.
Foster care is the care given to a child outside his/her home when the child’s own parents are unable or unwilling to meet the basic minimal needs of the child. Foster care is provided primarily by foster family homes. Relatives who care for a child in foster care must meet state standards for foster homes.
The child’s birth parents are very important. The child’s knowledge of the world, his/her physical and emotional growth and his/her understanding of adults and relationships are all influenced in a major way by the child’s birth parents. When children enter foster care, they bring that experience with them. Their experiences and relationships with birth parents will continue to be an important issue for children and youth while in foster care.
Sometimes, kinship caregivers wish to protect a kinship child from past hurts or new disappointments by encouraging the child to put aside past relationships and memories. This approach is usually not helpful and can even be destructive. As a kinship parent, you must accept the whole kinship child (and all of his/her experiences). While you may not approve of these experiences, or the actions of birth parents or other caretakers, you must accept the fact that their relationships are a part of the child’s life. Moreover, the birth parents have a right to continue and/or improve their relationship with the child through regular visits after the child enters foster care as ordered by the courts. Your ASCI and CYF caseworkers can help you determine how to best work with your kinship child and their birth parents on these issues.
When we defined foster care above, we stated that it is a service used when parents are unable to meet the basic minimal needs of the child. This definition is important to remember when discussing the role of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services as a team member, especially with respect to the words “basic minimal needs.” Children do not come into foster care because the agency believes someone else can do a better job than the birth parents at raising them. Children come into care when parents cannot provide for the basic minimal needs of the child. These needs include physical safety, food, basic shelter and freedom from the presence of clear and serious psychological dangers. When these needs are being met, the Department of Human Services has no reason or right to remove a child. However, when one or more of these needs is not being met, the Department of Human Services’ first responsibility is to use its resources and community resources to assist the parents and child to improve the level of care, at least to a minimal level, so the family can stay together. This is called “family preservation.”
By the same token, children should remain in foster care only as long as it takes for parents to eliminate the specific problem(s) that put them there. Sometimes, kinship caregivers find themselves in conflict with the Department of Human Services when a plan is presented to return the child to the birth parents. Kinship caregivers who have grown to love their kinship child as one of their own children and wish to give them all the material, educational and emotional benefits they possibly can, may find it difficult to accept a plan aimed at reunification. Kinship caregivers must be aware that both the Department of Human Services and ASCI understand this situation. However, the Department of Human Services is legally mandated to provide foster care only when conditions are such that birth parents cannot provide for the child’s basic needs.
This mandate and the needs of the kinship child are primary and must be placed above personal feelings, or the needs of any individual agency’s staff person or a kinship parent. Moreover, ASCI has learned that while foster care provides temporary safety for a child, there are emotional risks, as well as the possibility of future placement instability, when a child cannot be raised with the birth family. Again, a kinship caregiver should consult with their caseworkers about the child’s individual placement plan and share their thoughts and feelings related to any changes in that plan.
Types of Foster Care
Traditional foster care: Prior to placement of a child in your home, the Department of Human Services social worker is to furnish you with information about the child(ren) being considered for placement in your home. This information is intended to assist you in deciding whether the child under consideration is suitable for your home. Unless this placement is a clear emergency and/or all reasonable efforts have failed to obtain information about the child, you should always be given the following information:
- Medical history, health needs and medical insurance coverage;
- General behavior patterns and any special behavioral problems;
- School adjustment, academic performance and special educational needs;
- The circumstances that led to placement;
- Important life experiences, which may affect the child’s adjustment, including information about any prior placements;
- Relationship with birth parents and siblings;
- Religious affiliation, if any;
- Likes and dislikes, including special interests and strong fears.
The above information is provided to you not only to aid you in your care of the child, but also to help you decide if a particular child is right for you. Please make this decision carefully. Removing and re-placing a child is very disturbing. We want to avoid any unnecessary or failed placements, especially those that result from a lack of Information or understanding on the part of a kinship caregiver about the child’s needs and background. In addition, it should be clearly understood that this information and any other information you receive about any kinship child or the child’s family is confidential and not to be shared with any other person.
In regard to pre-placement visits, unless it is a placement for emergency shelter care, each child is to have at least one pre-placement visit to his proposed foster home. When the agency plans to move or relocate a child from a foster home, the Department of Human Services social worker is to notify the kinship caregiver in writing of the plan at least 15 days prior to the move. If you have objections to the planned move based on the needs of the child, you should communicate your objections to the caseworker and to their supervisor, preferably in writing. If the move is to be accomplished through a Juvenile Court hearing, you are to be notified of the pending hearing and may be present at the hearing to voice your objections or concerns regarding the plan. The agency may also remove a child from a foster home without the above notification if a court order sets a removal date, which allows less than 15 days’ notice, or if an investigation of a report of alleged abuse by the kinship caregiver indicates prompt removal is necessary for the child’s safety and well-being.
Circumstances in which the Department of Human Services may remove a child from a foster home without an appeal procedure for the kinship caregiver include when a child has been with the foster family less than six months, by Court order, to return the child to birth parents, to place the child for adoption or an investigation into kinship parent abuse.
As noted above, you are entitled to be informed of, and appear at any Juvenile Court hearing involving the kinship child in your home, whether the Juvenile Court hearing is related to re-placement or a routine review of the child’s current placement status and adjustment. You may choose to be represented by an attorney. However, arrangements for and the cost of counsel are the sole responsibility of kinship caregivers. The child placed in your home will be represented by an attorney at all Juvenile Court hearings (this is their child advocate attorney).
When a foster home caseworker does an annual re-evaluation of your foster home as required by foster care regulations, in order to update agency information about your home as a continuing resource, you may be asked to secure a current physical examination from a physician, and you will be asked to review and sign the evaluation. You will receive a copy of this written annual evaluation. A copy of the applicable regulations governing foster family care is included in this manual. A working knowledge of these regulations will enable you, as a kinship caregiver, to better understand many aspects of foster family care.
Nontraditional foster care (kinship care): In kinship care, the child is placed with a relative, longtime friend of the family or fictive kin. Given this scenario, the caregiver may or may not have knowledge about the child’s background. If not, the information provided in the traditional foster care placement is also necessary for the kinship placement. Confidentiality rules also apply.
With regard to pre-placement visits in kinship care, oftentimes the child is already in the home and a pre-placement visit is not necessary. The same procedures regarding plans to relocate a child and the kinship caregiver’s right to object also apply in kinship care cases.