Adoption Triad: Small Steps Open Doors

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November 2022   |   Archive   |   National Adoption Month   

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Small Steps Open Doors

All teens need love, support, and the sense of belonging that families can provide. For teens in foster care having stable, loving relationships can make all the difference. So, we continue our work, in partnership with young people, to pursue adoption or other permanency for each and every teen in foster care. However, caseworkers must often deal with high caseloads while navigating the unique challenges and barriers affecting each waiting teen, which can make this difficult and permanency seem impossible. But small steps along the way can make all the difference. You can dedicate 10 minutes during each visit to listening to how the young person is feeling and what they are experiencing. You can be a person who follows through on what you say you will do. You can take note of what youth tell you they want and need in a family and supportive relationships. These small steps can build trust and reveal new doorways to walk through on the journey to permanency. This year's National Adoption Month theme, "Small Steps Open Doors," recognizes that youth engagement is an ongoing process that can begin with one small step.

For child welfare and adoption professionals, engaging youth should not be a box to check. Achieving authentic youth engagement is a journey that requires building a trusting relationship. The National Adoption Month 2022 website provides resources about building relationships with youth and how to honor and incorporate youth voice into permanency planning. More importantly, the website provides the following tips from two teens who were adopted from foster care about how to build authentic, supportive relationships with teens:

  • Think of all the stuff the youth has been through and what they had to do to survive. It’s not fair to the youth to only be seen for what happened to them. They need one person to believe in them.
  • Guide, comfort, and support the youth. Kids need to know that they have a rest stop, and that someone is there for them.
  • Help youth see what is possible. Tell them, “What has happened to you in your past doesn’t define you anymore.”
  • Believe in them. Kids look up to their caseworkers. They look to them as the one person who will believe in them. Most youth don’t believe in themselves, so how will they be able to if their caseworker doesn’t believe?

The National Adoption Month 2022 website also features resources from Children’s Bureau Adoption Grant recipients related to building relationships with teens and understanding the impact of trauma, separation, and loss. Additionally, there are resources for youth to help them better understand what has happened and prepare them to make decisions for their future. The Youth Voices page features stories and videos capturing the importance of youth having their voices heard and the impact relationships can have on a young person’s life. The Spread the Word section provides an outreach toolkit, downloadable graphics, and sample social media and email messages to help increase awareness about the need for adoptive families for teens.

Use the additional resources below to build relationships with youth so you can partner in permanency planning:


"2022 National Adoption Month Webinar: Small Steps Open Doors"



By Child Welfare
Information Gateway & AdoptUSKids (2022)


Prioritizing Youth Voice: The Importance of Authentic Youth Engagement in Case Planning


By Child Welfare
Information Gateway (2022)



Transformational Relationships for Youth Success Report



By Center for the
Study of Social Policy (2018)




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