What Exactly is Family Finding?


A Family For Every Child’s Family Finding program works to re-connect children in the foster care system with relatives they’ve lost touch with.  Connecting with family members can give children a sense of belonging, a deeper sense of self and identity, and an important support system that can help them be more successful participants in society.  For teens about to age out of foster care, this can be especially important, as they might find people they can turn to as they venture out on their own.

Through creativity and sheer persistence, teams of Family Finding volunteers are often able to locate over 50 relatives for a child.  AFFEC, in cooperation with DHS and CASA, then guides the family members and child through a process of reconnecting with each other and defining the nature of future contacts and relationships.  Sometimes children find places to spend holidays, or resources and support to help them attend college.  On occasion a found family member even ends up providing a forever home for the child!

Randall and Mary (names have been changed) are two of many children who have benefitted from this program.  They had been in foster care for thirteen years before Family Finding services were provided.  They were in touch with some family, such as their paternal grandparents, but were interested in finding other supportive connections.  They were both happy in their foster homes but, especially after losing their grandmother, were yearning to find other loved ones.

The Family Finding volunteer mined both children’s files, performed Internet searches on the names that were found, and called relatives in order to find more information and determine who would be a good influence on the kids.  Through this process, the Family Finding team was able to identify some family members and other loved ones to invite to a Family Meeting, the first step in the process of reconnecting.

Three people from Randall and Mary’s past attended the meeting: their aunt; Mary’s former mentor; and the grandmother of their half sister, Sheila.  The children had never met their half sister, and they had not seen their aunt or mentor since they were little children.

At the meeting, family members discussed what they could do to help the children, and what kind of contact would be appropriate.  Since no one had seen or spoken to the siblings since they were very young, and both of the kids were happy in their current situations, gradual communication was recommended.  It did not take long, however, before phone calls and visits unfolded, and real relationships were forged between the children and their new loved ones.  Now both children have regular visits with their aunt, and know all about their half sister, Sheila!

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