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Bright Spot: Los Angeles, CA | Family Re-connection ServicesSeptember 26, 2019
Provide support for young people who wish to reconnect with family or other trusted adults.
Check out this bright spot if:
- You serve youth who are interested in strengthening relationships with supportive adults/family members
- You want to try it!
The Los Angeles LGBT Center has a 50 year history of working with LGBT people, including 10 years working with LGBTQ+ youth and young adults involved in the foster care system and other systems of care. Over the years, The Center has provided housing interventions (e.g. transitional housing, rapid re-housing) and services to youth. Staff work with approximately 1500 LGBTQ+ young people per year, many of whom are disconnected from their families.
Connect L.A. is a family re-connection pilot project that assists young people with building and strengthening supportive relationships with biological or non-biological family.
Rather than using family re-connection only as a diversion-type housing intervention, The Center utilizes family re-connection as a tool for increasing well being and permanent community connections. Connect L.A. is a youth-centered intervention that utilizes a trauma-informed, housing first and harm-reduction approach. Connect L.A.’s family re-connection services are provided in addition to other services and housing interventions for which a youth may be eligible.
- Youth and young people who are experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of homelessness
- Transition Age Youth (18-24) exiting foster care or the juvenile justice system
- Youth and young adults who desire to reconnect or strengthen their relationships with family, which can include biological, extended, and non-biological relationships (family is defined by the young person)
Under the Connect L.A. model, which began operation in April 2018, family re-connection is implemented as an early intervention and/or an ongoing service that accompanies the other services and interventions a young person receives, as opposed to a triaging or diversion tool. The project isn’t a travel assistance program, but instead is a tailored set of therapeutic interventions designed to address the practical and immediate challenges that hinder the youth from returning home or connecting with supportive adults. The project’s ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of time a young person experiences homelessness by connecting them back with family members or other supportive adults, or linking them to community resources that enable them to achieve housing stability with increased family support.
Connect L.A. staff don’t just want a young person to have someone to call on a bad day, the staff want the youth to have someone outside the formal service network they can call on a good day; in other words, they want to help the young person form relationships that can be sustained in the long term without relying on a program.
In order to meet eligibility requirements for participating in Connect L.A.: The participants must be between the ages 18-24, homeless or imminently at risk of homelessness, and the person must express an interest in reconnecting or strengthening relationships with supportive adults or family members.
Connect L.A. staff recommend having multiple, short sessions when starting family re-connection work with a young person. The subject of family, especially a non-supportive family, should be conducted carefully in a trauma-sensitive manner and staff should engage youth in conversations around the benefits of adult support before approaching re-connection or reunification. Obtaining youth buy-in is a process and ambivalence on the youth’s part is common.
Administering the Intervention
The Connect L.A. staff is a team of 2 who work with 15-20 youth participants at a time. The team includes a licensed therapeutic professional and a youth advocate. The youth and family level interventions utilize a progressive engagement approach and are designed to improve youth well-being, and identify, keep, and increase connections youth have with identified adults so youth can achieve emotional and housing stability. Youth enrolled in the program receive case management; supportive services; individual and family therapy; family finding services; referrals and connection to community and housing resources; and financial assistance to facilitate family visits.
The youth specialist assigned to work with the young person provides case management, links the youth to supportive services, and works with other professionals assisting the youth to address the youth’s immediate and practical needs. The youth specialist also assists the youth with identifying which adults they wish to connect with and works with the licensed therapeutic professional to develop a re-connection plan. Family should be identified by the young person and might include a person’s biological family, extended family, or other trusted adults. The youth specialist assists the young person in identifying these adults and determining what type of relationship they would like to have with them, and provides education and support regarding identifying, building and strengthening g healthy relationships. This process can be lengthy and youth may initially be reluctant to reach out to adults; staff should not expect it to happen overnight.
Both staff people support the young person to envision and execute their individualized re-connection strategy. Steps in a re-connection strategy might include:
- Facilitating in-person or phone conversations between the young person and their family
- Supporting the young person to engage in weekend-long home visits with their family
- Encouraging participation in a community event attended by both the young person and their family
Family Re-connection services are provided for up to 12 months, with an additional 6 months of aftercare. Youth and family members are linked to a range of services within and outside the agency to enhance individual and community support. Youth and young adults may continue to receive an array of supportive services in the LA LGBT Center’s Youth Center until they reach age 25.
Direct service staffing structure
The project model requires a minimum of two staff people. Connect L.A. recommends hiring new staff, as the paradigm shift from housing triage to relationship-building can be difficult for established staff. Connect L.A. also recommends hiring or repurposing clinical staff for these roles. as staff with a therapeutic background are more likely to have the expertise to navigate complex relationships over time. Clinical staff also tend to be more comfortable administering interventions that don’t immediately resolve a crisis.
Staff position descriptions:
- Youth Specialist- A staff person who provides case management services, links the youth to resources, works with the youth to develop a family re-connection plan and addresses the youth’s immediate and practical challenges.
- Mental Health Professional- A staff person who provides therapeutic interventions which can include individual and family counseling, conflict resolution, developing effective communication skills, and problem solving strategies to address the challenges that hinder the youth from returning home or connecting with adults.