Pennsylvania family court judges and social workers are in training this week learning new ways to find permanent families for abused and neglected children.
The kinship approach to foster care begins with a computer search to locate as many as 40 extended family members and friends; adults who may be unaware that a young relative is in need. Youth expert Kevin Campbell says the next step is a big family meeting.
"Where we want to make sure that all the family members who have been able to come are fully informed about what's been happening with the young person and not just what happened in the past but what we are worried about for the future for that young person."
State Supreme Court Justice Max Baer is backing the change that gets extended family members to step up and make a plan for a vulnerable child.
"That's a model alternative to saying to the child we're sorry there is no one to take care of you so we are going to send you 75 miles away to this foster family that we are going to pay, until they disappoint you, then we are going to move you to another family."
Fifteen Pennsylvania counties have plans to adopt the kinship approach to foster care. In the latest report from Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families, as of June 1, 2007, the county had 7% of children inf shelter foster care, 47% in kinship placement, and 29% in homes where the foster parents are not related to the foster children.