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There is a lot of good thinking going on in the foster care worlds in Los Angeles and Columbus. In LA the Center for Strategic Partnerships is breaking open the way we define social services, to include a wider range of organizations and broader thinking. You can read about it here. In Columbus, recommendations for important change followed a governor’s advisory council and can be read here.

We are a small organization and we do work on the ground—not policy. But we benefit from the research and recommendations gathered from people who have personal experience in the system, those who work in it, academics and others who care deeply and offer their expertise.

2N does not rewrite policy and regulations. We e bring those best practices to the reality on the ground so that kids, families and society are served.

Many of the recommendations, we are happy to say, are built into our model.

Breaking down silos: Too often we all work in our own lanes, as if kids removed from their primary families are only impacted by the foster system.

2N works with partners across sectors because we know that the child is not in a vacuum. That is why we are partnering with Maryhaven’s addiction treatment center in Columbus, CASA, and Buckeye Ranch to foster kids whose parents are in residential treatment for addiction. That way we can best ensure on-going relationships between each parent and child. We can only do that if we work together.

Addressing Racism is the System: Brown and Black kids are removed from their primary families at an alarming rate.

2N is not made up of families whose primary objective is adoption. Our families’ primary objective is whatever is best for the child, even when letting go of that child really hurts. Our families take the risk of heartbreak because they know that is what kids suffer—and it is worth our own sadness to help soothe their souls. This means working closely with social workers and maintaining a relationship with the birth families to the best of our ability. Was the child removed for a reason that was circumstantial? This is why we have phenomenal partners like Change Reaction who address these circumstantial needs as early as possible to prevent disruption.

Strengthening Out of Home Care: When kids are in foster care, whether short-term or long-term, foster families need support—from each other, their communities and relevant experts.

2N arises from community. So more people feel supported enough to foster. This means emotional and practical support, like professional expertise. When a foster family needs, for example, speech therapy for a child, they don’t have to wait to get a spot from a county service or pay extraordinary fees for private sessions. They can get guidance from a certified speech therapist in their synagogue or church long-term or to at least bridge them until they get the public services they need.

2N is no nonsense. We want kids in the best possible families for them with the services and support they and their families need. And we will continue to live these best practices in our current communities as well as build our infrastructure so they can be lived in cities, counties and states nationwide.

Susan Silverman, 2N CEO

In a past life I was a matchmaker. Now, I fulfill that impulse in my work life by bringing people and their organizations together. This summer’s month-long work trip was full of those synergies. In LA we co-hosted a Packing Event. Rob Scheer of Comfort Cases provided travel bags as well as items to fill them. The Book Foundation provided new books. Temple Israel of Hollywood donated a huge space. The She Ready Foundation provided financial support and volunteers. A 2N Cohort mom photographed the event. And about 75 people—from cohort families to people we had never met—packed the cases which were then brought to kids in the foster system who otherwise move from place to place with their things in trash bags. Like waste.

Which brings me to a more personal angle on an effort that brings so many different people together. I am a rabbi and I orient myself in a world of Jewish theology, customs, metaphors and history. Yet I have for years struggled with the word “holy”.

It is through my work bringing kids and families together in healthy and sustainable ways that I have come to a deep sense of what holiness is.

Holiness is the opposite of waste.

And every day I see people and organizations work to minimize waste—wasted childhoods, wasted opportunities to be loved and be a family, wasted potential and wasted hope.

And I am so blessed to be part of it.

Susan Silverman, CEO

My spouse and I are now empty nesters.

I have dreaded this since the day I became a mom. Really. I was actively haunted by it—having to calm myself with the number of years I still had before each kid would launch. Yes, them growing and heading into their own lives is what we parent for. We wish nothing short of this for them. But, wow, is it hard to let them go.

Working in the foster care space, we see children removed from families not because they are young adults striking out on their own, but because of challenges in their families of origin. Thus by necessity, in the placement and foster family side of things, we focus on the children in our care. However there are two things I think about every day. One, is that the well-being of the family of origin is deeply tied to the well-being of the child. Moreover, the other is that these separations are heartbreaking for everyone in that family, and that some of these removals do not have to happen or can at least be repaired.

For so many of us, the healthy independence of our children is painful even when those relationships are loving and connected. It’s hard to imagine the traumatic separation for parents and kids when the child still needs our daily presence and when crisis and pain led to that separation.

I can wallow in the sadness around us like a pro. I still do sometimes. Nevertheless, for Second Nurture, like all foster care organizations, wallowing is not an option. It is our obligation to be engaged in the system and, with each child placed in the care of one of our families, do everything we can to maintain those relationships and our kids and their parents of origin be the family that will one day, have that bittersweet and healthy separation. We hope that our foster families will be there, by the parents’ sides, smiling through tears.

Susan Silverman, CEO of 2N

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