Bethany Christian Services Investing in Innovative Birthparent and Kinship Supports in Kent County to Safely and Quickly Reunify Separated Families

November 02, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, MI—Bethany Christian Services today announced a new innovative birth-parent and kinship support initiative in Kent County, Michigan, funded by a $2.5 million coop-erative agreement over five years with the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Say Yes to FAMILY (Family Always Matters in the Lives of Youth) program will leverage national best practices to place children in foster care more quickly with relatives and keep them more closely connected with their birth families.

“Our Say Yes to FAMILY model was co-built with birth families and relative caregivers with lived experience in the foster care system. Pain points identified by families were paired with both proven and innovative solutions created to support and strengthen these separated fami-lies,” said Cheri Williams, Bethany’s Senior Vice President of Domestic Programs. “Most children desperately want to stay with their families. Through this model, we anticipate in-creased safety and emotional well-being for children, their birthparents and relatives, and that a greater proportion of children will be reunified with their families more quickly.”

“We have observed the emotional and behavioral needs of children entering foster care in re-cent years have continued to increase and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues,” said Emma Schab, Vice President of Regional Operations from Bethany Christian Services. “At Bethany, we are committed to strengthening families so that children can remain at home. When that isn’t possible, we must equip birthparents and kinship caregivers with the resources and support they need to thrive in an otherwise highly unstable time. We will always stand up for vulnerable children and look forward to working with our Kent County community to enhance best practices that protect families.”

Background Kent County is already home to the West Michigan Partnership for Children (WMPC), the state’s first performance-based funding pilot for foster care services. In close partnership with the WMPC and the entire child welfare network in Kent County, Bethany will seek to increase the percentage of children placed with relatives. While much progress has already been made, at 26-percent, Kent County currently has the lowest percentage of children in foster care placed with relatives for an urban county in the State of Michigan.

The Say Yes to Family model The SY2Family model integrates both evidence-based and innovative practices and is built on three core pillars: 1.) Innovative Kinship Placement and Support, 2.) Effective Shared Parent-ing, and 3.) Family-Centric System Transformation.

The three key goals of this project include: 1.) Ensure that children who enter the child welfare system are quickly placed and remain in a stable and supportive kinship placement to ensure important family connections are preserved; 2.) Build strong birthparent, foster/kinship caregiv-er partnerships to ensure birthparents remain actively involved in the child’s life and to support timely, stable reunifications; and 3.) Develop a transformative experience and process to change culture by creatively engaging and supporting birth parents, foster and kinship caregivers, and children, ensuring their voices are elevated.

About Bethany Christian Services Bethany Christian Services is a global nonprofit that supports children and families with world-class social services, all designed to help families thrive. Over 75 years ago, we began our work by serving a single child. Today, we work in more than 30 states and around the world, impact-ing hundreds of thousands of lives every year.