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Family Finding and Engagement Beyond the Bench: Working Across International Borders


Felicity Sackville Northcott, Ph.D., is Director of the Arthur C. Helton Institute for the Study of International Social Service at ISS-USA, an international federation of social work agencies in over 110 countries around the world. Correspondence:

Wendy Jeffries, MPP, is Program Manager for the Arthur C. Helton Institute for the Study of International Social Service at ISS-USA.


The unsupervised or hastily conceived movement of children out of foster care is not in the best interest of any child. Careful consideration of all possible permanency options must take place, and include the input of all potential care givers, stakeholders, and the child. Legal and judicial partners in the child welfare process must take a broader approach to family finding and engagement for every child in foster care so that more children find permanent homes. The goal of family finding and engagement may not be placing a child with a family member but can include locating non-custodial parents to terminate rights to free the child for adoption, to notify a non-custodial parent that his child is in care and explore his interest in reunification, or finding family members who may not be able to take physical custody of the child but can act as a resource for her. Each of these can be a viable permanent outcome in the best interest of the child and, therefore, should not be limited by geographic or cultural boundaries. All stakeholders in the permanency planning process can address these potential barriers by adopting a broader, more global, view of the range of permanent placements and family connections for all children in foster care.