The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on the vulnerability of children and youth in our communities, especially those experiencing trauma or involvement in the child welfare system. These youth are typically at an increased risk for adverse outcomes, but they are also capable of showing remarkable resilience with the right care.

The Kempe Center’s Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) program, a positive youth development program that uses mentoring and skills training to empower youth to foster their own healthy futures, has recently adapted in several ways in response to current events and policy mandates.

“We developed FHF based on the understanding that all young people have strengths they can leverage to thrive in their own way,” explains Heather Taussig, the creator and Director of FHF. “It has been a top priority for us to continue engaging with our youth, particularly those facing adversity during this unprecedented time.”

Adapting to the Pandemic and Beyond

In the wake of COVID-19, the FHF program team shifted to online mentoring and skills groups last spring. “Moving everything online was a challenge, certainly, but we’ve also noticed many positive benefits and plan to use these virtual tools beyond the pandemic,” said Jessica Corvinus, Director of Dissemination for the FHF program. “This year, we plan to offer a hybrid program of online skills groups with in-person mentoring to support those youth who live outside of the Denver metro area.”

Implementing a Family First Approach

Guided by the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) passed in 2018, the FHF program team has also shifted their focus to care for youth who have had a range of traumatic experiences – not just those in foster care.

According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, FFPSA has been characterized as the most significant child welfare legislation in over a decade. This federal law includes historic reforms to help keep children and youth safely with their families and avoid the traumatic experience of entering foster care, and emphasizes the importance of children and youth growing up in families. In cases where foster care is needed, FFPSA helps ensure children are placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting appropriate for their needs.

In alignment with FFPSA’s priority of reducing the number of youth placed in congregate care, the Acing Healthy Futures program works with youth who have had adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), providing them with the same evidence-based mentoring and skills training that are the hallmark of the FHF program.

“We recognized a need to provide our programming to youth living with birth families who have faced adverse childhood experiences,” says Corvinus. “That’s why it was important for us to introduce the Acing Healthy Futures program and focus our efforts on addressing major life stressors before they result in the need for child welfare involvement.”

What’s Next for FHF 

Moving ahead, the primary goal of FHF is to reach more youth outside the Denver Metro area by training additional agencies and professionals to run the program. The FHF program team recently received a Tony Grampsas Youth Services grant to help with this goal.

A donation to the Kempe Foundation can also support the expansion of FHF at a time when our youth truly need it most. You can help us reach more youth by donating today.