SOUL Family Support for Young Kansans in Foster Care

Topeka, KS– The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) and the Annie E. Casey Foundation announce a partnership that would redefine what family means to young adults who are aging out of foster care.
“In Kansas there are three legal options for a permanent family – adoption, guardianship and reunification with birth families,” shared DCF Secretary Laura Howard. “While these options provide support to many young Kansans who are aging out of foster care, there are many who need a fourth option to create a nurturing, lifelong family as they move into adulthood.
“We are excited to work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation on the proposed SOUL Family permanency option to give one more resource to young Kansans as they move into adulthood,” she said.
SOUL stands for support, opportunity, unity and legal relationships. Team members from DCF, the Foundation, KVC Health Systems, TFI Family Services, Inc., St. Frances Ministries, Cornerstones of Care and youth leaders with lived experiences met yesterday and today to discuss the new approach and how to introduce it in Kansas. Kansas will be the first demonstration site of the SOUL Family in the country.
The SOUL Family permanency option— which is a proposal developed by young people with foster care experience who advocate for their peers through the Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative® — creates a circle of caring adults who provide lifelong support, opportunity, unity and legal relationships for young people.
“We are thrilled to welcome partners in Kansas to this vital effort of strengthening and expanding legal permanency options for teens in foster care,” says Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, vice president of Casey’s Center for Systems Innovation. “SOUL Family is a promising propos­al responding to needs identified by young people who experienced aging out. They envisioned and built this proposal to make the path easier in the future for youth who need families.”
As of March 2022, there were 583 Kansas youth preparing to age out of foster care and the existing permanency options of adoption, guardianship and reunification had been ruled out for a variety of reasons.
“Imagine being 18 years old and not having that someone to call when you need help,” said Secretary Howard. “A legal, permanent family to receive support and advice from especially when trying to rent a home, go to school or secure financing for a loan.”
The proposed concept is that the young Kansan, age 16 and older, will chose one or more primary caregivers and additional caring adults to be their SOUL Family. The primary caregiver and other adults with supportive roles would commit to forming a legally recognized, lifelong relationship with the young person. Forming a SOUL Family would not sever the young person’s biological family ties.
More information about SOUL Family Permanency Option can be found: Kansas to Pilot Permanency Option for Older Youth in Foster Care – The Annie E. Casey Foundation (aecf.org)