Kansas Pioneers SOUL Family Permanency Option: A Revolutionary Step for Foster Care Teens Transitioning into Adulthood

By Trish Svoboda

Today, Governor Laura Kelly enacted House Bill 2536, launching the Support, Opportunity, Unity, and Legal (SOUL) Family permanency option for children transitioning out of the state’s foster care system, making Kansas the first state to sign the Soul Family permanency option into law.

Efforts by the Kelly administration have led to an almost 20% decrease in the overall number of youth in foster care. The SOUL Family program provides a fourth option for foster care teens aged 16 or older to achieve legal permanency and smoothly transition into adulthood under the guardianship of a chosen custodian.

In the past, the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) provided three options for permanency to the young individuals under their care. These options included adoption, reintegration, and the assignment of a custodian. However, the system has now evolved to allow teenagers aged 16 and above to select an individual or a group of individuals whom they trust to guide and support them as they transition into adulthood.

Currently, the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) is in the process of implementing a new system. This involves the development of criteria, practices, resources, benefits, and administrative structures that are designed to ensure the safety and well-being of young individuals transitioning from foster care into court-approved legal SOUL Families. This fourth option for permanency is anticipated to be available by this summer.

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