Suzanne Sutphin, Research Assistant Professor with The Center for Child and Family Studies, is disseminating information on an array of research projects. She has a publication forthcoming in the journal Advances in Social Work, along with Shannon McDonough and Amber Schrenkel, both of whom were graduate assistants at the Center. The article is entitled “The Role of Formal Theory in Social Work Research: Formalizing Family Systems Theory.”
Sutphin collaborated with Melissa Strompolis, Research Associate at the Center, on a poster presentation at the American Evaluation Association’s annual conference in Washington, DC, in October of 2013. The poster, entitled “Evaluating Social Services Trainings: Opportunities to Make Multi-Level Improvements,” focused on the role of evaluation in training enhancement.
Finally, Sutphin and Strompolis joined Cynthia Flynn, Interim Director of the Center, for a panel presentation at the October AEA conference. Entitled “Revitalizing a Quality Assurance Evaluation System: A State Agency/University Partnership,” the panel discussed various ways to improve reviews of child welfare cases.
November is National Adoption Month
The Center for Child and Family Studies is improving the odds for teens to build lifelong ties
When Dr. Cynthia Flynn started interviewing youth who were adopted as teenagers in 2001, she was helping build the foundation for a shift in thinking about families, age, and adoption.
In the field of adoption, where research has been scant, one finding has dominated thinking: Chances of adoption dwindle with age. Flynn and other researchers, however, realized that lower odds didn’t mean impossible odds, and increasing adoptions opportunities for teens is vital because permanency is a life-long need.
Flynn, Wendy Welch, and Dr. Kathleen Paget published “Field-Initiated Research on Successful Adolescent Adoptions” in 2004. The federally funded research revealed teens and adoptive parents sharing their questions, decision processes and actions as they moved from considering adoption to legal completion. Other studies had looked at reasons adoptions failed; Flynn’s group examined the ingredients of success. The paper’s straightforward language lent greater power to the voices of the youth and adults.
“I was awed and inspired by what some of the parents went through. They put their lives on hold to provide these teens with what they needed,” said Flynn, now interim associate director of The Center for Child and Family Studies at USC’s College of Social Work. Flynn’s goal was to allow those stories to be shared. The paper was designed to be read not just by the authors’ peers, but also by potential adoptees and adoptive parents. Sections could be read in isolation. For example, instead of saving up recommendations for a final chapter, they were placed at the end of sections subtitled, “What Did We Learn?”
“We wanted people to read them and for them be helpful to families,” Flynn said.
The Center has been involved in helping the S.C. Department of Social Services fulfill one of the study’s key recommendations: “Employ caseworkers who specialize in adolescent adoptions.” One such practitioner is Debbie Beecken, a certified adoption investigator for more than 17 years. She spent most of her career with non-profit agencies recruiting families across the state for children whose needs and circumstances made adoptions challenging. Since January 2013 she has been employed by the Center to train newly hired adoption specialists for DSS.
Beecken said teen adoptions are not as rare as they were 10 years ago. The idea is becoming more accepted and the number of case workers trained in the methods of matching older youth to families has grown. For example, case workers are finding the greatest success by mining the contacts the teens have already made in their lives.
One woman was 18 years old when her adoption was finalized this year. The adoptive parents were the birth parents of her best friend. The woman was eligible for adoption services because she was still receiving support for being in foster care. The woman not only gained legal parents through adoption, but also made her best friend her legal sibling.
“That case probably would have closed if the case worker had not advocated for that child,” Beecken said. “We don’t give up on them.”
Focusing on these kinds of successes has been effective in changing attitudes towards teen adoptions, said Rebecca Carney, who has helped with adoptions for older children for 22 years and is director of community services for Growing Home Southeast, the nonprofit that runs a Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption program called Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.
In South Carolina, DSS refers children to the program. There are four family recruiters in South Carolina, each limited to 15 cases. The recruiters aren’t responsible for the children’s overall case, but instead are devoted to the detailed “detective work” of identifying potential adoptive parents. Recruiters enlist the help of the teens, because the best matches are often those identified by the teens themselves.
South Carolina was one of 23 states that participated in the foundation’s five-year study released in 2011. It showed that the intensive methods used by the program significantly improved the odds for adoption. Carney said the study and continuing successes in teen adoption are leading more South Carolinians to ask, “If it can be done, why aren’t we doing it?”
Look into Adoption in November:
Field-Initiated Research on Successful Adolescent Adoptions, 2004
National Adoption Day
National Adoption Month 2013
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids
Each year the South Carolina Department of Social Services Independent Living (IL) Program sponsors a youth training event for youth in foster care. Instead of hosting the Independent Living Conference this year, the SCDSS IL Program is sponsoring these camps as an exciting new initiative for youth training.
South Carolina foster youth in care can attend a Leadership Camp or Sibling Connections Camp and take part in fun activities like zip lining, kayaking, hiking, biking, canoeing, and swimming! And SCDSS will pay for your trip! Transportation is available through SCDSS. Take advantage of this opportunity to do something fun―for free!
For questions about the program, contact the State IL Coordinator at 803-898-7637 or send an email to
Sibling Connection Camp
This camp is designed to allow siblings ages 10-17 who are not placed together to attend a fun and educational adventure. At least one sibling must be in foster care for the sibling group to attend. The legal guardian of any child not in foster care must sign the permission form. Due to programming and staffing, no exceptions will be made for youth who are outside the age requirement. Youth will engage in a variety of experimental, hands-on learning activities including key themes for each weekend. Themes include: leadership, communication, job skills, advocacy, relationship building/trust, and planning. Youth will have fun with activities like go-carts, climbing walls, teams course, canoeing, archery and much more!
This camp is exclusively for Chafee-eligible youth, ages 15-20. Youth will engage in a variety of experimental, hands-on learning activities including key themes for each weekend. Themes include: leadership, communication, job skills, advocacy, relationship building/trust, and planning. Youth will have fun with activities like go-carts, climbing walls, teams course, canoeing, archery and much more!
Registration coming soon for 2014 Camps!
You may be required to download the free version of Adobe Reader to view some of these documents.
Leadership Retreat: February 28- March 2, 2014
Youth Leadership Institute
Sibling Connection Retreat: March 14-16, 2014
Leadership Retreat: April 4-6, 2014
Leadership Retreat: April 25-27, 2014
Click here for our Youth Camps Map around the state.
Youth Leadership Institute (YLI)
698 Concord Church Road―Pickens, SC 29671
Sewee Coastal Retreat Center (Camp Sewee)
7407 Doar Road―Awendaw, SC 29429
Cooper Leadership Center (Camp Bob Cooper)
8001 M. W. Rickenbaker Road―Summerton, SC 29148
Long Leadership Center (Camp Long)
82 Camp Long Road―Aiken, SC 29805
Camp Hannon (Camp Hannon)
391 Moorefield Memorial Highway―Sunset, SC 29685
Dr. Monique B. Mitchell, with The Center for Child and Family Studies, has had her article “My hero, My friend: Exploring Honduran Youths’ Lived Experience of the God-Individual Relationship” accepted for publication by the International Journal of Children’s Spirituality. Christopher F. Silver, Ed.D. candidate in Education and Leadership at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and Dr. Christopher F. J. Ross, associate professor in the Department of Religion and Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University, are co-authors of the article.
The South Carolina National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) Team recently presented at the National Pathways to Adulthood Conference: A Convening on Youth in Transition in New Orleans, LA. Presenters included Monique B. Mitchell, Research Assistant Professor/SC NYTD Research Director and Toni Jones, Research Associate/SC NYTD State Coordinator, both with The Center for Child and Family Studies; Faith Slater, GOALL President, SCDSS; and Kathleen McLean-Titus, State Coordinator/Chafee Independent Living Program, SCDSS.
The conference was sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, the Children’s Bureau, and the Family and Youth Services Bureau. The presentation was entitled “Bringing Youth Voices Forward: Empowering Youth as NYTD Leaders and Informed Advocates.” It addressed the NYTD federal data collection and highlighted South Carolina’s efforts to understand, engage, and empower older youth in foster care.
To learn more about NYTD and South Carolina's part in this national project, visit www.nytdstayconnected.com.