Emergency Family Finding (EFF)

What if children could stay with their family when entering foster care?

Photo of Adele Struble
3 6

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

At the age of 8, Jamal was removed from his single mother due to her heroin abuse and placed into foster care. His mother was estranged from family due to her drug abuse, and would not provide family information to Child Welfare. In 4 years, Jamal has had 6 foster homes and now is in a residential facility due to his negative behavior. Jamal has no contact with family and considers his social worker the only person that cares about him. Jamal will probably not succeed in life.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)



Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Pennsylvania

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Pennsylvania

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]


Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Philadelphia, children are placed with strangers when there is often kin available, willing and able to step in - they are just not asked and do not know how to engage with the system. Family members known to Child Welfare provide information regarding who could potentially provide support to children in foster care. Extended family is only reached out to at the discretion of the parents or social worker involved with the case.

Emergency Family Finding (EFF) will locate kinship foster homes for children entering or needing placement in foster care. EFF may minimize the amount of time children are in formal, non-relative foster homes.

Removing a child from their home of origin, regardless of the abuse or neglect they are suffering is a traumatic experience.  Promoting a child to remain in their community, with familiar people that care about them, may reduce the trauma.

Children placed with kin are less likely to need another placement before reunification, thus reducing the amount of secondary trauma caused by being in foster care.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • No, not explicitly

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Tamara is working with Child Welfare in Philadelphia to ensure her children remain in her care. Tamara must participate in drug treatment and get the children to school daily. Unfortunately, Tamara is not attending treatment regularly and the children are missing school. Child Welfare is concerned that the children will be removed within the next 30 days unless their is significant improvement. EFF uses available search tools to identify and reach kin willing to be placement resources. Betty, the paternal grandmother is located. Betty does not want her grandchildren in foster care and wants to help. Betty and Tamara do not get along. At the next court date the children are removed from Tamara and placed in Betty's home.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In the past 12 months, EFF has served 20 children. 12 of the children served were under 12 years of age. 73% of Emergency Family Finding cases successfully identified kinship placement resources, that the already engaged family members were unable to identify. Isaiah, 12, spent three weeks in emergency placement before moving in with his uncle. Layla and her sisters lived with their grandmother for the three months until returning to their mother. EFF is currently operated by Turning Points for Children employees who volunteer their time offering EFF services in addition to their standard case load. EFF workers have one case at a time. EFF hopes to secure a Masters level intern. We plan to refine the program and continue to measure outcomes. EFF intends to serve at least 24 families in the next 12 months. (All names and details have been changed for confidentiality)

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • less than $1k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Funding secured through grants and private donations will be utilized for program development and training of volunteer staff over the next 12 months. Then, we will present outcomes to the City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services and Community Umbrella Agencies to secure $140,000 for initial start-up and operating expenses for the following 12 months. To serve all of Philadelphia, EFF projects an annual operating expenses of $350,000.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Oklahoma was able to double the amount of children placed in kinship care by implementing a "Kinship Bridge", offering encompassing services to engage kin. Nationally it has been identified that it is best practice to place children with care when possible. The Adoptions and Safe Families Act of 2009 requires that child welfare agencies consider kin as permanency resources. Although this is happening - this EFF model developed is able to identify more kinship placement resources. This is attributed to the urgency as well as the focus in which EFF workers operate within.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Outcome measurements are now being utilized in Child Welfare Services nationally. This provides the opportunity to reproduce frameworks of services that demonstrate exceptional outcomes making less successful services obsolete. Also, trauma informed practice is becoming a standard of service. When working with families in their most vulnerable situations, we are mindfully trying to reduce the amount of trauma and secondary trauma inflicted. Children are now emotionally being cared for by Human Service Agencies better then they have previously.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 25%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 50%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 25%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 0%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 75%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 0%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 25%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 25%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 50%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 25%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 25%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 50%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 25%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 50%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 100%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 50%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 100%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Michael Auerbach

I love projects with a focus on systemic change. Transforming Philly's foster care model to emphasize kin placements would seem to be a tremendous win!

(I say "seem" not out of skepticism, but because I'm a bit out of my element when it comes to foster care)

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