SOUL Family Permanency Option

SOUL Family Kansas

A New Legal Permanency Option Designed by and for Youth in Foster Care

The SOUL Family Permanency Option is a new legal permanency option designed by and for young people in foster care. This option is tailored for youth aged 16 and older as they transition from foster care to adulthood, providing them with the anchor of nurturing, lifelong connections and family. SOUL stands for Support, Opportunity, Unity, Legal Relationships.

In collaboration with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a dedicated group of young adults with previous foster care experience developed this transformative permanency option. This group worked alongside child welfare experts from the inception of the SOUL Family concept through to the passage of supporting legislation, making this option a reality for teens in foster care.

Teens in your community need you. Become a foster parent and help teens in foster care find their SOUL Family!

Danielle Bartelli, Vice President of KVC Kansas

Danielle Bartelli, LPC

“At KVC, about 30% of children in foster care are 14 or older, and too often these children age out of the foster care system before they have found the right connections to care for them,” explains Danielle Bartelli, Vice President of Operations with KVC Kansas.

Nationwide, approximately 20,000 young individuals exit foster care every year without a permanent family, leaving them without support. The SOUL Family Permanency Option would provide these youth with a legal connection to at least one caring adult, ensuring a strong support system as they transition into adulthood.

This legal connection differs from adoption or guardianship in that it allows young people to establish new connections without severing legal ties with birth parents and siblings. When reunification with birth family is no longer a viable option but maintaining relationships with loved ones and community is desirable and healthy, SOUL Family Permanency Option offers an alternative pathway.

Kansas is leading the way with this life-changing new permanency option, becoming the first state in the nation to pass legislation recognizing SOUL Family as a legal permanency option. 

On April 15th, 2024, Governor Laura Kelly signed the historic bill into law. Now, child welfare professionals at KVC, and across Kansas, are partnering with teens in foster care to establish their SOUL Families, while also helping them develop the skills needed to create and sustain meaningful connections.

light green zig zag dividing line

To learn more about the SOUL Family Permanency Option, find the answers to some frequently asked questions below.

You can also visit Children’s Alliance of Kansas for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions About SOUL Family

SOUL Family is a new legal permanency option designed by and for young people in foster care. This option, intended for youth ages 16 and older as they transition from foster care to adulthood, provides the anchor of nurturing, lifelong connections and family during this critical developmental stage.

This option allows youth aged 16 and older to maintain the benefits of foster care resources and support even as they reach the legal age of 18, leading to better outcomes as they transition into adulthood.

In partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a dedicated group of young adults with foster care experience collaborated to bring this innovative permanency option to life. Kansas has led the way, becoming the first state in the nation to make SOUL Family a legal reality for young people.

SOUL stands for Support, Opportunity, Unity, Legal Relationships.

SOUL Family KansasA supportive network of family and friends is essential for everyone’s health and wellbeing. We all need to feel loved and supported, and this is especially true for youth in foster care.

Dr. Linda Bass, KVC Kansas President

Dr. Linda B. Bass, LCMFT

“This need is not unique,” Dr. Linda Bass, KVC Kansas President explains. “It’s a basic human need. This path brings back the resources every young adult and adult needs to be successful.”

The SOUL Family Legal Permanency Option is unique because it is relationship-driven and aims to avoid unnecessary separations. For example, in the current foster care system, when a child is removed from their home, they may also be taken away from their school, activity groups, or community. By helping youth create their SOUL Family, many of these important relationships can remain intact.

SOUL Family KansasA SOUL Family is composed of individuals who have formed bonds, connections, and relationships with a youth or young adult. As the saying goes, “it takes a village.” And SOUL Family enables young people in foster care to create their own village of caregivers and supportive adults.

“Youth are now a huge part of this decision, and they help us decide who will be a part of their SOUL Family and future,” Bartelli says. A SOUL Family might be composed of:

  • Extended biological family members, like adult siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles or cousins
  • Family friends
  • Foster parents from previous placements
  • Teachers, coaches or other school leaders
  • Youth leaders or other mentors from a place of worship
  • Community members and neighbors

One unique feature of the SOUL Family option is the inclusion of biological family members. For some young people in foster care, maintaining a relationship with biological family is important. This option allows them to incorporate one or more biological family members into their SOUL Family.

family support workerAt KVC Kansas, we understand the importance of connection, especially for youth in foster care. We prioritize connecting youth aged 16 and older with caring individuals, resources, and support to help them build lasting relationships within their SOUL Family.

Our team works closely with youth aged 16 and older to identify potential members of their SOUL Family. We support them throughout the process, helping them establish and strengthen these connections. KVC also advocates for them as they pursue this new legal permanency option.

Our ultimate goal is to provide stability and enduring SOUL Family relationships, ensuring youth have meaningful connections with caring adults as they transition into adulthood and throughout their entire lives.

SOUL Family

SOUL Family amplifies the voices of older youth in foster care by asking a crucial question: Who is important to YOU? This permanency option empowers young people to build their own support systems that will then guide them into adulthood.

Why is this such a big step? The statistics tell a heartbreaking story. Research shows that about 20% of youth who age out of foster care become homeless the day they turn 18. These young adults are far less likely to graduate high school or go to college. Additionally, their mental, emotional and physical health suffers overall. There’s a missing link in the system, and SOUL Family aims to drastically improve the outcomes for youth in foster care.

Previously, the Kansas child welfare system offered three permanency options: adoption, permanent custodianship, and reunification with legal caregivers. Now, there’s a fourth option – the SOUL Family Legal Permanency Option.

SOUL Family stands out from adoption or permanent custodianship because it allows young people to form new connections without severing legal ties with their birth parents and siblings. When reunification with the birth family is no longer viable, but maintaining relationships with loved ones is both desirable and healthy, SOUL Family provides an alternative pathway.