They say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” AFS is that village for hundreds of Northern California foster children and their families. AFS is a foster, adoptions and mental health agency that has been creating safe, permanent connections for foster children and youth in the Bay Area since 1978.
The Mission of Alternative Family Services is to support vulnerable children and families in need of stability, safety, and wellbeing in communities.
Our deceptively simple mission statement packs a lot of meaning into very few words. The concepts behind these words and the words themselves were proposed, debated, sifted and weighed for many months by many members of the AFS Community.
Support: With regard to our clients AFS provides, restores, treats, helps and celebrates. In the course of operations AFS recruits, screens, hires, certifies, trains, employs, supervises, allocates, and expends. But the common denominator of all of our activities is that we support. We support families, children and youth in foster, adoptive, and extended families settings morally, materially, therapeutically, educationally. The basic AFS clinical model is, at heart, a highly individualized social support model.
Vulnerable: Our clients are not those with sufficient economic resources to successfully address the trauma and family disruption that have befallen them. We direct our efforts towards those who are most vulnerable, lacking the economic, social, and/or political means necessary to achieve stability, safety and wellbeing without outside support.
Children and Families: The recipients of our efforts are not just children, but also, significantly, their biological, foster, adoptive and extended families as well. To thrive, children need families as their key source of nurturance. In order to provide this nurturance, the families themselves need supportive interactions among their members and with the surrounding environment.
Stability, Safety, and Wellbeing: The federal government has defined the object of all child welfare services to be “permanence, safety and wellbeing.” AFS supports these objectives but finds that the term “permanence” to be one not immediately understood by the general public. We’ve chosen “stability” to be inclusive of the concept of children growing up in “forever families” (permanence) as well as the more generally understood meaning of a stable family life - free from neglect, abuse, trauma and violence.
Communities: As children are in families, families are in communities. Our work must be sensitive to the social context. As every child and family is unique, so is every community. This reminds us to be knowledgeable and heedful of the distinctive characteristics of the cultures and communities in which our children and families are embedded.
Community and Family Centered: AFS believes children heal and thrive living with families in the community. AFS works with clients and families in their own homes, schools and other community settings. AFS brings its services to our clients rather than expecting our clients to come to us.
Strength Based: AFS is committed to identifying, utilizing, and celebrating individual strengths in our approach to healing children and supporting foster and adoptive families who so generously open their homes.
Culturally Competent: AFS values the variety of backgrounds and experiences of all people we work with – children, youth, biological, foster and adoptive families. AFS employs a culturally diverse staff sensitive to clients' cultural cues and preferences. AFS celebrates the diversity of our clients and their families, integrating this appreciation in all of our work. AFS proudly offers all of our services in English and Spanish.
Evidenced Based and Outcome Driven: AFS is committed to measuring and collecting data to help our clients, families, and staff understand their accomplishments and help them set clear, realistic goals as they move forward.
Life is Random
AFS caseworker and art therapist Maria Nolan facilitated a multi-aged group art project with AFS foster youth. The original works were completed on 12” x 12” art tiles. The project, titled Life is Random, represents the many unknown and often chaotic roads a foster youth has and will travel. Each tile has “roads” that randomly lead to the other tiles, a metaphor for how the roads traveled by the foster youth have randomly connected them for this art project.