UCLA TIES for Families

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a finalist.

UCLA TIES for Families: Community Collaboration Addressing Needs of Children Adopted from Foster Care

Los Angeles, United StatesLos Angeles, United States
Year Founded:
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The mission of UCLA TIES for Families is to reduce barriers to successful adoption of children with special needs who are in foster care. UCLA TIES provides pre-placement education and state of the art multidisciplinary services and supports for children in foster care and their resource parents.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if all children could find loving forever families?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Children in foster care often have complex needs and risk factors. Resource families may be hesitant to adopt children with risk factors or special needs (i.e., prenatal substance exposure, histories of trauma, abuse, and/or neglect, a family history of mental illness, multiple placements, loss and grief, and separation from loved ones, educational or developmental gaps due to lack of nurturing and exposure.)

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

UCLA TIES for Families has a 20 year track record of partnering with community Departments of Child Welfare and Mental Health to provide the multidisciplinary services and supports that foster/adoptive families require to provide loving, permanent adoptive homes to children and adolescents with special needs or risk factors from foster care. Our program prepares and supports foster/adoptive families with pre-placement education and state of the art multidisciplinary services so they can become protective factors for children. By destigmatizing risk factors and providing adoption-competent trauma-informed family care, UCLA TIES for Families strengthens families and increases positive future trajectories for these children and young people.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

A 3 year old boy was referred after placement with his prospective adoptive mother. He was born with cocaine and heroin in his system and was diagnosed with Autism and was very small for his age. TIES provided evidence-based therapy, building the relationship between the child and caregiver while understanding his behaviors in the context of his history. UCLA TIES pediatric consultant was instrumental in recognizing his diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency and our educational advocate was pivotal in helping him receive early intervention services through an IEP. The resource mother attended a support group for other foster/adoptive parents. He attached well to his caregiver who finalized the adoption of this resilient little boy.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Pre-placement education increases prospective adoptive families’ willingness to adopt children with special needs. Families rated TIES’ services as the most useful resource in adapting to placement of the child they were adopting. Parent comments: "The entire TIES team has truly been the most important and steadfast source of support to me in the multifaceted and extremely difficult life transition to parenthood via adoption." "Thank you for being the golden thread that has kept us together as a family." DCFS Staff: "Reflecting on two recent complex stories of two fragile and needful human beings and the remarkable work on the part of TIES. I am certain that both of these children would have been lost back into the system if not for TIES. Real life examples of how your daily work has deep and lasting impact. DCFS is extremely lucky to have access to the TIES team!"

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Moving forward we aim to increase access to services to more families in outlying areas of Los Angeles and to improve our research infrastructure. While we provide pre-placement education for families across LA County, families from outlying areas such as the Antelope Valley, have difficulty accessing our ongoing multi-disciplinary services. We would like to expand services in these locations in order to reach more children and families who could benefit from our services. We plan to improve our program's research efforts to disseminate findings to the field and promote our model of care.

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

UCLA TIES for Families has a 20 year track record of contracts with LA County Depts of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Mental Health (DMH). We believe our continued work to provide unique, state of the science interdisciplinary services to this vulnerable population of young people will lead to our continued funding. In addition, we are working to extend our funding for evolving programs and projects through specific foundation grants.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

UCLA TIES for Families is a nationally recognized model, providing unique programs to serve youth in foster care, in the process of being adopted from foster care, or who have been adopted from foster care. While other programs in the county are funded as adoption promotion programs, we are the only one that provides an array of interdisciplinary services in the same location, interdisciplinary records review and assessment of child prior to placement, mentoring by Bruin Guardian Scholars, a support group for resource families when children in their care reunify, and conducts research.

Founding Story

"All children deserve a permanent, loving family, " Susan Edelstein, LCSW, reflected when she founded UCLA TIES for Families in 1995 in response to the drug epidemic and the fact that children with prenatal substance exposure at that time were placed in long term foster care versus adoption (if not returned to birth families) due to stigma heightened by unsubstantiated negative media about poor outcomes for these children and lack of research. Shocked by the potential impact for children, she wrote a book on best practices for permanency for these children and began the TIES program to provide the multidisciplinary supports and services that families would need in order to successfully adopt and nurture these children.


UCLA TIES for Families has an impressive multidisciplinary staff consisting of Social Workers, Clinical Psychologists, Pediatrician, Educational Advocate, Occupational Therapist, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists, Speech and Language Pathologist, in–home behavioral specialist, parent and youth mentors, and experienced administrative staff. All of our staff are both expert in and passionate about serving children and young people in foster care.