Pathways to Permanency: Promoting Connections During Times of Crisis


Going about normal routines and balancing new challenges can be difficult during these uncertain times. Many organizations have been forced to restructure, furlough, or even stop providing crucial services to the community. At Stanford Sierra Youth & Families (SSYF), we have been delivering and will continue to deliver essential services to youth and families within our programs, all while focusing on the safety and well-being of all within our communities. The challenges we face during this time will provide us with invaluable tools and resources for years to come.

Since we began offering remote services nearly four weeks ago, our staff have been finding unique and creative ways to connect with those we serve, all while continuing to deliver the highest-caliber tools and resources to empower youth and families. This is true of our Pathways to Permanency team, which focuses on providing permanent connections to a safe, stable, and nurturing family for every young person.

“We’ve had to adjust how we support families by providing services via tele-health and other virtual options rather than meeting in person,” said Vanessa Bovee, Program Manager, Pathways to Permanency. “Many parents are still adjusting to their new role in the lives of these youth and are now also tasked with home-schooling their children, which is not necessarily within their area of expertise. This is one area where our staff are able to provide the supports and services needed to bridge any gaps.”

The Wonder Mentoring program, a division of Pathways to Permanency, has also been impacted in a unique way. Our Wonder program matches youth in foster care (Explorers) with a caring, adult role model (their Guides), who they can depend on for mentorship, guidance, and support.

Mentoring is typically an in-person experience, where Guides engage Explorers in fun, creative, and educational activities throughout the community. Due to the pandemic and suspension of public gatherings, this has not been possible. In order to overcome this obstacle, SSYF has been hosting online trainings for Guides to enhance their skill-set and better prepare them for future encounters with youth during this time.

Creativity in methods of communication are crucial right now, as there are people within our community that may not have access to the internet or certain modes of technology. Recently, an Explorer and his Guide attended a virtual museum tour together; another Guide sent a postcard to their Explorer as a reminder about the full moon, so they could experience the moment together over the telephone. While in-person experiences are on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, these connections continue to be as important as ever.

For more information on our Pathways to Permanency program or to become a Wonder Mentor, visit the Pathways to Permanency page or email Vanessa Bovee.