WASHINGTON Maridel Sandberg, President and Executive Director of St. Paul-based Together for Good, is a scheduled panelist for a Helsinki Commission briefing on child welfare. Sandberg will participate in In the Best Interest of the Child: Keeping Families in Crisis Safely Together on Dec. 14 in Washington.

The Helsinki Commission, also known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, is holding the briefing to explore what would happen if youths in need and their families of origin are given the support they need to stay together. This support includes mental health services, substance use treatment, in-home parenting skill training and supportive community.

Together for Good provides practical help and relational support to struggling families. Its trained network of volunteers provides safe places for children to stay during crisis, respite care and ongoing friendship to ensure no parent—or child—ever has to walk alone.  

According to the Helsinki Commission, while foster families can offer critical and timely emergency care for children in need, study after study shows that children who stay in foster care without permanent parents suffer lifelong emotional harm and life-skills underdevelopment.  The extreme challenges faced by these children put them at risk for homelessness, human trafficking, unemployment, and even incarceration. Together for Good’s services are uniquely built to keep children out of the foster system.

More than 20,000 young people aged-out of foster care in the United States in 2016—deprived of the support of their own or adoptive permanent families. In some countries in Europe, children, especially those of immigrant parents, are removed from their families because the parents “lack parenting skills.” These children in the United States and Europe are perhaps saved from an immediate emergency by government officials seeking to act in their best interest, but then exposed to the lifelong harm of not belonging to a functioning forever family.  

This is where the support of organizations like Together for Good could make a real difference. At this Helsinki Commission briefing, Sandberg and other child protection policy experts will discuss the social isolation factors that can make families vulnerable to crises, intervention strategies to prevent or shorten a child’s removal from the family, and the key features of the new Family First Prevention Services Act (P.L. 115-123). This act is anticipated to prevent unnecessary removals of children from their parents when families can be kept safely together.  

In addition to Sandberg, the scheduled panel of experts includes the following:

  • Jessica Foster, Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships, Youth Villages
  • Christine Calpin, Managing Director for Public Policy, Casey Family Programs

Briefing details

Friday, December 14, 2018
10:30 a.m.
Senate Dirksen Office Building
Room G-11

Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission

Direct media questions about the Helsinki Commission and the briefing to:

Stacy Hope

Email: Csce.press@mail.house.gov

Phone: 202-225-1901

For more information about Together for Good:

Tammie Haveman, Vice President and Engagement Director
Email: tammie@tfgood.org
Phone: 651-440-4058