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A Second Chance: Prioritizing Permanency for Transition-Age Youth
From left to right: Tony Ranalli, Chance, Casey Chandler
August 27, 2019
Chance had to be removed from his unsafe home environment when he was just four years old. He endured more than 30 different foster care placements over the next decade before he was adopted – at age 15 – in November 2015 by Tony Ranalli and Casey Chandler.

“I had almost given up,” says Chance, now 20. “I was a tough kid who had issues with authority and just assumed I would always be on my own. But Tony and Casey were really patient with me, and now I have people in my life who I can really count on.”

Chance was introduced to Tony and Casey through Family Support Service’s Older Child Matching Initiative, which endeavors to provide a sense of permanence and place by supporting and guiding families in helping an older child smoothly transition into the home and become a cherished family member. Family Support Services of The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh is licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and offers adoption, foster care, and intensive family support services for children and youth, including those with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities.

“There is always a need for adoptive and foster families, especially for those interested in adopting or fostering transition-age youth between the ages of 14 and 21,” says Russ McCurdy, Permanency Specialist for the Older Child Matching Initiative and Western Pennsylvania Recruiter for Family Support Services. “No matter what age a child is, he or she always wants and would benefit from a lifelong connection to others and a place to call home.”

It was up to Chance to decide if he wanted to explore a relationship with Tony and Casey, and he did. Supported by home visits from Russ and other foster and adoption activities at Family Support Services, the three began to spend short periods of time together, which evolved into longer stretches, until Chance moved into the Ranalli-Chandler home seven months after their first meeting. Intensive family therapy sessions were mixed in with bowling, dirt biking, camping, and trips to area history museums, along with all the other activities of daily living in Chance’s first-ever stable home.

“It’s an interesting dynamic to adopt an older child, because we didn’t have Chance’s whole lifetime to learn about each other,” Casey describes. “It took a long time for him to be able to open up and trust us. Russ and our Project STAR therapists encouraged us throughout the long process of getting to know one another, and today the three of us are all family as well as friends.”

Founded in 1985, Family Support Services' (formerly Project STAR) mission is to promote the right of all children to grow in a safe, nurturing, lasting family, which is accomplished through three main service areas: family placement, family preservation, and family enrichment. The overarching goal is to establish permanency in the lives of children and youth like Chance.

“Every family is unique, and while our family might be a bit more non-traditional than most, it really works for us,” says Tony. “Casey and I wanted to be fathers, and to help a child who needed us. This experience has not been without challenges, but it has absolutely been worth every second of the hard work we’ve all invested. Chance has grown so much in the time he has been with us. We love and are very proud of him.”

Chance graduated from Montour High School in 2017. He is working full-time and considering a few long-term plans, including college or the military. He is interested in a future career in the medical field. And he’s also learning how to be a big brother to 15-year-old Caleb, whom the Ranalli-Chandler family is now fostering.

“I have seen Chance transformed from an institutionalized youth into a young man with great potential,” Russ explains. “They are a very active family, and the life experiences Tony and Casey have exposed Chance to reassure him and keep him well grounded.”

“I have the support – the constant support – that I always needed, and because of it I’m encouraged to try all kinds of things,” says Chance.

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