How can we address the shortage of adoptive homes for kids in foster care?

CCAI convened a group of adoption experts to present data and trends in foster care and share lessons learned from five successful foster and adoptive parent recruitment models. While not by design, a considerable amount of the briefing examined data and program examples related to placing older youth who more frequently languish in care.  As the highlighted programs are demonstrating, there is no such thing as an unadoptable child, merely unfound families.

Experts from around country flew to DC to share success and lessons learned with federal policymakers and advocates.  Rrecruitment programs that were represented include:

1) Wendy’s Wonderful Kids

2) Wait No More

3) Real Connections (Rhode Island)

4) You Gotta Believe! (New York)

5) Weekend Miracles (DC and Los Angeles)

While each of the programs presented during the briefing were unique, it could not help but be noted that the presenters and the programs they presented on had some of the same lessons learned.  When making future federal funding and policy decisions, federal policymakers should keep in mind the following:

1) Resource Gaps –Every one of the highlighted recruitment programs was in essence filling in a human or financial resource gap in the public system.  In the case of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids the solution was a full time, trained worker, in Wait No More these gaps were filled through a partnership with the faith based community and in Real Connections, the solution lie in providing services the system did not have the staff to provide.  Congress needs to figure out how to either help support the public private partnership model across the board or consider other ways to promote these gaps being filled.

2) Youth Voice – Another key theme throughout was that youth in the system should not only have a voice but a choice in their own long term permanency planning.  As important, they need to be appropriately supported and encouraged when exercising that right. 

3) Data Mining – These successful programs found that much of the information and relationships needed to secure a permanent placement for the child was already somewhere in the children’s case file (i.e information about a teacher/mentor, mention of extended families).  This information was just not being mined for.  Presenters universally agreed that making this tool a part of their programs was a critical part of their ultimate success.

4) Messaging – Presenters agreed that how and what messages were conveyed to prospective adoptive parents is a key factor to success.  In the case of WWK, the fact that recruitment was child centered was key and Wait No More stressed the need to be open and honest about the realities of parenting previously traumatized children.  And all agreed that the central message should be that older kids need a family just as much as younger children and that parenting an older child is just a rewarding.

For a full summary of briefing, click here.