National Foster Care Month Briefing:
Recruiting Top-Notch Caregivers and Foster Parents
as a Pathway to Permanency
May 11, 2016
There are currently more than 415,000 children in foster care and nearly 108,000 children waiting to be adopted. Data indicates that among children who are adopted from foster care, the overwhelming majority are adopted by the foster parent (52%) or relative (32%) caring for them.
Studies show that permanent, stable families lead to better life outcomes for children. In honor of National Foster Care Month, yesterday this bipartisan congressional briefing explored efforts to better recruit and retain quality caregivers as a pathway to permanency for children in foster care across the U.S.
Partnering with the Senate Foster Youth Caucus and Fostering Media Connections, CCAI was pleased to bring the voices of experts on both kinship and faith-based recruitment efforts to the U.S. Congress, particularly highlighting how particularly highlighting how a Colorado church has partnered with the state and local government to successfully lower the number of children waiting for adoption, and how a Pennsylvania county is raising the numbers of family taking in kin.
Themes from both panels included the need for and success derived from:
- Culturally competent recruitment and licensing of families.
- Collaboration with and support from the state and local child welfare agency.
- Post-permanency and wrap-around support for families.
- Honoring and engaging birth families and prioritizing reunification, with a willingness by caregivers to adopt should the child becomes eligible for adoption.
In advance of the briefing, we asked foster and kinship caregivers to respond to two questions in a survey and received 888 individual responses. Click to view the MAY 2016 SURVEY OF FOSTER AND KINSHIP CAREGIVER QUALITIES AND BARRIERS survey results.
Thank you to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), co-chairs of the Senate Foster Youth Caucus, for making this important briefing possible. Coming Soon: View the Caucus’ blog of this briefing.
 The AFCARS Report: Preliminary FY 2014 Estimates as of July 2015 Data. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families. Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, retrieved May 2, 2016, from: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/afcars-report-22
Kathy Nuebel, Office of Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Arnie Eby, Chair, National Foster Parent Association’s Public Policy Committee and President, Maryland Resource Parent Association
Daniel Heimpel, Fostering Media Connections (CA)
Dr. Sharon McDaniel, Founder and CEO, A Second Chance (PA)
Eugenia Saunders, Kin Caregiver (PA)
Azzer, Youth Voice (PA)
Mr. & Mrs. McBride, Kin Caregiver (PA)
Becky Weichhand, Executive Director, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (DC)
Elizabeth Wiebe, Vice President for Engagement, Christian Alliance for Orphans (DC)
Rhonda Miescke, Family Care Manager, Project 1.27 (CO)
Misty Martin, Adoptive and Foster Parent (CO)
PROGRAM INFORMATION & SPEAKER BIOGRAPHIES
KINSHIP CAREGIVER RECRUITMENT AND SUPPORT – A Second Chance, Inc.
A Second Chance’s mission is to provide a safe, secure, and nurturing environment to children who are being cared for by their relatives or a close family friend – formally called “kinship care”. ASCI became a subcontracting agency of Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families in July, 1994. Through this partnership, 62% of children who enter care in PA are now served in kinship placements, significantly higher than the national average of 29%.
Read the Chronicle of Social Change’s article on Allegheny County’s successful kinship recruitment efforts here.
Dr. Sharon McDaniel, MPA, Ed. D.
Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer, A Second Chance, Inc.
In 1994, Sharon McDaniel launched A Second Chance, Inc. in her native Pittsburgh, PA., ushering in a then little-known model for providing safe, secure, and nurturing environments for children who are being cared for by their relatives or close family friends. That innovative approach is known as “kinship care.” Today, Dr. McDaniel, herself an alumna from foster care and a recipient of kinship care, serves more than 1,000 children and 800 families a day through A Second Chance Inc., a thriving non-profit, which also has a regional office in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania, Kinship Caregiver
Eugina Saunders is a 36- year-old mother of 6 children and grandmother of 2 grandchildren. She had 2 biological children and 4 children that she is adopting. She came to be involved with A second chance as a kinship caregiver having to assume custody of her grandson. She expresses that had it not been for the support of A Second Chance, Inc., chance she’s not sure how she would have made it through that devastating time of her life. She was given not only monetary support, she was also given the opportunity to sit in on different support groups to be around her peers and people going through the same things that she was dealing with. After getting back on her feet, Eugina felt the desire to give back so she remand on the list for respite caregivers with her focus being teens. Eugina has not only increased her family size but was also given the opportunity to love, support and guide four teenagers who would have been split a part or even worse, aged out of foster care with no permanent or family connections.
Pennsylvania, Youth in Kin Care
Azzer is an honor roll high school student from Pittsburgh, PA and will be attending Drexel for dance and musical therapy. He is a founding member of the Kinship Youth Advisory Board of A Second Chance, Inc., and an avid dancer with 6 grand prizes for his performances in the past year. Azzer was adopted as a young child by his mother, Wilma, who passed away about 7 years ago. The biological daughter of Wilma assumed care of Azzer and his siblings, which marked the steep decline in the quality of their care. He and his siblings were subjected to physical and emotional abuse for years. During that time Azzer got into a lot of fights, had no access to educational and recreational programs, and mired due to a lack of structure. Someone in their extended family called Children, Youth and Families out of concern. Around the same time, his siblings joined Camp COPES, a summer basketball program hosted by A Second Chance, Inc., where they met Ms. Eugina Saunders. Once they understood that they had options, they began to think of who they would like to live with and who would care for 4 teenagers. They were relieved that Ms. Eugina wanted provide care and that all 4 of them were welcome to join her family.
Mr. and Mrs. McBride
Pennsylvania, Kinship Caregivers
Mr. and Mrs. McBride have been kin caregivers for over 22 years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania through A Second Chance, Inc. They came in to kinship care when Mrs. McBride met a young woman in a group home while she was a social worker at Three Rivers Youth. They built a relationship with this young woman, and helped her with housing for her and her 3 children. Mrs. McBride called Children, Youth and Families out of concern when the mother of the children was struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. The children were temporarily placed with the McBrides (informal kin care) until they were referred to A Second Chance, Inc. and licensed as formal kin caregivers. Currently, the McBrides are giving back to the children at A Second Chance, Inc., through the work they do with the community advisory board and grandparent support group.
FAITH-BASED CAREGIVER RECRUITMENT AND SUPPORT – Project 1.27
With a vision of “A Family Waiting for Every Child in Foster Care,” Project 1.27 strives to inspire, recruit and resource churches and families to foster and adopt the kids in their own backyard. The successes of the effort in Colorado – beginning with 875 children waiting for adoption, reduced over the past several years down to 265 – have inspired a network of “1.27s” in several states.
Read the Chronicle of Social Change’s article on successful faith-based recruitment efforts here.
Rhonda Miescke, MSW
Family Care Manager, Project 1.27
Rhonda started working in Ongoing Child Protection at Arapahoe County, CO in 1978 and alternated between Ongoing Child Protection, Therapeutic Foster Care, and Child Abuse Investigations for the first 11 years. She went to graduate school while working in Child Abuse Investigations in 1987-1988 and graduated with her Master’s in Social Work in May 1988. In 1988, Rhonda was promoted to Foster Care Supervisor until leaving Arapahoe County in 2007. Over 400 children were adopted during her tenure as the Adoption Supervisor in Arapahoe County. Rhonda came to work at Project 1.27 as the Training Team Manager, later as a Case Manager, and now as the Family Care Manager. Given her experience working in the child welfare system for nearly 29 years, she now utilizes experience and my faith to prepare and serve foster and adoptive families well. Rhonda has opened her home to her sister and her 3 youngest daughters, and her brother and his son. She has the opportunity to practice every day what she teaches parents about how to parent children who have experienced trauma, as all of the children in her home have experienced significant trauma in their lives.
Colorado, Foster and Adoptive Parent
Misti and Jon Martin are foster and adoptive parents from Colorado. They have a total of 9 children; four biological children ages 15-21, and 5 children adopted through foster care, ages 22 months-10 years old. Olivia, their adopted 7-year-old daughter, has significant medical needs, and a terminal heart condition. Currently, they are foster parents to a medically fragile 11-month-old baby girl. When they first started their training through Project 1.27, it was their intention to adopt one child, possibly two, if in a sibling group. They never imagined being parents to so many children, especially children with severe medical needs. The Martins believe that every child, no matter the diagnosis, disability, or prognosis has immeasurable value and deserves to know love and be loved. Every child, if given the opportunity, they will thrive in a stable, nurturing, and loving environment. Because of this, the Martins consider it a privilege to open their hearts and their home as a licensed medical foster home.