How can the federal government improve foster adoptive parent recruitment?

In continuing to celebrate National Foster Care Month, CCAI hosted a briefing last week to discuss what the federal government can be doing to improve parent recruitment for youth in foster care.

In an effort to bring lessons learned in the field to impact federal legislation, CCAI convened this briefing to present data and trends in foster care, and share lessons learned from successful parents recruitment models.  This briefing examined data related to older youth, who more frequently languish in care and are more likely to age out of care without any promise of permanence.  Agency representatives shared information about their innovative recruitment models and how federal policy was supporting their work or if policy barriers needed to be removed to allow for best practices to be used in the field.

The panel spoke to over 40 Congressional staff and adoption professionals. Click here or on the image below to view the full footage of the briefing. Also, the materials presented are available at CCAI’s website.  Be sure to check back in a few days for a 2-page in-depth summary of lessons learned that were presented at the briefing.

The panel echoed the need for an increase in federal funding to support post-adoption services.  In addition, several unique components of their models were shared, including:

1.  Using local TV and radio media to raise awareness in the community

2.  Using child-focused recruitment to identify any connections the youth may already have to caring adults that could become an adoptive parents, such as a teacher, mentor, or extended family member.

3.  Using the same software and technology that debt collectors use to find extended family members who may be adoption options.

4.  Bringing agency representatives to recruitment events so that adults start the adoption process before even leaving the event where they have just heard from youth themselves, social workers, and other adoptive parents.

5.  Allowing relationships to build naturally by using a mentor-to-adopt model.

Are you my mother?

We all remember reading the children’s book Are You My Mother? and laughing at the comedy in the confused baby bird trying to find his mother.  Unfortunately, searching for a mother is the reality for kids in foster care, and this Sunday is another painful reminder of this. They have been removed from their home in an effort to protect their safety, but the cost of a safer life is sometimes a lonely life.  Read below to hear from Betty, a young adult who spent years in foster care searching for a mother before finally being adopted.

Sunday is Mother’s Day! Children and parents will be heading off to church, having Sunday brunch, planting in the garden and just spoiling mother by bringing breakfast in bed. What about the 26,000 of the 463,000 children in foster care nationwide who age out of foster care to live on their own? How do they celebrate Mother’s Day?  For those fortunate enough, the day is spent with the “family” they have built for themselves.  However, many are not fortunate and this May 9th will be a day of longing for that essential connection.

Sunday marks my 8th anniversary spending Mother’s Day with my adoptive mom; and the 8th year since the death of my biological mother. Because of this, Mother’s Day is a very special day to me. I take the time to thank my biological mother for bringing me into this world and spoil the mother I now have. Mom and I love to go shopping, go out to eat, spend a day here and there in New York, and listen to Christmas music in the car together when we’re feeling down.  We volunteer together or just hang out and chat about life when we miss each other. I never look at my adoptive mom as my “adoptive” mom, but rather as my mother I always had. It’s funny how fast my mom and I bonded when I first moved in. I never had anyone to read books to me, take care of me when sick, or just spend time with. So at the age of 14, I was reading Dr. Seuss books, learning how to cook, and learning how to be a regular kid.

This Mother’s Day I’m going to go visit my biological mother’s grave and plant sweet pea flowers in honor of her for bringing me into life. My mom would always call me her little sweet pea and I would hate it. Now that I’m older, I love sweet peas flowers and buy the scent at Bath & Body Works; and it always gives me sweet memories of her. The second portion of the day will be spent with the best mother in the world in my eyes. I won’t spoil the surprise I have in store for her, but I can tell you no matter how we spend the day, it will be like any other mother and daughter; and I’m grateful to have her in my life.

Betty with her family

For children who are displaced from their biological family, Mother’s Day is about the big things and also about the little things in between it all. Thank you to all you moms out there. Happy Mother’s Day!!!!

President Obama proclaims National Foster Care Month

May is Foster Care Month!  And yesterday, President Obama issued a National Foster Care Month Proclamation.  This is the first time in almost two decades that the White House has issued a foster care month proclamation!

“President Obama thought it was important to celebrate the promise of the youth in foster care, and honor those who work to help them along the way. This Administration believes every child deserves a safe, loving and permanent family, and we are committed to working towards that goal.”  –Mr. Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

In his proclamation, the President highlights that there are nearly a half-million children and youth in foster care who enter the system through no fault of their own.  He also celebrates the professionals and foster parents who demonstrate their dedication to children and the depth and kindness of the human heart.

Obama has shown his commitment to foster care issues by providing over $35 million last year to support foster care adoptions through the Adoption Incentives program.  In addition, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided a significant increase in funding for Title IV-E adoption and foster care assistance program.

For more information on National Foster Care Month, be sure to visit:

Celebrities Adopting

Yesterday, Jessica Alba appeared on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  The family featured, the Beach family, had adopted 8 children in addition to 4 biological children!  Father Larry Beach said, “No matter if you’re in a travel trailer or a big house like this, we all have one calling; we’re all special to God.  That’s why we search out children who otherwise wouldn’t have a home. That’s what we hope comes out of all this.  There are a lot of children out there. Maybe they’re not perfect in the world’s eyes, but they deserve a home as much as any child.”  So inspired by the Beaches, Alba went on to say that she plans to adopt herself.  Alba is currently a mom to her 2-yr-old daughter Honor Marie with husband Cash Warren.

Alba on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

I wanted to highlight a couple other celebrities who have chosen adoption.  When these individuals speak out and share their adoption experience, families and individuals across the country are made aware the need for adoption and are shown that all it takes is for someone to step forward and want to make a difference in the life of a child.

Recently, Katherine Heigl and husband singer Josh Kelley adopted a daughter with special needs, Naleigh, from Korea.  Heigl has always known she wanted to adopt, and even approached the subject with her husband before they were engaged.  Heigl’s sister, Meg, is Korean, so the choice of where to adopt from seemed obvious.

Heigl with her husband and daughter

Just over a month ago, actor Willie Garson’s adoption of a 8-yr-old boy from foster care was finalized.  “From the first time I met him, I said, ‘That’s my kid.”  Garson met his son, Nathen, at an adoption fair in Los Angeles.

Garson with son, Nathen

While Nathen’s story has a happy ending, Garson commented on the older teens in foster care who were at that same adoption fair.  Their stories more often have a sad ending of aging out of foster care without ever being adopted.  Across the country, this is true for almost 30,000 youth each year.  Together, we can raise awareness about these youth, and dispel the negative myths about youth in foster care.  These celebrities are helping to show Americans that we can step up and make a difference.