and implemented system-wide change
Recruiting and retaining enough families to provide foster, adoptive, kinship, guardianship, and respite care is an urgent and critical challenge.
What would a successful system of recruitment and retention look like? This collaborative’s expert panel broke the problem down into eight elements for teams to explore:
- Getting the message out
How can we raise public awareness about the needs of children in the public child welfare system?
- Turning interest into commitment
How can we increase the number of interested families who decide to become resource families?
- Preparing families and children for placement
How can we better support them through the recruitment process and before placement?
- Streamlining licensing
How can we license qualified families in a timely and supportive way?
- Providing services and supports
What do resource families need to provide appropriate care?
- Developing a partnership
How can we ensure that resource families, youth, and birth families are true partners with the agency?
- Involving the community
How can communities be active partners in recruiting and supporting resource families, youth in care, and birth families?
- Training staff
How can we recruit and retain well-trained staff throughout the agency who can recruit, support, and engage resource families, children in care, and the children’s families?
The expert panel also set seven measurable objectives for each team to track and report monthly, such as number of families recruited, number of kinship placements, and satisfaction of birth families and youth.
Casey Family Programs solicited applications from child welfare agencies around the country. The participants represented nine state-administered systems, twelve county-administered systems, and one American Indian tribe.
Teams were small so that they could plan, test, study, and act quickly. They included a manager, a direct-service provider, and a resource family from each agency. The fourth member came from the public agency or a private agency (such as Casey) or from the community. Eight teams added a fifth member: a youth then or formerly in care.
Each team was led by the public agency itself.
Dr. Carol (Williams) Spigner, a renowned expert in foster care, and Joe Kroll, from the North American Council on Adoptable Children, co-chaired this collaborative. Along with a panel of nationally recognized faculty, they coached and mentored the teams. The collaborative’s work was led and facilitated by Casey staff.
The collaborative has ended its yearlong process. Many ideas tested by the teams were already being introduced and spread throughout their jurisdictions before the project’s end.
A few successful strategies and tools include:
- Using experienced resource families as mentors to prospective and newly enlisted families
- Making information about resource families (such as pictures, videos, information forms) available to the child or youth and birth family before placement
- Assigning new agency workers to shadow a foster parent for a day
- Holding family team meetings that include birth families, resource families, youth, and agency staff
- Improving relationships with schools
- Setting up an e-mail distribution list for resource families
Measures also showed improved outcomes. One team, for example, saw the number of prospective resource families rise from 70 to 125 in 6 months. Another team’s inclusion of resource families and youth in case-planning meetings rose from 11 percent to 100 percent in the collaborative’s first three months. On another team, the time a child stayed in placement with non-relatives before being placed with kin caregivers dropped from an average of 120 days to 27. Half the teams showed a decrease in the number of moves for children placed in out-of-home care.
To learn more about the initiative's process and outcomes, read the final report.