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How to Recruit Foster and Adoptive Families
We promote results-based recruitment strategies that include many elements you might currently think of as retention activities. These strategies are considered best and promising practices by the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids.
Develop Recruitment Strategies for your Agency
There’s no single, one-size-fits-all recruitment strategy for helping you develop a diverse pool of foster, adoptive, and kinship families that can meet the needs of the children you have in care. That’s why we’ve highlighted proven strategies below from across the country that might be helpful for developing your own strategies:
- General Recruitment Strategies
- Targeted Recruitment Strategies
- Child-Specific Recruitment Strategies
Ready to take the next step?
Implementing recruitment strategies is only the first step. You must also develop strategies to retain foster and adoptive families so you can keep your recruited families interested in adopting and providing foster care while they are waiting for placement of children.
General recruitment strategies help build public interest and awareness of the need for foster and adoptive parents for children in foster care by broadcasting the need to a general audience. These strategies focus on drawing in a wide variety of families while setting the stage for more targeted recruitment.
- Post information about adoption and foster care on bulletin boards in grocery stores, coffee shops, and other businesses in the community.
- Host an information table at farmers markets, art fairs, and community festivals. Provide brochures and other information to help people learn more about how many children are waiting to be adopted and who can become foster and adoptive parents.
- Partner with pizza places and other local restaurants to have them attach small flyers to pizza boxes or use tray liners that encourage people to consider becoming foster or adoptive parents.
- Develop and sell wristbands that raise awareness and build support for children in foster care like the ones used to promote cancer awareness and raise money for cancer research. Consider including a card with each wristband that gives information about the children in foster care in your State and how to get additional information online.
Make the most of your agency’s limited time, staff, and money by targeting your recruitment efforts to reach families who are most likely able to meet the needs of children you have in care.
Targeted recruitment considers the unique needs of children and youth in need of foster and adoptive families by developing recruitment strategies and messages based on their needs. Effective targeted recruitment uses demographic data to inform your recruiting by identifying characteristics of current foster and adoptive parents and children and youth in care.
- Partner with faith-based organizations interested in helping recruit foster and adoptive families from their faith community. For example, the Colorado Department of Human Services partnered with Wait No More, an initiative that develops and supports faith-based partnerships in multiple communities across the country. This was done as part of Colorado’s efforts to raise awareness among faith communities about the need for more adoptive parents for children in foster care. For more information, read The Denver Post story “Adoption initiative halves numbers of kids needing families.”
- Develop community-based recruitment teams specific to a geographic region to build pools of resource families who reflect the racial and ethnic characteristics of the children in your agency’s care. A great example of how to develop successful community-based recruitment teams is Denver’s Village, a Diligent Recruitment grantee project through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau.
- Use market segmentation to find families who are similar to your most successful foster, adoptive, and kinship placements. Using data on your agency’s most successful placements, you can build a strong targeted recruitment strategy by answering the following questions:
- Who are the families you should be targeting?
- What are the best ways to reach these families?
- Where can you find these families?
Child-specific recruitment strategies help recruit foster, adoptive, and kinship families for specific children in foster care. These strategies begin with a comprehensive child assessment and preparation process. Every effort should be made to involve the child as developmentally appropriate.
To build this solid foundation in transitioning a child from foster care to adoption, we recommend you use the National Resource Center for Adoption’s Adoption Competency Curriculum. This curriculum focuses on some of the common issues and challenges that occur, and emphasizes the roles of child welfare practitioners, foster and adoptive parents, and relatives.
Once you have a solid foundation on how to transition a child from foster care to adoption, you can build on that knowledge to develop contacts who might be — or may know of — potential resources for a child needing a foster, adoptive, or kinship placement. This can include relatives and other important people in the child‘s life, including seeking interjurisdictional placement options.
- Conduct intensive case-file mining for children and youth when a permanent placement has not been identified. This includes talking with older youth to explore past connections and important relationships with supportive adults who might be able to provide permanency now, even if they weren’t able to in the past. The National Resource Center for Permanency and Fostering Connections has valuable resources available on family search and engagement.
- Feature children on photolisting services that approved foster and adoptive parents can use to learn about — and inquire about — children on your caseload. Find out more about how to photolist and manage cases using our free photolisting services and read our publication Lasting Impressions: A Guide for Photolisting Children (PDF – 615KB).
- Use local media partnerships such as Wednesday’s Child for featuring a child, youth, or sibling group in care that needs an adoptive family.
- Develop a Heart Gallery, a traveling exhibit of high quality, compelling photographs capturing the unique personalities of children in your agency’s care who are waiting to be adopted. Heart Gallery of America, Inc. has valuable resources and tips for organizing successful Heart Galleries.
- Create presentations with youth using technology such as PowerPoint and iMovie that can bring the personalities and stories of youth to life in their own words, pictures, and graphics. These presentations can be used at recruitment events and on your website. The Three Rivers Adoption Council (TRAC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has such a program called TRAC’s Older Child Presentations.
- Use specialists to search for relatives and kin, such as engaging private investigators to help find relatives and other adults who may have lost touch with a child but may now be able to provide permanency to the child. A great example of how to use this approach is Extreme Recruitment, a Diligent Recruitment grantee project through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau.