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Family to Family

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Recruitment, Training and Support

The pool of available foster families is in a steady decline across the United States, just at a time when the number of children coming into care is increasing. Only if we do a better job recruiting, training, and supporting families will they join and stay with the foster care system.

What is "Recruitment, Training, and Support"?

Family to Family recruitment, training, and support methods have become the foundation for building new systems of child welfare. From the first phone call by potential foster families through pre-service training, the mutual assessment process, and the placement of a child, each element is an integral part of the cycle. Each is dependent upon the other to achieve success.

How was this tool applied in Family to Family?

Foster and birth families are viewed as teammates with agency staff in caring for children and rebuilding their families. This approach is based on a set of basic principles that includes:

  • Valuing Families - The family unit is affirmed, and concern for the child becomes the criterion upon which everyone's behavior will be judged.

  • Maintaining Family Ties - Foster families are recruited and trained with the understanding that they will be asked to strengthen and maintain all aspects of the bond between the child and the birth family, until all efforts toward unifi-cation fail. In such cases, foster parents are encouraged to adopt the child to provide a stable and loving family. From 60 to 85 percent of adoptive families start as foster care families.

  • Community Involvement - Foster care that is community-based builds the bridge between the two sets of parents and therefore has a much better chance of succeeding.

  • Teamwork - Family to Family is a team approach, involving the foster and birth families, the agency staff, and neighborhood support services. Family foster care also works in teams with other agencies that provide vital services in juvenile justice, mental health, education, public health, primary care, and drug treatment.

What did we learn from these applications?

The Recruitment, Training, and Support tool was tested extensively in large sites, where we found that:

  • Building a successful program recognizes the importance of conducting an honest profile of the children in your system and working to find families who will foster or adopt "real" children and teens;

  • A strong recruitment staff includes workers who take the first phone call from potential foster/adoptive parents and make sure they feel welcome, respected, accepted, and needed;

  • Important child-specific recruitment activities too often get overlooked but make the difference between success and failure;

  • There are many solutions to common roadblocks that get in the events.success for all aspects of recruitment, training, licensing, and support;

  • Simplifying the application process by streamlining background checks, collecting information, and using training is a way for potential foster parents to "self-select" themselves into or out of the program;

  • Pre-service training needs solid adult learning theories that emphasize philosophy and values rather than rules and regulations. Training should include interactive techniques, not lectures, and provide fun and excitement for new recruits;
  • Using a mutual assessment process can maintain high-quality foster care families;

  • Supporting foster families is best done through foster parent, agency, and commu-nity partnerships;

  • Using family team meetings brings it all together; and

  • Special support is needed for seasoned foster parents.

What you need to get started:

This step-by-step tool is available from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and provides the basic information and procedures you will need.

What you need for full implementation:

Successful recruitment, training, and support practice requires full-time involvement by every member of the agency staff. Commitment to the principles of Family to Family will direct the scores of decisions and actions needed to achieve a working system.

How to find out more:
resources, examples, references:

The Recruitment, Training, and Support tool can be ordered from John Mattingly at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 410/547-6600. A consultant available to answer questions, lead initial discussions, or run training workshops is Denise Goodman at 614/436-6838.