E-Notes, the monthly newsletter from the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids.
As National Adoption Month approaches, we are highlighting the importance of strategies to recruit, develop, and support families for older youth in foster care, because we know that we never outgrow the need for family. This issue of E-Notes focuses on strategies and tools to help child welfare systems recruit, prepare, and support foster and adoptive families for older youth.
Families for older youth: We never outgrow the need for family
Finding families for older youth requires approaches to recruit, develop, and support families to be able to understand and meet the needs of older youth.
Ways to increase your pool of families for older youth:
Use data to inform your work to recruit, support, and develop families for older youth. For example, you could use data to answer the following questions:
What are the characteristics and needs of older youth in care in your system?
What are the experiences of prospective and adoptive families for older youth? What challenges or barriers do they anticipate or experience?
What resources and supports are offered by your agency (or the community) that families find most useful? What resources and supports are needed that aren't available?
What is (or isn't) working well to recruit, support, and develop families for older youth?
Utilize recruitment strategies that help raise awareness and increase understanding of the needs and strengths of older youth in foster care, including engaging youth in some of your activities. For example:
Help older youth who wish to be adopted to create video stories or presentations as a way to introduce their voice and personality in various meetings and recruitment events, or via your website or newsletter.
Have older youth currently in foster care help with dinner meetings and trainings for approved and potential foster and adoptive parents hosted at local community centers and other community gathering places.
Develop recruitment brochures, pamphlets, and posters that show older youth involved in everyday activities. Include quotes from parents who have adopted older youth and quotes from older youth describing what it means to have a permanent family.
Consider how your system can support and develop families to meet the specific needs of older youth. For example:
Agencies can examine their response, training, and parent-preparation systems to ensure that they include appropriate information specific to parenting older youth. Caseworkers should be prepared to answer parents’ questions that are specific to parenting older youth, such as how to help youth obtain a driver's license, preparing to apply for college admission and financial aid, etc.
Caseworkers can talk with prospective families about important topics including: the family's expectations; creative ways to get to know a youth; exploring the feelings of biological children (and other children who are living in the home) about adopting an older youth; brain development and the effects of trauma; and the importance of helping the youth to maintain important existing relationships.
This information packet developed by the NRCDR is a resource to support your agency as you seek to recruit adoptive parents for older youth in foster care. The publication provides strategies you can use to increase your likelihood of achieving permanency by building your agency's capacity to prepare these youth for adoption and to respond to, retain, and prepare prospective adoptive parents as they consider adopting older youth. The information packet addresses the following topics:
Working within and across systems to promote permanency for older youth
Exploring family characteristics that contribute to successful older youth adoption
Helping prospective parents consider and prepare for adopting older youth
Using preparation of prospective parents to address older youth adoption topics
Providing valuable tools and information to empower families adopting older youth
Preparing older youth for adoption
Strategies to help older youth consider adoption
Ideas from the field: engage and develop spokespeople to recruit families for older youth
One creative approach that child welfare agencies can—and do—use is establishing speakers bureaus or engaging and develop media spokespeople as a strategy for recruiting foster and adoptive families. This can be a particularly helpful approach for recruiting families for older youth. For example, parents might share positive success stories about adoption of older youth, or child welfare professionals could share success stories about working with families who adopted older youth.
Young people also can be empowered and supported to share their experiences and speak about the need for families for older youth. Some agencies have developed a panel of young adult foster care alumni from various backgrounds who have achieved permanency, and have created opportunities for them to speak at forums including child welfare conferences, prospective parent orientations, and other informational settings. These panels can be powerful outlets for raising awareness of the need for families for older youth and highlighting the strengths of older youth in foster care.
Archived peer-to-peer discussion: “Engaging and Developing Media Spokespeople”
This recent peer-to-peer discussion from child welfare professionals across the country provides information that may support your efforts to engage and develop a speakers bureau or spokespeople to recruit families. The archived discussion offers an informative, interactive, peer-to-peer conversation focusing on engaging and developing media spokespeople. The conversation highlights the benefits of establishing, identifying, engaging, developing, and supporting a diverse speakers bureau and features experiences and best practices from both professionals and families. Speakers from Illinois discuss how they have engaged and utilized media spokespersons at both the national and local level. This was the second peer-to-peer meeting in a three-part series by AdoptUSKids, Best Practices for Localizing the National Adoption Recruitment Campaign, hosted by the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment (NRCDR).