Vol. 7, No. 1 November 2002
Retention: An Integral Part of
recruit families to be foster or adoptive parents we must remember to
put forth more effort to retain them than it took to recruit them.
recruiting new families it is necessary to establish a system of assessing
the satisfaction of current families. Satisfying your current customers
is important, because word of mouth can be your most effective tool
in recruitment, both formal and informal. If your present customers
are unhappy, then any recruitment efforts will be poisoned by an undercurrent
of dissatisfaction. If they are completely satisfied with the services
rendered by your agency, then you are ready to recruit.
families satisfaction with the system should start before recruitment,
continue throughout the foster care experience, and extend into post-adoption.
campaigns should be carefully thought out. Data should be accumulated
about the children in care and projections must be made based on the
data collected regarding the types of children that the agency anticipates
will come into care. Job descriptions for foster parents and adoptive
parents are essential to avoid any confusion about expectations.
slogans and information should reflect the needs of the agency and agency
expectations of foster and adoptive families. If this is not done, then
you do not have truth in advertising and run the risk of
recruiting people you do not need. In order to have a good public image
of your program, the agency wants people who can be successful in meeting
the needs of the children in care and the expectations of the agency.
The agency can then enhance the relationship with both individual and
public positive reinforcement.
efforts should involve the community through the use of committees whose
members are representative of all parts of your community. This will
enable you to create a strong foundation for support of potential foster
and adoptive parents. It is especially important to have representation
on your committees from the communities from whence children most frequently
enter foster care.
Placement Act/Interethnic Adoption Provisions requires child welfare
services programs to provide diligent recruitment of foster and
adoptive families that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of children
in the State for whom foster and adoptive homes are needed. Not
only is this the law, it is good practice. Good practice means that
we make every effort to keep children in communities where they can
maintain connections with their family, school, and friends. Research
shows that children who maintain frequent contact with their connections
are more likely to be reunited with their families (Fanshel & Shinn,
1978) and are more likely to have a positive self-esteem (Weinstein,
have been recruited, maintain their interest throughout the preparation
and assessment process. This can be accomplished by face-to-face contact
with the social worker, telephone contact, sending written materials,
suggesting books related to foster care and adoption, assigning a foster
parent buddy willing to involve the applicant in family activities,
and getting the applicant involved in the N.C. Foster Parents Association.
to begin the preparation and assessment process, either through offering
a timely MAPP-GPS group or the course Deciding Together, is essential.
Involving the applicants in a mutual decision process shows teamwork
and a respect for the applicant. Retention occurs whenever people feel
involved, respected, appreciated, and valued as a member of a team of
professionals working together to create permanence for children. During
this process the parents will meet all of the nonnegotiable requirements
and work on other areas related to the twelve skills necessary for successful
foster or adoptive parenting.
family and the agency reach a mutual decision about the readiness of
the family to foster or adopt, placement plans can be made. This may
involve listing the family for either foster care or adoption, or it
may mean the placement of a child.
and Child Placement
of a child brings on additional retention responsibilities. Working
as a team means making the extra effort to include birth families, foster
and adoptive families, and other involved persons in decision making.
Support of foster and adoptive families includesbut is not limited
toconsultation about the child and the case plan, in-service training,
respite care, reimbursement for cost of care/adoption subsidy, recognition,
support groups, and post adoption services (Craig-Oldsen, 1999).
does not end once an adoption placement is made. Resources must be created
to support families as they continue over time to care for children
who have endured many losses and bear the scars of abuse and neglect.
These resources include the financial and medical incentives already
in place. They also include resources such as newsletters updating the
parents on recent literature regarding special needs of adopted children,
support groups, and creative ways of helping children maintain the connections
so essential to their identity.
is time for a child to leave foster care, attention needs to be given
to preparing the child, the foster family (including the foster parents
birth children), and the birth family. The adoptive family also needs
preparation when the child is moving toward adoption. Life books need
to be completed and permission for the child to move needs to be obtained
from the significant persons in the childs life. Moving is a partnership
effort and when care is taken to make the transition a planned one,
retention of foster and adoptive families is more likely to occur.
child is moved, the next step is to assess the strengths and needs of
the former placement and make plans for strengthening and maintaining
your partnership with this foster family.
are reflected in the Recruitment and Retention Model developed by the
Child Welfare Institute and found in the curriculum Measure Twice,
Cut Once: Using MEPA/IEP to Assess and Develop Foster Family Recruitment
and Retention Strategies.
N. West is a program consultant with the Childrens Services Section
of the N.C. Division of Social Services.
The Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, Public Law
103-382-Oct. 20, 1994
Fanshel, D. & Shinn, E. (1978). Children in foster care: A longitudinal
investigation. New York: Columbia University Press.
Weinstein, E. (1960). The self-image of the foster child. New
York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Craig-Oldsen, H. (1999). Measure twice, cut once (curriculum).
Atlanta, Georgia: Child Welfare Institute.
2002 Jordan Institute for Families