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Recruitment Resources: Finding Families for Waiting Children

Suzanne DoshKathy LedesmaSuzanne Dosh, MSW (pictured at left)
Vice President of Programs, The Adoption Exchange
Kathy Ledesma, MSW (pictured at right)
Project Director, AdoptUsKids, Adoption Exchange Association

Summary: Utilizing resources such as the internet, print, radio and television media as well as AdoptUsKids helps find homes for waiting children.

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One hundred twenty-three thousand children are waiting for the comfort that comes with knowing that they a permanent member of a family, they are part of the family photo, they will move with your family when they move, and no matter what choices they make in life, the love of their family is unconditional.

Preliminary AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System) data for 2008 indicates that approximately 55,000 children were connected with an adoptive family that year. However, another 29,000 were emancipated without being legally adopted. To help increase the number of children who find safe, permanent homes, public and private agencies utilize a number of recruitment resources. Some examples are:

  • Weekly network television segments, often called Wednesday’s Child, are among the most successful recruitment resources. The interviews with children are creative and touching while reminding viewers of the need for families.
  • Adoption networking or matching parties bring together waiting children, their caseworkers, and prospective adoptive parents in a fun, safe environment where they have the opportunity to interact in a way that brings life to a child’s personality.
  • The internet brings the faces of waiting children into our kitchens and consciousness as never before. Dozens of websites provide access to profiles of these children and open the door to potential adoptive parents throughout the US and, indeed, the world.
  • Children’s photo galleries of stunning portraits of waiting children taken by volunteer professional photographers highlight their beauty and personalities in a way that school photos or those taken by amateurs do not. Each year dozens of these exhibits, often called a heart gallery, are available throughout the country.
  • Various forms of print media such as Fostering Families Today magazine circulate information about waiting children both locally and nationally. More recently social media have opened other avenues, such as Facebook and YouTube.

Additional extensive recruitment resources are available through AdoptUsKids, a federally funded project of the Children's Bureau of the Administration of Children and Families, whose mission is to assist US states, territories and tribes (hereafter referred to as “jurisdictions”) to recruit, retain and connect prospective foster and adoptive parents with children in public foster care who need temporary or permanent families. All AdoptUsKids services are free of charge to families and agencies. These services include:

  • Technical assistance (onsite and offsite) to jurisdictions to build local capacity and catalyze systemic change related to the recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive families.
  • Information and referral services for families and individuals interested in learning more about and/or pursuing foster care or adoption. Inquirers receive general and jurisdiction-specific information and linkages to services in the jurisdictions in which they reside.
  • Support services for foster, kin and adoptive families. Modest grants and special training are provided to parent support groups for peer support services such as respite care.
  • Websites in English (adoptuskids.org) and Spanish (adopte1.org). Begun in 2002 primarily as the official national photolisting websites for children waiting for adoption, they have grown to include valuable general and jurisdiction-specific foster care and adoption information. Over 11,500 children registered on adoptuskids.org have been placed in permanent homes.

    Agencies and workers can use the websites to:

    • Post photos and narratives of children who are available for adoption
    • Search for approved, home-studied families who have registered on the website to search for children to adopt
    • Respond to home-studied families who have inquired about children they have photo-listed
    • Make potential matches between photo-listed children and registered families using a large number of matching characteristics
    • Families can use the websites to:
      • Learn more about general and jurisdiction-specific foster care and adoption information
      • If home-studied, register to get more in-depth information about photo-listed children than is available to the general public
    • The websites also contain useful information for families and child welfare professionals, as well as downloadable publications developed by AdoptUsKids on a wide variety of recruitment and retention topics.

As different types of recruitment methods have evolved over the past several years, adoption professionals have discovered viable resources through initiatives with faith-based communities, military families (stateside and overseas), Americans living overseas, rural communities and gay/lesbian families. Just as foster parents were not considered to be appropriate resources for adoption until the 1990s, these “new” resources have been with us all along, but are no longer considered unacceptable or second best.

Although the number of children connected with adoptive homes in 2008 documents an upward trend from the past several years, the need for more families remains. We suggest that there is another resource currently available and underutilized: citizens of other countries. Worldwide use of the internet has resulted in frequent inquiries from foreign nationals interested in learning more about adopting our waiting children. We believe that many of these children would no longer need to wait for a permanent family if utilization of this resource became a reality.

 

For more information about AdoptUsKids and the services it provides, visit adoptuskids or contact us at (888) 200-4005 or info@adoptuskids.org.

 

 

 

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