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Diverse Populations

Diverse Populations

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Ideas from the Field


Collaborate: Read this article to learn about a Washington state collaboration aimed at recruiting more deaf foster families. It includes key steps taken by Washington state and tips for other child welfare systems for recruiting in the deaf community.

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 and youth in foster care.

Engage and welcome military and global families as possible permanency options for children and youth in foster care. Military families stationed overseas, other American citizens residing abroad, and foreign nationals are expressing interest in adopting children and youth from the U.S. foster care system. Find out more about how to engage military families in your recruitment efforts with the resources below:

Create Community-Based Recruitment Teams
Develop community-based recruitment teams (CBRTs) that strengthen your agency’s relationship with the community and engage community members as partners and leaders in recruiting and supporting resource families for targeted populations of children and youth in foster care. Developing CBRTs involves strategically bringing together multiple people and partners from the community, with community members leading the work and the child welfare agency taking an active role in coordinating their efforts. CBRT members may or may not be affiliated with an agency or organization—this does not need to be a requirement, as this approach is different from an organizational partnership between agencies.
Taking this community-based team approach can have multiple benefits:

  • These teams can support your agency by engaging team members’ social networks, relationships, and connections in the community.
  • Team members can share their knowledge of community culture and provide access to community resources.
  • Your agency can improve relationships with specific communities, expand the reach of your recruitment and support efforts, and develop innovative recruitment and support approaches tailored to each specific community.

Child welfare systems can establish CBRTs specific to a geographic region (e.g., a CBRT for a specific neighborhood or town) in order to increase the number of resource families in that area who reflect the racial and ethnic characteristics of the children and youth in your agency’s care.
Another approach is to develop CBRTs to reach communities and groups that share a specific experience or connection, regardless of their geographic location, such as faith-based communities, LGBTQ adults, and Spanish-speaking communities. Denver’s Village, a 2008 Diligent Recruitment grantee project funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, provides an example of one approach to developing successful CBRTs. Denver’s Village used CBRTs to develop and strengthen community partnerships to help improve permanency outcomes for Native American, African American, and Latino children in foster care. Learn more about how Denver’s Village developed their CBRTs.

Support customary adoption
California enacted legislation that allows Tribal customary adoption to be recognized by the California courts. Tribal customary adoption allows for the transfer of custody of a child to adoptive parents without terminating the rights of the birth parents. The law is the first of its kind in the United States and also permits eligibility for Adoption Assistance benefits for Tribal customary adoptions.

The Tribal STAR program of the Academy for Professional Excellence, San Diego State University School of Social Work has a collection of information and resources about the legislation. Resources available include fact sheets for county and tribal social workers, agency memoranda, sample forms, a PowerPoint presentation, and training opportunities.

Learn more about customary adoption.

Use data tools to inform recruitment of families for Native American children
States and tribes can work together to compile and analyze data on Native American children in foster care—whether in state or tribal child welfare systems—to guide recruitment efforts. One approach is to map where Native American children in your foster care system come from when they enter foster care, noting whether the children were on reservation or off reservation so you can target your recruitment and family support efforts to the appropriate geographic areas. Another option is to share data across a state and tribe to be part of an ICWA database where tribes can access data such as the number of Native American children in foster care, how many come from a specific tribe, and where their home of removal is. The data can be used to inform recruitment planning and targeting communities for recruitment, as well as in conversations with communities about their needs.

Strengthen your recruitment, development, and support of resource families for Native American children

  • Review your current data on foster, adoptive, and kinship families and children in need of foster or adoptive placements to ensure that you understand your recruitment needs for Native American children.
  • Recognize and address barriers Native American families may face in recruitment and licensure processes. Take a critical look at your recruitment, response, family preparation, and licensing or approval requirements, processes, and materials to see if they are welcoming and culturally appropriate. Use feedback from Native American resource families—and, for states and counties, from tribal partners—about elements of the family licensure/approval and preparation processes to identify areas that may prevent Native American families from continuing through the process.
  • Use input from valuable resources such as tribal elders and Native American resource families, both current and past, to help your system develop effective targeted recruitment, development, and support strategies.
  • For states and counties, develop and support all of your resource families so they have the skills to care for the children in their home, including Native American children.

For more ideas, see our publication Recruiting Families for Native American Children: Strengthening Partnerships for Success (107 KB PDF).

Partner with tribes to find new ways to coordinate on recruitment and support efforts
Make the effort to connect with each tribe with which you are seeking to partner. Contact each tribe’s Indian child welfare (ICW) director or tribal social services director. If you don’t receive a response from the tribe, call or go meet with them directly. Understand the reasons that tribal leaders may not respond to you right away—including historical distrust, past challenges with your agency or other agencies, and extremely high workloads. Focus on attempting to build a relationship beyond just making a few efforts to make contact with tribal leaders. Bring humility to this work and seek to understand each tribe and their priorities, governmental structure, history, and other key information. It’s helpful to be mindful of the limited resources of many tribes and help accommodate their constraints by holding meetings in different geographical locations and exploring ways to make it easier for tribal staff to participate in meetings.

Ask if the tribe would be interested in partnering in joint efforts for family recruitment, development, and support efforts so the costs to the tribe are minimal but beneficial to both the state child welfare system and to the tribe. Ask questions of each tribe you partner with, such as:

  • Are there any tribal/cultural events coming up so you can invite Native children and their resource families to the event? Would it be appropriate to do recruitment activities at the event in partnership with the tribe?
  • What services and resource families do you have available in your community? How can we make referrals for your children in your community?  
  • Can we partner with you to do relative searches, license families, place children and support them in their placements, etc.?
  • Would it be helpful for us to develop an agreement that outlines how we'll work together on recruitment, such as how state staff will partner with tribal staff to go on the reservation to conduct joint recruitment activities?

For more ideas, see our publication Recruiting Families for Native American Children: Strengthening Partnerships for Success (107 KB PDF).

Partner with community stakeholders to recruit and support a diverse pool of foster, adoptive, and kinship families. For ideas and suggested strategies, see our webinar Engaging Community Stakeholders: Strategies for Effective Recruitment of Foster and Adoptive Families (Flash – 1:28 hr.). This free 90-minute webinar held on July 20, 2011, focused on the importance of partnering with community stakeholders to recruit foster and adoptive families for children and youth in foster care. It highlighted creative strategies several of the Children’s Bureau’s 2008 Diligent Recruitment Grantees are using to do this by:

  • Sharing lessons learned on building effective relationships with community partners
  • Exploring how community partnerships have helped agencies strengthen their recruitment efforts
  • Offering specific suggestions to engage community partners

View the archived webinar (Flash – 1:28 hr.)
Download the webinar presentation (PDF – 2.1 MB)

The Florida project All Things Are Possible: No Limits Adoption Recruitment focuses on child-specific recruitment for African American children age 9 and older. The project uses:

  • A 6-month individualized child-specific recruitment plan;
  • Placement log;
  • Traumatic events log;
  • Log of all prior caregivers and significant adults in the youth’s life;
  • Form letter to send to prior caregivers and significant adults who could become committed caring adults in that youth’s life.

The child-specific recruitment plan included many ideas for identifying potential families, updating the children’s files, and using a variety of media to promote the child and make his or her story known to as many families as possible.

See more details about the project.

As you assess and build your capacity for providing affirming placements for LGBTQ youth and for working with LGBTQ resource parents, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Look at multiple ways to build your system’s capacity for good practice with LGBTQ youth and families. Connect your diligent recruitment efforts related to LGBQT youth and adults to other parts of your child welfare system, so staff see consistent approaches for supporting LGBTQ youth and for welcoming and engaging with LGBTQ adults throughout various parts of child welfare work.
  • Don’t make assumptions about anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Work with your existing resource families to help them develop their knowledge and ability to be affirming and supporting of LGBTQ youth that they parent. Help resource families understand that youth may come out as LGBTQ after being placed with a family, so as with all children in foster care, families need to be prepared to meet the emerging needs of youth.
  • Be aware of the complexities involved in data collection related to the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth and adults. Before asking youth or adults to self-identify as LGBTQ, you need to make it safe for them to share that information and be able to trust that it won’t be used or shared inappropriately.

See additional ideas from the field for targeted recruitment that you can use to reach diverse populations.

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