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Placement Stability and Permanency

Targeted Recruitment


Partnering with Community Groups

Targeted recruitment is the process by which States, Tribes, and Territories strategically focus their recruitment efforts in neighborhoods and communities where families can be found that are most likely to be a resource for the children and youth in their care. Targeted recruitment may include:

  • Faith-based communities;
  • Military families;
  • Other community-based methods that target specific communities who can meet the needs of children and youth in foster care.

Effective targeted recruitment uses demographic data to inform your recruiting by identifying characteristics of current foster and adoptive parents and children and youth in care.

As your agency seeks to recruit foster, adoptive, or kinship parents for specific populations of children and youth, you can increase your likelihood of achieving successful placements by building your agency’s capacity to prepare these children and youth for placement and to respond to, retain, and prepare prospective.

Fundamental Elements of Targeted Recruitment

Effective targeted recruitment efforts:

  • Are data-driven. Agencies research and build their recruitment strategies based on demographic characteristics, values and behaviors to better identify potential successful families.
  • Are culturally competent. Agencies continuously develop skills in working effectively with the various social, racial, and ethnic groups who reflect the diversity of children and youth in care.
  • Use the right messages and media. Agencies’ messages appeal to the targeted parents’ values and are placed where parents are likely to respond.
  • Are retention-obsessive. Agencies do everything in their power to value and support foster and adoptive parents at every stage of the process; otherwise, even the best recruitment practices are in vain.
  • Use community-based methods. Agencies reach out to, and build meaningful relationships with, the communities they serve, delivering services in ways that are most accessible and appropriate for each 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.
  • Develop community-based recruitment teams specific to a geographic region to build pools of resource families who reflect the racial and ethnic characteristics of the children and youth in your agency’s care. A great example of how to develop successful community-based recruitment teams is Denver’s Village, a Diligent Recruitment grantee project through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau.
  • Use market segmentation to find families who are similar to your most successful foster, adoptive, and kinship placements. Using data on your agency’s most successful placements, you can build a strong targeted recruitment strategy by answering the following questions:
    1. Who are the families you should be targeting?
    2. What are the best ways to reach these families?
    3. Where can you find these families?

The answers to these questions, then, inform the branding, messaging, location, community partnerships, retention strategies and action steps of State and local recruitment plans.

Market Segmentation and Engaging the Business Community

Kentucky’s Project MATCH (Making Appropriate and Timely connections for Children), one of the recipients of a 2008 Diligent Recruitment grant from the Children’s Bureau, used market segmentation to drive recruitment efforts and messages aimed at populations that are most likely to be strong possibilities to become foster and adoptive parents for the children and youth in need of placement. The project hired and trained experienced resource parents to work as diligent recruitment specialists. These specialists engaged in targeted recruitment efforts using market segmentation data and research on best practices.

Using the project’s market segmentation data — which highlighted a market segment known as Town With Children who are likely to be a good pool of potential foster and adoptive parents — staff identified a restaurant (a Ponderosa Steakhouse) where adults from that market segment are likely to eat. Project MATCH staff partnered with the Ponderosa restaurant to have the restaurant allow their employees to wear shirts promoting Project MATCH, feature a recruitment message and phone number on the sign outside the restaurant, distribute brochures about foster care at the restaurant, and generously offer a 10 percent discount to foster parents and foster care workers who dined at the restaurant during a specific week.

Learn more about Project MATCH and see examples of some of the products and materials from the project, and find out more by reading our overview of market segmentation (PDF – 340 KB).

As you develop targeted and data-driven recruitment strategies, use the same data and information on the targeted communities to plan for your family retention, preparation, and support activities. For example, if you’re conducting targeted recruitment to recruit families for teens, be sure that you have information and resources to share with prospective families about how to meet the needs of teenagers in foster care. See our information packet Going Beyond Recruitment for Older Youth: Increasing Your System’s Capacity to Respond to Prospective Parents and Prepare Older Youth for Adoption (PDF – 648 KB) for specific ideas.

Organize a Treasure Hunt to Help Staff Learn More about Specific Communities

Using a creative activity such as a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt in specific geographic areas can help staff, families, and other key stakeholders deepen their understanding of and connection to key communities. By structuring the treasure hunt as an interactive experience through which staff travel to various locations to meet members of the community and visit important locations (e.g., areas that are gathering places, places of worship, well-respected small businesses and organizations), you can provide a rich opportunities for people to interact directly with community members and to see how people are living, working, and playing within the community. Reaching out to community members—both in official leadership positions and others who are trusted members of the communities even without formal leadership roles—will help your agency engage participants for a treasure hunt while also demonstrating your respect for the people who are the heart and soul of a particular community.

As part of its data-driven recruitment efforts targeting specific communities from which large numbers of children enter foster care so they can allow more children to remain in their home community, Allegheny County (PA) planned a treasure hunt in one of its targeted communities. The agency’s specific goals for the staff who participated included: change any negative attitudes about the community; develop a truer understanding of the community and its history; and establish relationships in the community to support recruitment of new resource families for teens. The agency engaged community leaders, including the mayor, so they were present to provide encouragement as teams embarked on the treasure hunt. Allegheny County involved the local school, police department, and fire department; businesses, organizations, and community leaders greeted the teams. Each team received a set of instructions that included map cards containing directions and clues they used to determine specific destinations to visit. At each destination, they took a photo, obtained an item, or collected information to respond to a question. The treasure hunt required that teams walk around, explore, and have conversations with people in the community.

Read more about how Allegheny County put this idea to use as part of their Diligent Recruitment Grant’s community engagement efforts.

Develop Local Recruitment Plans

A local, data-driven recruitment plan can serve as an effective roadmap for guiding targeted recruitment efforts based on the needs and context of specific geographic areas (e.g., regions, counties), helping you to make the best use of limited resources such as staff time and recruitment funds. In addition to helping focus your diligent recruitment efforts based on your top priorities, developing these plans provides a great opportunity to bring people who are—or should be—involved in recruiting and supporting families together to focus on shared goals for children and families.

Several child welfare systems have used worksheets developed by the NRCDR—included in our publication Developing Recruitment Plans: A Toolkit for States and Tribes (557 KB PDF)—to guide their efforts to develop data-driven county- or region-based recruitment plans. These local plans can be used to feed up into a statewide or tribal diligent recruitment plan or can serve as more detailed, focused plans that align with an existing state or tribal diligent recruitment plan.

As part of the process for developing and implementing local recruitment plans, some states have engaged existing local recruitment teams, but even if you don’t have local recruitment teams already formed, you can engage key staff, partners, and other stakeholders to discuss your data and develop the local plan. By bringing key stakeholders together for the planning process, you can strengthen relationships, help increase their understanding of what your data tells you about your recruitment, development, and support needs, and expand the group of people who can help implement your recruitment plan.

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