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February 2003Vol. 4, No. 1States Employ Innovative Strategies to Recruit Resource Families

In fiscal year 2000, 61 percent of children adopted from the child welfare system were adopted by nonrelative foster parents, according to Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) estimates. While undoubtedly positive for children, this statistic highlights the need for rigorous recruitment efforts if State child welfare systems are to refresh the pool of available resource families (foster and adoptive families willing to serve as permanent caregivers for children). A new paper published by the Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support highlights the unique recruitment and retention efforts of eight States and suggests promising approaches that may help other child welfare systems striving to meet this challenge.

Using case studies from Minnesota, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, Alaska, Missouri, Utah, and New Jersey, the paper offers strategies for developing targeted recruitment messages, using performance-based contracting, implementing innovative recruitment initiatives, and improving retention. Efforts have paid off with positive outcomes for waiting children. For example:

  • Through data-driven, community-specific recruitment efforts focused around specific children awaiting homes, Utah experienced a significant increase in the number of resource families.
  • Hillsborough County, Kentucky instituted a policy requiring a personal visit or telephone call within 2 days of an inquiry by a prospective family. This improved the County's "response rate" (the number of interested families who followed through by attending an orientation) by nearly 15 percent.
  • In Illinois, partnerships with corporations and with the faith community have met with success in increasing the pool of potential resource families. The corporate program resulted in the licensing of nearly 50 families in the first year, with 16 children adopted or waiting for finalization. The State's "One Church One Child" program exceeded its fiscal year 2001 goal to find and register 100 African American families seeking to become resource families.

The paper also offers more concrete lessons learned, such as:

  • Recruitment messages must reflect the evolving role of the resource family as a support to the entire birth family, not just the child.
  • Recruitment efforts are enhanced by strong relationships with high profile, influential community members.
  • Structured partnerships with private nonprofit providers can strengthen efforts.
  • Retention is recruitment--existing resource families must be supported.

The full paper and an executive summary are available on the Casey Family Programs website at

Related Items in this Issue

Read about a new publication to help resource families take advantage of significant tax benefits in "Federal Tax Benefits for Resource Families."