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May 2006Vol. 7, No. 4Creating Adoption Neighborhoods

Creating a neighborhood where adoption is the norm has the potential for increasing the number of children who are adopted, providing built-in support and assistance for adoptive families, and raising the awareness of an entire community about the benefits of adoption. This is the idea behind DePelchin Children's Center's Creating Adoption Neighborhoods (CrAN) project in the Houston, TX, area.

Collaborating with six other agencies, DePelchin developed the CrAN project to address the pressing need for permanent homes for African-American children in Houston's foster care system. The project began in 2002 with the identification of three neighborhoods believed to have potential for adopting these children. The University of Houston helped with an ethnographic analysis of the neighborhoods, and Eli Jones and Associates conducted focus groups with residents to determine general attitudes and beliefs about adoption.

Based on this initial research, CrAN, with assistance from VOLLMER Public Relations, developed social marketing messages, and workers began an outreach campaign designed to spread the adoption message to families and businesses in the target neighborhoods. Community events, church gatherings, and radio spots all provided opportunities for adoption education and recruiting. In addition, parent training was made available at times and locations convenient for prospective foster and adoptive parents. These strategies contributed to an increased awareness about adoption and, for some families, to foster and adoptive placements.

Since the inception of the CrAN project, awareness of and interest in adoption have increased substantially in the wider community. Additionally, in the targeted adoption neighborhoods, 17 African-American families have had a total of 33 children placed in their homes, 13 of whom were placed with siblings. Many more families have completed parent training or attended orientation sessions. Overall, data collected throughout the project's 3 years indicate a growing awareness about adoption within the neighborhoods.

The success of CrAN is attributed to a number of factors, including:

  • The use of ethnographic research and social marketing techniques to develop targeted adoption messages for specific neighborhoods
  • Employment of a CrAN recruiter and a neighborhood liaison in each neighborhood
  • Collaboration among the adoption agencies and the child welfare system
  • Support from the business community, including the media

The CrAN project has also dealt with a number of challenges, including:

  • Using zip codes to define neighborhoods, which had the unintended consequences of missing potential adoptive families and underreporting outcomes
  • The general mobility of residents, who often attended church or had other affiliations outside the targeted neighborhoods
  • Difficulties with involving churches, such that future projects may focus on churches with a strong adoption ministry already in place

These experiences have helped guide planning for CrAN, and strategies for sustaining the program will build on the successful elements and respond to the challenges through change and adaptation.

To find out more about Creating Adoption Neighborhoods, contact:

Monique Johnson Garner, Project Director
Creating Adoption Neighborhoods
DePelchin Children's Center
4950 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77007

The Creating Adoption Neighborhoods project was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90-CO-0979, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Developing Projects for Increasing Adoptive Placement for Minority Children. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.