November 2012Vol. 13, No. 10Texas Permanency and Family Resource Development
In 2008 and 2010, the Children's Bureau awarded a number of cooperative agreements for the Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in the Foster Care System. One of the 2010 grants resulted in the Texas Permanency and Family Resource Development Model, a collaboration with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the Texas Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), and Child Trends (the evaluator). The goal of the project is twofold: (1) identify adoptive homes for children who are waiting for adoption and (2) identify permanent homes for children for whom DFPS has permanent managing conservatorship without the termination of parental rights. Priority is given to cases that include sibling groups, children of color, older youth, and children with special needs.
The project is currently in the third year of the 5-year grant. The first year was a planning year, and planning activities continue on the project with input from Texas CASA, the local CASA programs, regional and State Office child protective services staff, Child Trends, private child placing agencies, foster/adoptive parents, the courts, other local stakeholders, the National Resource Centers, and the Federal Project Officer. Grant services for the targeted counties began in October 2011. The project is targeted in the Arlington and Fort Worth areas, the Longview area, and the Lufkin and Nacogdoches areas. The goal of the grant is to create systemic change in policy, practice, and agency/partner culture. Combined, the three regions encompass urban, suburban, and rural areas. Grant activities will include:
- Child-specific, general and targeted recruitment
- Training for resource (kinship, foster, foster/adopt, and adoptive) families and pertinent external stakeholders on trauma-informed care
- Facilitating training and verification of foster and/or adoptive families for the children DFPS serves
- Completing kinship home studies for relatives/fictive kin
- Completion of surveys of resource families (kinship, foster, foster/adopt, and adoptive) to help identify barriers to retaining resource families
The project is a mixture of new services provided under the grant and integrated services with existing DFPS programs, which is key for sustainability. The expanded role of CASA is new, as under the grant CASA volunteers have an expanded role in permanency-related activities. Permanency Specialists were hired to supervise the volunteers who are providing grant services.
To date, most of the recruitment activities have been child specific, such as case mining and updating a child's profile on the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange, the State's photolisting service. CASA volunteers are focusing on family finding and engagement, and some connections have been made. The team is in the process of developing pamphlets or brochures on adoption, permanent managing conservatorship, and kinship foster parenting to assist with child-specific recruitment. Family Group Conferences also are important aspects of the project's work, as they assist a child's team and family in permanency planning.
Permanency Care Assistance (PCA)—the State's guardianship program—began in September 2010 through the Federal Fostering Connections Act and enacted State legislation. PCA provides a new opportunity to engage relatives and fictive kin as permanent placement options, whether as guardians or adoptive parents. PCA also offers another option for potential permanent caregivers.
The 81st Texas Legislature supported additional optional components of the Fostering Connections Act by enabling Texas to expand PCA and Adoption Assistance coverage to the age of 21 for children achieving permanency when 16 years of age or older. As a result, an additional unrecruited population—those willing and able to provide care for older youth—has been created. The project plans to inform the public about this additional resource as it conducts recruitment activities.
Under the grant, Texas has Recruitment Grant Financial Support (RGFS) to help kinship families pursuing adoption or PCA with expenses related to the verification/approval process. Each eligible family can receive up to a $1,000. CASA manages the funds and may pay for the expenses directly or reimburse the family after the expenses are incurred. Eligibility criteria are as follows:
- The family is a kinship family selected as the prospective permanent placement for a child who is receiving child-specific recruitment under the grant and whose legal county is one of the five within the project regions. The kinship family must be pursuing adoption or PCA for the subject children.
- Family and community resources are not available to meet the identified need.
- The DFPS Kinship Integration Payment has been utilized first by the prospective permanent placement, if the family is eligible.
- The family demonstrates that the funds would be for specialized needs of the family in the verification process in order to prepare to be a verified home. Examples of these expenses, when necessary to become a verified home, include the purchase of bedding, clothing, food, minor home repair, fire inspection, fingerprints for FBI checks, assistance with locating to a residence to accommodate the children, and transportation costs.
The Texas team is receiving technical assistance from the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids to assist with developing and implementing general and targeted recruitment and retention strategies. Prior to starting this technical assistance, Texas worked with AdoptUSKids to identify strengths and areas for improvement related to customer service. Project staff will continue to engage private child placing agencies, the courts, and other external stakeholders to help achieve the goals of the grant project.
Special thanks to Audrey L. Jackson, Adoption Program Specialist, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and Cathy Cockerham, Training Director, Texas CASA, for providing information for this article.