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November 2013Vol. 14, No. 8Site Visit: Roots &Wings in Santa Cruz, CA

In 2008, the County of Santa Cruz, CA, Human Services Department, Family and Child Services, recognized deficits in three major areas: finding appropriate homes for children in their own communities, providing substantive supports to foster parents, and a lack of permanent homes for children and youth in care. Realizing these crucial needs for improvement in these services, Family and Children's Services (FCS) sought diligent recruitment grant funds.

Using a discretionary grant from the Children's Bureau's Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in Foster Care cluster, FCS established its Roots & Wings initiative in 2009. The name of the program originates from a Hodding Carter, II, quote, "There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other is wings." Carter was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author who wrote about race, religion, and economic intolerance.

  • The Roots & Wings initiative has the following goals:
  • Recruit concurrent foster care and adoptive resource families who reflect the characteristics of the children currently under the county's supervision
  • Ensure resource families are satisfied with the variety of services and supports offered by the agency
  • Ensure children transition to permanent and stable homes in a timely manner

To meet these goals, project staff focus on leveraging existing relationships in the Santa Cruz community and conducting outreach to establish new relationships with families who have not yet considered being resource families and businesses to provide venues for outreach to prospective resource parents. To support the overall initiative goal to move children to permanency, Roots & Wings developed a permanency field guide for social workers, which outlines the steps of child-specific recruitment. The project's Permanency Consultation Group, composed of Roots & Wings staff and recruitment specialists, brainstorm permanency strategies for children 11 and older. The initiative also uses photolistings on national and State websites to find permanent homes for children.

Roots & Wings recruited business supporters, such as FedEx, which donates generously to Project Santa and the local children's store, Childish Santa Cruz. The agency has also been creative in its attempts to educate and recruit families, including partnering with a local coffee shop, Surf City Coffee, which agreed to put Roots & Wings information promoting foster care and adoption on its coffee sleeves. The project created a Facebook page to thank members of the community for their volunteer service, inform potential resource parents about upcoming events, and to reach out to the community for donations to support children. Finally, the project has made substantive efforts to ensure that the staff at the Santa Cruz Human Services Department are aware of the needs of resource families and that the resource families are satisfied with the services and supports that they receive.

An evaluation team from San Jose State University conducted a survey to measure resource parents' satisfaction with various aspects of their experience with the agency, including respectful treatment, responsiveness by the social worker, and resource parents' feelings of being included in the case-planning process. Findings show that approximately 90 percent of resource parents indicated that their child's social worker and licensing social worker treated them with respect.

Other project outcomes thus far include the following:

  • The number of heads-of-household who attended resource parent orientation increased from 105 in 2009 to 119 in 2011.
  • Fewer than 20 heads-of-household completed PRIDE training in 2009, and over 30 completed the training in 2010.
  • Fewer than 10 resource families were licensed in 2009, and nearly 20 families were licensed in 2010.
  • Less than 60 percent of caregivers indicated they were willing to adopt in 2009. In 2011, more than 80 percent of caregivers were willing to adopt.
  • Approximately 45 percent of caregivers were caring for a child's sibling in 2009. In 2011, just over 60 percent of caregivers were caring for a child's sibling. 
  • More than 17 percent of children ages 13 and older who had been in care for 24 months or longer achieved permanency within 12 months in 2011. This is the highest percentage of youth achieving permanency in 12 months since the agency began the measurement in 1998.

For more information on the Roots & Wings project, contact Melissa Delgadillo, Program Manager, at, or visit the project website:

The full site visit report will soon be posted on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

The Roots & Wings project is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award 90CO1035/03).This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.