December/January 2015Vol. 15, No. 11Site Visit: Ohio's Partners for Forever Families
In 2008, Ohio's Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services (CCDCFS) received discretionary grant funds from the Children's Bureau's Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in the Foster Care System grant cluster. The funds were used to implement Partners for Forever Families, a partnership between CCDCFS and other agencies and organizations throughout the county that have committed resources to help identify and facilitate connections between prospective resource families and children in foster care.
Although there had been an overall reduction in the number of children in foster care in Cuyahoga County in 2008, the children who remained in foster care had complex needs that made finding appropriate families for them difficult. To help improve permanency outcomes for children and youth in care, Partners for Forever Families (PFF) aims to:
- Increase the percentage of children who exit foster care through adoption in less than 24 months
- Reduce the median length of stay for children in foster care
- Increase the number of permanent families for children who are teens and have been in foster care for 24 months or longer
To achieve these outcomes, the project established protocols that enable sibling groups to stay together and for reconnecting kin with youth who are 17 and older and have not yet found a permanent family. Some of the tools CCDCFS is using to increase recruitment include the following:
An original stage play, Sometimes Hope Is Enough. The play is about the journey of three siblings who grew up in different foster families. Following the play, a panel of experts discuss some of the themes depicted in the play, as well as the realities of the children and youth who are currently in foster care.
Digital Me. Digital Me is a video recording in which the children in care share their likes and interests, what they are proud of, and the unique aspects of their personalities. These videos are shown at recruitment events to prospective foster/adoptive parents.
Community Collaborative Partnerships. Connecting with established community organizations has increased CCDCFS's recruitment pool and has enabled the diligent recruitment activities to be more visible throughout communities where CCDCFS has not traditionally had positive relationships.
Outcomes to date as a result of the Partners for Forever Families include the following:
- Adoption workers are currently serving 26 families and have served a total of 56 families during the first 4 years of the grant.
- There was an increase in community knowledge about the need for adoption, kinship care, foster care, and permanency.
- Neighborhood Collaboratives identified 10 families who have now completed foster/adoptive parent licensures and are willing to adopt.
- Of the applications for fostering or adopting in 2012, 40 percent were child specific (relatives), compared to 21 percent in the previous year.
Partners for Forever Families staff are concentrating on aligning policy and practices so that efforts toward establishing permanency for children and youth in foster care will continue to be a primary goal, even after the grant period. New worker training now focuses on achieving permanency for children of any age. Worker training on family finding has also been made available through the agency's Intranet.
For more information on this project, contact Kate Lodge, M.S.W., Partners for Forever Families, Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The full site visit report will soon be available on the website for Child Welfare Information Gateway at https://www.childwelfare.gov/management/funding/funding_sources/families.cfm.
The Partners for Forever Families project is funded by the Children's Bureau (90-CO-1034). 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.