• November 2011
  • Vol. 12, No. 8

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Denver's Village: Enhanced Recruitment for Permanent Homes

In 2008, the Children's Bureau awarded eight cooperative agreements to implement diligent recruitment programs that would locate resource families for children in foster care. One of those awards went to the Denver Department of Human Services (DHS) for its Denver's Village program. Denver's Village seeks to find safe, supportive homes for children in need of foster, kinship, or adoptive families by establishing community-based resource teams (CBRTs) and enhancing their internal processes for finding homes for children. This has yielded shorter times to permanency and an increase in adoptions.

Traditionally, it was DHS's responsibility to recruit and retain resource families, but the CBRT approach is a joint effort between DHS and the community. DHS has established four CBRTs throughout the city and county of Denver by leveraging its existing broad community network. CBRTs recruit potential resource families in the children's own communities and try to ensure that the racial and ethnic characteristics of the resource families mirror those of the children in care. CBRT members often include individuals from businesses, schools, service providers, community-based organizations, and DHS, including foster care, adoption, kinship care, and recruitment staff. Each CBRT develops its own recruitment plan for targeted and child-specific recruitment and conducts approximately four recruitment activities per month. For a recent recruitment event, one CBRT worked with a local church to use a service for more than 300 parishioners as an extreme recruiting event for 13 children. Several families expressed interest in becoming resource families, and more than a dozen additional families volunteered to host a "fosterware" party, during which CBRT staff would speak to the host's family and friends about the need for permanent and temporary homes for children.

DHS also has implemented two types of meetings to help find permanent homes for children in foster care: permanency decision meetings (PDMs) and permanency roundtables. During a PDM, in which DHS tries to reduce and overcome barriers to achieving permanency for a child, the current caseworker and supervisor and other DHS staff—including those from intake, child protection, and youth services—examine the case's progress, determine the specific barriers to permanency, and develop a concurrent plan for the child. PDMs are conducted when children have been in out-of-home care for 45 days.

The second type of meeting is the permanency roundtable, which focuses primarily on youth but is held for any child who has been in care for 12 months or longer. The purpose of the roundtable is to determine what actions may help achieve permanence for the child. They include DHS staff, the youth in care, and individuals the youth identifies as being important to them (e.g., relatives, friends, mentors). The roundtables help involve youth in the decision-making process, and the youth sometimes are able to identify permanency options for themselves. Often, even if a permanent placement is not identified through the roundtable, the youth still is able to establish permanent connections with relatives or others.

Denver's Village has shown promising results thus far. When DHS received the award, children in care waited an average of 34.6 months after parental rights were terminated until permanency was achieved. Over the last 2 years of the project, that average has dropped to approximately 13 months. Additionally, more than 650 children have been adopted over the course of the project, and in the first year, Denver's Village increased the number of resource families from the communities of children in care by 55 percent.

One of the important systemic outcomes of the project was a change in how DHS staff viewed permanency. Previously, some staff viewed permanency as an option that should be considered toward the end of a case. Now, staff see permanency as a vital issue that should be considered at multiple points throughout the life of the case, which helps reduce barriers to permanency at later points in the case. For example, conducting a diligent search in the beginning of a case may make it easier to engage family members as the case proceeds, which may open up additional permanency options.

For additional information about Denver's Village and the other Diligent Recruitment grantees, visit the AdoptUSKids website:

http://www.adoptuskids.org/professionalResourceCenter/diligent-recruitment/default.aspx

Many thanks to Margaret Booker, Project Director of Denver's Village and Administrator of Permanency Services and Support in the Denver Department of Human Services, for providing the information for this article.
 

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