• June 2002
  • Vol. 3, No. 5

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HHS Inspector General Assesses States' Efforts to Recruit and Retain Foster Parents

How are States meeting the challenges of recruiting and retaining foster parents? Two new reports released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General (OIG) assess States' efforts in those areas.

Based on mail surveys from all 50 States, and focus groups in five States, the OIG reports describe findings and make recommendations for improvements.

The report entitled Recruiting Foster Parents summarizes four main findings:

  • Recruitment efforts do not focus on families willing and able to care for the most challenging children
  • States are underutilizing their most effective recruitment tool -- current foster parents
  • Poor public perceptions of foster care and cumbersome requirements have a negative impact on recruitment
  • States are unable to measure the success of their recruitment efforts.

The OIG recommends tailoring recruitment to families who are willing and able to care for children who are the most difficult to place in foster care and using current foster parents as allies in recruitment efforts. It also suggests promoting positive media coverage of foster care through Federal collaborations with national organizations focused on child welfare. Finally, the report recommends that the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) enhance its technical assistance to State foster care program managers in recruitment efforts.

The report entitled Retaining Foster Parents has five main findings:

  • Foster families desire greater opportunity to voice their concerns
  • Foster families experience limited caseworker support
  • Foster parents need more help obtaining services for themselves and their foster children
  • Possibility of false allegations of abuse and investigations trouble foster parents
  • Program managers lack data needed to improve retention.

The OIG suggests several specific ways to improve services available to foster families, such as a creating a statewide informational "Foster Parent Tool Kit," encouraging information sharing among foster parents, establishing "clothes closets" to reduce out-of-pocket expenses for foster parents, making child care and respite care services more accessible, and designating foster parent advocates. It also recommends that ACF assist States in developing a retention tracking system to identify barriers to continued fostering.

The May 2002 OIG reports are available online at the following links:

Recruiting Foster Parents (OEI-07-00-00600) http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-00-00600.pdf

Retaining Foster Parents (OEI-07-00-00601) http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-00-00601.pdf

Related Items

Search the archives of the Children's Bureau Express for other articles on recruitment and retention at http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/art_search.cfm

Under an Adoption Opportunities grant, the North American Council on Adoptable Children has developed materials for use in recruiting and retaining foster and adoptive families, especially for waiting children. Materials are available online at: http://www.nacac.org/recruitingfamilies.html

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