A Philanthropic Vision for Improving L.A. County’s Child Welfare System

During an event at the Center of Hope church in Inglewood, Calif., Pastor Geremy Dixon (l) speaks about the role of the faith community in foster parent recruitment as (right to left) Department of Children and Family Services Director Bobby Cagle, foster parent Earcylene Beavers and Ralph M. Parsons Foundation President Wendy Garen look on.

A collective of Los Angeles County-based government agencies, philanthropies, foster family agencies and faith-based organizations have launched an effort to boost the county’s foster care capacity and help more children receive better care, according to a brief released by the group.

The Foster Together Network has been working to strengthen foster family recruitment and retention by relying more on up-to-date metrics to find gaps in care and then actively working to bolster services and foster homes in those specific areas.

The network began to meet two years ago, squarely focused on L.A.’s declining number of foster parents, particularly for foster children 0 to 5. It looked at barriers to recruitment and retention, and proposed a number of recommendations, such as partnering with faith-based communities to improve the pool of foster parents, and exploring ways to work with foster family agencies to implement a peer-support model.

It spearheaded and helped finance several one-day events with local churches to recruit foster families in specific parts of Los Angeles County, including South Los Angeles. Between May and June of 2019, more than 600 prospective foster parents participated and 205 of those households are in the process of being approved as foster parents, according to the report.

The network also worked with Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and other community partners to create a coalition of leaders from six local African-American churches interested in promoting foster family recruitment and support in their community.

The group has also turned its attention to creating more opportunities for biological parents to remain connected to children placed in foster care through visitation. According to the report, children in L.A’s foster care system are placed an average of 22 miles from their parents, creating significant challenges for biological parents for whom regular visits are key to reunifying with their children.

Such stories of long-distance placement are most common in the South Los Angeles area, which has the highest child removal rates in the county, according to a study from Chapin Hall.

“Long-distance child-family matching is a problem on many levels, including the burdensome demands it places on family visitation and bonding activities,” according to the brief. “The farther a child lives from his or her family of origin, the more challenging visitation becomes for both birth and foster families.”

The network is using “advanced data-collecting methods” to improve placement stability, reduce the average placement distance and decrease the time spent by foster children in out-of-home care.

You can read the full report, Foster Together Network: Uniting To Grow Nurturing Homes For Kids In Crisis, here.

Fostering Media Connections, the parent organization to The Imprint, receives financial support from The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and First 5 LA.

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