The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) operates the largest child welfare agency in the nation. With this comes a great responsibility, and I am extremely grateful to work each day with some of the most dedicated and passionate people in the child welfare arena.
We are committed to ensuring that all children are safe from abuse and neglect, and while we strive to keep families together whenever possible, sometimes circumstances require the removal of a child and subsequent placement in foster care. One of our greatest challenges facing many of us in child welfare is making sure that we have access to enough loving and nurturing homes where we can place children in times of crisis. Because of this, we spend a lot of time and focus on our foster parent recruitment efforts.
But we know we can’t do this work alone. Effectively supporting children and families requires a village, and DCFS is fortunate to have many valuable partners that help us support the children and families of our community. Our recent endeavors to expand foster care capacity have included extensive collaborations with the faith-based and philanthropic communities, which have been invaluable assets in our ongoing effort.
In 2017, we partnered with philanthropy, local community leaders and faith-based organizations to establish the unique and innovative “Fostering Home” program with two launch events. The “Fostering Home” model serves as a comprehensive “one-stop shop” where prospective resource families can learn more about fostering and begin the approval process by completing the mandatory orientation, background checks, and health screenings. Staff and volunteers are also on hand to help with required paperwork. The initial events were so successful that our department has continued to sponsor “Fostering Home” events across the county.
Our partners in the faith-based community have been vital in generating interest and awareness in these events and encouraging their congregants to attend. Thus far, this comprehensive campaign has already produced more than 2,000 leads for prospective foster and adoptive parents. Between May and June of 2019, four “Fostering Home” events and four similar recruitment events were held across the diverse regions of Los Angeles. With five more events planned for this calendar year, we hope to continue making these vital connections and building our foster care capacity.
DCFS is also proud to partner with our philanthropic partners to support our engagement with the faith-based community in other supportive areas. In 2018, under the leadership of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, we began working with stakeholders to develop a countywide framework for engaging the faith-based community in support of foster parents and foster youth.
In collaboration with philanthropy, we are exploring the possibility of establishing a centralized faith-based unit within our department. Our stakeholders have been valuable thought partners and tremendous resources; and this work will build upon and leverage existing relationships between DCFS regional offices and local communities of faith, establish new partnerships, and institutionalize a framework for sustaining ongoing collaboration and support. As this process continues to develop and expand, DCFS and the Los Angeles County Center for Strategic Partnerships will work to bring private sector partners into this space, exploring how we can build public-private partnerships to further our shared goals.
In addition to the events and partnerships outlined above, our staff also actively participates in many other community events by hosting information tables, disseminating literature about fostering and adopting, and conducting monthly orientations throughout the county. We recently began to utilize social media to reach prospective foster parents and we have established an online orientation to make it more convenient for members of the community to access information and complete applications.
DCFS has an enormous responsibility to help ensure the well-being of the children and families of Los Angeles County. Not only could we not do this work without our community, faith-based and philanthropic partners, we also couldn’t do it without the help of our wonderful resource families across the county.
All children deserve a supportive and nurturing home, and never more so than in a time of crisis. I am extremely thankful for our network of foster and adoptive families who share our vision that all children should be safe, cared for and loved. However, I also know that recruitment is an ongoing effort, and DCFS will continue to seek out new and innovative ways to bring more people on board to help us support the children and families of Los Angeles County throughout the years to come.
Bobby Cagle is the director of the Los Angeles Department of Children and Families.
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