CHAMPS Report Finds States Struggling with Foster Parent Recruitment

The recruitment and retention of foster parents — a critical but often overlooked aspect of development for children in foster care — has never been easy, and the coronavirus pandemic has made it perhaps harder than ever, according to a new report from CHAMPS, a national policy campaign that focuses on promoting high-quality foster parenting. The report spotlights innovations in states’ plans for finding and supporting top-quality foster and adoptive parents. As states face additional recruitment challenges because of the pandemic, CHAMPS hopes state and federal lawmakers and others in the child welfare field will use the timely report to improve efforts to recruit and support potential caregivers into foster and family-based care.

Under federal law, every state is required to have a recruitment and retention plan. CHAMPS, which stands for Children Need Amazing Parents, analyzed the plans of 42 states in terms of CHAMPS’ “drivers” of effective recruitment and retention. That is, the report looked at the extent to which those plans are child-centered, data-driven, transparent, collaborative and sustainable. It also examined whether the “lived experience” of the children and parents in the system informed those plans.

Some states described an “extensive collaboration with a broad array of partners and stakeholders to recruit and retain foster families, including faith-based organizations, foster and adoptive parent associations, universities, tribal agencies, community groups and foster and adoptive families.”

But it also noted that most plans “contained lists of generic recruitment activities that do not appear to be aligned with or responsive to identified needs,” and only a few states demonstrated a “sustainable agency-wide recruitment and retention infrastructure.”

Most plans also failed to address “the critical need for better data on the current pool of foster families and the effectiveness of current recruitment, screening and licensing processes,” the report said.

The report creators hope lawmakers at the state, county and federal levels will use the report to learn from the experience of others, discarding programs and policies that aren’t working and emulating those that do.

While all of the plans evaluated included some data on children in care, the report shows that “most plans did not address the critical need for better data on the current pool of foster families and the effectiveness of current recruitment, screening and licensing processes. Also lacking in many plans were measurable, data-driven recruitment and retention goals and objectives.”

In addition, most plans failed to include sustainable agency-wide recruitment and retention plans.

“States that made use of technical assistance resources developed by national organizations such as the former National Resource Center on Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids tended to have more thoughtful, comprehensive plans,” the report showed.

The report also highlights the plans of several states as examples CHAMPS consider promising or notable.

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