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2008 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 13, No. 3
July 2008

What Can I and My Agency Do to Improve Recruitment?

As AdoptUsKids explains in its recruitment work plan guide for adoption and foster care program managers, finding and preparing families to adopt and foster is a complex process that involves hand-offs from recruiter to trainer, to licensing professional, to placement worker, and so on.

“Everyone who comes into contact with a prospective parent is part of the process. From the agency director to the person who answers the telephone, recruitment is everybody’s job. High functioning organizations tie recruitment to their mission statements and encourage all staff to be community ambassadors for the children and families they serve.

All involved must have the same value system and a sense of urgency about completing the work as soon as possible. The longer it takes, the less likely the family is to stay in the process. However, if a parent is treated well throughout the process and helped to feel part of the team early on, he or she is more likely to stay the course and not drop out.”

10 Things You Can Do
The following suggestions are reprinted from AdoptUsKids’ Getting More for Children from Your Recruitment Efforts, Practitioner’s Guide. We hope you find them helpful.

1. Be informed about local, state, and national recruitment initiatives and calendar. This information will help you schedule your work so you can be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to the possibility of an influx of inquiries.

2. Regardless of what your job is, volunteer to participate in your agency’s community recruitment projects. From the agency director to the person who answers the telephone, recruitment is everybody’s job. Successful agencies encourage all staff and resource parents to be mindful of the need for families wherever they go and help out with recruitment.

3. Be customer-friendly. Foster and adoptive parents are the most important resource we have to give the children we serve. How you treat them will determine whether they stay in the process and, ultimately, become part of your team. Try to put yourself in their shoes at every stage of the process. How would you like to be treated?

4. Know the characteristics and needs of the children in your area who need foster and adoptive parents. Speak of the children who need care and the role of the foster and adoptive parent optimistically and honestly. As prospective parents go through the process, continue to provide them with reliable information to make informed decisions about fostering and adopting, including full disclosure regarding the children, their needs and service needs of birth families. Respect the parents. Give them the opportunity to explore areas where they may have doubts. Trust their ability to make good decisions for themselves. This can be done at all stages of the process.

5. Be knowledgeable about all of the steps of the recruitment to placement process. Prospective parents will have lots of questions. Be prepared to answer them whether you are answering the phone, providing training or doing a home visit. Promise to get back to them with answers to questions you can’t respond to on the spot.

6. Work to rule people in, not out of the process. It is important that the practitioner realize that the most ordinary, and sometimes unusual, people have grown into amazing resource parents with training and support. Most of the time parents present themselves to the agency for an altruistic purpose. They have passion and emotion about this. Our challenge is to learn how to maintain that passion and turn it into informed commitment.

7. Try to utilize seasoned foster and adoptive parents to help support new parents through the process. Many agencies are partnering with their resource parents and/or parent groups to help in recruiting. Parents handle initial inquiries, participate in home visits, are part of the training team and provide support to new parents during the process. Agencies that do this are modeling the team process from day one.

8. Collaborate with other community workers and organizations. Networking with community groups and partnering on recruitment efforts can be satisfying,
supportive and productive for the practitioner. Faith-based and community-based organizations that endorse your efforts can bring new families to your door. These organizations can also provide space and resources to make your orientation and training meetings more accessible to parents, making better attendance likely.

9. Be a team player. Everybody who has a hand in recruiting and preparing families to foster and adopt can be made to feel that they are part of a team in a very important endeavor. This is a complex process that involves handoffs from recruiter to trainer, to family assessment worker, to placement worker, etc. All involved should have the same value system and a sense of urgency about completing the work as soon as possible.

10. Be sensitive to the prospective foster and adoptive parents’ sense of time. The longer it takes to move from step to step, the less likely the family will stay in the process. However, if a parent is treated well and helped to feel part of the team early on, he or she is more likely to stay the course. It is important to be honest about the reasons for delays when they occur and to help the parent use this time in productive ways, e.g., involve them with other resource parents.

To learn more about what you can do to recruit and support resource families, consult Getting More Parents for Children from Your Recruitment Efforts: Practitioner’s Guide, which can be found online at <>.

Suggestions From Your Colleagues in North Carolina

As part of North Carolina’s resource family R&R efforts, this spring the Division of Social Services and the Jordan Institute for Families asked a number of experienced foster parent recruiters in the state for their “secrets” of success. Here are some of the suggestions they shared:

  1. Provide good case management — lots of TLC.
  2. Have child placement workers go through MAPP training, to develop relationships with foster parents and to increase understanding of the foster parent perspective.
  3. Have foster parent co-trainers for MAPP. This not only improves the training for participants, but sends a clear message of partnership and respect.
  4. Include foster parents in decision-making, including child and family team meetings and treatment team meetings.
  5. Provide support for a local foster parent association, and participation in state and national foster parent associations.
  6. Provide respite care.
  7. Provide mentors for new foster parents
  8. Offer relevant, helpful trainings/meetings on a regular basis, or provide foster parents with other resources for training. Include child placement workers and other agency staff as much as possible.
  9. Be responsive to foster parents. Encourage or implement a policy of returning calls within 24-hours. Have workers give their supervisor’s name and number on their outgoing voice mail, and update it to let callers know when they’ll be out of the office.
  10. Show your appreciation to foster parents: annual dinner, picnics, birthday cards, gift cards, holiday parties, Christmas presents, social events, etc. Do all you can to encourage child placement workers as well as licensing workers to attend the events.
  11. Survey foster parents annually on their needs and ideas.
  12. Provide opportunities to develop consistent rapport between foster parents and caseworkers.

References for this and other articles in this issue