2008 Jordan Institute
13, No. 3
Retention IS Recruitment
Our system demands a great deal from resource families. We want them to simultaneously play a variety of complex roles: reunification partner with the birth family, contributing member of the team of professionals serving the child and family, potential permanent family for the child if reunification is not possible, and loving caretaker for the child (Casey Family Programs, 2002). We want them to do everything from shared parenting to participating in child and family team meetings to taking the children to all their appointments.
Indeed, the surprising part of recruitment is not that we have trouble finding families, but that there are so many out there who feel called to come forward. But come forward they do. They make the tough decision to bring a child into their lives. They survive our stringent licensing process. They go to training. They take children into their homes.
And then, after all that, a great many of them leave. According to several studies, at least half of resource families quit within the first year of fostering (National Commission of Family Foster Care, 1991; Gibbs, 2005). The reason they most often give is not the difficulty of the child or challenges in their family life, but lack of support by the very system that worked so hard to recruit them.
How is this possible? More to the point, what can we do about it?
Our System’s Ambivalence
Societal values may also be a barrier. One foster care professional cited in the report puts it this way:
Other retention barriers identified by The Promise and the Paradox, which draws its conclusions from interviews with stakeholders in many states, include agencies’ failure to share adequate and necessary information with resource families due to unfounded concerns about confidentiality and the way resource families are treated during investigations of child maltreatment in their homes.
What Agencies Can Do
A good first step is to assess the situation in your agency. Conduct satisfaction surveys with your current resource families and exit interviews or surveys with those who leave to find out whether support is an issue. To support resource families The Promise and the Paradox suggests that agencies must also ensure:
The Promise and the Paradox can be found on the Casey Family Programs website at <http://www.casey.org>.