2011 Jordan Institute
16, No. 3
How Do You Contribute to Your Agency's Adoption Efforts?
Everyone in child welfare, regardless of their area of concentration or expertise, influences permanency outcomes. As you read this article, consider how many of the statements apply to you and how you can strengthen what you do to benefit children who proceed to adoption.
“I embrace concurrent planning.”
Concurrent planning is not easy. It requires us to envision two different outcomes. On the one hand, we maintain a strengths-based approach with parents, identifying and building on their strengths and support system to try to help them successfully care for their children. On the other, we must ask parents to consider that they might not be reunified, and to help us identify other potential caregivers for their children.
One of the keys to concurrent planning is sharing information up front with parents. See the box below for questions to help you assess whether you are providing parents with the information they need. We show we value parents when we anticipate and provide the information that helps engage them in the planning process.
Concurrent planning is also about gathering information from other sources and always keeping an alternative permanency plan on our radar. See the box below for a snapshot of how different people in child welfare can contribute to concurrent planning.
“I involve families in meaningful ways.”
If parents are reluctant to include others in planning, explain why this is important. If they are resistant, continue to diplomatically revisit the subject.
Broadening the pool of potential placements early on for a child doesn’t guarantee adoption down the road, but it gives those who are close to the child and family an opportunity to consider what commitment they are willing to make.
Encourage parents, kin, foster parents, and youth to contribute photos, messages, and other mementos to the child’s lifebook. Seeing a photo in their lifebook may help young people think of individuals who should be included in the pool of possible adoptive families.
Agencies can also demonstrate the importance of birth families by involving them on committees, seeking their input on policies and procedures, and engaging them for training and other staff development and community education efforts.
“I make sure records are complete and
I document children’s significant supports.”
Recordkeeping is also key in legally clearing children for adoption. Intake workers, CPS workers, and others play an important role in finding out who is legally responsible for the child. They also help set the tone: the relationship a birth parent has with agency staff and foster parents often has a big influence on how smoothly the process of relinquishment or termination of parental rights proceeds.
Extended family and tribal connections are also critical to document. Federal law requires agencies to ask whether a child is a member of, or eligible to be a member of, an American Indian tribe. Many tribes have strong formal and informal support systems that can facilitate timely permanence through reunification or kin placements. If someone in a tribe can legally step forward as family for the child, we need to know as early as possible. It can be heartbreaking and complicated for everyone when tribal connections are discovered just before adoption finalization.
“I use social networking to support relative notification and adoptive parent recruitment.”
Social media can be an effective way to share adoption stories and highlight your agency’s need for adoptive families, as well as providing “a place to listen, build community, and exchange tips, ideas, and encouragement.” (AdoptUsKids, 2011). A group of public DSS agencies in the eastern part of the state has created a joint Facebook page for their foster and adoptive parent support program. The page is used to post information about upcoming events and trainings, and is a forum where current and potential resource families can network.
AdoptUsKids found that one common barrier to using social media for adoption efforts is staff’s lack of comfort or skill in using it. If you have the skills to show others how to use these tools, or are helping your agency communicate through social media, then you are a resource for your agency’s adoption efforts. For ideas and suggestions on this topic visit <http://tinyurl.com/42e43ob>.
Of course, social networking also comes with challenges, so be sure to explore the cons as well as the pros before you make social networking part of child welfare practice. These are explored by many of the articles in the 2011 issue of the publication CW3600, which can be found at <http://cehd.umn.edu/ssw/cascw>.