Written by Washington Foster Team
“Largely because of the opioid crisis, experts say, there are more children who need foster care, and not enough families to provide it.” — As Need Grows, States Try to Entice New Foster Parents, PEW
Across the country, agencies are struggling to find families to take care of a growing number of children entering foster care. It’s a problem that’s encouraging many states to think creatively about the ways new foster parents are recruited, licensed, and supported.
An article by The PEW Charitable Trust examines how states and agencies are working together to make foster parenting more accessible for a wider array of families. Here’s what they found:
New Recruitment Strategies
PEW notes foster care agencies have traditionally relied on more old-school methods of recruiting foster parents, like setting up booths at churches or renting out billboards.
But the urgent need for more foster care families demands that agencies cast a wider net and think more about how to support people in deciding to become a foster parent.
These new recruitment strategies include:
- Using digital advertising techniques to follow up with people who have searched online for foster parenting information
- Analyzing data to target specific geographic areas where foster care families are needed most and devoting more resources to recruitment in those areas
- Promoting public awareness initiatives, including vocal support from politicians and other public figures
In Washington State, agencies are reaching out to potential foster parents with online tools aimed at educating and supporting families who are interested in fostering.
“We need new and creative ways to recruit; a web-based approach is a way to reach the increasing number of families that search for questions online,” says Jill May, Executive Director at the Washington Association for Children & Families (WACF).
Part of that effort includes finding new ways to connect with specific types of people. “We need more families willing to care for sibling groups, people of color, and older youth,” May says.
Even with improved recruitment strategies, it takes a lot to turn an interested family into active foster parents. In most cases, it takes 3-6 months of training and licensing before a child is placed into a home. As a result, many interested families end up dropping out of the licensing process.
To reduce drop-out rates, agencies are finding ways to streamline licensing and support families better. From weekend licensing boot camps to 24/7 support lines, there are now more resources than ever to help foster parents make it through to placement, and beyond.
“Many child welfare advocates think the most effective recruiters are current foster parents who have had a positive experience — which means giving them plenty of support.” — PEW
Experienced foster parents are the best resources for those interested in becoming a foster parent, but not if they’ve had a tough time of it. That’s why states and agencies are doubling down on providing foster families with clear resources, community connections, and readily available support systems.
The goal is to create a system where foster parents feel fully supported from recruitment through licensing and placement, and during the child care process. “When you are licensed by a private agency you never have to feel alone,” says May.
By providing these resources, agencies and states are hoping to catch up with an influx of children entering into foster care. Foster parents who are well-supported and thoroughly educated have the tools to thrive as foster families. When that happens, children and their parents have the opportunity to thrive as well.
Find out what it takes to become a foster parent in Washington State. Check out our resource: Is Foster Parenting Right For You?