UCLA Luskin Report on Recruiting Homes for Foster Children The report focuses on the dual foster care recruitment system used to develop resource families

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has released a report on their analysis of the current process used to recruit and train new families for fostering and adopting children.  These families are referred to as “resource families.”  The report focuses on the dual foster care recruitment system used to develop resource families, one being the system used by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the other being the system used by private state-licensed foster family agencies (FFAs).  By and large, the families recruited by DCFS become independent state-licensed foster homes, while those recruited by FFAs become certified foster homes providing care under the FFA’s management.  Patricia Curry, a Commissioner on the Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families, remarks, “This report comes at a crucial time when L.A County is facing a serious shortage of foster homes. Hopefully we can take some of the key findings in the report and use them to guide us in developing a strategy for increasing the number of caring foster parents for children in the child welfare system.”

Seventeen of the 46 FFAs contracted by Los Angeles County agreed to participate in the study, along with DCFS managers involved in the resource family recruitment and training process.  The researchers used surveys and interviews of FFA and DCFS managers to gather their primary data.  Although many families expressed initial interest in participating, only two families fully participated, thus their insights were helpful, but could not be considered representative.  The data collection and analysis approaches were designed to describe each of the major points of the recruitment process and to document the impact of each part of the dual system, with emphasis on identifying areas of need and potential solutions.  The report notes positive aspects of the dual approaches, including the breadth of child-specific recruitment conducted by the County that are consistent with recruitment strategies recommended nationally and implemented in many counties and states.  These approaches include the weekly Wednesday’s Child TV feature on Fox 11 and the traveling and online Heart Gallery LA photo exhibits of children in foster care waiting for adoptive homes.  Like DCFS, FFAs are involved in a number of media campaigns (including television, radio, print and internet) to attract new resource families.  The report also highlights challenges presented by the dual system, including inconsistent information given to resource families regarding approval requirements and benefits.  According to the UCLA researchers, “The Resource Family Recruitment report highlights that there are many opportunities to overcome the challenges of the dual foster care recruitment system, including increased coordination and collaboration among agencies, more consistent quality foster parent training standards, and the creation of information systems capable of identifying and driving system improvements.”

The report was made possible through the financial support of the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation. “Our foundation is committed to supporting LA County and all its partners in ensuring that every child who enters foster care can look forward to being placed with a loving and supportive caregiver,” noted Winnie Wechsler, the foundation’s executive director, “UCLA Luskin School’s report offers some concrete proposals to help ensure that happens.”

Along with helpful charts and graphs representing the effectiveness of outreach efforts, the level of need for foster homes and the demographics of prospective resource parents, the report includes a number of recommendations related to each stage of becoming a resource parent (such as, recruitment, training, assessment and approval).  Recommendations include exploring the use of online foster parent orientation, increasing transparency of the assessment and approval process, and improving interagency communication and collaboration.  Philip Browning, Director of DCFS, gives the report positive reviews, stating, “I am thankful to the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation for funding this report and to the UCLA researchers for their insights and recommendations, which will help us as we move forward with our FFAs to recruit even more high quality families to meet the needs of the children we both serve.”

The full report can be found here.

The Executive Summary can be found at: http://lacdcfs.org/aboutus/documents/ResourceFamilyRecruitment_LAC_Executive_Summary.pdf

For additional information, please contact:
Armand Montiel or Neil Zanville, DCFS Public Affairs
(213) 351-5886
amontiel@dcfs.lacounty.gov or zanvin@dcfs.lacounty.gov

Dr. Todd Franke, Professor
Department of Social Welfare
UCLA – Luskin School of Public Affairs
tfranke@ucla.edu

Dr. Robert Blagg, Director of Evaluation
University Consortium for Children & Families (UCCF)
UCLA – Luskin School of Public Affairs
rblagg@luskin.ucla.edu

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