On Wednesday, May 11 the Congressional Coalition on Adoptions Institute (CCAI) along with Fostering Media Connections in conjunction with the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth hosted a Capitol Hill briefing, Recruiting Top-notch Caregivers and Foster Parents as a Pathway to Permanency.

Panelists included Daniel Heimpel, Fostering Media Connections, Dr. Sharon McDaniel, A Second Chance, Pennsylvania, Eugenia Saunders, kin caregiver Pennsylvania, Azzer, representing the voice of youth in foster care, Mrs. McBride, kin caregiver, Pennsylvania.  A second part of the discussion included, Becky Weichhand, CCAI, Elizabeth Wiebe, Christian Alliance for Orphans, Washington DC, Rhonda Miescke, Project 1.27, Colorado and Misty Martin, adoptive and foster parent, Colorado.

Much of the focus of the briefing dealt with the best strategies for the recruitment of foster and adoptive parents. There was a particular focus on the need to not just bring foster parents into the system but to retain parents through ongoing support and involvement.  Key messages included the significance of wraparound and support services for families that volunteer to be foster parents. There was also an emphasis on what was called a “triad” and fully involving and coordinating the caregiver, child and the parent.

The second panel discussion focused on a Colorado-based program that brought in the faith-based community.  Panelist discussed strategies to reach out to families through the church communities.  Key to these strategies was a clear understanding by participants of their roles and involvement with both the child and their families with an understanding of reunification and potential other permanency outcomes.  Critical to these efforts and common to the earlier discussion is the significance of paying close attention to support for the foster parents.  That is key to both new recruitment but also retention.  In the faith-based efforts, foster parents also receive important support by the church community, the larger community as well as child welfare agencies that can both assist in important wraparound services that may include child care, respite and emotional support.

Becky Weichhand presented information from a CCAI survey of parents.  In terms of the most significant characteristics for foster parents key elements included:  sense of humor, forgiveness and compassion, strong community relationships, good sense of self and enjoying children.  In regard to the biggest impediments societal views of child welfare and foster care, a lack of respite care for the parent, a lack of access or supply of resources, poor communication between the foster parent and agency and complex licensing and training requirements and laws.