On December 15th the CHAMPS (Children Need Amazing Parents) initiative held a discussion concerning the conclusion of the five-year program which began in 2017. Hope Cooper facilitated a final informational session discussing findings and lessons learned during the program.

Jeremy Kohomban (President and CEO of Children’s Village and Co-chair of CHAMPS) stated that CHAMPS had the desire for every child in out-of-home care to have a strong family. The program had the core mission to ensure that children and youth experience kin and family supported environments that develop belonging during placement and to prioritize this idea during placement.

Other panelists included Crystal Charles (Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy), Lindsay Gilchrist (CHAMPS Colorado), Marissa Sanders (WV Foster Adoptive & Kinship Parents Network), and Amy Rose (Voices for Vermont’s Children) who shared various experiences and findings due to the vital work that CHAMPS conducted as well as enabled in the future. These experiences ranged from coast to coast and offered incredible insight to not only the differences in foster and kinship care from state to state, but also some of the universal needs shared across the country.

Additional panelists Arnold Eby (National Foster Parent Association), Mary Boo (Executive Director at North American Council on Adoptable Children), Jaia Lent (Deputy Executive Director for Generations United), Jennifer Rodriguez (Executive Director at Youth Law Center and CHAMPS Co-chair) also discussed the federal scope of the CHAMPS program. A key takeaway shared were findings on how to be effective with policy makers and with other organizations which included diversity in recruitment as well as data analytics in diversity of adoptive parents. Many presenters echoed the importance of foster care and kinship care programs to not only be aware of each other, but to interact with one another ensuring both efficiency and effectiveness while avoiding any one area becoming a silo. There was also a crucial conversation regarding the importance of strengthening resources as youth now face new challenges while the foster care system is trying to catch up to the challenges that have been around for many years. A vital call to action came to include both parent and child inclusion in the decision-making process at every level of the foster care system.

The conversation closed with the sharing of significant resources from both the state and federal advocates. More information can be found on the CHAMPS website.

By Chris Bennett, Policy Intern