On December 13, 2017, the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth held a congressional briefing to discuss recruiting and retaining quality foster parents. The briefing focused on CHAMPS – children need amazing parents.
The campaign promotes the need for state and local agencies to establish a new partnership between foster parents and child welfare agencies to ensure that children and families have the foster parents they deserve. As the number of children in foster care steadily increases in recent years, instability of foster parents can be a primary issue in addressing the sometimes complex needs of children and families involved with foster care.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) conducted a study in 2005 to explore retention for foster parenting, and they concluded that the average length of service for foster parenting was 8 to 14 months. The report attributed foster parents experience with the child welfare agencies and the placements of specific children in the homes as a contributing factor for length of service for fostering.
There are on-going reports of a lack of foster parents across the country. More than 190,000 children were in non-relative foster care at the end of FY 2016. Accounting for 45% of placements for children in the foster care system, foster parents are essential to child welfare agencies.
The panelist consisted of Rob Geen, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Akin Abioye, Foster Club, and Phyllis Stevens, Together as Adoptive Parents, Inc. (TAP) in Pennsylvania. They shared why there is a need to focus on retention of quality foster parents [and not recruitment] and their personal experiences related to this issue. Akin, alumni of the foster care system, remembered his time in foster care as being the most traumatic experience especially the first five years of entering the system. It was not until he was 13 years of age that he had a foster parent that advocated for him and broke a few rules, he stated. Phyllis, an adoptive and foster parent of 30 years, shared how she considered herself incapable of fostering Hunter, a six-month-old who had developmental issues as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome. If not for the assistance and support of his caseworker Shawn, Phyllis stated that she would have probably given up on Hunter, who was later diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. The caseworker provided Phyllis with the support and resources she needed to take care of Hunter.
The presentation emphasized that if Akin’s foster parent and Phyllis’ peers across the country had the tools, training and support they needed to parent their foster children, and it would be beneficial and cost-effective for the foster care system. Rob Geen indicated that CHAMPS, is not a foster care recruitment campaign or Annie E. Casey campaign, but a national call-to-action campaign.
The CHAMPS campaign goal is to partner with 20-25 states to improve the quality of the foster care system through policy reforms and partnering with foster parents. The first three state partners will be announced in January 2018 with Georgia and New York as states that have shown interest. According to Geen there is a goal of ten states by the end of 2018.
The CHAMPS Policy Playbook addresses state-level interventions but does not specifically address federal action. One point that was made is that there is limited data collection regarding the availability of foster homes and foster parents. Mr. Geen advocated for a new federal requirement for states to collect such data as a useful step.
For more information on CHAMPS, click here.