A CHAMPS Guide on Foster Parent Recruitment and Retention: Strategies for Developing a Comprehensive Program



CHAMPS, which stands for Children Need Amazing Parents, is a national campaign to ensure bright futures for kids in foster care by promoting the highest quality parenting. The primary goal of CHAMPS is to drive improvements to foster parenting policies throughout the United States. In support of this goal, CHAMPS provides information and tools to encourage and assist decision makers in strengthening foster parenting in their communities. More information about CHAMPS is on the back cover.

There are pressing factors that make foster parent recruitment and retention an urgent issue nationally and in states. This year, 2019, marks the fifth consecutive year where the numbers of children in foster care are increasing. Parental substance use and the ongoing opioid crisis are having a major impact on the increasing numbers of children entering foster care around the country. In fact, over one-third of children entering foster care do so at least in part as a result of parental substance abuse. Ongoing news reports highlight persistent foster parent shortages and contributing to foster parent shortages is the high turnover rate among foster parents. Estimates show that between 30 and 50 percent of families quit foster parenting within the first year. What’s more, implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act seeks to curtail the inappropriate use of congregate care for children and places a new emphasis on the importance of family foster care. The good news is foster parents report that their greatest challenges are often dealing with child welfare practices and policies, not an unwillingness to parent children and youth. Therefore, by improving practice and policy we can better support the families who are our most important intervention.

Our hope is that this publication will contribute to state and tribal agency efforts to address challenges and achieve excellence in the recruitment, development, and support of foster parents, including relative — or kinship — caregivers. In particular, the release of this publication is timed so that it can serve as a timely resource to child welfare agencies that are in the process of developing new five-year Diligent Recruitment plans. This publication has several objectives:

1. Provide useful information and suggestions for innovative, promising approaches for inclusion in Diligent Recruitment plans.

2. Encourage agencies to go beyond writing a plan and spur new and improved programming, resulting in agency-wide prioritization of foster parenting.

3. Promote broad incorporation of the six key drivers of better outcomes for children and families in recruitment and retention policies and programs. These drivers were featured at a national convening on foster parenting hosted by CHAMPS and the Brookings Institution in January 2019.

4. Highlight evidence-based policy solutions featured in the CHAMPS Policy Playbook to strengthen foster parent recruitment, support and retention.