According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services, of the over 400,000 U.S.children are currently in foster care, and about 25% will be there for more than three years. Many never find homes at all. But a new kind of foster care program may be changing this. TIME magazine..
recently did a piece on St. Louis based foster care agency that “might pave the way to revolutionalize the foster care system in America.”
It is the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, Extreme Recruitment, which specializes in finding homes for the toughest foster kids—kids older than 10, kids with special needs, sibling groups, and African Americans.
They not only have a placement rate of 70% but find homes for kids in a fraction of the time these kinds of placements usually take. How? They have a coordination team that includes “detectives” who track down potential adoptive relatives. The team also includes a social worker, case worker, an educational advocate, therapist, and court-appointed special advocate. These professionals have traditionally been involved in the placement of foster kids, but have not coordinated so well. Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition makes team coordination a required part of the process.
But the detectives are the most interesting innovation. The organization believes that having contact with family is critical to a child’s identity, so tries to find family and extended family members first. And in many cases, there is a family member who ends up taking the child.
Not all cases end in “family” adoption, but the organization does not see this as a failure. “Ideally the child still develops relationships with family members without them living with them, and receives the family’s blessing for nonkinship adoption, thereby surmounting the uneasiness about disloyalty that can cause teens in particular to claim they don’t want to be adopted.”
As someone who decided she does not want to become a parent, learning about this kind of foster program gave me pause. What if one of the detectives knocked on my door one day and told me I had a relative I did not know about that was in foster care and needed a home? I would likely want to meet the child, but would I take him/her if I were the only family that could?
Of course it would depend on a number of factors, but I can’t say I would outright say “no” to parenthood under these conditions. Now, more than likely, I would become what I am to my godchildren—the kid’s loving, wacky aunt —and I’d ensure the child went to the right kinship or nonkinship home. But given the situation, maybe never say never?
What do you imagine you would do if that knock came to your door?