By Jeremy Kohomban and Jennifer Rodriguez
This week, state and national child advocates from across the aisle and the country, gathered in Washington, DC to discuss policy to strengthen foster parenting. Foster care is a vitally important safety net for some children who cannot remain safely with family because of suspected abuse or neglect.
Despite the critical importance of foster parents, including kin, to the overall success of that safety net, policy to strengthen foster parenting and support to foster parents have received only marginal attention from state and federal policymakers.
We aim to change that. As co-chairs to a new national campaign, CHAMPS (CHildren Need AMazing ParentS), we are working with deeply committed state and national policy experts to ensure bright futures for kids in foster care by promoting the highest quality foster parenting. With support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Brookings Institution and others, over the next five years, CHAMPS is launching 15 to 20 state campaigns to improve state policies.
While the problem is often framed as not enough families being interested in fostering, the data tell a different story. In fact, according to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 28 percent of Americans have considered becoming a foster parent. However, across the country, the real issue is retention and supporting quality parenting. Nearly half of our foster parents quit in their first year of fostering. They quit for many reasons, but primarily due to lack of respect, lack of support, poor communication with caseworkers, insufficient supports to address child’s needs and lack of say in the child’s well-being. They are the most important intervention in our foster care system, but are often treated like the least important member of the team. As a result, most States struggle to find and keep sufficient numbers of quality foster parents.
CHAMPS calls for creating a policy framework for improved partnership between foster parents and the child welfare agencies responsible for foster care. By improving policies, and the support we give these amazing families who step-up to be foster parents, we believe we can forge a stronger partnership that will help children heal and thrive. Foster parents will get the resources they need when they need them, and our hardworking caseworkers will also be better supported. Most importantly, policy that supports partnership and quality parenting will result in more stable placements for children while they’re in foster care, and will lead to more children leaving foster care to rejoin their birth families, or join a family through adoption or guardianship.
Over the next five years, CHAMPS will be initiating state campaigns with local partners to elevate the importance of foster parenting and recommend changes to improve policies. If you’re interested in joining our movement, please take the CHAMPS pledge to show your support. From better data, more research to more training and tools, there are concrete steps we can take to make a significant difference in the overall quality of foster parenting we provide.
Together, we can ensure that children in foster care receive the stable, supportive care from foster parents, that children need to heal and to thrive.
Dr. Jeremy Kohomban, President and CEO of the Children’s Village and Jennifer Rodriguez, J.D., Executive Director of the Youth Law Center are co-chairs for CHAMPS.