NACAC believes that every child and youth has a right to a permanent family, and that states, provinces, counties, tribes, and placing agencies have a responsibility to seek permanent families for all children and youth, including adolescents who will not return to their birth families. Recruitment efforts should include seeking kin and foster parents first, but in some cases may require the recruitment of other possible families. Such recruitment efforts should include both targeted recruitment and child-specific recruitment.
NACAC strongly supports targeted recruitment to increase the pool of families most likely to adopt foster children and youth who have special needs. Targeted recruitment should focus on prospective adoptive parents who reflect the racial and ethnic background of waiting children and youth (see position statement on race and ethnic background), as well as communities who have historically stepped forward to meet the specific needs of foster children and youth, including the faith community and the gay and lesbian community.
NACAC believes that states and provinces should require the use of child-specific recruitment (developing a plan for a particular child or youth based on his or her background) for every child, youth, and young adult who has been or is in the foster care system. Prior to recruitment efforts, a child or youth should be carefully prepared, informed, and involved in a developmentally appropriate manner. While a family is being sought, it is essential that the child or youth be involved in his or her recruitment efforts and receive regular updates about the recruitment efforts being used. The child or youth deserves the support of caseworkers, therapists, and foster parents during this vulnerable time.
Child-specific recruitment should always include:
- involving the child or youth in recruitment activities and plans
- searching diligently for relatives, both maternal and paternal
- reviewing the child or youth’s case history to search for neighbors, caregivers, teachers, and other important adults (including professionals who have worked with the child or youth in their professional capacity) who may be positive adoptive resources for the child or youth
- making every effort to place siblings together
All avenues of child-specific recruitment should be explored for a child or youth, as long as each recruitment effort is in the child or youth’s best interests. As recruitment plans are developed, placing agencies must work with children and youth so that they understand the value of a permanent family and the need for a variety of recruitment activities. Children and youth should have the right to veto particular options if it is not in their best interests. If a child or youth objects to certain recruitment activities, however, recruiters should explore with the child or youth flexible recruitment avenues to allay his or her concerns.
Child-specific recruitment may include publicity in venues such as televised waiting child features, newspaper columns, Internet sites, video shows, and photolisting books. When using such strategies, NACAC believes:
- Recruiters should use a high-quality photograph of the child or youth and update it regularly as the child or youth grows.
- Public recruitment efforts should be strength based. Waiting children and youth are best served when accurate, personalized, respectful, and positive information about them is publicized for prospective adoptive parents. Descriptions should routinely discuss children’s personalities, hobbies, talents, likes, and dislikes. If children are eligible for adoption subsidies or need to be adopted with siblings, this should always be included.
NACAC also believes it is imperative that certain protections are built in to all public recruitment efforts:
- Public descriptions never merit full disclosure. The child or youth’s last name, the name of the foster family or where the child or youth lives should never be disclosed in photolisting descriptions.
- Information must be honestly disclosed, but information-sharing is a process that occurs over time. The goal is to introduce the child or youth, not tell his or her entire story.
- Children’s health histories, educational abilities, and medical conditions should be included in child descriptions only after the child’s worker or guardian has explained the implications to the child or youth at his or her level of understanding. Older children and youth should have the right to grant consent to the release of this type of information. Medical conditions should be included only if they are confirmed diagnoses and are fully defined in the description. This more detailed information should be released to prospective parents as they move forward to adopt a particular child or youth.