Working to transform the child welfare system.

This report reviews research and strategy literature related to foster parent recruitment and retention, looks at trends in recruitment and retention, and outlines Washington State’s policies and practices. The foster parent recruitment and retention literature review finds that: 1) “word-of-mouth” from satisfied caregivers is believed to be the most effective recruitment tool; 2) negative public perceptions, burdensome application processes, and poor agency responsiveness contribute to recruitment challenges; 3) targeted recruitment is more effective than general media approaches; 4) foster parents are motivated by altruism and/or a desire to adopt; 5) many foster parent applicants do not complete the process; and 6) a small percent of foster parents provide the majority of care. The trend data for Washington State indicates that:

  1. children in care has increased;
  2. the number of newly licensed homes has decreased and the number of kinship placements has increased;
  3. the demands on foster parents have increased;
  4. the greatest need is for foster parents of color;
  5. the pool of potential foster parents is affected by cost of living, maternal employment, child care, and boarding rates; and
  6. infants and adolescents likely present the greatest placement challenges.

Assessment of policies and practices in Washington State reveals:

  1. increased implementation of recruitment and retention coordination strategies;
  2. foster parent support is hampered by Department of Social and Health Services confidentiality policy;
  3.  there is substantial fragmentation within Children’s Administration and between Children’s Administration and private recruitment and retention contractors;
  4. the Division of Licensed Resources response to inquiries and applications sometimes is not timely or coordinated with recruitment efforts;
  5. foster parent licensing, training, and placement matching are not optimally aligned with adoption requirements; and
  6. Children’s Administration offices lack descriptive and need-based data regarding the children in need of placement and the supply of foster families.