Social work researchers help connect children in foster care with families

About 112,000 children and youth in the U.S. foster care system are currently waiting for adoptive families. AdoptUSKids is a national project of the Children’s Bureau that supports child welfare systems and helps to connect children in foster care with families.

Ruth McRoy
Ruth McRoy

Ruth McRoy and her research team at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work have been working with AdoptUSKids since 2002, and have been evaluating this project since 2007. They, along with two other AdoptUSKids collaborators, have recently been awarded a US $27.85 million dollar grant from the Children’s Bureau for 2017-2022.

Susan Ayers Lopez, a research associate in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and a member of McRoy’s team, answered a few questions about this project.

What is AdoptUSKids?

AdoptUSKids is a multi-faceted project operated through a cooperative agreement between the Children’s Bureau and the Adoption Exchange Association, with the following collaborating partners: The Adoption Exchange, Northwest Resource Associates, North American Council on Adoptable Children, Spaulding for Children and The University of Texas at Austin.

The AdoptUSKids mission is to raise public awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families for children in the public child welfare system; and assist U.S. states, territories, and tribes to recruit, engage, develop and support foster and adoptive families.

How does AdoptUSKids work?

AdoptUSKids maintains a National Adoption and Foster Care Information Exchange System that raises public awareness and assists in recruiting foster and adoptive parents for children in foster care. Online and by phone, AdoptUSKids provides information and resources to families exploring foster care and adoption.

AdoptUSKids also maintains and manages the National Adoption Photolisting Website to list their eligible children and youth while incorporating quality improvement standards in photolisting. Families registered on the AdoptUSKids site can search the national photolisting of more than 5,000 children and youth in foster care and can inquire directly with the children’s caseworkers. Registered professionals use the AdoptUSKids site to search for prospective families for children on their caseloads and to access tools and resources about current best practices. Families and professionals can connect with a vibrant community through AdoptUSKids’ Facebook page and Twitter channels.

AdoptUSKids also provides limited constituency services to states, territories and tribes, including information, strategies and product development and dissemination. These services span the nation to assist in building agency capacity for the recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive families, primarily focused on models of best practices related to photolisting, recruitment media, customer service and adoptive and foster family support activities.

Additionally, to promote professional leadership development of minorities in the adoption field, AdoptUSKids will be conducting the Minority Professional Leadership Development program. Strong mentorship by seasoned adoption professionals will be provided for approximately 100 fellows.

In what other ways does AdoptUSKids raise awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families in the public child welfare system?

AdoptUSKids has developed a national adoption recruitment campaign to raise awareness of the need for families for children in foster care and to encourage their adoption. The latest series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) in this award-winning campaign encourages prospective parents to consider adopting older teens from foster care, as older youth have lower adoption rates than younger children, often waiting longer to be adopted. Using a humorous angle, the PSAs reassure prospective parents that even if they are not “perfect,” they can provide stability and security needed and deserved by older youth in foster care. While retaining the same tagline used for the campaign since 2004, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.,” for this year’s campaign AdoptUSKids worked with the author of the famous guide, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” with the twist “. . . a Teenager.”

What is the role of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work research team?

Our team — which consists of Ruth McRoy, Susan Ayers-Lopez, Lauren Alper, Patricia Cody, Noelle Suntheimer, and Michelle Steinley-Bumgarner — is conducting process and outcome evaluations using qualitative and quantitative methods to determine the effectiveness of program activities and implementation fidelity. Our team works collaboratively across all AdoptUSKids project components, providing data and analyses to assist with programming decisions and refinements. Findings from evaluation activities assist in creating links between evaluation data and the quality improvement of all services offered by AdoptUSKids.

Posted Feburary 22, 2018.