Foster parents and kinship caregivers are critical resources for the more than 400,000 children and youth in foster care. It is essential that the child welfare system identifies and implements effective, integrated approaches to recruiting, developing, and supporting foster parents and kinship caregivers in order to have an available pool of resource families that can meet the needs of children and youth in foster care. This includes preparing resource families to partner with child welfare agencies, children and youth, and birth families to help achieve permanency. By providing ongoing development and support to foster and kinship families, we increase caregivers' abilities to address each child's unique needs, improve placement stability, and strengthen resource family relationships with birth families, children and youth in foster care, and child welfare agencies.
The idea of actively developing and supporting resource families beginning with their first engagement and continuing throughout their involvement with the agency is a significant departure from the old approach of simply retaining families. This active development and support approach recognizes that resource families need ongoing development and support so they feel competent in caring for children and youth, accessing appropriate and high-quality services, advocating for their children's needs, and partnering with youth in advocating for their needs. Birth, foster, and kinship families; youth; communities; and child welfare and related professionals each have an important role to play in strengthening the ways in which the child welfare system recruits, engages, develops, and supports resource families as part of an overall approach to diligent recruitment.