In 2008, the Children's Bureau awarded eight 5-year grants for its Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in the Foster Care System grant cluster. One of those grants was given to Denver Human Services to plan and implement Denver's Village: Wrapping Families with Community Support. Other project partners include Fresh Start, Lowry Family Center, Sisters of Color, Denver Indian Family Resource Center, and the YMCA. Additionally Denver's Village works with multiple businesses and faith- and community-based organizations throughout Denver. The University Of Denver Graduate School Of Social Work is conducting the project evaluation.
Denver's Village has four primary components:
- Recruitment and retention. Denver's Village utilizes Community Based Recruitment Teams (CBRTs) to increase the number of resource families available for placement. The project divided Denver into four areas, with each having its own CBRT, and a fifth CBRT serves the Native American community throughout the city. A Community Outreach Worker (COW) coordinates each CBRT and serves as a liaison between the project and the community. The COWs work with families, community residents, faith-based and community organizations, and businesses to build partnerships, establish community and DHS supports for families, and develop recruitment and retention activities and events.
- Permanency and concurrent planning. The project has several initiatives to promote permanency and concurrent planning, including the following:
- Permanency-decision making (PDM) to help guide decision-making regarding the certification and approval of kinship care, foster, and adoptive homes for children who have been in out-of-home care for more than 90 days
- An expedited adoption project to address permanency needs for children in cases where termination of parental rights has occurred but legal permanency has not been completed
- Extreme recruitment efforts for children who are free for adoption, including "fosterware" parties and the distribution of fliers, bookmarks, and other items with the child's information
- Permanency roundtables to determine what actions are needed to achieve permanence for children, particularly those who have been in care for 12 months or longer
- Intensive family finding and support to help place children with relatives or kin
- Data. Denver's Village utilizes data that are available through existing systems to guide its approach, and it also has developed the Denver Child Placement Database to track current and potential resource families and help caseworkers manage their interactions with those families.
- Agency cultural shift. Denver's Village undertook several initiatives to achieve an agency cultural shift that supported improvement in the recruitment of resource families, the inclusion of resource families in workgroups and decision-making, and the agency's response to families who contact DHS.
Over the course of the project, DHS has become more comfortable with community members and organizations playing a crucial role in the recruitment of resource families. DHS had previously viewed recruitment as an internal activity with only occasional community assistance, but DHS now realizes that community organizations can successfully and independently conduct recruitment activities. Additionally, the COWs give community members, youth, resource families, and other organizations opportunities to take leadership roles, which helps build sustainability for the initiative.
Project staff believe that part of Denver's Village success is attributed to its trying to assist the communities as a whole (i.e., beyond just child welfare) rather than solely focusing on the recruitment of resource families. This assists the project in building trust within the community and strengthening its partnerships. It also helps prevent the need for out-of-home placements and has expanded resource family recruitment.
Reprinted from Children's Bureau Express, "Site Visit: Denver's Village" (https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov)