Faced with increases in out-of-home placements and stagnant numbers of resource families, the Commonwealth of Kentucky is utilizing a 2008 Children's Bureau grant to recruit and approve more resource parents in the hopes of achieving timely permanency for children in foster care. The funded project, Making Appropriate and Timely Connections for Children (MATCH), uses a host of innovative outreach tools, including community intervention, listserv and website development, press outreach, and other strategies.
Kentucky identified a problem in the disconnect between the number of families that inquire about and the number of families approved as resource families. In 2007, more than 3,600 families expressed interest in becoming resource families, yet only 446 were approved—a mere 12 percent. As of May 2008, there were 7,622 children in out-of-home care and only 2,206 resource homes. Compounded, these issues lengthen the stay of children in the foster care system.
Project MATCH–executed in the Eastern Mountain, Southern Bluegrass, Lakes, and Two Rivers regions–increases its pool of resource parents through five approaches:
- Targeted and Child Specific Recruitment mobilizes paid foster parents to perform a range of community intervention activities to raise awareness about the need for resource families and generate interest.
- Customer Service efforts are focused on centralized intake at Murray State University for interested families.
- Respite Provided by Waiting Families allows families awaiting approval to remain engaged in the process by providing respite care. This tactic also helps to ease waiting families into full-time care for children with special needs and potentially broadens their acceptance scale.
- Mix and Match Sessions help identify barriers and develop strategies for overcoming barriers to permanency. These quarterly meetings comprise public and private partners as well as resource parents and function as peer consulting groups.
- Collaboratively Review Permanency Data with the courts and Kentucky's central office in order to identify barriers to permanency and devise plans to overcome challenges.
In addition to the primary goal of increasing the pool of resource parents, Project MATCH also aims to increase the effectiveness in locating and using kinship care, fully integrating concurrent planning into permanency planning, and increasing inter- and intra-agency communication among public, private, and community stakeholders. In working toward these goals, project staff have encountered some challenges, including the problem of dealing with a large number of intervention strategies, economic difficulties including budget cuts, and data sharing.
Project MATCH outcomes vary by region, but highlights include:
- The time from inquiry to approval in the Eastern Mountain Region decreased from an average 15.22 months for the period from October 2009 to March 2010 to an average 5.43 months for the period from October 2010 to March 2011.
- The percentage of siblings separated in the Southern Bluegrass Region decreased from 36.52 percent in September 2009 to 26.6 percent in March 2011.
- The percentage of siblings separated in the Two Rivers Region decreased from 42.29 percent in September 2009 to 35.7 percent in March 2011.
Outreach methods and tools used by Project MATCH can be viewed on the AdoptUSKids website:
Reprinted from Children's Bureau Express, "Site Visit: Kentucky's Diligent Recruitment MATCH Project" (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov).