Approximately 3,000 children in New York State are eligible and waiting to be adopted. Of those children, about 1,500 (currently 1,050) do not have an identified adoption resource. Approximately 325 children freed for adoption have emotional, behavioral, and developmental challenges so serious that residential treatment is needed. On average, these children have been legally free for adoption for more than 7 years and in care more than 11 years.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) received a grant from the Children's Bureau to establish the program A Parent for Every Child (PFEC). Its goal is to find permanent families for at least 50 youth who are available for adoption.
The targeted group includes children who reside in a facility licensed or operated by:
- New York State (NYS) Office of Mental Health
- NYS Office of People with Developmental Disabilities
- OCFS juvenile justice facilities
The target group also includes youth residing in child welfare residential, or congregate, care who have a permanency goal other than adoption. PFEC will recruit a pool of families willing to adopt these children with special needs and provide training on their unique parenting requirements.
The site visit occurred in May 2010 at the New York City Regional Office of OCFS, the OCFS Central Office, and the Parsons Child & Family Center, a PFEC project partner site.
Specific action steps that were in the process of being implemented by PFEC staff were the following:
- Conduct a public awareness campaign to dispel misconceptions about the adoption of youth with disabilities
- Implement targeted recruiting to match these youth with resource families with the skills and commitment to meet their needs
- Develop specialized training for families without experience who are open to adopting children with disabilities
- Engage Adoption Navigatorsï¿½experienced adoptive parents who help potential adoptive parents navigate the system and overcome barriers
- Identify successful recruiting practices that will work for the target population
- Collaborate through a statewide partnership with private agencies to implement promising practices such as child-specific permanency recruitment through family search and engagement, and activities and media that feature waiting children
One highlight of the project is the development of Adoption Chronicles, which are video interviews that provide prospective parents with indepth profiles of children. Another feature of the project is the Child Survey and Database, which facilitates the staff's ability to capture data that measure PFEC's effects on intervention and control group children and youth. The database also functions as a case management tool (e.g., contacts, recruitment strategies, milestones, child characteristics, and needs).
Among the challenges the State staff experienced are separating State agency and project responsibilities, the poor economy and staff layoffs, agency closures, lack of continuing care, and incomplete files for children.
At the time of the site visit, after the first year planning period, the project experienced several successes:
- Identification of resource families for 12 children
- Development of data collection instruments
- Significant data cleanup of New York State's Child Care Review System, which tracks children in foster car
- Training for all PFEC Permanency Specialists on:
- National Resource Center for Adoption's "Adoption Competency Curriculum"
- Family search and engagement from the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connection
- Family finding by Kevin Campbell
- Improvements in making the children and youth in the target population a priority on agency agendas
- Increased awareness of the need for wraparound, adoption-competent, post adoption services
Reprinted from Children's Bureau Express, "Site Visit: A Parent for Every Child (PFEC)" (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/).