The Administration for Children and Families has been reaching out to governors to ask them to commit to being All In for the Foster Adoption Challenge. These states have responded to the first wave of ACF engagement and we look forward to many other states coming on board in the coming months!
We appreciate the good work and commitment to permanency for children and youth in foster care in your state!
- Alabama – Governor Kay Ivey
- Arkansas – Governor Asa Hutchinson
- Arizona – Governor Doug Ducey
- Colorado – Governor Jared Polis
- Delaware – Governor John Carney
- Florida – Governor Ron DeSantis
- Georgia – Governor Brian Kemp
- Idaho – Governor Brad Little
- Indiana – Governor Eric Holcomb
- Iowa – Governor Kim Reynolds
- Kansas – Governor Laura Kelly
- Kentucky – Governor Andy Beshear
- Louisiana – Governor John Bel Edwards
- Minnesota – Governor Tim Walz
- Mississippi – Governor Tate Reeves
- Missouri – Governor Michael Parson
- Montana – Governor Steve Bullock
- Nebraska – Governor Pete Ricketts
- New Hampshire – Governor Chris Sununu
- New Jersey – Governor Phil Murphy
- New York – Governor Andrew Cuomo
- North Carolina – Governor Roy Cooper
- Ohio – Governor Mike DeWine
- Oklahoma – Governor Kevin Stitt
- Oregon – Governor Kate Brown
- Pennsylvania – Governor Tom Wolf
- Puerto Rico – Wanda Vázquez Garced
- Rhode Island – Governor Gina Raimondo
- South Dakota – Governor Kristi Noem
- Tennessee – Governor Bill Lee
- Texas – Governor Greg Abbott
- Utah – Governor Gary Herbert
- Virginia – Governor Ralph Northam
- West Virginia – Governor Jim Justice
Governors are supporting the All-In Foster Adoption Challenge in the following ways:
- Directing efforts toward their state's portion of the 122,000 youth across the nation waiting for permanency
- Working with courts to expedite the adoptions of children and youth who are already placed in their preadoptive home
- Speaking about the need to find permanency for waiting children and youth in their speeches across their state to raise awareness and encourage adoptions
- Working with community partners to make permanency a reality for youth in foster care in their state
- Addressing the needs of older youth in their states by seeking out permanent, adoptive homes or mentoring supports that provide permanent connections
Alabama busts through barriers to secure permanency in the midst of COVID-19
A new adoptive family in Alabama, finalized June 11, 2020.
Another successful Alabama adoption!
One of the many forever families created through adoption in Alabama
The state of Alabama has been working hard to ensure that no child has to wait any longer for their adoption to be finalized just because of COVID-19 restrictions. The state has used Zoom calls and video conferencing to assist with preplacement discussions and other conferences. Due to concerns with air travel, one of their adoption consultants drove children from Alabama to South Carolina in order to place them in their adoptive home! Adoption consultants have been meeting with children and foster parents in the outdoors in order to maintain social distancing, and reports from the consultants and parents indicate these visits have still been helpful to ensure the well-being needs of the children and their families. In addition, preadoptive parents have been able to have weekend visits with the children they are hoping to call their own very soon. While we recognize the importance of ensuring everyone’s safety during COVID-19, we applaud the efforts that Alabama is making to be All In by busting barriers in order to safely achieve permanency and well-being for their children. See other efforts made by Alabama in partnership with the courts here.
Governor Ducey helps waiting children find forever families
Governor Ducey greets children at the gallery
Governor and Mrs. Ducey meeting waiting children
Governor and Mrs. Ducey with a sibling group waiting for adoption
In November 2019, Governor Doug Ducey, Mrs. Ducey, and local media attended a Children’s Heart Gallery photoshoot, which allowed for added exposure of this event to the general public. Governor and Mrs. Ducey spent time with a sibling group of three and acted as guides for the children during this event. Thank you, Governor Ducey for being All In for waiting kids!
Arizona media partnership helps find permanent homes
In November 2019, local media outlets began sharing slideshows of children currently available for adoption on the Children’s Heart Gallery. This collaboration between the media and the Arizona Department of Child Safety has led to an increase in inquiries through the Children’s Heart Gallery from an average of 200 to 300 per month to even 600 per month. We applaud the collaborative efforts of the Department of Child Safety in working to secure forever families for their waiting children!
Arkansas Partner Project Is Promoting Adoption
Forging meaningful partnerships has long been a priority for the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Those partnerships have been especially important during the pandemic. Adoption partner Project Zero has remained committed to permanency throughout.
Project Zero has a goal of having zero children in foster care waiting for adoption.
They do this by:
- Raising awareness through the Arkansas Heart Gallery and short films featuring waiting children.
- Building hope in waiting children through monthly events.
- Connecting waiting children with the right forever family through “connection” events.
Project Zero’s in-person connection events are paused during the pandemic, so Project Zero and DCFS knew they needed to come up with a creative way to continue building connections and matching children with families.
In June 2020, they launched Zooming for Zero, a weekly series of Zoom meetings to highlight children waiting to be adopted and families hoping to adopt. These meetings virtually connect waiting children with adoptive families, recreating the beauty and humanity of Project Zero connection events.
Zooming for Zero is hosted by DCFS Director Mischa Martin and Project Zero Executive Director Christie Erwin. Each week, DCFS staff and adoptive families join Zooming for Zero to discuss children waiting to be adopted and the adoption process. Children are highlighted by sharing photos, short films, and conversations with staff about the children's strengths and struggles.
Another benefit of Zooming for Zero is allowing prospective adoptive families to come "on camera" to share about themselves. This allows staff to get to know more about a family's personality than they could learn from their paperwork. Staff note that it helps them when they’re selecting possible families for waiting children.
Each week, multiple inquiries on highlighted children come in due to Zooming for Zero. Adoptive families are being contacted by staff after "meeting" them on the Zoom, and children have been placed as a result.
Zooming for Zero's impact can be seen in the Swilley family's story. Jeremy and Courtney Swilley agreed to join the Zoom and share about their family. Their story caught the attention of a staffer on the Zoom call, and the next day they were contacted by this staffer about a sibling group. The children were placed with the Swilleys and the new family is doing well.
One round of Zooming for Zero has already been completed. The second round is underway and will finish by Thanksgiving. Zooming for Zero will continue into 2021 as well.
Los Angeles takes an All In approach to foster care partners
Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson and Bobby Cagle (director, Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services) in the county call center.
Bobby Cagle, director of the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), welcomed Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson to the Los Angeles DCFS office to discuss her All-In Foster Adoption Challenge. Assistant Secretary Johnson took a tour of the DCFS call center and met with staff and child welfare caseworkers to understand the unique challenges facing the city and county of Los Angeles. We appreciate the dedication of the staff and leadership in Los Angeles County to be All In for children and families!
Governor Brian Kemp welcomes Assistant Secretary Johnson to Georgia
Assistant Secretary Lynn A. Johnson and Governor Brian Kemp
Governor Brian Kemp and his staff met with Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson as part of her All-In Foster Adoption Challenge to discuss their efforts in prevention and permanency. We are excited about all that Georgia has planned for achieving positive outcomes for children and families!
Kentucky media initiative helps recruit and retain resource families who support positive outcomes for children
During Foster Parent Appreciation Month in May and Reunification Month in June, the Kentucky Department of Community Based Services spotlights resource families and reunification on various media platforms. Most spotlights are from the perspective of the resource parent, like the one featured below, which Kentucky posted on their agency Facebook page. These spotlights support recruitment and retention of resource families but also encourage working in partnership with birth families and achieving timely permanency, either through reunification or adoption. View a spotlight about a resource family who provided a safe adoptive home for a toddler while also preserving his connection with his birth mother. We applaud Kentucky’s efforts in utilizing resource families as a support to families and in achieving permanency for children in a way that supports child well-being!
Foster Parents on Reunification: Matt and Wendy Westerfield, the Lakes Service Region - "A Love Like No Other"
”Foster Care. It was never something we ever saw ourselves a part of. We actually wanted to adopt. We have three biological children but have always wanted to be a family with four kids. So we decided to go that route. We started all the adoption process: home study, paperwork, background checks, lawyer feeds, adoption agency fees, Heartbreak when we weren’t chosen, Heartbreak when we were chosen, but for different reasons it also feel through, financial stress because we had used a lot of our savings.
So we thought, why don’t we attempt to adopt through foster care? So we started the process, attended the trainings and were certified! We had no idea what were getting into be were so exited to see our family grow. We got a call soon after our certification. A baby girl. Our family was so excited, we rushed to get things ready and then, bam, a sweet beautiful baby was in our arms. We prayed over her, loved her, our family connected in a way I didn’t was possible, but then the next day came. They had found a family member to love her, so we watched that sweet baby girl go, and our whole family bawled like babies. You see, I never knew you could love someone that wasn’t your biological family so quickly, but we did. We loved her with every ounce of our being.
Now we waited again, I remember crying because I wanted to love a little one so badly. Two months after out first placement, we got another call. This time a baby boy. We did it all again! We rushed to get things ready and again our home was filled with the sweet sounds of a little one. Boy, how we loved this sweet boy. He fit right in. Our family bonded, we worked together, we loved him like he was ours. We watched him grow, we saw his milestones. Life was so wonderful.
I remember the first time I met his mom. She was quiet. She was kind, She was open and honest about her life – the good, the bad, the ugly, the hard. My heart hurt for her. You see, before I met her I had a negative view of birth parents whose kids were in foster care. But after meeting her and getting to know her, that changed. I began to love her, to want to support her, to build a relationship with her, to see her succeed, to encourage her and tell her she was worth something because we had something in common. We both loved her little boy!
The time came for our sweet boy to go home with his mommy. Whew, that was so hard. That day, I remember holding him, rocking him, praying over him, singing to him, watching him laugh and smile at me. I took a video after video because I didn’t want to forget that sweet face. When he drove off, our family came together and cried. We laughed at the fun things that we experienced. We talked about how much our lives had changed for the better because of him.
Now, he has been gone for seven months! I miss him daily. I miss his smiles and giggles, they could brighten anyone’s day BUT we are so thankful! Because of the relationship I had built with his mom, we are still able to see him, we get to have him over for sleepovers, we get to bring him on special family outings, we get pictures and videos of his milestone. You see, we are both his family, one of us is biological and one is just built in.
I never knew how hard yet amazing foster care would be. People say, “But how do you not get attached?” Guess what? You do get attached, you do love so hard, you do cry, but you also laugh. This is a journey I’m so thankful our family is on. I never want a family to experience hurt and pain, but when that happens, I’m glad that our family can be a small encouragement, joy, light, and safe place of love for anyone who enters it. Whether it be the kiddos we get or their families. Reunification is so beautiful! I have loved watching our sweet boy’s mom thrive. I’m proud of her. I want to be a support and encourager to her so that she can be the best mom. So that she knows there are people rooting for her, loving her and loving her family.”
New Mexico finds creative ways recruit adoptive families
One of New Mexico’s forever families
States across the country are adopting new and creative ways to do their work under COVID-19 restrictions. New Mexico recently used Zoom and PowerPoint to hold a recruitment event in one of their regions in order to share the stories of waiting children with licensed foster families who were interested in being adoptive resources. The event included a brief profile of each child, along with testimony from each of the children’s caseworkers speaking about the respective child. Testimonies of youth who have been adopted were also shared, along with a story about a family whose journey started out as fostering but ended in adoption. The event was well received, and the region came away with 26 new inquiries on waiting children! New Mexico is looking to replicate these efforts in other regions across their state. We applaud the All In efforts of New Mexico to implement creative recruitment efforts to find families for their waiting children and youth!
Governor Kate Brown is All In working with public/private partnerships to help oregon’s children in foster care
Ben Sand (chief executive officer, The Contingent), Governor Kate Brown, Assistant Secretary Lynn A. Johnson, Brooke Gray (director, Mobilization, The Contingent), and Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer
Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson and Fariborz Pakseresht (director, Oregon Department of Human Services)
Assistant Secretary Johnson met with Governor Kate Brown, State Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer, and State Senator Sara Gelser to discuss the All-In Foster Adoption Challenge. Governor Brown has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Assistant Secretary’s challenge and, along with Senator Gelser and Representative Keny-Guyer, is working hard to introduce legislation centered on foster adoption issues. The Contingent, a nonprofit group providing various ways for Oregonians to support children in foster care and the child welfare workforce, is partnering with the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) in foster care training and placement. Oregon's director of DHS, Fariborz Pakseresht, has welcomed the innovation that the public/private partnership with The Contingent has brought to the state. We applaud the collaborative efforts happening in Oregon!
Pennsylvania Governor’s Office welcomes Assistant Secretary Johnson
Meeting with Governor’s policy and human services staff at the Pennsylvania State Capitol
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s office gave Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson a warm welcome to Harrisburg as she met with the Governor’s policy, child welfare, juvenile justice, and child advocacy representatives. Deputy Assistant Secretary Jon Rubin of Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services, along with Deputy Director Tara Piechowicz of the Governor's Policy and Planning Office, led the discussions on various state initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for children and families in the state. We appreciate Pennsylvania’s commitment to being all in for children and families in their state!
Local county office in Pennsylvania works hard to put families first
Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson on a tour of the Dauphin County Children and Youth Office
The Dauphin County Office of Child Welfare in Pennsylvania welcomed Assistant Secretary Johnson to tour their facilities. The county's dedication and commitment to putting families first is apparent in the programs and services it offers its citizens. Thank you, Dauphin County!
Adoptive families in Puerto Rico play a critical role in recruitment and support
One of Puerto Rico’s forever families
The Puerto Rico Department of Family Affairs created a support group for adoptive parents waiting for the adoption process. The adoption unit also worked on an advertising campaign to promote adoptions in Puerto Rico, especially for older children. By combining both initiatives, adoptive parents have been instrumental in providing needed support to other adoptive parents and promoting adoption for older children and youth. The support group works hand in hand with the child welfare agency and its adoption unit, and their work hasn’t stopped, even during the pandemic. We appreciate the efforts of adoptive parents in Puerto Rico to not only create a valuable network of support for parents but to promote adoption for waiting children and youth!