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Landscape Analysis of Recruitment of Resource Families for Children Ages 0-5 in Los Angeles County

Publication date: 
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

As has been documented by the County, external stakeholders and others, there is a crisis in the foster care system in Los Angeles County. There are simply not enough suitable placements - generally called foster homes - for children who are temporarily removed from their birth-parents for their safety. 
LA County is home to more than 35,000 children and families receiving monthly services from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). While more than 14,000 of these children require out-of-home placement, the number of homes available for placement has declined by almost half in recent years. 

There has been further stress on the system with the implementation of the state mandated Continuum of Care Reform. Within this context, in April 2017 First 5 LA and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation brought together over two dozen public and private partners that lead, oversee, manage, fund, and support LA County's child welfare system to discuss and examine the question: is there a collective way to address the enduring and pervasive need to recruit, support, and retain resource parents to house the thousands of children in LA County needing placement? 

The partners include DCFS, Children's Deputies from the offices of the LA County Board of Supervisors, the County Center for Strategic Public-Private Partnerships, the County Commission for Children and Families, private philanthropy, non-profits, and consultants. The list of participants was not exhaustive but instead a cross-section of thought leaders and service providers that could help shape a framework for addressing the recruitment and retention of foster families, also called resource families. 

A first meeting concluded with a call for a landscape analysis describing the issues, key stakeholders, environment, and efforts underway, as well as an assessment of what has worked locally and nationally, and how those efforts could be further explored in LA County. With the assistance of DCFS, the group also sharply focused the scope to address (1) recruitment, and (2) resource parents for children Oto 5. This population was specifically identified by DCFS as high need and, from the data, we know that over 40% of the children in out-of-home placements are age 0 to 5. Further, we know that healthy brain development is linked to stable placement. The landscape analysis was funded by First 5 LA and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. A work-in-progress update was provided by the consultants - Gita Cugley and Associates - in October 2017. 

The attached document is the final landscape analysis and represents over six months of work. It is informed by: existing research; 26 recent literature and model reviews regarding resource family recruitment and related issues; 11 interviews with community based organizations; and dozens of interviews with other subject matter experts. As a result of this work, we know there are: 

•    two paths to becoming a resource family - going through DCFS or one of 50 Foster Family Agencies (FFAs) (approximately 72 sites);
•    an unidentified number of non-profits and 50 FF As working on recruiting resource families outside of, or in partnership with, DCFS; and 
•    no processes, i.e., a data system, for tracking recruitment efforts countywide.

We also know that we do not just need additional homes, we need the right types of homes for the children served, e.g., homes for sibling sets and those with special needs, in the right locations. Analyzing all of the research, the landscape outlines models, assessing their strengths as well as discussing: how to address issues faced by communities most impacted by removal rates; innovative models that could work within specific areas of LA County; and the feasibility of implementation and steps to scalability. We are excited to share the recommendations with you. 

Overall, what comes through in the analysis is that while there is no overarching system for addressing the recruitment of resource families, including that for children Oto 5, there are common concerns and needs as well as effective tactics being deployed both locally and nationally to place our children. From the data gleaned, we know that we can (by working in public-private partnership) develop strategies - both policy driven and programmatically focused - that address this complex, nuanced, and critical work. 

The goal of this landscape analysis is to identify public and private efforts supporting the recruitment of resource families for the 0-5 population in Los Angeles County. Beginning with Phase I, we focus on the 0-5 population, which is both disproportionately represented in Los Angeles County’s child welfare system and whose critical needs and permanent brain development are directly linked to stability. This in-depth look at recruitment methods and the identification of appropriate resource families could provide this stability. The county specifically needs to identify families willing and able to facilitate reunification and, when that is not possible, to provide permanency. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has families waiting to adopt this population, so the focus is to identify care options in this age range to support large sibling sets and children with special needs.

Read the Report