While each of FFNY's 15 volunteer teams is special in its own way, one group stands out for a unique reason. The team from Policy Research Associates (PRA) is made up of colleagues at a workplace rather than members of a faith community. "We're hoping to sign on more teams from companies and service organizations," said FFNY executive director Meredith Osta, "but, thus far, PRA is the only team in that category."
For the employees at PRA, forming an FFNY team was a natural outgrowth of their professional commitment to improving people's lives through evaluation, training, and technical assistance in area of behavioral health. "We have more than a professional interest," said Nicole Vincent-Roller, team member and PRA communications specialist. "All of us want to have a positive influence on people's lives in a less abstract way. It's built into the fabric of the company."
Nicole and her colleagues became aware of FFNY through a co-worker who heard a presentation at her church. The company sponsored an orientation session, and the group felt an immediate connection with FFNY's hands-on, practical approach to supporting foster families. "It became clear early on that this was something we wanted to do," she said. Eight employees signed the year-long commitment to the program.
The team was matched with a family of two foster parents and five children in November 2016. They have spent their first few visits getting acquainted. "We've been helping with homework and practicing multiplication tables," Nicole said. "One of my co-workers got to play "Memory" with the kids. The family is very much a family already, and they've made all of us feel at ease making paper snowflakes together and just getting to know each other." Some PRA employees who are not able to devote the time to home visits are helping out by making meals and other treats, such as gluten-free cookies, for their co-workers to deliver.
During these first few months, the PRA team has become aware of the challenges faced by foster parents. Several of the children have special behavioral needs, which is not uncommon among children coming into foster care. Whenever PRA team members are in the home, they free up time for the foster parents to focus their energy and attention on each child. "The foster parents do this incredible work with grace, humor, and kindness," Nicole said. "We are all just blown away by this family."
Practical strategies for finding and keeping foster, adoptive, and kinship homes
This guide summarizes best practices currently used in recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive families.
Local social services districts and voluntary agencies direct substantial resources towards finding and keeping qualified foster and adoptive homes. This work holds both opportunities and challenges, such as finding homes that reflect the characteristics of children in care, including culture, race, ethnicity and language. Agencies strive to recruit homes that meet the needs of children: keeping siblings together, homes for older youth, as well as homes for children with complex physical and emotional needs. This guide is intended to be used by local districts and voluntary agencies to help meet their recruitment challenges.
Funded by a federal diligent recruitment grant to the New York State Office of Children and Family Services from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau, the resource was written and compiled by WRI.