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“Adoption Call to Action”: New strategies to achieve timely permanency

This spring, the Children’s Bureau issued a national “Adoption Call to Action,” a challenge to child welfare systems to reduce the number of children and youth waiting to be adopted in the United States.

In the intervening months, child welfare leaders, state adoption managers, and others have poured over their state’s data, participated in regional and national meetings, and developed action plans with strategies to work toward the day that no youth linger in care.

Learn more about the children in out-of-home care:

Why has the Children’s Bureau issued this call?

Though more than 63,000 children were successfully moved to adoptive homes in 2018, there are many who wait too long or leave the system without a permanent home.

The data demonstrate that we need to do more to achieve permanency for the more than 125,000 children who are waiting to be adopted today. According 2018 AFCARS report:

  • More than half of children waiting to be adopted—71,000—have already had a termination of their parental rights.
  • Teens wait longer than younger children, and nearly 18,000 youth emancipated from the system without a permanent home.

Read more in a letter from Jerry Millner, the acting commissioner of ACYF (300 KB PDF).

How will the Adoption Call to Action support system improvement?

States are currently developing and implementing action plans and specific strategies to achieve permanency for more children and youth in a timely manner. This work includes examining data, policies, and practices and identifying common challenges to achieving permanency.

What challenges to achieving permanency for children have been identified so far?

In regional and national discussions, child welfare administrators have identified issues including:

  • Defining permanency regarding data. Who are the children and youth with identified permanency families versus those who still need an identified family?
  • Meeting timely permanency goals at the agency and court levels.
  • Permanency for youth with disabilities, mental health and behavioral challenges.
  • Workforce challenges (education, caseload, turnover).
  • Age 0-8 children that have been in care for longer than 12 months.
  • Lack of post-adoption services and supports.
  • Procedural delays in court processes and court scheduling delays.

What strategies have been proposed as a result of the Adoption Call to Action so far?

  • Early focus on permanency including an emphasis on concurrent planning.
  • Improve processes and data collection and reporting.
  • Increase focus on child- and population-specific recruitment.
  • Create partnerships with key stakeholders.
  • Increase engagement and empowerment of youth.
  • Address caseworker concerns and attitudes (supervision, consultations, training).
  • Increase awareness and availability of both pre- and post-adoption support.

What resources are available to help me with this work?

AdoptUSKids resources and publications:

Publications developed by the Capacity Building Center for States:

If you have questions about the Adoption Call to Action and how AdoptUSKids can support your work to recruit and support families, contact us. We’re here to help!

Adoption Call to Action timeline

June 28, 2019: Virtual kick-off oriented state child welfare administrators to the purpose of the initiative and upcoming events.

July–Aug. 2019: Virtual regional office discussions. Administrators reviewed lessons states have learned from their data and discussed strategies that are already being planned. The calls also gave states an opportunity to identify common trends and potential contributing factors to delays in adoption for children in their states.

Aug. 23, 2019: On-site Adoption Call to Action Summit. Held in Washington, DC, this event included adoption managers, foster care managers, court improvement program professionals, agency leaders, private providers, family consultants, and young adult consultants. Participants identified their primary area of focus for their intervention and shared successful strategies that informed their work to develop action plans to address their specific challenges related to moving children to adoption, including steps to engage additional necessary stakeholders in their states.

Sept. 24, 2019: Virtual Adoption Call-to-Action, “Building a Community” event. Participants explored common themes and strategies they’d identified to address barriers to adoption; discussed the support an adoption community of practice can provide; and built peer-to-peer relationships to help to move the Adoption Call to Action work forward.

November and December 2019: “Moving from Barriers to Solutions” virtual events”:

  • Engaging Older Youth: Perspectives on Adoption
  • Working across State Lines Through ICPC
  • The Power of Collaboration with Court and Other Community Partners

Jan. 15–16, 2020, Washington, DC: On-site Adoption Call to Action Summit II