by Jennifer Townsend, Director of Recruitment Programs, FosterAdopt Connect
There are over 123,000 children and youth waiting to be adopted who are at risk of aging out of foster care without permanent family connections. FosterAdopt Connect joins Kids Win Missouri in celebrating National Adoption Month by highlighting the need for older youth to find permanent, loving adoptive homes. One of the multiple ways in which FosterAdopt Connect works to connect foster youth with their adoptive family is through Extreme Recruitment®.
FosterAdopt Connect’s Extreme Recruitment® is a race to find forever homes and reconnections for youth most at-risk of aging out of foster care without family support. A private investigator and recruiter team apply creative recruitment strategies to conduct diligent searches of the youth’s relatives and kin while also working urgently and intently with the professional team to assess the youth’s readiness for permanency. It is typical for us to find an extended family member who would love to adopt their loved one out of foster care, but needs help preparing their home or navigating the complicated child welfare system. Additionally, while youth are worth of a forever family no matter of their behaviors or emotional health, we believe youth served by Extreme Recruitment® benefit greatly from adoption competent therapy before being placed in their forever home.
While every case is unique, James’ story exemplifies the tragedy and triumph of FosterAdopt Connect’s Extreme Recruitment® cases. James came into care in June of 2010 after his biological mother was found to be neglectful in conjunction with a preponderance of evidence that James had been sexually assaulted by a female relative. While in care, James experienced multiple foster placements with many disrupting due to the caregivers’ inability to manage James’ behaviors. He found some stability when he was placed in the care of a therapeutic foster mom in October 2016, but she was not an adoptive resource. In April 2017, James shared that more than anything, he wanted to be with his mother and if he couldn’t be with his mother, he wanted to be with his maternal grandmother. Extreme Recruitment® spoke with James’s biological parents, dozens of relatives, and the adoptive parents of his biological siblings.
The Extreme Recruiter traveled across the state to meet with James’ mother, his maternal grandmother, and his grandmother’s longtime boyfriend. All three expressed a desire to have James back with them. His mother shared that addiction had been a significant barrier to reunification and that she had been clean for several years. She had a support system, a job, a home, and even custody of her youngest child. However, the court determined too much time had passed and the termination of her parental rights was imminent, so focus shifted to equipping James’ maternal grandmother for adoption.
The grandmother was employed and shared a home with her boyfriend of 5 years, the town’s retired sheriff. The only barrier to placing James with his grandma was a preponderance of evidence for lack of supervision over 20 years ago. After lengthy conversations with family, references, and social workers, FosterAdopt Connect’s Extreme Recruitment® team recommended that the grandmother receive licensure as a relative foster home and helped her navigate the often complicated child welfare system.
The grandparents drove 12 hours round trip several times previous to placement just to spend time with James and participated in video family therapy sessions between trips to prepare everyone for the transition. James was placed with his grandparents in May 2018 and was adopted by them, with his mother’s blessing, in June 2019. James loves living with his grandparents, is doing well in school for the first time in years, and gets to see his mother and little brother several times a week.
Extreme Recruitment’s® innovative approach to family finding increases the number of kids who are older, part of a sibling set, or have medical or mental health needs join their forever family and find stability. This National Adoption Month, we celebrate family and continue working for more stories like James.