- Kids 9-17
- Single kids and sibling sets
- Youth on probation who are also in the foster care system
- Family reunification services must be terminated
- Ideally diligent recruitment has been done and yielded no permanency resource
- Living in a foster family that won’t be permanent, or a group home
- Kids do not need to be open to adoption, but must be open to a connection
- Kids must be mentally and physically able to handle the program
- Youth who see the program and choose to participate
Kidsave’s hosting program was created because too many older kids are languishing in foster care in the United States. The Kidsave Family Visit Model is built on the simple premises that:
- Once people in the community meet and get to know older children growing up in government care, many will feel compelled to help and some will take steps to adopt or build other more permanent relationships, and
- Once kids get to know people in a non-threatening environment, they might find that special, permanent relationship that can make an important difference in their lives.
The Family Visit Program incorporates simple ideas:
- Be “customer friendly” to people interested in fostering. Make it easier to help a child in foster care;
- Let families interested in fostering safely meet kids right away – rather than having to wait months for home studies and clearances — thereby keeping them engaged;
- Give kids a choice in the matter. Fostering and adopting is much like dating. Matches where children have a voice in who they want to be with makes matches that are more likely to endure.
- Hosting has the potential to move a larger number of children into families at a time and therefore is a good use of time.
What is Hosting?
Hosting gives older kids and sibling groups age 7-18 the opportunity to connect to people in the community, meet families and stay with their host families for at least two weekends every month. It is a time for the child to experience family life, to meet people in the community and be with people who are interested in their well-being.
Hosting is built on a simple premise that
- Once people in the community meet and get to know older children growing up in government care, many will feel compelled to help and some will take steps to adopt or build other more permanent relationships,
- Getting to know what hosting is about enables people interested in foster care, but hesitant of the up-front commitment, to slowly and safely engage.
- Once kids get to know people in a non-threatening environment, they might find a permanent relationship that can make an important difference in their lives.
Key Components of Hosting
Kidsave’s hosting model has evolved over the past 15 years. Hosting is designed to help local kids in foster care find families. The key components of a hosting program are
- A working agreement with a government who will make their children available for hosting.
- A church or other nonprofit committed to adoption or permanency. Most governments have the skills and resources they need to conduct a hosting program themselves, Partner’s help modify the time commitment and extend a government’s reach. The best partners have good networks of communications to people who care and an ability to advocate for specific children and conduct (or find partners to conduct) weekend events.
- The concept of “advocacy” for the child. With a singular approach on each child, the host family and government partners do recruitment specifically for that child. The government partner features the child in the media, and in social media, specific “low key” recruitment is done for the benefit of that child — small dinners, small events — where friends of the host family or other interested potential adopters/mentors can get to meet and know the child in an non-threatening environment. Host families are required to make advocacy part of their role.
- Weekend events. At least once a month all the children participate in an activity that allows interaction with interested families. These events are designed for families and kids to engage. After the events both are queried about who might have interested them — giving the child choice, possibly for the first time, about people who he or she might like to be their host.
The six unique elements of Kidsave hosting which work in concert for impact are:
Host families are volunteers. In some cases these are the first people who have interacted with the kids who are not paid. Over time children sense these people care and they begin to trust.
County or jurisdiction-specific recruiters are essential. These can be government employees or the role can be played by a local, committed organization. The idea is to focus on every child individually, and publicly share their attributes with the community as a way to attract people to hosting them.
The child’s social worker collaborates with the recruiters and manages weekend visits. Social workers identify children appropriate for the program, prepare their bios, prepare the kids, provide training to families and prepare youth for the program.
A volunteer organization, such as a church or a local nonprofit can be very useful in planning and operating the monthly weekend events. This work could also be done by a jurisdiction, managed by the same people who do volunteer outreach in a community or manage conventional matching events.
An administrator in the jurisdiction supervises the effort and works to see that everyone is working to help overcome barriers so each child has the best chance at finding permanency.
Chunks of time – and ideally an overnight.
Regular visits are important Weekend-long visits strengthen relationships and help kids develop a sense of belonging. Hosts are asked to commit to two weekends a month.
Programs like Wednesday’s Child and the Heart Gallery succeed because they put a face on kids in foster care who are otherwise unknown in the community at large. Kidsave’s advocacy gives host families the job of being advocates for the kids – rather than not speaking about them and keeping them hidden in government care. With Kidsave’s program it’s okay to say a child is in foster care and needs help, rather than keeping the child’s identity and need confidential. Hosts also stand up to help a child in placement meetings, with medical providers and in their schools.
Includes media exposure, sharing information on social media and website visibility for one specific child. This is the focal point of a host’s advocacy.
Kidsave’s monthly events aren’t the traditional “matching” events. They are relaxed, interactive opportunities for both kids and interested grownups to get to know each other and check each other out. Tightly managed, they enable people to safely engage. The events provide opportunities for more people in the community to play a role in helping local kids in foster care grow up in families, connected to caring adults.
An Open Door
Getting to know children early on in the foster/adoption process keeps people engaged in the foster care system instead of scaring some interested people away with demands for up-front paperwork. It enables a secure, tightly-managed process where people can get involved right away. As a result more inquiries are retained and more people come through the door.