A Family For Every Child's Ongoing Activities, Efforts and Programs – Recruitment – Awareness – Education
Heart Gallery – The Heart Gallery is a tool used to engage and educate the community on the plight and potential of children living in foster care. We do this by displaying professional images and simple biographies of waiting children in local venues. We have over 50 business, corporate and faith-based partners and venues. Professional photographers volunteer their services to provide the images and video for children all over the country. We have seen over 700 children pass through our Heart Gallery on to their forever families.
Our web site – We use our web site to work with the Heart Galleries and in conjunction with caseworkers to provide and facilitate professional images and information about foster children. It is also a significant stand-alone recruitment tool with private and public listing options. We have spent continued effort, resources and manpower (with a fulltime web employee) on continuously updating our web site. We went from recruiting for 250 children on our public web site to over 2,000 on both our private and public web sites.
Matching On-Line Events – In 2012 we began our on-line matching events to feature children available for adoption. We use PowerPoint and GoToWebinar to connect. We feature up to ten children, while as many as 50 families can log on and hear a caseworker talk about the child and the kind of family needed. The families can text questions and immediately submit their home studies. We have also begun to do the reverse -- featuring families and having the children's caseworkers attend. These events have proven so successful we are usually doing one per week, and we are booked three months in advance.
Matching Assistance – The program is designed to help adoptive families cope with the often frustrating and seemingly complicated, convoluted adoption process. The concept is to have a person on our staff and a log-on web site exclusively for these families. Through our use of technology we have developed specialized and exclusive web tools. We have found prospective adoptive parents to have more successful outcomes if they are able to be their own advocates as well as being educated and supported along the way.
Targeted Outreach – This is a very unique and innovative tool, thanks in large part to our extensive database. A worker can contact us from any state or area, requesting exactly the type of family a child may need. Often these are urgent move needed requests. For example, a caseworker may contact us needing a two-parent, African American family in a certain area with no other children or animals. We put all this information in our database and create a mass email list of up to 500 parents. We design a targeted outreach communiqué about this child, complete with a photo and biography, and then we send it out. All of these activities occur within one hour. We often have 10-12 home-study-approved families in a few hours.
AFFEC Adoption Agency – Our Agency writes home studies, approves and matches families in Oregon with children all over the country. We know we play an important role in bridging the gap between really wonderful families and equally wonderful children. It is our mission to find forever families for those children considered hardest to place, and this program is designed to hasten the adoption process as well as make it more affordable for families.
Family Finding Programs (including our Extreme Recruitment Program) – The focus is on reconnecting children with safe, supportive family members in order to speed the children in their recovery from emotional trauma. Using Internet search technology, we locate biological family members and friends for children in the system. Once we have identified family members and friends, we work to reestablish and create lasting relationships and/or find a permanent family placement for the child.
The Family Finding model offers methods and strategies to locate and engage relatives of children living in out-of-home care. The goal of family finding is to provide each child with the life long connections that only a family can offer. Volunteers can sign up to the right for Family Finding announcements. Text messages are sent around twice a month. We text our volunteers about upcoming volunteer trainings and upcoming volunteer brainstorming sessions.
Family Preservation Program – There are families in our community at risk for child abuse and/or neglect. These families need guidance to move on from the past and into the next chapter of their lives, learning how to make positive changes for themselves and their families.
AFFEC’s Family Preservation Program focuses on keeping the family unit together. We believe these early and often preventative steps can make the difference between a family successfully parenting their children and losing them to the foster care system. Effective family preservation efforts could keep many children from the trauma of entering foster care. AFFEC utilizes informal (self-referrals and community partners) and formal (DHS) referral processes, as well as AFFEC’s own programs to identify families in need.
Mentor Program – Mentor activities focus on building foster children's confidence and providing a stable, consistent, friendly presence in their often turbulent lives. This relationship helps foster children to develop common life-skills that will enable them to cope with their lives and build confidence. Mentors aid children in their search for permanent families and provide continued support if they eventually "age out" of the foster care system. We plan to constantly increase the number of mentors. 25% of our Mentor Program matches result in becoming permanent placements.
We have youth both male and female that need a mentor. Mentors are a positive role model in a child's life. They spend 2 or more hours a week to make a difference in a child's life, listening and being a friend. Many of the children we serve do not have an adult they feel safe with. Mentors can change a life with just a little effort. Prospective mentors should contact our office for more information about being a mentor for a child in foster care.
Life Books – All children leaving foster care are provided with Life Books, which are created especially for them in order to preserve their past. Life Books represent a form of continuity and stability to foster children who are likely to see little positive continuity or stability.
An Adoption LifeBook records a foster/adoptee's life that uses words, photos, graphics, the child's artwork, and memorabilia. An Adoption LifeBook includes information about the child's birth parents and reason for separation. It always starts at the child's birth and often includes the fun part of when the adopted child joined a family.
Family Builders Support Group – AFFEC conducts a support group meeting on the third Thursday of each month. This group is for mentors, foster families, and those in all stages of the adoption process. This group is to support, share and encourage each other in the process of caring for children in the foster care system. Some 75% of families in the process drop out before completion, and this program helps the families stay the course and find more successful outcomes.
The families that have entered into the foster child program often need support as they deal with the issues that can accompany a child in the foster program. It is not uncommon for children placed in foster care to have needs and concerns that can create elevated needs that new foster parents are not equipped to handle in the beginning. Support groups allow foster parents to draw on the strength and resources of others who have already been in their shoes and know the rewards that await them. There is always room for a new member for the support groups to help those in need of a little motivation.
Program Partnerships – Replication of our programs and services to will leverage and magnify their impact by reproducing our model in an array of independent agencies and partners throughout the country. We offer two unique and most in-demand elements to our programs. One is our use of volunteers. The other is our use of technology, which includes our database, our web sites, our marketing/targeted outreach, and our use of social media.
Volunteer Program – 900 strong, it is the basis of all we do. It is often said that foster care is a community crisis demanding a community solution. It is only through committed individuals, who literally fill every role we have, that we can make a difference in the lives of a large number of foster children. We have a dedicated, streamlined volunteer process that checks references, conducts background checks (when needed), recruits, trains, assigns and retains our dedicated volunteers.
There is always an ongoing need for help from helpful and loving volunteers. There are many ways to help out the many wonderful children that are in the foster system. These children need so many things that many of us take for granted that goes far beyond the basics of food, shelter, and clothing. You can help a child as a mentor, or maybe help them create family connections with relatives, help families currently in the foster program, and creating a life book to answer the questions about each child that they will eventually ask about themselves about their genealogical tree and cultures.