The Adoption Exchange Association and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption Launch Initiative to Create Adoption Ready Employees

Posted on August 7, 2018

The Adoption Exchange Association (AEA) and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption today launched I-CARE, the Initiative to Create Adoption Ready Employees. I-CARE is a nationwide program focused on national workforce expansion, development, and retention for current professionals and students interested in the field of adoption. The program aims to address the urgent need for highly-skilled, qualified, and dedicated workers for children and youth in foster care who are waiting to be adopted. To introduce the program, AEA released an informational webpage promoting careers in adoption to job seekers.

There are currently more than 437,465 children in the U.S. foster care system with 117,794 waiting to be adopted – an increase of 4.5% from 2015.¹ Multiple factors are contributing to the need for a more comprehensive and robust adoption workforce. Families affected by the opioid epidemic across the U.S. are causing a strain on an already overwhelmed foster care system. Likewise the introduction of the February 2018 Families First Act emphasizes the need for children to be placed with families rather than group care, further accentuating the need for an educated, effective, and dedicated workforce to help children, often teenagers, exit group care and find a family to foster and/or adopt them. A recent report² highlighted that out of 100 child welfare professionals on average only 30 will remain in their jobs after one year. Annual turnover rates below 10–12 percent are considered optimal or healthy.³,4 For the past 15 years, child welfare turnover rates have been estimated at 20–40 percent.5,6,7 The available data currently reflect an estimated national average turnover rate of approximately 30 percent (with individual agency rates as high as 65 percent). Even higher average rates of turnover have been noted among child welfare workers in the initial training phase, which is typically 9-months, at 46–54 percent.8,9

“This partnership comes at a critical time for children in foster care. Skilled, passionate social workers are desperately needed. The I-CARE training, with a focus on finding permanency for waiting children, perfectly aligns with our mission to find a loving, permanent home for every child waiting to be adopted,” said Rita Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “Each child deserves our best efforts. I-CARE will tap into young talent and develop the skills of professionals already working in child welfare to help all children who deserve a permanent and loving family.”

Additional I-CARE program elements include a mini-documentary series highlighting social workers in the adoption industry, career page with available jobs in child welfare, written testimonials highlighting professionals working in the field of adoption, and Opportunities in the Adoption Field webinars directed at students and early career professionals, a quarterly Child Welfare Leadership series for executive directors, and a bi-monthly Learn with AEA webinar series on emerging best practices in adoption.

“Working with our incredible partner, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and our national member network, I-CARE aims to help students transition from college into careers where they can make a difference in the lives of children hoping to be adopted. The program also increases access to emerging best practices in adoption recruitment, retention, and support, while providing professional growth and development opportunities to all professionals who are responsible for finding homes for children in foster care. We are excited to welcome new workers to the adoption profession, and retain and support current workers,” said Kamilah Bunn, CEO of the Adoption Exchange Association.

For more information on the I-CARE initiative visit or on Instagram at i.care4kids.


The Adoption Exchange Association
Founded in 1982, The Adoption Exchange Association (AEA) is the country’s premier national association of adoption professionals and organizations. AEA is the only national association focused exclusively on supporting the educational needs of those in the adoption profession. The organization serves adoption exchanges, private child-placing organizations, and public child welfare systems by engaging members in national discussions to eliminate barriers to adoption and educate and share best practices. AEA facilitates the exchange of best practices in adoption nationwide to ensure all children who are waiting to be adopted in the US foster care system have an opportunity to grow up in a family. To learn more visit or call 410-636-7030.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national nonprofit public charity dedicated exclusively to finding permanent homes for the more than 150,000 children waiting in North America’s foster care systems. Created by Wendy’s® founder Dave Thomas who was adopted, the Foundation implements evidence-based, results-driven national service programs, foster care adoption awareness campaigns and innovative grantmaking. To learn more, visit or call 1-800-ASK-DTFA.

Media Contact
Melissa Otero
(240) 449-9747

3 Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2015). 10 practices: A child welfare leader’s desk guide to building a high-performing agency. Retrieved
4 Gallant, M. (2013). Does your organization have a healthy employee turnover rate. [SABA Blog post]. Retrieved
5 U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2003). HHS could play a greater role in helping child welfare agencies recruit and retain staff (GAO-03-357). Retrieved from
6 American Public Human Services Association. (2005). Report from the 2004 child welfare workforce survey, state agency findings. Retrieved from
7 National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. (2011). Child welfare workforce demographics (2000–2010): Snapshot of the frontline child welfare caseworker. Retrieved from
8 West Virginia Legislative Auditor, Performance Evaluation & Research Division. (2013). Agency review: Bureau for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services (Report No. PE 13-03-539). Retrieved from
9 Chang, J. (2017). State child protection agency halts hiring, citing drop in turnovers. Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved


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