This article is written by Kim Phagan-Hansel and originally appeared in The Chronicle of Social Change.
Last week, The Adoption Exchange Association (AEA) and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA) announced the creation of a joint plan to train professionals and students interested in the field of adoption.
The Initiative to Create Adoption Ready Employees, or I-CARE, will help to train highly-skilled, qualified and dedicated workers for children and youth in foster care who are waiting to be adopted.
DTFA is set to hire a number of adoption professionals in the next five years as they build out their national Wendy’s Wonderful Kids model. In some states where expansion is already underway, DTFA has experienced delays in hiring because of challenges in recruiting qualified applicants, according to its CEO, Rita Soronen.
“Our partnership … recognizes the need for recruitment, retention and support of qualified adoption professionals across the spectrum of child welfare,” said Soronen in an email. “Given aggressive expansion of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and the subsequent workforce needs in states, we understand the potential challenges faced by agencies.”
There are 437,465 children in domestic foster care in the United States, according to recent federal data, and 117,794 are waiting to be adopted.
The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids national expansion hopes to drastically reduce the number of children currently waiting to be adopted and in order to do that, a number of adoption social workers will be added in every state by 2028.
AEA has been working on the issues of educational and workforce needs in the child welfare community and this partnership will allow them to expand those efforts.
“AEA is the only national association focused exclusively on supporting the educational needs of those in the adoption profession,” said CEO Kamilah Bunn in an email. “Having a national network of existing adoption workers, it was natural for AEA to promote the value and benefits of a career in adoption to students through our members.”
AEA has a dedicated page for I-CARE on its website to help connect individuals with resources on becoming an adoption professional, as well as current job postings across the country. Agencies also can go on the site to list any openings they may have, currently there are just 16 openings posted.
The challenges of finding qualified applicants for child welfare positions has long plagued the industry. Kansas most recently loosened hiring standards to attract more applicants.
“A recent report highlighted that out of 100 child welfare professionals, on average only 30 will remain in their jobs after one year,” Bunn said. “Annual turnover rates below 10-12 percent are considered optimal or healthy. For the past 15 years, child welfare turnover rates have been estimated at 20-40 percent.”
Bunn also sites other studies suggesting that worker dissatisfaction is attributed to lack of training and support, which I-CARE hopes to tackle by providing peer-to-peer training and support through webinars.
I-CARE will also offer a number of webinars directed at students, early career professionals and executive directors. Another bi-monthly webinar series, Learn with AEA, will cover emerging best practices in the field and I-CARE will specifically target organizations like Council of Social Work Education to reach students currently enrolled in social work programs.
Note: The Dave Thomas Foundation has made charitable contributions to Fostering Media Connections, the parent organization of Fostering Families Today and The Chronicle of Social Change.