Filling the need for foster kids in Arkansas

by Phil Goad ([email protected]) 754 views 

Child welfare in Arkansas is in a state of crisis, and it has been for quite a while.

Despite the many dedicated individuals working tirelessly to care for and support children and families in the child welfare system, there are still not enough foster families for those who need support.

But with your help and the collaboration of dozens of people and organizations statewide, I have hope that soon we will have more than enough caring homes for children in the child welfare system. Places that are culturally relevant, near their homes and schools, and ideally with a kinship connection because all these things help children feel safe and connected and help families eventually reunite.

This is not just a challenge in Arkansas – nearly every state struggles to find enough foster homes for children. But this will be a fix for Arkansas children and families. This year, Arkansans are coming together like never before to collaborate on a solution.

Enter Every Child Arkansas, a network of advocates, state agencies, faith-based organizations and other organizations working together in trust-building collaboration to fill the biggest gaps in care for children and families before, during and beyond foster care. Our shared goal is more than enough families for every child in foster care to have an ideal placement.

Every Child has a unique approach to recruiting adults to support child welfare.

For one, they don’t expect people to jump head-first into becoming a foster family – that’s a big ask. Instead, Every Child offers a bite-sized, yet meaningful, approach of ways people can contribute.

These entryways to the system can include donating supplies, volunteering to provide childcare for foster parent nights out or volunteering at child welfare offices. If they decide to foster a child, Every Child connects them to a state agency to get certified.

Every Child Arkansas uses a digital approach developed by one of the network members—The Contingent—to reach new potential foster parents. They leverage a digital marketing strategy, positive user experience, and a warm and welcoming personal customer service process to help individuals determine their next steps in supporting children, parents and employees in the child welfare system. It’s an innovative strategy that has proven wildly successful in Oregon.

Every Child Arkansas is a powerful approach with an even more powerful group of organizations behind it. It will take time, but the good news is everyone can help.

Your effort can be small or large, but we all have a role to play. Will you join us?

Editor’s note: Phillip Goad, Ph.D., is chair of the Every Child Arkansas Executive Leadership Council. The opinions expressed are those of the author.