Not too long ago, Rebecca Jentzer and Karma Best, two child-centered recruiters from Children's Home Society of North Carolina, hosted an "appreciation breakfast" for their fellow foster care workers at the Wake County Department of Social Services.
"They were doing it to thank us for working with them, but I felt that we should have been thanking them instead," says Jean Hagen-Johnson, supervisor of the Wake County Human Services Adoption Resource Team.
Seeking Permanent Families
She and her colleagues work closely with Jentzer and Best to help find permanent families for children who are the most difficult to place, including older children and those in sibling groups who do not wish to be separated.
"They are able to focus on these kids the way we would if we only could," says Hagen-Johnson, whose staff of caseworkers are consumed with finding placements for approximately 15 children at a time, roughly ten percent of whom are considered "hard to place."
"They really get to know these kids and build a relationship with them. They know each child inside and out. And they're not just trying to place children with the families that the Children's Home Society represents. They support each adoptive family no matter where the match originated."
The child-centered recruiters become partners with the Department of Social Services staff, and take part in all meetings with the child, family, social workers and potential adoptive families.
Involving Hard-to-Place Children in Their Own Adoptions
Jentzer and Best use the skills and connections they've established through the Children's Home Society's Child-Centered Recruitment program, which actively involves hard-to-place children in their own adoption process. The two recruiters work closely with each child to learn about the kinds of qualities they'd like to see in an adoptive family, and help each child develop a video profile about his or her personality, likes, dislikes and interests for potential adoptive adults to view.
"Their approach is strength-based and positive for kids," says Hagen-Johnson. "It really builds their self-esteem and contributes to their overall well-being."
She recalls an instance in which Jentzer and Best helped her office place a sibling group of four, ranging from teen to elementary age, into an adoptive family. "They made the extra effort to also connect with a fifth sibling who had aged out of foster care and include her in the process, knowing that her involvement would be important to the long term success and outcomes in this adoption."
According to Hagen-Johnson, the child-centered recruiters have become an important part of the Wake County Department of Social Services team. "They are a key support to the work we're doing, and they're highly skilled. They go out of their way to help each child find a home, and they don't back away from any child."