connect / 2014

20000 KIDS PROJECT LA: Connecting LA’s foster children with loving homes in our diverse communities

20000 KIDS PROJECT LA: Connecting LA’s foster children with loving homes in our diverse communities

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Raise A Child, Inc.

RAC will expand its outreach and programs to a broader constituency including the heterosexual and Spanish language speaking communities.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

RAC will expand its outreach and programs to a broader constituency including the heterosexual and Spanish language speaking communities.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits all of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Today, 20,000 children languish in LA’s foster care system. RAC will apply its successful model of recruiting prospective parents and helping match them with children awaiting loving homes by broadening its outreach to a more inclusive constituency. In addition to its LGBT audience, RAC will broaden its focus to include LA’s Latino and welcoming faith-based communities. RAC will further develop/expand its existing outreach model to a year-round initiative which will include an emphasis on a strong social media campaign supported by radio, television, outdoor advertising, and events to recruit and educate prospective parents. RAC also provides direct services to assist LA County DCFS to facilitate and expedite parent-child matches.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Founded in 2011, RAC enjoyed immediate recruitment success as we launched a creative multi-media campaign to encourage the LGBT community of LA to build families through fostering and adoption. By 2012, our extended national reach and improved campaign strategies resulted in recruiting more than 600 prospective foster/adoptive parents. In 2013, RAC and Huffington Post Gay Voices launched a weekly series entitled “Let Love Define Family™.” Several of our stories have gone viral including http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/28/wendy-gay-family_n_5042297.html.

Today, more than 2,200 individuals have signed up at the www.RaiseAChild.US website to take the “Next Step to Parenthood.” Through our 3 year history of events and ad campaigns, RAC has engaged with tens of thousands more.

RAC,is unique as we coordinate with our fost/adopt agency partners to provide our prospective parents with formalized assistance through our Parent Advocate Program, which combines personalized attention with the technological support of a cloud-based case management system. Locally, our outcomes are extremely impressive: partnering with Los Angeles County agencies, our Parent Advocate has been able to move prospective parents through the training and certification process at a success rate of 26%, significantly greater than the national average of only 5%.
RAC is now well positioned to open its programs/services to a broader, more inclusive constituency and plans to begin this journey by branching out to the Spanish speaking (which represents approximately 48% of the LA population) and heterosexual communities of LA County. Currently, more than 11% of our database is comprised of single heterosexuals. Funding from the My LA 2050 grant will allow us to add: 1) a bilingual FTE Parent Advocate to make inroads into the Hispanic community and expand our ability to place more children in loving homes throughout LA; 2) increase by 25% our single heterosexual cohort by modifying and targeting our marketing efforts. As part of this initiative, all of RAC’s online and printed outreach materials will be translated to Spanish and its key recruitment message, “Let Love Define Family™” will be developed for special events. The Parent Advocate will follow up, providing personalized one-to-one guidance to each prospective parent. We also plan to begin a dialogue with several inclusive and welcoming faith-based organizations to further promote our enhanced mission.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

Every parent sees endless possibilities and great hope in the eyes of a child. As Angelenos, when we look at today’s children. But for our children to thrive and Los Angeles to stay a city in which people stay connected, we must support their development, their parents, their families and the public policies that work for all. Studies show that the earliest of experiences in supportive environments are essential to how children succeed in their lifetimes. In order for communities to come together cohesively to create a prosperous Los Angeles by 2050, we must invest in children now. RAC is proud of our own success stories. Long Beach, California residents Bianca and her wife, Tonie, initially found the road to building a family through foster/adoption to be lonely and complicated. It was the couple’s social worker at LA County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) who suggested RaiseAChild.US for support and direction. “We attended a RaiseAChild.US event in West Hollywood, last December,” said Bianca. “Soon after, 18month-old Jacob was placed in our home. Throughout the process, we continued to access RaiseAChild.US support for referrals and advice on adoption finalization.” “Jacob has not only changed our lives but the lives of our family and friends,” says Tonie. “His grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends have all embraced Jacob as part of the family. Jacob has adopted all of us.”

This project meets two critically important metrics in the Connect application. First, RAC’s Parent Advocate Program directly addresses ‘Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support’ with its personalized service to all prospective parents navigating the foster/adoption process. Next, our close work with the LA County Department of Children and Family Services has been a key factor in the agency’s improved communication with waiting parents and increasing its child placement rate. This addresses the second (dream) metric of ‘Government responsiveness to residents’ needs.’

Our goal is to improve the foster care system in LA County by 2050 and hold it high as a shining example of how diverse communities can come together to the benefit of children in the foster care system. Our vision is to create a community of good fost/adopt families in LA County that will multiple and proudly support one another well in to the future. In addition, RAC will be primed to export our business model to foster agencies for replication in other US cities.

Whom will your project benefit?

This project will reduce the number of children who continue to languish in LA’s foster care system by many as 2,000 within a two-year time frame. By connecting these children to loving adoptive homes, they are more likely to receive the support and medical and emotional attention that they need to thrive.
Fostering and adoption are slow processes, but our goal is to recruit and begin to process 1,000 new prospective homes during the grant period; this would represent an increase of 192% beyond RAC’s current annual matching rate. Already lauded for its capacity to move prospective parents through the adoption system at a rate that is five times the national average, RAC’s Parent Advocate Program will dramatically expand its reach through the addition of a full-time bilingual social worker. Backed by newly-developed Spanish language materials, the new advocate will help meet the culturally specific needs of Latinos who seek to foster or adopt as well as the need to find culturally sensitive placements for Latino youth in foster care. This addition to our staff will ensure our continued responsiveness.
Expanding our unique programs and services will also help to reduce the ‘drop out’ rate of prospective foster/adopt parents who so often give up since the process has been so cumbersome, significantly ease caseloads of DCFS social workers and of particular importance, RAC’s innovative methods of working with the system, will continue to cut and curb government spending. For every child adopted in LA County, there is an estimate national savings to the taxpayer of over $15,000.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

To accomplish this expansion to a more inclusive audience, RAC plans to work in tandem with its seven vetted foster/adopt partners in LA, with whom we have formal sponsorship agreements: LA County Department of Children & Family Services; Penny Lane Centers; Southern California Foster Family & Adoption Agency; The Village Family Services; Five Acres; Vista Del Mar; and Westside Children’s Center. Each of these organizations will continue to work closely with RAC to help match available children with prospective parents and provide a seamless transition as the new initiative gets off the ground. RAC will seek out key leaders in the Hispanic community, an audience that has been researched for its feasibility and pilot tested with Penny Lane Centers, one of our partner agencies. Together, we placed several targeted spots on KLVE and KTNQ, popular Southern California Spanish language radio stations and the immediate response was that nearly 70 prospective foster/adopt parents signed up at our website or called the RAC office. We will also identify and reach out to welcoming clergy who might be willing to test pilot a small scale collaboration within their respective congregations. While RAC will benefit in the identification of children and parents to be matched as part of its core services by partnering with these entities, the value to them in finding homes for children, many of whom come from the populations they serve, will provide them a substantive role in addressing a critical community need in keeping with their respective missions.

Factors critical to the success of this effort are 1) recruiting appropriate staff who understands the cultural sensitivities to carry out the myriad of details/programs/services; 2) identifying clergy who are committed to helping RAC find loving homes for children in foster care and who endorse our message to its parishioners; and 3) funding necessary to conduct a year-long outreach campaign, thereby laying the foundation for sustaining these recruitment efforts for years to come.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?

  • Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

This project meets two critically important metrics in the Connect application. First, RAC’s Parent Advocate Program directly addresses ‘Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support’ with its personalized service to all prospective parents navigating the foster/adoption process. Next, our close work with the LA County Department of Children and Family Services has been a key factor in the agency’s improved communication with waiting parents and increasing its child placement rate. This addresses the second (dream) metric of ‘Government responsiveness to residents’ needs.’

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

RaiseAChild.US (RAC) has an existing model which will drive and measure the success of the 20,000 LA Kids Project. Our Parent Advocate Program design is distinctive as it combines the personalized attention of a mentor with the technological support of a cloud-based case management system. The result is that RAC has a program that has been tested and proven, unlike any in the country, which provides measured and ongoing support and guidance to all of its prospective parents as they navigate the foster/adoption process. Through this custom designed, proprietary system, the Parent Advocate is able to easily and closely monitor the progress of each prospective parent.

At any given time, RAC can identify and track: • The number of prospects who come to RAC through its campaigns, events, websites, word of mouth, etc. • The number of prospective parents who have begun the necessary orientation, training and certification steps – or where they are in the process; and • The number of recruits to contact personally and provide support and guidance because they have not followed through on the specific stages of the foster/adoption process.

The RaiseAChild.US Parent Advocate Program is able to track and facilitate the progress of all of our identified prospective parents. In the program’s first 16 months, RAC helped our Los Angeles County agency partners retain and move prospective parents through the training and certification program at a success rate of 26%, a retention rate five times higher than the national average of 5%. We anticipate this rate will climb to 30% within the next six months as we continue to assess and refine our program model.

Ultimately, the success of LA2050 / 20,000 Kids Project LA will measured by the numbers of new fost/adopt prospective parents that are recruited, trained and certified, placed with children from LA County’s foster system, and eventually adopted.. Our goals are to:

• Recruit 1,000 prospective parents in the targeted cohorts 
• Screen, orient and train 35% of the total number of prospective parents recruited
• Counsel and support 350+ prospective parents through the foster/adoption process (includes 15 hours of supportive activities per parent)
• Assist in finalizing the adoption of 600+ children over an 24 month period.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Youth in foster care are in the system through no fault of their own – and each of them deserves to experience a loving home where they can feel secure and thrive. According to recent statistics, nearly 110,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted, 20,000 in LA County alone. There are an additional 300,000 children in need of immediate foster placement. More than 1,000 enter foster care each day and remain there for an average of two years. The majority of foster agencies, including LA County DCFS, are unable to make the headway necessary to significantly decrease these numbers. Due to imbedded bureaucracy, budget and staffing constraints and outdated protocols, these agencies cannot provide the depth of services that the Parent Advocate Program delivers.

RAC’s founder and CEO Rich Valenza’s love for children, social justice and personal experience in building a family through fostering and adoption, served as the catalyst to establish RaiseAChild. He understands first-hand the struggles and challenges one faces when navigating family building through the foster care system. Given our retention rate success of moving prospective foster/adopt parents from recruitment to licensing and certification continues to soar overwhelmingly above the national average, RAC is well poised to make a substantial impact by continuing to expand its reach, particularly to targeted communities often ignored by traditional adoption services, to improve the outcomes for children and prospective parents facing the adoption system.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Since 2011, RaiseAChild.US has achieved success serving children in the foster care system throughout Los Angeles County through three strategic initiatives:

Outreach Campaigns – RaiseAChild.US works with its foster/adoption agency partners to create and manage multi-media campaigns that promote family building to a broad spectrum of prospective foster and adoptive parents.

Educational Programs – RaiseAChild.US produces thorough, effective foster/adoption informational programs for its foster/adoption agency partners to educate and motivate prospective foster and adoptive parents.

Parent Advocate Program – In February 2013, through the generous support of The Annenberg Foundation, CICA, Los Angeles County Department of Children & Family Services, and ACMS Inc., RaiseAChild.US established the Parent Advocate Program, which provides personalized support to each recruit as they undergo the detailed process of initial interest, qualification, orientation, training, and ultimately matching them with a child. This service is provided free of charge.

The LA2050 grant will enable RAC to launch the 20,000 LA Kids Project as an expansion of its existing year-round outreach, education and support programs for the LBGT community.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

In all likelihood, we anticipate that working with small grassroots partners/faith-based organizations will take more time/hand-holding than in the past although necessary given their value add access to our targeted communities. It may also be a challenge to identify and foster relationships with the faith-based community as their receptiveness to the LGBT community – our core constituency – has not always been the case.

Also, replicating efforts, although targeting different communities, is always dependent on finding the staff that matches the culture of the start up. RAC’s current Parent Advocate has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Education and graduate degree in Education for Special Populations and brings more than 20 years’ experience to this role. In addition, he has first-hand experience with the foster/adoption process, as over the past 15 years, he has adopted seven children through foster care. Finding his equal will be a challenge that RAC is very conscious of and prepared to meet going forward.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Community outreach