Requirements and guidance

Learn requirements from the Children’s Bureau plus best-practice guidance for developing your diligent recruitment plan.

What is a diligent recruitment plan?

A diligent recruitment plan is documentation of how a state or other child welfare jurisdiction will recruit, develop, and support families for children in care.

As part of federal requirements, Title IV-E agencies must submit a five-year, comprehensive child and family services plan (CFSP). As part of the CFSP, child welfare systems must describe their plan for the diligent recruitment of potential foster and adoptive families. The plan should  reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children in care in their state, tribe, or territory. Each year, child welfare systems must provide updates on their diligent recruitment plans within their annual progress and services report (APSR), submitted to the Children’s Bureau.

What do I need to include in my plan?

The Children’s Bureau requires diligent recruitment plans to include:

  • A description of the characteristics of waiting children.
  • Specific strategies to reach all parts of the community.
  • Diverse methods of disseminating both general and child-specific information.
  • Strategies for assuring that all prospective parents have access to the home study process, including location and hours of services that facilitate access by all members of the community.
  • Strategies for training staff to work with diverse cultural, racial, and economic communities.
  • Strategies for dealing with linguistic barriers.
  • Non-discriminatory fee structures.
  • Procedures ensuring a timely search for prospective parents awaiting a child, including the use of exchanges and other interagency efforts, provided that such procedures ensure that the placement of a child in an appropriate household is not delayed by the search for a same-race or ethnic placement.

You can make your diligent recruitment plan serve as an even more valuable guide for your child welfare system’s work by adding strategic elements such as:

  • Procedures for consistently updating the characteristics of children in care using information and analysis of Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data and other data available to your state, region, or county.
  • Procedures for ongoing analysis of the current pool of available foster and adoptive placement families.
  • Collaboration and public-private partnerships with groups that represent children’s communities, to help identify and support potential foster and adoptive families.
  • General, targeted, and child-specific recruitment, including relationship-mining for youth.
  • Recruitment and development of homes, including relative homes, that can provide placement as a part of concurrent planning for the child.
  • Recruitment and development of homes that can accommodate siblings in care so siblings can be placed together or reunited when they have been separated in care.
  • Recruitment of foster homes to ensure children and youth may be maintained in their schools when placed in foster care.
  • Procedures to ensure that all prospective parents, including relatives and people who have important existing relationships with youth in care, have easy, local access to the home study process and to required training.
  • Use of a “customer service” practice in responding to prospective foster and adoptive parents.
  • Procedures or processes to reduce dropout rates of prospective families.
  • Procedures for training staff to engage with diverse cultural, racial, and economic communities who are reflective of the children and youth in foster care.
  • Procedures for providing training to prospective foster and adoptive parents regarding the characteristics, needs, and issues of children who have experienced trauma, as well as adoption clinical issues.
  • Procedures to ensure a non-discriminatory fee structure, including the use of purchase of service arrangements with public and private agencies (including community-based and other organizations) when necessary to facilitate and support placement.
  • Dual licensure of foster and adoptive homes.
  • Use of adoption exchanges, including AdoptUSKids and regional or local exchanges.
  • Procedures and processes to eliminate barriers to the interjurisdictional placement of children.
  • Training strategies for staff and community partners.

How do I make my plan measurable?

To know if a plan is successful, it must first be measurable. To create a measurable plan, we encourage you to include the following elements in your plan in addition to the Children’s Bureau requirements:

  • Stated goals, intended outcomes, and objectives.
  • Quantitative and qualitative data that provide clarity on your current situation, needs, strengths, and gaps.
  • Action steps to accomplish the goals, outcomes, or objectives.
  • Name who is accountable and list the people or groups responsible for implementing the action steps.
  • Timelines for the action steps to be started and completed.
  • Ways of capturing whether the action steps were completed and what impact the action steps and strategies had in helping to accomplish the goals, outcomes, or objectives.

Six tips for developing your diligent recruitment plan

Beginning your diligent recruitment plan can seem overwhelming. Here are six tips to get you started. Download a printable version of these six tips.

1. Build the right team

Developing your diligent recruitment plan should be a team effort. Consider creating a workgroup that includes a variety of perspectives. Members of the workgroup could potentially include:

  • Leaders in your organization who are responsible for one or more of the required elements in the plan.
  • Data experts who can offer insight into what quantitative and qualitative information should be collected, where you can find it, and how to interpret it.
  • Community partners whose experience and services can provide valuable perspectives.
  • Individuals with lived experience who can speak most effectively regarding what benefits those the plan aims to help. This could include current or previous foster and adoptive families, birth families, child welfare professionals, and youth in care.
  • Diverse voices who can help implement strategies for mitigating individual and systemic biases.

Together, your team should review the elements of an effective diligent recruitment plan, assign individuals to sections aligning with their strengths and areas of expertise, identify measurable goals, and craft a timeline for developing and implementing the plan.

2. Build on what you have

You don’t need to start from scratch.

  • Look for ways to expand upon existing information, knowledge, and momentum. Does your agency already have a format for plans that can be used as a template or starting point that can be adapted to fit your needs? If not, visit the National Center for Diligent Recruitment’s website to see the ideas listed in our toolkit for developing recruitment plans.
  • Draw inspiration from your agency’s mission, core values, and practices for children and families. Your organization might already have a practice model that can be used as a foundation for your diligent recruitment plan.
  • Identify relevant agency-wide efforts that intersect with your diligent recruitment goals and efforts. Examples could include existing practice models or special initiatives.
  • Revisit prior successes and lessons learned, as potential insights can be found in previous grants or child and family service reviews (CFSRs).
  • Explore current requirements related to recruitment, development, or support of families. You might find inspiration in such places as tribal-state agreements or contracts, consent decrees or settlement agreements, CFSR program improvement plans, or border agreements with neighboring states.
3. Dive into the data

The better you understand your data, the better you understand what families and youth need.

  • Take a fresh look at the data existing for the children in foster care with the goal of gaining a clearer picture of all their needs. For example, what are their medical, emotional, or behavioral needs? By identifying what youth need, you can begin to offer meaningful solutions.
  • Do the same thing for your existing foster, adoptive, and kinship families.
  • Integrate these two data sets and compare and contrast the findings for both children in care and the families. Understanding both groups’ needs and how they relate will help you identify diligent recruitment objectives.
  • Let the data lead the way. Use the information gleaned to tailor your plan.
  • Seek guidance regarding your data and its analysis. While data is crucial for effective planning, it can also be intimidating, especially if your existing systems don’t provide all the information you need in a clear way. You can contact us, or visit our resources page on our website to learn ways to best use your data.
4. Learn from others

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and you don’t have to do it alone.

  • Look at recruitment plans from other child welfare systems for examples of developing, writing, and structuring a recruitment plan. You can see state diligent recruitment plans by searching the Children’s Bureau’s website for state reports, including CFSPs and APSRs, and searching within each CFSP or APSR for the section on diligent recruitment.
  • Join our diligent recruitment peer group to connect with peers around the country who are working on diligent recruitment.
  • Ask us! The National Center for Diligent Recruitment is here to help. Our resources include helpful webinars, articles, and tools such as the diligent recruitment navigator. Additionally, we have data experts and technical assistance providers to answer questions. Contact us for support in building and implementing your diligent recruitment plan.
5. Remember your reason

Let your “why” fuel momentum. While the previous tips offered guidance regarding how you can build your plan, what matters most is why you’re doing so. At each step, remember that all your diligent recruitment efforts should ensure that your foster, adoptive, and kinship families are prepared and supported to meet the needs of children in foster care.

6. Maintain your momentum

Getting the plan developed, written, and approved is an exciting accomplishment. Maintaining that momentum is the heart of the work. Develop benchmarks to monitor your progress, consider establishing a monthly or quarterly workgroup to review data and discuss current processes and goals to address arising barriers.

AdoptUSKids and the National Center for Diligent Recruitment are operated by the National Adoption Association and made possible by grant number 90CO1143 from the US Children's Bureau. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of the National Adoption Association and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Children's Bureau, ACYF, ACF, or HHS.

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Wherever you are in your diligent recruitment planning and implementation process, our National Center for Diligent Recruitment staff are here to help you.



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