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Diverse Populations

Diverse Populations


Having a sufficient, diverse pool of foster, adoptive, and kinship families will help your child welfare system:

  • Provide placement stability by having appropriate placement options for a child’s first placement in foster care;
  • Keep sibling groups together;
  • Be able to place children and youth near their own schools and communities;
  • Provide permanency by having prospective adoptive and kinship families who can meet the needs of children and youth who can’t return home.

How We Can Help

Our resources and technical assistance can help you understand your data, develop targeted recruitment and retention efforts for specific populations, and learn about how other child welfare systems have worked effectively with diverse populations.

Key Concepts for Working with Diverse Populations

  • Child welfare systems work with people from incredibly diverse communities and populations, and with very diverse backgrounds.
  • Being able to engage with individuals and communities in culturally competent ways is crucial for staff in order to be able to serve children and youth and families effectively.
  • As you seek to recruit, retain, and support families, you will benefit from thinking inclusively and expansively about where and how they may find prospective foster, adoptive, and kinship families.

Recruiting and retaining a pool of families who can meet the needs of children and youth in your foster care system requires:

  • Recognizing the diverse backgrounds, characteristics, and needs of children and youth in your foster care system, including race, ethnicity, sibling group membership, special needs, primary language, and other factors.
  • Reaching out to and welcoming prospective foster, adoptive, and kinship families from all parts of the community.

Diversity goes far beyond race and ethnicity and may include additional characteristics, such as:

  • Family structure and marital status (single adults, two-parent families, or multigenerational families who live as a unit);
  • Age and socio-economic status;
  • Civilian or military;
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Type of home (single or multi-unit);
  • Owner or renter; 
  • People with disabilities;
  • Location (urban, suburban or rural).

Viewing diversity in this broader sense provides a useful lens in helping people recognize that many, if not most, interactions with prospective and current parents, youth, and colleagues are, in fact, cross-cultural interactions. Find resources for working with diverse populations in the Tools and Resources section of this site. Find information for prospective families who identify as LGBT, have disabilities, or are a member of the military on the AdoptUSKids website.

Building Cultural Competence

Cultural competence is a key element for working effectively with diverse populations. Increasing your own cultural competence requires:

  • A belief that it is important to become more culturally competent;
  • An acknowledgment that you don’t — and can’t — know everything about every culture, including your own; 
  • A recognition that becoming more cul­turally competent is a perpetual journey, not a destina­tion to be reached.

As you work on moving toward cultural competence, keep in mind:

  • Regardless of the various groups that someone belongs to, each person is an individual with unique preferences, strengths and perspec­tives and wants to be treated as such. Each of us wants to be respected and understood as an individual, not just as a member of some demo­graphic group or category.
  • Erring on the side of being more respectful and formal, rather than less, is a good starting point.
  • It’s okay to admit that you don’t know some­thing and to ask to be taught.
  • Flexibility and adaptability are key in working effectively with diverse populations.

Read more in our Tools and Resources on working with diverse populations.

How Does Diligent Recruitment Relate to Working with Diverse Populations?

Many elements of comprehensive diligent recruitment relate closely to your efforts to work with diverse populations, including:

  • Collaboration and public-private partnerships with groups representative of the communities from which children come, to help identify and support potential foster and adoptive families;
  • Procedures for consistently updating the characteristics of children in care utilizing information and analysis of AFCARS data and other data available to the State, region, or county;
  • Procedures for ongoing analysis of the current pool of available foster and adoptive placement resources;
  • Procedures for training staff to engage effectively with diverse cultural, racial, and economic communities who are reflective of the children and youth in foster care;
  • Procedures to deal with linguistic barriers;
  • 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.

Building your capacity to address these elements of diligent recruitment will help you increase your effectiveness at working with diverse populations.