Children Need Amazing Parents

CHAMPS is a national policy campaign to ensure bright futures for kids in foster care by promoting the highest quality foster parenting. The primary goal of CHAMPS is to drive improvements to foster parenting policies throughout the United States. To achieve this, we offer a Policy Playbook and related tools that encourage and assist policymakers in championing reform efforts to strengthen foster parenting in their communities.

Policy #1

Support Relationships between Birth and Foster Families

Supporting birth and foster family relationships has the potential to minimize the trauma that children experience when they are removed from home; nurture the child’s relationship with birth parents, siblings and extended family; provide birth parents with support to improve their parenting skills and facilitate reunification; benefit foster parents by reducing conflicts with birth parents; and ensure that relationships are preserved after reunification.

Policy #2

Implement Data-Driven Recruitment and Retention Practices

Improving the collection and analysis of certain data elements can improve placement matching, promote placement stability, provide valuable insight into placement needs and inform recruitment and retention efforts. This include data on current foster families as well as data on which communities and neighborhoods should be targeted for recruitment efforts so that children in care remain close to home and school of origin. Information on barriers, delays and inefficiencies in the licensure and approval process can lead to a better and more timely experience for new foster families. While jurisdictions may have some of the data, it is often not being used strategically for planning and implementing foster parent recruitment, retention and support. Policy can help guide these efforts and promote consistency across counties and regions.

Policy #3

Engage Foster Parents in Decision-Making

Foster families spend more time with children in foster care than any other professional partner. Foster parents have valuable, child-specific information that is important to share with courts and agencies, information that should assist with case planning, permanency planning, and health care and education decision-making. Accordingly, foster parents should be treated as priority partners on the child’s care and treatment team and their input should be considered as seriously as that of professionals such as clinicians, attorneys and caseworkers. Caregivers also have first-hand experience with the effects of agency foster care policies and procedures and thus can play an important role in foster care policy development.

Policy #4

Provide Timely Access to Trusted, Dedicated Staff and Peer Support

As stated in the CHAMPS Policy Playbook, “foster parents report that the single most important factor in their ability to care for children (and the factor that most influences their desire to continue fostering) is the ability to connect with someone they trust to discuss how best to meet the needs of children in their care.” Thus, policy should provide that every foster parent has access to someone who can provide needed support and advice in a timely way. The people who can best fill that role are often other experienced, successful foster parents.

Policy #5

Prioritize Placements with Family Members and Other Family Connections

Relative placements have been shown to reduce the trauma of removal, maintain connections with family and community, and promote placement stability and child well-being. It is federal policy as well as policy in most, if not all, states that relatives are the preferred placement for children removed from home. Actual practice, however, does not always reflect this policy. Accordingly, policy should go further than merely stating a preference for relative caregivers; it should actively remove barriers, create incentives and facilitate such placements.

Policy #6


Ensure Timely Access to Physical and Mental Health Services

Many children in foster care have experienced significant trauma and have complex physical and behavioral health care needs. Quality foster parenting is a therapeutic intervention that promotes children’s health and well-being. A core aspect of this role is being an effective partner in ensuring children receive the health services they need. Meeting those needs, however, can be frustrating for foster parents because of systemic barriers in the areas of medical consent, information sharing, access and coordination of services, and training. Policy should, to the extent possible, eliminate those barriers so that children receive the care they need.