Archimedes once said, “Give me a lever long enough . . . and single-handed I can move the world.” Arguably the fulcrum underpinning every success is the utilization of the right leverage. When attempting to solve complex social problems, often we believe that the right solutions lie somewhere beyond our ability to access them. Our identification of the problem is met with the millions of “things would be better if we could just….” statements. As a result, we get stuck in a cycle of wishful thinking, all the while failing to closely examine the tools we have right at our fingertips.
As Founder and CEO at Adoption-Share, I have been given the privilege of inspiring the child welfare community to break this cycle of wishful thinking. Through our platform, I am sharing my radical optimism that we can achieve enormous success for children and families by re-examining the tools within reach.
Today, an unprecedented amount of knowledge and innovation is available to build solutions for child welfare and children in foster care. Chief among these revolutionary tools and seemingly most ignored in the child welfare arena is the utilization of data and predictive analytics in the process of decision making. Big data interfaces with every sector of society; its algorithms able to inform, educate, and predict connections between both related and seemingly unrelated things. Yet, our utilization of data to help children and families is underwhelming, an ignored fulcrum that could empower us with unprecedented leverage.
When leveraged appropriately, data not only has the power to predict the future, but it also has the power to make sense of our past. For years, the issues that pervade the child welfare system in the United States have been misdiagnosed as a lack of resources or families needed to ensure every child with a goal of adoption gets adopted. As a result, our full-court press has been on recruitment of new families by marketing the faces of vulnerable children. Without a systemic understanding of our problem, these solutions inadvertently create today’s bottlenecks which cause both families and children to wait. I propose that technology and data are the right fulcrums we have been missing to solve what is fundamentally a connection problem.
For the past decade despite a plethora of nationwide strategies and sophisticated campaigns, data from AFCARS reveals our country’s adoption success rate for foster youth has hovered around 50% for over a decade. This means that we are in essence failing at moving children into permanency through adoption, regardless of how many children entered or exited care in a given year. All the while children wait to be adopted. Families who have been recruited, trained, and licensed also wait to adopt these very same children.
Nothing quite drives this point home for our team more poignantly than a family who felt a call to adopt children from foster care. After inquiring on over 180 kids marketed for adoption across the country, 18 months in and zero responses later, they came close to giving up. They wondered why this was so difficult when the need for homes was so great.
When this same family began to use our Family-Match tool, the results were truly disruptive. After creating a profile on Family-Match, they were matched with a sibling set of 4 from the opposite corner of their state in just 2 business days. This family that had been waiting for 18 months and had almost quit the process, had finally leveraged the right fulcrum.
Technology can help solve the connection problem and release the bottlenecks that prevent children in foster care with a goal of adoption from being adopted. Adoption-Share’s Family-Match Program is solving the connection issue in the United States by leveraging data and predictive analytics to efficiently and appropriately connect waiting children and waiting families.
The heartbeat of Adoption-Share is and has always been families. Our greatest solution to permanency for children in foster care are stable families, and our Family-Match application is uniquely postured to improve the system by making advances in the compatibility of matches, building efficiency for state agencies and affording children a place to belong.
Let’s commit to working smarter. Let’s commit to investing wiser. Let’s commit to bringing our best to solvable problems and leverage solutions that are already right at our fingertips.