OKDHS began a process of developing a practice model and Bridge practice is child-centered and stresses the importance of keeping children connected to kin, culture, and community during the time the children are in the custody of the state. Because of the development of this practice, all foster and adoptive parents were redefined as Bridge Resource Parents, or families that would commit to maintaining the children’s connections and to work towards reunification by mentoring parents, and to be a transitional or permanent connection if reunification is no longer possible. This practice made it obvious that there was a need for a “right” placement, and an effort to recruit and retain those families that are prepared and able to meet the needs of the child became an even higher priority.
The Bridge to the Future grant is a partnership between the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the University of Oklahoma, Center for Public Management. This five-year grant funded through the Children’s Bureau was awarded in October 2007. It is focused on targeted recruitment and retention of Bridge resource families for fostering and adoption by providing an innovative, evidence-based approach to recruitment and retention, developing a Bridge Resource Support Center, using technology to provide training and impart information, and providing additional mentoring and support to resource families through planning, implementation, and evaluation.