Adoption Triad: Minority Professional Leadership Development Program: Connections Without Boundaries

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February 2023   |   Archive   |   National Adoption Month   

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Minority Professional Leadership Development Program: Connections Without Boundaries

As child welfare professionals, we need to ensure that children remain connected to and placed with their kinship families when they are placed in foster care. Renee Evelyn, a professional with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division of Child Protection, believes in this fact and recently spent her time as a fellow of the Minority Professional Leadership Development (MPLD) program researching practices related to connecting children with their families. MPLD, which is a signature program of the AdoptUSKids collaborative, aims to increase diverse representation and prepare child welfare leaders of color with the skills necessary to address racial inequities on a large scale and create systemic change. In 2022, 14 fellows, including Renee, completed the program and delivered dynamic presentations of their Action Research Project (ARP). Renee’s ARP, “Connections Without Boundaries,” focused on family connections for children in foster care with their families residing internationally.

Renee, who is originally from Barbados, shared that she could not have imagined being in foster care and not being placed with her family simply because of jurisdictional lines. In her 22 years of working in child welfare, Renee noticed that a high number of children of families from other countries were not being placed with kinship families because those kin did not live in the United States. She recognized that family is not less important simply because they reside outside of the United States, so she decided to take a deep dive into assessing this practice. She began her research by focusing on cases that were connected to area codes outside of the United States. Then, she reviewed this information to see what efforts had been made to contact relatives in those countries. Additionally, Renee collected surveys from professionals that asked why relatives were not contacted and inquired about their knowledge of International Social Service (ISS), a nonprofit organization that contracts with States to provide international home studies. To her surprise, many professionals had not heard of ISS and only five U.S. States contract with ISS for provision of these services.

When getting to the “why” regarding these data, Renee’s research showed that this practice of not following up with families or not placing children with relatives who reside outside of the United States was primarily based on staff biases and not knowing enough information about other cultures. Renee believes that it shouldn’t matter where families live and says, “We should be social workers to everybody.” In addition, Renee states, “There should be urgency. We can’t wait years to make efforts to locate or have home evaluations completed. We have to act sooner...We must educate ourselves about a child’s culture and make decisions that keep children connected to their family.”

Here are 3 resources that provide more information on this topic:


“Connections Without Boundaries”

By Renee Evelyn (2022)
MPLD Program


Maintaining Cultural Connections


By Child Welfare
Information Gateway



Services for Children




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