Extreme Recruitment is the brainchild of the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition's executive director, Melanie Scheetz.
"She caught the tail end of Extreme Makeover Home Edition and she thought isn't that a great idea: get a great big group of people together to take something that would normally take months and do it much faster. We wanted to be able to apply that to children waiting for adoption," Gayle Flavin, Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition.
"We work with the children who are most, considered the most difficult to place. so older children, large sibling groups and children with disabilities," Flavin explains.
"So extreme recruitment is not rocket science. What we do is take all forms of adoption recruitment that people have been doing previously and we do those concurrently. The child's team meets weekly for 30 minutes. At the same time we are preparing that child for permanancy .. looking at their mental and physical health needs."
"We have two goals: we aim for 90% of the children we work with to be reconnected with realitives or kin and 70% of the children we work with be matched with an adoptive placement or a guardianship placement within four to five months instead of two years."
Extreme Recruitment is what brought the Brown Family together.
Tia, Azeria and Araya have lived in foster care most of their lives and in separate homes. The girls were actually third generation foster care. Their biological mother and grandmother were both part of the foster care system. St. Louis Administrative Judge for the Family Court, Judge Jimmie Edwards, ordered that they stay together.
"They had parents that failed. And that's a tragedy of the foster care system. The foster care system is actually a double edge sword. It's an indication that the biological family has failed. But on the other side of the coin is a wonderful, wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the generosity of others," Edwards explains.
"I guess they were doing Extreme Recruitment and started contacting our family members because they didn't know and thought their family only consisted of their mother, grandmother and great grandmother. And they said that they didn't have any family," Michelle Brown recalls.
"The Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition called my aunt and a lot of my aunts are up in age, they raised their families, they were like oh well, call Michelle. She has everybody's kids all the time. and see what she wants to do."
"So my aunt and my dad got together and my dad said, hey Michelle, I got something you might want to know. I'm like what? He said, well the kids are going to be lost in foster care and they're thinking about adopting them out and the judge wants to keep them together. So he said what do you think about you taking them and I'm like oh, I don't know. I'm on my five year plan, my baby's a senior."
"I just asked her to think about it .. is this what you want to do. but I told her whatever you want to do and it is her family, so why not? let's do it!" James Brown explained.
"I didn't know if I would remember how to change diapers or potty train. and have somebody so dependent on me because my kids were a lot more indpendent now. So to have somebody solely dependent on me all over again I was like I hope I don't forget," Michelle said.
The three sisters are actually Michelle's fourth cousins.
"The girls never were aware that they had any family. They thought that the only family they had was right there. They never knew they had a great great grandmother, a great grandfather, great aunts, cousins , cousins, I dont' know we have hundreds of cousins," Michelle said.
"They just recently started calling us mom and dad once adoption was final. Because I said alright, now normally you would say Michelle or James. But after June the 29th, we're going to be mom and dad. So they just kinda played around with it and eased into it."
"Extreme Recruitment was really awesome. They worked their butts off. They worked really hard and they worked fast. Once they decided, they really worked in the girls' favor because the judge did say that they had to be together. They were willing to do whatever to find families and within the family that would be able to take all three them and they provided us with any resources we may have needed. If we didn't have things for the girls, they would ask do you have this do you have that."
"I knew their birth mother and I finally met their new mom.It was just a beautiful ending to a situation that could have been different for those kids. Their ending could have been something other than a forever family. They could have lingered in foster care for many many years. but because of Exteme Recruitment, they did not. They identified with a family, whose a relative to all three of those girls. That's a beautiful story .. beautiful ending," Edna Green, the sisters' Extreme Recruiter with the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition.
If you would like more information about adoption and foster care, please call the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition at 1-800-FOSTER3.