The Children's Institute Blog

The Family Recruiter Story: National Adoption Awareness Month

Posted: Nov 29, 2017 by The Children's Institute

It’s never just another day at Project STAR. There’s always a person in need, a crisis to avert, a family to unite, and a life to change.

Jeff Kazarick is getting into a rhythm there. Since March, he’s worked as a family recruiter with the Wilkinsburg-based social-services arm of The Children’s Institute, who we profile today as part of National Adoption Awareness Month.

“You always hear about the bad things in the news. But seeing how many good people there are, who want to open their homes – you never get used to that,” Jeff said. “It’s an amazing thing.”

After working for 16 years at The Bradley Center, a behavioral health and child services organization in Robinson, Jeff is now the gatekeeper for how Project STAR communicates with prospective foster-care and adoptive families. He organizes information night meetings, fields endless e-mails and phone calls, and helps an average of 10 families enter foster care each month.

“The need to provide a safe and loving home for children in need – that is the main reason everyone’s there in the first place,” Jeff said. “Any family, any individual who shows an interest in foster care, I’m the first contact they have. And I get them going in the right direction.”

That’s no small task. Project STAR served 2,346 children and families in Fiscal Year 2017. Why such interest and engagement?

“One constant response I do get from a lot of the families is that the reputation of Project STAR led them to the agency,” he said.

Jeff also is being modest. Amy Rendos – Jeff’s direct boss and Project STAR’s supervisor of placement services – said he’s taken on much of the responsibility for being the point of contact in Greater Pittsburgh since the departure this summer of a second, more senior family recuiter.

“The family recruiter is the starting point of foster care, they’re the first impression. Recruiters are our envoys into society,” Amy said. “And people remember that first person as part of their family story.”

“Jeff has taken on so much,” she added, “and handled in wonderfully.”

Jeff, for one, is excited to be a part of the team.

“What I really love most about my job is the versatility,” he said. “On a day-to-day basis, it’s just exciting for me.”

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