A federal grant will help the St. Louis area get more foster kids into forever homes.

If the "Extreme Recruitment" program to get children, mostly teens, into permanent homes works in the St. Louis area this year, it could become a template for other locations in the state next year.

Carmen Schulze with the Missouri Coalition of Children’s Agencies says the $2 million federal grant provides for five years of funding for extra manpower needed to place more kids.

The push is to find family members, no matter how far away, who will provide a safe, permanent home for teens in foster care.

Schulze says the need for permanent homes exists throughout the state. St. Louis was awarded the grant because of strong agency partnerships already in place there.

If this program is successful this year, it’s expected to expand into other parts of Missouri next year and beyond.

On the TV show "Extreme Home Makeover," crews build an entire house over the course of a week. That’s the idea behind the new "Extreme Recruitment" program — to get as many foster children possible into permanent homes in a short period of time.

Agencies involved include the Adoption Exchange, Children’s Home Society, Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, Missouri Children’s Division, Missouri Coalition of Children’s Agencies, Missouri Institute of Mental Health, St. Louis Region Performance Based Contractors.

Specifically, Extreme Recruitment seeks to connect youths age 10 and older, who have been in foster care for at least 15 months with kin or other supportive adults who can provide a sense of identity and belonging. Children’s service workers want to do it within 12 to 20 weeks versus the typical 12 to 24 months, according to the Children’s Division of Missouri Department of Social Services.

The program formally kicks off Thursday, Oct. 1.

"Efforts to locate potential adoptive relatives for African American children, sibling groups and youth with emotional, developmental or behavioral concerns will be a primary focus of the project. In most cases, parental rights will have been terminated, but it is not a requirement," the agency states.

Extreme Recruitment hopes to reach a minimum of 150 children, connect 90 percent of them with kin or other supportive adults and move 70 percent of them into permanent adoptive homes. Extensive evaluation will occur and data will be collected from the partnering agencies over the course of the five-year project.

Jessica Machetta reports [Download/listen MP3]