Data alone won't provide you with the steps to take toward a more effective recruitment plan. Analysis is the first step in making sense of the data you've collected, and helps you identify strengths and gaps in your agency's approach. The next step is to address current recruitment needs and plan for the future.
As your team reviews the data it has collected about the characteristics of foster homes and of children in care, several significant bits of information may jump out at you. Read more . . .
For example, what does this table of data reveal about the sibling groups admitted into care over the previous three years? Trends can be illustrated by entering the numbers into a chart format. What do these numbers and trends tell you about the needs of children coming into care?
130 total children
146 total children
149 total children
|Size of Sibling Groups||Number||%||Number||%||Number||%|
|5 or more||2||2||1||1||1||1|
|1 child only||68||74||72||73||65||65|
|TOTAL # of Groups||92||100||99||100||100||100|
These observations help build a picture of the types of homes that are likely to be needed for children coming into care. In this example, the data showed a trend in the need for homes for 3- or 4-child sibling groups, growing from six homes in 2013 to 15 homes in 2015. Alongside this trend, the predominant need, as seen in the most recent year, continues to be homes for sibling groups of two (19 percent of all homes) and homes for one child (65 percent of all homes).
Compare your current recruitment needs with your current pool of certified foster homes. What demographics or characteristics are your current homes able to serve? Would increasing the use of kinship homes help meet the needs of children in care? Read more . . .
Are there critical needs that are not being met by the current pool? Are there homes that could be re-recruited to meet your current needs? This information helps shape your targeted recruitment plan, including the Recruitment and Retention Plan your agency submits to OCFS every three years.
If there are gaps between needs and services, these areas may be "hard-to-find homes." As a team, discuss questions such as: Which homes were easy to find? Which were more difficult, and why? This should help shift thinking from "hard-to-place children" to "hard-to-find homes."
Zero in on the homes that are most difficult to find, and identify the characteristics that are the most common (e.g., homes for teens, homes for children who are medically fragile). Based on your review of your data, what do you consider the key characteristics of your most-needed homes?
For more information about targeted recruitment strategies and hard-to-find homes, see the Revitalizing Recruitment resource. The National Diligent Recruitment Resource Center recently released this toolkit to assist in the development of recruitment plans.
One county agency saw a surge in the number of infants entering foster care who were born with an opioid addiction or had tested positive for drugs. The agency developed a profile of the foster home that could meet this need. For example, a stay-at-home parent was required because of the unique medical and social-emotional needs of an infant who is drug-addicted.
Upon reviewing their current data, the agency found that few of the families in its current foster parent pool were certified to take infants and even fewer included stay-at-home parents. The team went on to identify current foster parents who were certified for other age groups and did not have a child placed in their home. These foster parents were invited to a meeting where they learned about the need and met other foster parents that had cared for these infants. Within a few months, several families had chosen to change their certification to accommodate infants.
One agency determined that it needed to increase the number of certified homes for children of Hispanic heritage. Based on the long-recognized principle that foster parents are the best recruiters, the team contracted with a foster parent who had connections in the Latino community. Using the Foster Parents as Recruiters Program, the agency compensated the foster parent to help them develop a plan for recruiting Latino homes, and then to take on a direct role in recruitment. The foster parent identified a half dozen contacts in the community and invited this group to a personalized, bilingual information session at the local Hispanic community center. Three families applied to become foster parents.
Developing kinship homes is a critical strategy for finding homes that best meet children's needs. A kinship home can be ideal in that it provides continuity with the child's culture and creates permanency with family members.
Kinship data can help you determine how your agency's performance compares with state and national averages. For example, if 18 percent of your children in care have been placed in kinship foster homes, this compares well with the average for upstate New York, where 9.5 percent of children were placed in approved relative homes in 2015. In New York City, however, 30.7 percent of children in care were placed in approved relative homes (Source: New York State Monitoring and Assessment Profiles). A review of national data shows that the top 10 percent of agencies had 36 to 48 percent of children in kinship placements. Median performance was 23 percent. So, an 18 percent level is below the national average, and your team may want to assess this for possible action.