Measure Progress


In the sample Action Plan below, the agency's objective was to have ten additional certified foster homes for large sibling groups within a 12-month period. The outcome:  At the end of the 12-month period, 8 homes were certified and 1 was in the home study phase.

AIM #1: Have a pool of foster/adoptive homes that is sufficient to meet the demand for homes that will care for sibling groups.
OBJECTIVE: Add ten certified foster homes for large sibling groups within the next 12 months.
STRATEGY TASKS WHO WHEN OUTCOME
1. Engage current foster parents of sibling groups in targeted recruitment and retention efforts Sign up 5 foster parents to host information sessions in their homes. Homefinder 3/15
4/1
4/25
5/1
5/30
38 attendees
6 applications
4 homes certified
1 in home study
Enlist a foster parent of a sibling group to speak at the next foster parent recognition event. Unit Supervisor 5/5 Foster parent could not be scheduled
Task not accomplished
2. Staff will speak to community groups in targeted neighborhoods. Ask all staff to identify appropriate community groups Agency director 4/5 12 groups suggested
Schedule presentations Homefinder unit – Secretary 5/15 6 presentations scheduled
Make 6 presentations Homefinder
Caseworkers
6/1
6/3
6/28
7/12
8/1
5 presentations
(1 cancelled)
124 participants
5 applications
4 homes certified

The overall progress toward the objective was good. The agency came close to meeting its objective within the desired time frame.

The team then asked the question, "Which strategy was the most effective?" Because the agency was tracking the inquiry-to-certification process, it was able to determine that six applications were submitted in response to the foster parents' home meetings. Five applications were received following the staff presentations. In terms of homes certified or in the home study stage, the foster parent-based meetings were the most successful, with a 13 percent success rate (5 out of 38 participants). Four certified homes resulted from presentations to 124 people at community group meetings (a 3 percent success rate).

With this evidence that foster parents were indeed the best recruiters, the agency proposed ways to strengthen its efforts in this area. In addition to continuing the information sessions in the homes of foster parents, the agency decided to actively promote New York State's Finder's Fee program * and added this strategy to the Action Plan for the coming year.

After a debriefing with the staff who made the presentations before community groups, the team decided to rework the content to be more focused on the sibling groups in foster care and to arrange for a foster parent to speak about the experience. Participants would be asked to provide their names and email addresses to allow the agency to do follow-up contact with individuals to ask if they would like more information.

* In New York State, policy allows local districts and agencies to offer experienced foster parents a $200 "finder's fee" for recruiting new foster families. The payment is made to foster parents and local districts are reimbursed by the state after the new foster home is certified and receives the first child (Standards of Payment for Foster Care of Children Program Manual, 2006).

Continue to collect data and watch for new trends

At least once a year, review and analyze the data your agency is continuing to collect. This new information may require your team to return to an earlier stage in the process. Read more . . .

A review of the new data may show that your previous needs have changed, and that new needs have emerged that need attention. This requires going back to earlier steps in the process: collecting and analyzing new data, making a plan, and putting the plan into action.

For example, one agency's previous data identified a pressing need for homes for infants. After some time had passed, and the agency had strategically recruited homes for infants, the updated data showed that this need was now adequately met by the pool of foster homes. However, more recent data revealed another gap: homes for large sibling groups. The agency revised its Action Plan to include two new objectives: find homes for sibling groups and provide ongoing support for foster parents caring for infants.

Things to consider:
Compare the most recent inquiry-to-certification funnel with the previous year. Has there been an increase in the number of inquiries? Has there been a change in the percentage of inquirers who attend orientation sessions? Has the bottom of the funnel gotten wider?

Continue to track the time between milestones in the certification process. Is the average time between inquiry and certification longer or shorter? If there were bottlenecks in the process, have they been alleviated?

Compare the characteristics of children coming into care with the previous time period. Have there been changes in the proportion of children with specific racial/ethnic backgrounds? Has the average size of sibling groups changed? Has there been a sharp increase in a particular age group or in children with special needs?

Consider the characteristics of current foster homes and how they match up with the needs of the children entering care. Are more homes needed for a particular age group, sibling groups, or children who are medically fragile? How many homes are needed for each category?

Review your retention data. Compare the percentage of homes that closed during the current time period with previous periods. Have past trends continued, changed direction, or stayed the same? As you continue to conduct and analyze satisfaction surveys, questionnaires, and exit interviews, are there new patterns in the opinions and comments?

Keep on keeping on

As you find new ways to strengthen your recruitment and retention, sustain your success by building new strategies into your agency's policies and procedures. This will help to maintain the improvements you've worked hard to achieve. Read more . . .

For example, if you have found that it is preferable to conduct home visits early in the certification process, add a scheduling box for a home visit to your initial inquiry form. Building this step into your recruitment practices makes it more likely that the practice will be continued.

Remember to communicate your team's findings to others at your agency, including administrators, supervisors, foster parents, and caseworkers. For example, if extra support for foster parents during their first placement makes a difference in retention, share this at an all-staff meeting and at the next foster parent event.

Share your insights and the team's activities with the community as well. E-mail updates to community partners you have contacted during the implementation of the Action Plan. Post items on your agency's website and Facebook page. Talk to a local reporter about doing a story related to your goals, such as a feature during Foster Care Month on sibling groups in foster care.

It is crucial to maintain the Recruitment and Retention Team as a part of your agency's structure. Recruitment and retention of foster and adoptive parents will always require a healthy dose of persistence and creativity, but a team that uses data to tackle recruitment challenges is more likely to find — and keep — homes that meet the needs of children in foster care.