Describing current foster homes and children in care

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Targeted recruitment directs an agency's resources and efforts where they are mostly likely to yield results. As a data-driven technique, it requires agencies to have an accurate picture of the types of foster homes that are needed in your area. To get this picture, you will need information about the current foster homes and the children receiving foster care. This will allow you to determine the gaps between available homes and homes that will meet the needs of children coming into care.

Characteristics of children in care

Data on the characteristics of children in foster care can be obtained from agency records and reports available from OCFS.

Obtain data on children who were placed in foster care through your agency over the previous 12 months, including as many key demographics as possible. In New York State, a list of placements may be created from reports compiled by the OCFS Data Warehouse, such as the "Foster Care Roster by District" or "Admissions to Foster Care Summary" report. Your county's Data Warehouse liaison can help you access these reports. If your county has no liaison, contact the OCFS Regional Office in your area.

OCFS publishes Monitoring and Analysis Profiles (MAPS) each year that provide county- and state-level data related to foster care, adoption, and child protective services. MAPS for each county, New York City, upstate New York, and the state as a whole.

MAPS data includes an annual summary of the numbers and percentages of:

Depending on the size of your agency, you may want to use local data systems or review a sample of case files to supplement what is available from other sources. This information might include:

This children and youth in care worksheet developed by the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment can be used as a model for organizing your data.

Foster care agencies in New York State are required to submit Recruitment and Retention Plans to OCFS every three years. Your agency's report may provide data projections and the basis for its current recruitment focus.

Characteristics of foster homes

The characteristics of the agency's pool of foster homes can be obtained from agency records, from data such as demographic information, location, and placement preferences.

Information should be gathered on the current pool of foster/adoptive and kinship homes, including:

It is worthwhile to track kinship homes. By determining the proportion of your certified homes that are kinship foster homes, you can more accurately establish the number of available homes for children in non-kinship settings.

OCFS Data Warehouse reports that can be used to access this data include the "Facility Detail Report" and the "Facility Summary List Report." This kin, foster, and adoptive parents worksheet developed by the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment can be used as a model for organizing your data.

What do the numbers tell you?

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.

For example, what does this data tell you about sibling placements? The MAPS data below can be found for your county here:

  Separated Partly Separated Intact
Group Size Number % Comparables Number % Comparables Number % Comparables
2 6 30.0 30.5 14 70.0 69.5
3 0 0.0 11.8 11 42.3 20.9 15 57.7 54.3
4 or more 0 0.0 2.8 10 43.5 58.6 13 56.5 21.2

How many of your placements keep siblings together? Do the "Best test =2's" and note what percentage of your groups of two are intact. If the percentage is lower than 85%, then there is room for improvement.

Best test =2's1

How well is your jurisdiction doing at keeping siblings together?

Public Catalyst (August 2017), A Template for Change: Translating Best Practices into Results, NYS OCFS Homefinding Summit.


Compare needs with current foster 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?

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.

Meeting current needs by re-recruiting existing foster homes

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.

Foster parents as recruiters

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.

How well are you recruiting kinship homes?

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.

This project is funded by the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, under a Cooperative Agreement, Grant Number 90CO-1109. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.

Children's Bureau
NYS Office of Children and Family Services
Welfare Research, Inc.