22, No. 3
Using Data to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Resource Families
Data plays an important part of diligent recruitment. As with any improvement project, we want to use data wisely to help make sound, clear choices about what to address and how to address it. Data needs to be seen as a helpful tool that makes our work easier, not as a meaningless extra step.
Specific to diligent recruitment agencies, need access to:
- Accurate and consistent data on the characteristics of children in care; and
- Ongoing analysis of the current pool of available placement options.
As outlined elsewhere in this issue, the DRR Data Profile now required of all North Carolina county and private child-placing agencies focuses on precisely these data points.
Case Example: Using CQI to Improve DRR
North Carolina has a continuous quality improvement (CQI) model for child welfare. Known as the REAP/CQI model, it has six steps (see box below) for using data to improve practice.
- Identify and understand the problem
- Research the solution
- Develop a theory of change
- Adapt or develop the solution
- Implement the solution
- Monitor and assess the solution
Let's see what it looks like when an agency applies this model to improving diligent recruitment and retention of resource families.
Step 1. Identify and understand the problem
Our fictional agency, County Excellent, reviewed current data on placement moves to determine where to focus its efforts. Because current data show higher numbers of moves for teenagers in its custody, County Excellent decides to focus on reducing moves for teens.
Next, they review data on specific reasons teens move. They find the following possible patterns in the data:
- Teens with special needs seem to move more.
- Teens with multiple mental health diagnoses move more.
- Teens whose initial foster care placement was with a family that had received RPC training* move less.
* RPC is shorthand for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network's course "Caring for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: A Workshop for Resource Parents." To learn more about the RPC, contact the Center for Child and Family Health (https://www.ccfhnc.org/).
Step 2. Research the solution
County Excellent spends time looking at examples of successful efforts by other agencies to reduce placement moves for teens.
Step 3. Develop a theory of change
Based on research, County Excellent develops this theory of change:
- Families are not getting enough support after initial placement of a teenager in their home.
- Families don't understand the specific needs of teens.
- The county doesn't have easy access to the reasons for placement moves.
Step 4. Adapt or develop the solution
County Excellent develops the following strategies:
- Provide increased follow-up and support to families after they have teens placed with them to help address any new support needs.
- Involve teens in training prospective and current foster parents to help increase parents' understanding of teens' needs and perspectives.
- Provide additional training to foster parents, create peer-to-peer mentoring pairs for foster parents, reframe messaging about available respite care, and encourage foster parents to use respite care.
- Add an element to the county's DRR Data Profile to capture why moves occur.
Step 5. Implement the plan
County Excellent develops a plan that lays out the steps for implementing each strategy and a timeline that will implement changes one at a time. Tasks are assigned to team members to ensure staff will be ready to implement new practices effectively.
6. Monitor and assess the plan
County Excellent decides to review its DRR Data Profile quarterly to determine whether there have been changes in the number of moves and the reasons for the moves. This will help them assess the impact of each strategy as it is implemented.
Resources for Using Data to Improve DRR
Planning for any change can be overwhelming. As with any new practice or procedure, the sooner you start discussing ideas and addressing concerns, the easier it will be to implement changes smoothly. Fortunately, the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment (NRC-DR) has many resources to assist your agency in using data as you work to plan, implement, and evaluate a diligent recruitment plan. You can find these resources by visiting http://www.nrcdr.org/diligent-recruitment/using-data.