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Foster Care Reentry and Placement Stability Outcomes: Understanding California’s Performance and Practices to Improve Outcomes The Leadership Symposia on Evidence-Based Practice in Human ServicesJanuary 30, 2009San Diego, California Kathy Lemon Osterling Ph.D., MSWAssistant Professor Amy D’Andrade, Ph.D., MSWAssistant ProfessorAlice M. Hines, Ph.D., MSWDirector & ProfessorSchool of Social WorkSan Jose State University

study contributors
Study Contributors

CDSS: Linda Hockman, Glenn Freitas, Greg Rose & Linne Stout

CalSWEC: Barrett Johnson, Director Child Welfare In-Service Training Project

SJSU School of Social Work Research Team: Dr. Alice Hines (P.I.), Dr. Kathy Lemon Osterling, Dr. Amy D’Andrade, and graduate research assistants Emily Glickman and Laura Raymond

A special thank you to Barbara Needell and her research team at CSSR for their assistance with interpretation of performance indicator data

purpose of workshop
Purpose of Workshop
  • To review the literature on factors related to foster care reentry and placement stability and promising practices to address these outcomes.
  • To present information from Program Improvement Plans (PIPs) and System Improvement Plans (SIPs) on practices and policies implemented in states and counties to address these outcomes.
  • To present findings from interviews with counties in California implementing strategies to improve performance on these outcomes, and to identify implementation issues and perceived effectiveness of these strategies.
  • To discuss implications of findings for evidence-based/evidence-informed practice.
background child and family service review cfsr
Background: Child and Family Service Review (CFSR)
  • First mandated in 1994 in amendments to the Social Security Act which allowed HHS to review states’ child and family services to assess conformity with requirements of Title IV-B and IV-E.
  • Began implementation in 2001
  • Each state review includes:
    • Administrative data on certain performance indicators
    • On-site review of 50 cases in 3 counties
    • If state is out of compliance on any outcome, a Program Improvement Plan is required
background cfsr assessment of 7 outcomes in 3 domains safety permanency well being
Background: CFSR Assessment of 7 Outcomes in 3 domains (safety, permanency & well-being)
  • Safety Outcome 1: Children are, first and foremost, protected from abuse and Neglect
  • Safety Outcome 2: Children are safely maintained in their homes whenever possible and appropriate
  • Permanency Outcome 1: Children have permanency and stability in their living situations
  • Permanency Outcome 2: The continuity of family relationships and connections is preserved for children
  • Child and Family Well-Being Outcome 1: Families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children’s needs
  • Child and Family Well-Being Outcome 2: Children receive appropriate services to meet their educational needs
  • Child and Family Well-Being Outcome 3: Children receive adequate services to meet their physical and mental health needs
permanency outcome 1 children have permanency stability in their living situations
Permanency Outcome 1: Children have permanency & stability in their living situations
  • Foster care reentry and placement stability are important performance indicators within permanency outcome 1.
foster care reentry placement instability are harmful to children s well being
Foster Care Reentry & Placement Instability are Harmful to Children’s Well-being
  • Reentering foster care after reunification suggests that:
    • Improvements in family problems were not sustained after reunification
    • Children and youth are experiencing disruptions in consistent care-giving and the trauma of a second removal
  • Numerous placement changes are associated with:
    • Problems in children’s ability to form relationships
    • Externalizing & internalizing behavior problems
    • Trauma symptoms
    • Academic problems
    • Juvenile justice system (for males)
    • Increased chances of reentering foster care after reunification
literature review
Literature Review
  • Literature Review Questions:
    • What factors are related to foster care reentry and placement instability?
    • What practices may improve performance on foster care reentry and placement stability outcomes?
  • Process of conducting the literature review included:
    • Structured literature review methods used for searching academic databases and selecting studies
    • Identification of practices through The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC)
  • Criteria for selection of practice in literature review
  • 1) The Scientific Rating Scale developed by the CEBC was used and
  • practices that met criteria for a 1 (well-supported by research evidence), 2
  • (supported by research evidence), or 3 (promising research evidence).
  • 2) For practices identified through the CEBC, the scientific rating scale
  • assigned by CEBC was used. For practices identified in our review, the
  • CEBC scientific rating scale was applied
literature review on reentry practices
Literature Review on Reentry Practices

Three types of practices were identified:

1) Assessment & Decision-Making (when child first enters care and at the decision to reunify)

  • Family Reunification Services

3) Aftercare Services

literature review on reentry practices assessment decision making
Literature Review on Reentry Practices: Assessment & Decision-Making
  • Team Decision Making (TDM) or Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM) Collaborative model of assessment and decision making
literature review on reentry practices family reunification services
Literature Review on Reentry Practices: Family Reunification Services

Substance abuse (motivational interviewing, contingency management, 12-step support groups, family treatment drug court)

Mental health (trauma recovery focused counseling for child and parent)

Domestic violence (psycho-educational groups for batterers, support & advocacy, specialized counseling)

Parenting (parent-child interaction therapy, psycho-educational curriculums)

Housing assistance

literature review on reentry practices aftercare services
Literature Review on Reentry Practices: Aftercare Services
  • May include similar services as those offered in family reunification
  • Differential Response may also be utilized as an aftercare strategy
literature review on placement stability practices
Literature Review on Placement Stability Practices

Four types of practices were identified

  • Assessment of child’s placement needs and caregiver’s ability to meet those needs
  • Recruitment and outreach to increase the number of available foster parents, or family finding efforts to increase the number of kin caregivers
  • Support and training for foster parent and kin care providers
  • Intensive support and behavioral interventions for youth with who cannot have their needs met in a lower level of care
literature review on placement stability practices assessment decision making
Literature Review on Placement Stability Practices: Assessment & Decision Making

Team Decision Making (TDM) or Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM)

Standardized assessments of foster parents (Casey Foster Parent Inventory, Foster Parent Attitudes Questionnaire)

No evidence-based practices were identified related to foster parent recruitment, however

There is evidence that foster parents who learn of the need for foster parents from religious organizations remain foster parents for longer periods of time than those who were informed through the media

Literature Review on Placement Stability Practices: Recruitment of Foster Parents

Parent training for foster parents

Neighbor to Neighbor professionalizes the work of foster parents through a salary and benefits, and aims to keep sibling groups together

Court Appointed Special Advocates Trained volunteers who advocate for and mentor foster children and youth

Literature Review on Placement Stability Practices: Support & Training

literature review on placement stability practices intensive interventions for youth
Literature Review on Placement Stability Practices: Intensive Interventions for Youth

Multidimensional treatment foster care: Intensive support and monitoring for youth and foster parents to maintain youth in a foster family home rather than a higher level of care

Wraparound services: Collaborative model of services with integrated case plans among all service providers with intensive, strength-based services

community context
Community Context
  • Geographic context: Rural, Urban, Suburban/Mixed, large county, small county, etc.
  • Demographic context: Poverty rate, crime rate, racial/ethnic composition of county, etc.
  • Geographic and demographic contexts influence:
      • The characteristics of families coming into contact with the child welfare system
      • The relative availability of services and resources
organizational context
Organizational Context
  • Components of organizational context that may influence service effectiveness include:
      • Organizational structure (role specialization, decentralization)
      • Work conditions (e.g. leadership, workload, professional development, compensation, social support)
      • Worker characteristics (demographics & attributes)
      • Worker responses (job satisfaction, burnout/stress, commitment)
      • Contingency factors (environment, technology, size & age)
main points of literature findings
Main Points of Literature Findings

Placement Stability:

Risk factors

Children with health and/or mental health problems

Non-kin placements

A lack of resources for foster and kin caregivers

Some evidence for:


Standardized assessments of foster parents

Foster parent training



Treatment Foster Care


Risk factors

Significant problems Short initial stays in foster care and

more placement change

Some evidence for


Specific FR services

Differential response

purpose of study
Purpose of Study

What states and counties are attempting to improve performance on reentry and placement stability according to the most recent Program Improvement Plan (PIP) or System Improvement Plan (SIP) documents?

What are the strategies or practices states and counties implemented to improve performance on these outcomes?

Among counties targeting these issues, and improving performance, what issues arose in the implementation of these strategies?

Among these counties, what is the perceived effectiveness of the strategies?

only ca counties used in this analysis
Only CA Counties Used in this Analysis

Federal definitions of measures for PS and RE changed between R1 and R2

Comparisons can’t be made between time periods due to these differences

CSSR calculates performance of CA and CA counties using the new federal measures back to 1998, so can examine performance over time

different measure of placement stablity used
Different Measure of Placement Stablity Used

Federal measure groups together children with different amounts of time in care

Can distort understanding of PS

CSSR calculates a measure of PS that counts number of placements for all children in care 1,2,3,4,5,6 years, at that point in time. No grouping together of children with different amounts of time in care.


PS Federal Measure

PS CSSR Measure

pip and sip foster care reentry strategies
Top 4 State Strategies (n=29 states)

Improve assessment processes (34%)

Family conferencing or team decision-making (28%)

After-care services (24%)

Improve data entry and reporting (21%)

Top 4 County Strategies (n=28 counties)

Team decision-making (43%)

Improve assessment processes (39%)

Improve use of available services (32%)

After-care services (25%)

PIP and SIP Foster Care Reentry Strategies
pip and sip foster care ps strategies
Top 4 State Strategies (n=29 states)

Improve supports for foster parents (79%)

Expand recruitment of foster parents(72%)

Improve assessment/ placement matching (69%)

Provide technical assistance to social workers/other staff (38%)

Top 4 County Strategies (n=19 counties)

Improve supports for foster parents (53%)

Expand recruitment of foster parents(47%)

Conduct research or needs assessments (37%)

Team decision making (32%)

PIP and SIP Foster Care PS Strategies
methods for interviews sampling procedures
Methods for Interviews: Sampling Procedures

Construction of the sample was based on two criteria:

1) the county targeted placement stability or foster care reentry as an overall improvement goal in their first and/or second System Improvement Plan (SIP)

2) county performance on reentry or placement stability indicated improvement in the prior 10 years

5 counties were identified that experienced improved performance on placement stability

9 counties were identified that experienced improved performance on foster care reentry

In order to increase the sample size, counties that described comprehensive or innovative strategies were also selected (4 for placement stability and 2 for foster care reentry)

Final sample for placement stability: 9 responses (8 telephone interviews and 1 written response)

Final Sample for foster care reentry: 9 responses (2 counties declined)

methods for interviews data collection data analysis reliability validity
Methods for Interviews: Data Collection, Data Analysis, Reliability & Validity

Data Collection: Semi-structured interview guide

Data Analysis: General analytic approach was to review and categorize responses, identifying any general themes that emerged through an iterative review process

Reliability & Validity: Each co-investigator conducted an in-depth review of one indicator and then reviewed one another’s analyses as a reliability check. Reviews were then discussed and themes clarified

interview results
Interview Results
  • Foster care reentry:
      • 17 types of practices were identified
  • Placement stability:
      • 14 types of practices were identified
  • Practices were grouped into three categories:
      • Well Utilized Strategies
      • Less Utilized Strategies
      • Strategies used by few Counties with Little Detail on Content or Effectiveness
Team decision-making prior to reunification

Collaborative case planning between families, service providers and social workers

After care services

Contracted services with CBOs to provide services after child welfare case is closed

Structured Decision Making or Comprehensive Assessment Tool

Implementation involved training and monitoring of workers in use of tools

Reentry: Well Utilized Strategies

Dependency drug court

Collaborative and intensive services for parents with a substance abuse problem with increased monitoring through court appearances


Contracted services with CBOs to provide collaborative and intensive services to youth & families

Research and planning

In-depth analysis of cases that reentered

Development of collaborative work groups that identified best practice areas

Reentry: Less Utilized Strategies

placement stability well utilized strategies
Placement Stability: Well Utilized Strategies

Improving supports to caregivers

Activities to improve outreach to foster parents and provide training & support

Increasing successful placements with relatives

Activities such as Family finding efforts, streamlining process for approval of relative placements

Team Decision-Making for placement changes

Collaborative meetings to plan placement changes or identify placement resources

placement stability less utilized strategies
Improve the assessment process

Various activities to improve assessment of children’s needs and caregiver skills

Improve/increase caregiver recruitment efforts

Various activities to build connections with communities and recruit foster parents

Creation of a centralized placement finding process

Placement finding activities are centralized with one or two workers, or a new unit

Placement Stability: Less Utilized Strategies
cross indicator analysis of implementation issues
Cross-indicator Analysis of Implementation Issues

Common challenges in implementation:

  • Insufficient funding and/or impending budget cuts
  • Organizational culture influences how quickly new practices are adopted

Common facilitators in implementation:

  • Strong collaboration and/or pre-existing partnerships between service providers
  • Well-planned implementation process
cross indicator analysis of effectiveness
Cross-indicator Analysis of Effectiveness
  • Difficult for respondents to answer questions about effectiveness of the strategy
  • No county had implemented an evaluation plan that had yet provided results on the effectiveness of the strategy
  • Respondents reported examining performance indicator data and tracking changes in the outcomes, but there was not a link to the strategy
  • Counties are simultaneously implementing numerous strategies & their influence on reentry & placement stability is largely unknown
  • Rationale for how the strategy would influence the outcome was not often clear
  • Although the influence of insufficient funding is a significant implementation barrier, the challenges & facilitators in implementation of strategies are not solely budgetary
  • Strategies may influence interrelated indicators in unanticipated ways
discussion questions
Discussion Questions

Are there other promising practices not discussed yet today that you are aware of that may improve performance on these outcomes?

What are the most important influences on foster care reentry and placement stability in your county?

What do you see as the main obstacles to improved performance on these indicators? What are your recommendations to address these challenges

recommendations for policy makers administrators
Recommendations for Policy Makers & Administrators
  • Structures to facilitate collaborative partnerships, such as:
    • Subsidized projects between universities and child welfare agencies to conduct evaluations of strategies on reentry and placement stability outcomes
    • Incorporate SIP strategy evaluations as a CalSWEC funded research project
recommendations for training education
Recommendations for Training & Education

Training for managers and analysts on logic-model planning processes and program evaluation

Training on how to identify evidence-based practices

recommendations for future research
Recommendations for Future Research

Rigorous evaluations of the strategies currently in use on reentry and placement stability outcomes