Tips On Using Data
- Track and analyze data to identify if prospective parents drop off in the process between inquiry and approval, or between approval and having a child placed with them. Collect data from families on why they stopped the process. This data can help you determine the stages where families need additional support and can help you distinguish and understand what makes families leave. Having this data can provide staff with a more accurate understanding of the reasons why families leave, rather than relying on anecdotes or long-standing assumptions about why families leave.
- Map the location of your current foster, adoptive, and kinship families. Map the locations where families can receive support (e.g., respite care providers, support group meeting locations, etc.) and look at whether the services are available in the communities where your families live.
- Track and analyze data on the presenting issues and needs when families contact the agency for support. Understanding the common areas of need will help your agency plan and target retention and support services more effectively.
- Use a data dashboard to make it easy for staff to see data on a weekly or monthly basis and to see how the data changes over time. Share data on key areas such as placement stability, percentage of sibling groups placed together, the number of families that made it through the licensing or approval process, etc. Your data dashboard could be as simple as a bulletin board or dry-erase board with updated data highlights.
- Use training and supervision to ensure that staff understand the importance of accurate, consistent, and timely data entry.
- Look at your data to find common characteristics of families you have successfully retained. For example, look at foster care families who have been actively involved with your agency for multiple years and identify what the families have in common (e.g., communities where they live, demographic profiles, forms of support they receive from your agency, connections with other community supports, etc.).
- Clean up your data before drawing conclusions from it. Identify the questions you’re trying to answer in order to analyze the right data elements for your inquiry.
- Track and analyze data related to making placement moves. Identify common themes among reasons for unplanned placement moves to identify where there may be gaps in services or areas for improvement in placement decisions.
Questions to Discuss with Colleagues
- What are some new ways, other than demographics, to look at our data to understand our population of children and youth in foster care? Examples include:
- number of previous placements
- number of children and youth placed with relatives
- zip code of home of removal
- whether placed with siblings
- whether specific groups of children and youth are overrepresented in foster care
- How often should we review and analyze our data and update our profile of the characteristics of children and youth in care?
- How often do we currently review and analyze our data and update our profile of current pool of available foster and adoptive placement resources? How often should we do these reviews and analyses in the future?
- How do we assess whether there is a disparity between the needs and characteristics of children, youth and the pool of available families who are prepared to meet those needs?
- How do we integrate our CQI efforts with our recruitment and retention efforts? How can our CQI approach help us continue to refine our efforts to develop a pool of foster and adoptive parents?
- What do we know about retention of prospective or current parents and why they either stay or leave? What do we do with the information about family retention or lack of retention?
- What does our current and trend data tell us about feedback from prospective, current, and former foster parents’ satisfaction data, length of placement for each family, number of child-specific placements such as kinship families, whether families are over-placed, and other key factors?
- What is our process for determining whether families have the skills and abilities needed to meet the needs of specific children and youth, including determining whether prospective parents are able to be concurrent planning families?
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