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Archive: August 2012

This is the last in a 4-part series that shows how to use the web tool to hone in on the needs of infants in foster care. In the last three posts, we used different parts of the web tool to learn how many infants are in our system in the first place, how long they spend in foster care, and what is unique about their placement and exit experience. When we left off, we had just learned that, among other things, infants in our sample county are more likely than older children to be placed in non-relative foster care, to exit to adoption, and when they reunify, to reunify within 90 days. What can we learn about what goes on behind the scenes in these cases that can give us more information about what might expedite permanency for infants in foster care? In this Recipe, I’ll show you how… Read more

In Part 1 of this series of Recipes, we learned about a county where infants represent the largest proportion of children entering foster care. In Part 2, we found out that those infants stayed in care longer than children who entered care at older ages. In this Recipe, we’ll use another function of the web tool to learn more about who these infants are and what they experience while in care, and use what we learn to inform our decision making about the type of intervention they might need. This Recipe will take about 10 minutes to complete. Question: What are the demographic and case-related characteristics of the infants in my system? In what ways are the children in my system who enter as infants different from the children who enter care at older ages? Follow the steps in the previous Recipe. On the results page, scroll to the top and… Read more

In the previous Recipe, we discovered that in my sample county, the largest group of children entering foster care for the first time are infants. Because they are such a large subgroup of entrants, the next thing I really want to know is how long they spend in foster care compared to children who enter at older ages. This will tell us a lot about the extent to which my system’s resources are being devoted to infants. This Recipe will take you about 5 minutes to complete. Question: Does infants’ length of stay in foster care differ from older children’s length of stay? On the All Spells page, select the same geographic area that you analyzed in the previous Recipe. In the Spell overview section, under Admission type, select First Admission. This tells the system to only return spells of children entering foster care for the first time. Moving over to… Read more

In May 2011, Chapin Hall researchers released a study that used FCDA data to produce an epidemiological and developmental snapshot of infants in foster care. The research showed that infants are a growing proportion of first-time admissions to foster care. It also showed that infants experience foster care differently from children who enter care at older ages. For example, children who enter care as infants spend a longer amount of time in foster care; are more likely to exit to adoption; and are particularly vulnerable to developmental risk factors such as physical neglect, poor health, caregiver substance abuse, and others. Meeting the needs of infants in foster care requires developmentally appropriate interventions delivered in the right dose. This Recipe is the first in a 4-part series that uses the web tool to explore infants’ experience in care and how to target opportunities for improving their outcomes. Here, in Part 1,… Read more

The web tool has two main platforms: the Multistate site and the state-specific site. In this post, I explain the differences between them and give examples of when you might want to use each. Whereas all Data Center member states have access to the Multistate site, individual states must elect to create a state-specific site. You’ll know whether or not your state has a state-specific site after you log in to the system. If your state has a state-specific site, after logging in you’ll be asked to choose whether you want to proceed to the Multistate or state-specific site. If your state does not have a state-specific site, you’ll be taken directly to the Multistate site.   The Multistate site: When a state joins the Data Center, our staff create a longitudinal file based on children’s records pulled directly from the state’s SACWIS or other electronic data collection system. That… Read more

This Recipe will show you how to work with “nicknames,” a new feature of the All Spells component of the web tool designed to help you clarify and organize your analyses. This Recipe will take you about 5 minutes to complete. What do nicknames do? Nicknames offer you the option to customize the labels of the comparison groups in your analysis, instead of using the default labels generated by the system. Because they can be tailored to each query, nicknames will help you keep track of your analyses, giving you a quick reference for remembering which of your analyses deal with which groups of children—something that will come in especially handy when you print out the PDF results from multiple queries to share with colleagues. Where does the nickname option appear on the site? You’ll find the Population nickname option in the Define output section of the All Spells page;… Read more

Length or stay is a key indicator of permanency for children in foster care. For the sake of child well-being, we strive to minimize length of stay—to get children out of foster care and into permanent homes as quickly as possible. But length of stay also as a fiscal implication. Foster care is expensive to provide. Many states are exploring ways to reduce foster care expenditures and reinvest savings into preventive and in-home services that decrease the need for out-of-home care. In the previous Recipe, I used the web tool’s Baseline Care Days and Exits Summary to answer the question of whether interventions designed to improve permanency outcomes have their intended effects. In this Recipe, I’ll show you how to use the information produced by that template to set baselines and targets for expenditures as well as outcomes. This Recipe takes about 10 minutes to complete. In addition to the web tool,… Read more

Child welfare systems are constantly implementing new policies and practices as they endeavor to improve outcomes for the children and families they serve. But how do you know if your policy and practice interventions have the effects that you intend? To get to the answer, you must start by establishing your system’s baseline performance on the outcomes that you expect your intervention will improve. In establishing baseline outcomes, you answer to the question, “Based on historical performance, how should I expect my system perform on this outcome if we do not intervene, if business proceeds as usual?” Put differently, baseline outcomes are your “before” outcomes. They provide a reference point on which you expect to improve. In this Recipe I’ll use the web tool’s Baseline Exits and Care Day Summary report to show you how to generate baseline performance on two permanency indicators: (1) proportion of children exiting to permanency… Read more

In the previous Recipe, you learned how to calculate the number of children entering care each year who are at risk of aging out within five years. This Recipe will show you how to calculate the proportion of children in this group that actually do age out. This Recipe will take you about 20 minutes to complete. In addition to the web tool, you will need a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel.   Question: Of children who are at risk of aging out of foster care within 5 years of entry, how many actually do age out? [Note: This Recipe presumes that children will age out of foster care upon turning 18. The steps can be altered for jurisdictions that extend foster care benefits to children through age 19, 20, or 21.] On the All spells page, scroll down to the Spell overview section. Under Spell started age, enter… Read more

Among other changes, the Fostering Connections law introduced new requirements for casework with older foster youth. It also established new reporting requirements regarding youth aging out of care. In light of these changes, monitoring the number of children who are at risk of aging out and providing them with the services they need are pressing issues for foster care systems today. In this Recipe I explain how to use the web tool to determine the number of youth entering care in your jurisdiction who are at risk of aging out within five years. This Recipe will take you about 10 minutes to complete. In addition to the web tool, it requires a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel.   Question: In recent years, how many children entering care in my jurisdiction were at risk of aging out within five years of entry? Has that figure changed over time? [Note: This… Read more

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