Improving New York State’s Family Foster Care Process to Enhance Children’s Health
Special Projects Fund
March 20, 2019
Research shows that young children living in residential group home settings are at a higher risk for developing physical, emotional, and behavioral health problems.
Given the adverse health effects of living in group homes, timely placements in suitable foster and permanent homes need to be a priority. New York State ranks at the bottom in permanent home placements for youth who have been in foster care for at least a year. In New York State, there is no unified system for recording and tracking the process of becoming a foster parent. People wishing to become foster parents often become frustrated with bureaucracy and delays. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) has issued requirements to standardize and streamline the processes so that all foster care agencies are using the same record-keeping format. However, foster care agencies currently do not have the technology or capacity to comply with the new requirements. In 2019, NYHealth awarded the Hudson Center for Health Equity and Quality a grant to develop a streamlined foster care enrollment and application and increase the availability of qualified foster parents in New York State.
Under this grant, the Hudson Center collaborated with the Westchester County Department of Social Services (WDSS) foster care agency to develop a streamlined enrollment and member management system that reduced agencies’ costs, met OCFS requirements, and ensured timely placement of children with qualified foster parents. The Hudson Center supported the development of an electronic portal for WDSS to monitor foster parent enrollment and ensured that applicants meet State regulations. Additionally, the Hudson Center created and launched a prototype electronic application system for prospective foster care parents. The prototype system made it easier for prospective foster parents to apply from their home computers and track online the status of their applications from start to finish. Parents that became certified were also able to use the system to sign up for and keep track of required trainings and recertifications. The creation and launch of a prototype that streamlines the electronic application system reduced problems related to enrollment, tracking, and retention of foster families and ensured a constant pipeline of available and qualified foster parents. If the prototype continues to prove to be successful, the opportunity for statewide rollout and replication will benefit many counties, agencies, and children.