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IMPROVED OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN (IOC)

IOC:  Transforming Foster Care and Strengthening Preventive Services in New York City

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Improved Outcomes for Children (IOC)?

Improved Outcomes for Children is a series of reforms for Foster Care and Preventive
Services, which were announced by NYC Children’s Services in March 2007. Improved Outcomes for Children (IOC) is designed to strengthen the work of Children’s Services and of our partner preventive and foster care agencies.

Improved Outcomes for Children is built on five main elements:

  1. Foster care and preventive agencies will make use of the Family Team Conference model, through which children and families join with caseworkers, clinicians and others who play a major role in the life of the child and family whenever important decisions are made. These conferences will be facilitated by skilled social workers from Children’s Services or one of our provider agencies.
  2. Children’s Services will build a new performance accountability system to oversee our contracts with preventive and foster care providers. This new system includes teams of performance monitors assigned to each agency, and changes in the way we use data and other information to monitor performance.
  3. Children’s Services Technical Assistance teams will troubleshoot on specific cases and provide training and consultation to provider agencies regarding challenging areas of practice.
  4. IOC contains a new, flexible, innovative approach to foster care funding, allowing agencies to best meet the needs of each individual child, leading to better outcomes for children.
  5. Decision making functions that are currently carried out by Case Managers at Children’s Services will be delegated to provider agencies. Certain administrative functions will not be delegated, but will be handled by centralized teams at Children’s Services instead of by individual case managers. Both of these changes are aimed at removing barriers to service for children and families.

Why is NYC Children’s Services making this change?

We think this new system will improve the safety, stability and permanency outcomes for children involved in preventive or foster care services. IOC will expedite agencies’ ability to make decisions in a child’s case, cutting back on delays in a child’s progress toward permanency. With our new performance monitoring system, we will be able to identify and address system-wide and agency-specific issues, and not just case-specific matters.

Has any other jurisdiction tried this?

Yes. Similar initiatives were enacted in Illinois, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tennessee and in a handful of other states.

How have foster care systems in other states benefited?

Similar systems in these states have included results such as:

  1. Increase in the number of foster homes available
  2. Decrease in the use of residential care
  3. Increase in the number of adoptions finalized
  4. An increase in the stability of adoptions
  5. Fewer children re-entering foster care within a year of being reunified with their families
  6. Shorter stays in foster care – children going home safely, sooner

How will Improved Outcomes affect children and families?

Our City’s services to children and families will improve in several important ways. First, through the introduction of the Family Team Conferencing model in both preventive and foster care services, Children’s Services will ensure that children and families are included in the major decisions that affect their lives. We believe that this type of engagement of families as full partners not only results in better casework decisions, but ultimately keeps children safer, provides more stability for them, reduces the likelihood that children require out of home placement, and shortens children’s length of stay in foster care.

Second, we expect improvements in children’s experiences in foster care. Because IOC is structured to help foster care agencies more flexibly provide children in care with the help and resources they need to stay safely in their foster homes whenever possible, we expect that children in foster care will experience fewer movements during their time in care. In addition, we expect that fewer children will need to spend time in a residential setting, because foster families will be better supported to work with children who struggle with the mental and behavioral health impacts of their family life and placement into foster care. High-quality residential services will continue to be available, but we expect IOC will result in a change in the way we make use of those services – in other words, we want to move away from the use of residential care for long term placements of children and youth, and toward using residential services for those children and youth who require this restrictive setting as part of a targeted service intervention.

 How will Improved Outcomes affect the providers of foster care and preventive services?

Streamlined Decision Making
NYC has nearly a fully-contracted foster care and preventive system. As it works now, the provider agency case planner who works most closely with the child and family makes decisions for the child and family, and then NYC Children’s Services case management staff must approve these decisions. The redundancy in the process often slows down the progress with the family. IOC eliminates unnecessary duplication by setting clear responsibilities around decision-making. Through IOC, NYC Children’s Services will not be re-visiting foster care and preventive agency decisions after the fact by reviewing them again. Instead, our conference facilitators will often be on-site at the foster care or preventive agency, offering our expertise and skills and helping to make decisions while they’re being made, not after the fact, and our revised performance accountability system will closely and frequently keep track of providers ability to ensure the safety, permanency, and well being of children in their care.

Flexible Financing
Through IOC, NYC Children’s Services is also introducing a new funding model for IOC for the foster care agencies that will be funded within the current contract agency foster care budget. One of the primary goals of this new model is to align programmatic outcomes with fiscal incentives. Agencies will be given the flexibility to make strategic, up-front program investments to improve placement stability and permanency for children in foster care. They will be able to spend more dollars on foster care services by using projected reinvested funds saved through fewer moves, including fewer step-ups to group care.

How will Improved Outcomes affect the Administration for Children’s Services?

Ensuring Quality of Service
The Children’s Services divisions of Quality Assurance and Policy and Planning have developed a new performance monitoring system, including a new provider agency evaluation tool, called Scorecard. Building on our EQUIP evaluation system, Scorecard will produce a performance scorecard for each agency, detailing each agency’s performance in key areas of safety, permanency, well-being, foster parent support, as well as community and cultural competency in the coming year. The Scorecard will also include comments from key stakeholders including feedback from Children’s Services attorneys and Family Court judges. In addition, teams of skilled performance monitors will regularly assess agency performance, meet with agency leadership, set clear expectations for improvement, participate in the development of improvement strategies and monitor agencies’ success in meeting those expectations.

Partnering with providers
Caring for New York City’s children is a collective effort between NYC Children’s Services and its provider agencies -- our providers are central partners in the work we do. We believe IOC will enable Children’s Services to provide more meaningful services to children in partnership with the contracted provider agencies; IOC will enable the agencies to do the work that’s most appropriate for them by giving them clearer decision-making authority. Our job is to make sure the providers are performing at the highest possible level, and to provide them with the tools and resources they need. We also believe that the new initiative will use the skills of NYC Children’s Services staff more effectively.

Team Decision Making
NYC Children’s Services will periodically facilitate conferences. Even when not facilitating a conference, Children’s Services staff will often be present to ask important questions and to help ensure that all possible alternatives and resources are being discussed when a decision is being made for a child and family.

How will Improved Outcomes affect schools, hospitals, clinics, shelters, and other child-serving public and private organizations?

NYC Children’s Services or providers who are participating in IOC may call on other child serving organizations to participate in a Family Team Conference. Often mental health providers, doctors, guidance counselors, or other professionals have important information and perspectives on how the children and families we serve together are functioning, and we think it is important for children and families to hear directly from these providers when major decisions are made. Moreover, when all of the service providers engaged in working with children and families participate in the family team conference, it improves the coordination of services.

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