Foster Parents:

Recruiting and Preservice Training Practices Need Evaluation

HRD-89-86: Published: Aug 3, 1989. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 1989.

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Linda G. Morra
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO studied states' and localities' foster parent recruiting and preservice training strategies, concentrating on foster care programs in Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas.

GAO found that: (1) potential and current foster parents were discouraged from providing foster care by such factors as children's more complex emotional, behavioral, and physical problems, lack of support, lack of professional recognition, low salaries, limited liability coverage, and insufficient training; (2) community education and participation in foster parent recruiting and support could create a larger pool of potential foster parents; (3) the most effective recruiting strategies realistically portrayed foster care difficulties, emphasized foster care's temporary nature, and defined the positive role of foster parents; (4) foster parents made the most effective recruiters, since they could convey realistic expectations about foster care and best answer potential foster parents' questions; (5) effective preservice training focused on enabling foster parents to make informed decisions about foster children's needs, enabling social service agencies to assess foster parents' suitability for caring for foster children, and facilitated teamwork between social service agencies and foster parents; (6) states have performed limited formal evaluation of their recruiting and preservice training practices; and (7) although federal grants for demonstrating effective strategies provided for measuring results against expected outcomes, few comprehensively evaluated the effectiveness of various demonstration activities.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a contract for a 90-week study of foster parent recruiting and retention issues. Completion is expected by fall 1991.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the comparative effectiveness of various states' and localities' foster parent recruiting strategies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services


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