Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System: The New Jersey Natural Parent Support Program . 2.5 Program Success

12/01/2001

There seemed to be consensus among program staff that NPSP has been successful and that continuation and expansion of the program would be beneficial. One administrator voiced the need for a systematic evaluation or follow-up of the long-term effects of this program. At present, only short-term monitoring is taking place. Another recommendation made by program staff was that the salaries of the NPSP workers be increased. Workers make a significant commitment to the program and are a key reason for success. Also more in-depth training for NPSP staff, including high-level supervisors, was suggested.

The contract supervisor and administrator reported that the contractors for NSPS are evaluated on the basis of performance outcomes. Agencies are expected to achieve reunification rates of 60-65 percent and attain stable living arrangements for reunified families. In fact, the Catholic Charities agencies are achieving reunification rates higher than expected (70-75%). These rates are commendable though perhaps not unexpected since the purpose of NPSP is to bridge a child's reintroduction into the home and parents are generally motivated to reunify.

Two other measures are also used to measure contract performance -- caseworkers are surveyed for their satisfaction with the outcome of services provided to families by this program, and information is reviewed on the percentage of workers using the teach and model behavior management techniques. The administrators have been pleased with the outcomes of these two measures, and according to the contract administrator, the contract has gone beyond the standard requirements.

The contract administrators we spoke to told us that the factors responsible for success of the NPSP include the deep commitment of the workers to empower and teach parents to be advocates for their children, the stability of the staff attributed to more experienced workers employed by the program from its inception, maintaining regular contact with families knowing and addressing specific needs of the parents and children, and the excellent communication and relationships developed between program staff and DYFS regional and district office staff.

To continue the success of the NPSP, the program director suggested raising salaries of workers to levels that are commensurate with their experience and abilities; educate community resource contacts about the NPSP program and generally publicize the program in the region; and provide more training of NPSP staff regarding substance abusing families, in terms of assisting those parents in becoming more amenable for reunification with their children.