Evaluation of the New York City Home Rebuilders Demonstration. 2.3.1 Harlem Dowling

09/14/1998

At the beginning of the program, the executive director of Harlem Dowling, Melba Butler, saw HomeRebuilders as an opportunity for change. She felt that the city and state were moving in a family-oriented direction and that was the direction she wanted her agency to take. Therefore, she and her staff looked at the various models that were being used internally at the agency and pulled together a model they thought was workable. Ms. Butler believed that if the agency chose a model that incorporated strategies already known to work at the agency, there was a greater chance to continue the model after HomeRebuilders ended.

Ms. Butler believed HomeRebuilders "changed the urgency with which we could or should treat reunification. We found ways to cut the red tape, creative ways to provide services, and have workers trained in the concepts behind HomeRebuilders." Early in the project, agency meetings were held to inform staff about its implementation and requirements. Procedures were established to help ensure that caseworkers adhered to the programmatic recommendations to move cases forward. These procedures included meetings between caseworkers and their supervisors and oversight by management.

According to Ms. Butler, the success of the program was to be realized through the number of children reunified and adopted. The original target for Harlem Dowling's experimental group was for 40 percent of the children to be adopted, 10 percent by kin. Ms. Butler indicated that there was a shift during the program to change some children from the goal of reunification to either adoption or kinship placement. By the end of the program, the permanency planning goals of children had shifted to 80 percent adoption. The shift occurred mainly in the second year. Ms. Butler believed that the goals changed to adoption at a quicker rate in the HomeRebuilders group (as opposed to the control group) because the HomeRebuilders group examined the families more intensively during the first year and therefore knew sooner which goal they believed was best. HomeRebuilders put adoption proceedings on a different track, attempting to overcome obstacles, and the agency moved swiftly toward final adoption. The goal was changed to adoption when "we felt we couldn't reunite with parent or kin." Under HomeRebuilders, the agency was less likely to extend the time the children spent in foster care. The goal was a move toward permanency. Finally, Ms. Butler stated that the HomeRebuilders model didn't change the agency's philosophy toward independent living or toward kinship placements. The agency had always looked at families as caretakers. However, the program may have intensified the delivery of services a little.

The director of the Harlem Dowling HomeRebuilders program stated "the HomeRebuilders model distinguished the experimental group from the control group by focusing on case management rather than casework." She also noted that HomeRebuilders focused on the whole family and kinship support instead of being child centered. For example, money toward living expenses was provided to the family rather than being limited to financial assistance for the child's needs. Other distinguishing factors included offering housing assistance and hiring a staff person to focus on drug rehabilitation. This administrator believed that services offered through HomeRebuilders shortened the process of meeting goals by approximately 3 months.

HARLEM DOWLING

Sites:

  • Two In Harlem
  • Queens
  • Manhattan

HomeRebuilders Model:
Incorporated family-focused service delivery strategies that had already proven successful at the agency. The goal was to continue their strategies after the demonstration ended.

Major Changes Initiated During HomeRebuilders for Experimental Group Only:

  • Additional staff hired for HomeRebuilders
  • Lower caseload ratio
  • Promoted bonds between the foster parents and birth parents
  • Specialized flexible funding
  • Aftercare

HomeRebuilders Population:

  • Children under age 12 and in care over 90 days
  • Permanency goal: return to home or adoption
  • Type of Placements used: foster boarding home or approved relative's home

Agency-Wide Programs During HomeRebuilders:

  • Foster care and adoption
  • Healthy Start
  • Day camp for children
  • Housing services
  • Medical department
  • Preventive services department

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