Our Performance Culture
We at Graham Windham take our performance very seriously. We must; the consequences of our performance are staggering. A 10 percentage point increase in our rate of permanency (safe reunification of children with their parents or adoption), for example, means that nearly 100 more children have a safe, nurturing environment to call home. How’s that for motivation to do our job well!
Our performance culture requires that we start with the assumption that we are primarily responsible for what goes right and what goes wrong. Self-examination is our first instinct. That paired with our insistence on improvement drives creative problem-solving and better outcomes for children and families.
All at Graham Windham are welcome to point out where we are struggling and how we may do better, and many do. It starts from the top with the Board’s Performance Committee, which closely examines not just what we are doing every day but scrutinizes the outcomes of our work — whether we are ensuring that all children have a safe, nurturing family and the opportunities and preparation to excel in school and life. And, it comes from the frontline, our committed practitioners, who challenge the organization to better support, train and guide them so they can be their best for children and families.
To help our managers provide strong support to our social workers, clinicians, teachers, educational advocates, child care workers, and other specialists, we supply them with information technology tools that provide snapshots of how we’re doing. Our Program Performance and Planning team also assists managers by analyzing data, observing practices, reviewing records, and collaborating on ways to improve performance. This team and other coaches in the agency train and advise staff in our agency’s practice model, Solution-Based Casework, which provides a framework for helping families to create and carry out action plans with strategies that work. This model celebrates small and large successes, and we in turn celebrate our staff accomplishments through recognition and by rewarding good practice with merit-based awards for all levels of staff.
We are happy to celebrate safety, permanency, education, and well being. During our 2015 fiscal year, we helped our children and families achieve some of the following goals:
In fiscal year 2015, Graham Windham served over 1,700 children in our child welfare programs, including 979 children in our foster care program, 476 in our foster care prevention program, and 265 in The Graham School residential program. We also served over 2,500 children and families in our community programs, including after-school, mental health, and our “Bridges to Health” program for children with foster care experience and severe mental, emotional, and behavioral diagnoses.
Graham Windham’s child welfare programs were ranked high in permanency outcomes among the City’s agencies by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). ACS provided citywide rankings related to reunification, adoption, and legal guardianship for fiscal year 2015, as follows:
- ACS ranked our Family Foster Care program 3rd out of 23 family foster care programs, with a permanency score of 92.4%.
- ACS ranked our Therapeutic Family Foster Care program 4th out of 17 family foster care programs, with a permanency score of 95.6%.
- ACS ranked our Graham School residential program 1st (tied with four organizations) out of 14 residential programs, with a permanency score of 100%.
Key outcomes in our foster care program are as follows:
- The rate of youth who were discharged from foster care and re-entered care within a year of discharge was below the system average:
- Family Foster Care: 5.5% of children re-entered foster care out of children discharged from care the year before (8 of 145). The City’s system-wide rate is 8.07%, which is one-third higher than our re-entry rate.
- Therapeutic Family Foster Care: 0% of children re-entered foster care from the prior year out of children discharged the year before (0 of 10). The City system-wide average re-entry rate is 6.9%.
- The Graham School residential program: 9.1% of children re-entered foster care out of children discharged from care the year before (2 of 22). The City’s residential re-entry rate is 14%, approximately 50% higher than the Graham Windham re-entry rate.
- The rate of children and youth in our Family Foster Care program going to a permanent family (trial discharged home or final discharged to reunification, adoption, or legal guardianship) during FY15 increased by 8.3% over last year:
- Fiscal year 2014: 27.7% of children served went home (300 of 1,084)
- Fiscal year 2015: 30% of children served went home (294 of 979)
- We saw major increases in the percentage of children and youth adopted:
- Fiscal year 2014: 5.2% of children served were adopted (56 of 1,084)
- Fiscal year 2015: 7.7% of children served were adopted (75 of 979)
- We also saw increases in the percentage of children and youth discharged to legal guardianship or the care of relatives:
- Fiscal year 2014: 3% of children served had legal guardianship discharges (33 of 1,084)
- Fiscal year 2015: 4.9% of children served had legal guardianship discharges (48 of 979)
- With regard to youth aging out of foster care, our goal is for every young person to have a permanent family through reunification, adoption, or legal guardianship, and for no youth to age out (leaving foster care at age 21 without a permanent family, and being discharged to themselves instead). In the past too many of our young people were aging out because we did not do the right family work early on. Our goal has been to help families be together permanently as quickly as possible, and we are now seeing that happen more often.In looking at our data on youth aging out, we have been looking at factors such as the age at which young people come into care. In New York State, when young people turn 18, they can choose to remain in care until 21 or sign themselves out of care. For young people who come into care at age 17 (the age cap for entry into care), it is more challenging to carry out the family work needed to ensure a permanent family. For youth who come into care at age 16 or younger, we have more time to help them be with a family (and the courts cannot mandate that the goal for the young person be that they should be discharged to themselves). We looked at how many youth ages 18+ aged out, out of those who entered foster care under the age of 16, and found that a smaller number of youth in this category aged out of care this past year compared with previous years:
- Fiscal year 2013: 60% of youth who aged out had come into care before age 16 (27 of 45)
- Fiscal year 2014: 63% of youth who aged out had come into care before age 16 (22 of 35)
- Fiscal year 2015: 44% of youth who aged out had come into care before age 16 (14 of 32)
In our foster care prevention program, we are having a strong impact on reducing the number of children who enter foster care after completing preventive services:
- Fiscal year 2014: 4 children entered foster care out of 257 preventive cases closed (2%)
- Fiscal year 2015: No children came into foster care within 6 months of case closure, out of 180 preventive cases closed (0%)
- Historical system average: 2.4%
We saw the potential of the Graham SLAM program in the outcomes for youth served in its first year, around both completion of high school and postsecondary persistence.
- For the 2014-2015 academic year, 88% (7 of 8) of high school seniors who had been coached in Graham SLAM for at least three months prior to graduation have graduated from high school. By comparison, 63% (12 of 19) of high school seniors in our foster care program who were not coached at all, or were coached for less than 3 months prior to graduation, have graduated.
- For the 2014-2015 academic year, 92% (11 of 12) of youth who entered college in the Fall 2014 semester continued to Spring 2015. Of these, eight completed a full year of college (75% of those who enrolled in the fall). One student began a vocational program in Fall 2014 and has completed it.
Graham Windham Performance Practices Highlighted by Bridgespan
In April 2012, the Bridgespan Group, a well-known non-profit consulting group, released an article titled “Building Capacity to Measure and Manage Performance,” in which the group highlighted Graham Windham’s self-evaluation practices as a leading example of excellent performance measurement and accountability practices.