Case Study: Knowledge sharing in the field of fostering
1 December 2016
Dr. Moria Levy
Fostering is not a trivial arrangement. The state decides to remove a child from his/her home and temporarily (a period of time that can stretch over several years) place him/her in another home and family. This arrangement is specifically less trivial since unlike adoption in which the child receives a substitute set of "parents", in this case the child continues to maintain a relationship with his biological parents while living elsewhere.
In 2001, the State of Israel decided to privatize foster services. In 2004 (three years after the process had been both implemented & stabilized) a research was conducted in order to examine the state of fostering in Israel (Korazim & Liebowitz, 2014). Along immense success derived from the privatization process (reducing the amount of 'collapses' by orders of magnitude) several substantial challenges the state faced had been detected. These challenges mainly involve professional knowledge, the ability to create a policy at the state level, oversight capacity and professionalism level of supervision teams.
The answer to all these, it was concluded, is shared knowledge and shared learning: studying the various competing field factors together; this- together with the daily oversight and complementary staff factors.
Initiating a unique process
In early 2007, the first learning group was set up. This group's self-defined purpose was to bind and develop knowledge on identifying signals and preventing foster 'collapses'.
Since then, a process which can possibly be considered unique (at least in Israel) has been implemented for an entire decade: all major changes in processes originated by the field are accompanied by sharing and knowledge development processes. Every new policy is enforced by learning processes detailing the required professional tools and processes for the application of the relevant idea/approach/change. Occasionally policy changes are derived from learning processes which raised awareness for the necessity of such change.
During this decade, operation strategies and approaches have been analyzed, defined and decoded using professional tools based on these learning processes- in 10 different subjects. The subjects cover all aspects related to fostering from recruiting foster families through selection & sorting, matching children to families, training parents for the task, accompanying families during the fostering period, sexual assaults during fostering, abnormal fostering (relatives, children with special needs) etc.
The process was led by the planning and training department headed by Mr. Couty Saba and the national inspector, Mrs. Shalva Liebowitz.
I was fortunate to serve as director of learning processes for knowledge sharing and development.
The learning was conducted as a series of meetings (10 meetings avg. for each subject) in which approximately 12-15 individuals participated; field personnel, instructors, managers, supervisors, team-leaders and staff personnel were included. The participants represented various demographics (general, delopmental cognitive disability, Arabs, etc.). The learning took place as a series of structured, methodical brain-storming sessions. In between meetings, the participants were requested to share the insights with their surroundings and present their feelings and opinions at the next meeting. When central milestones had been reached, the content and questions were uploaded to the knowledge community thus including all relevant parties, allowing the group to discuss responses.
There were methodical breaks between each subject for (relative) refreshment. Implementation of these subjects led to interpretation; new insights which rose were later implemented into resulting learning products and the model, professional doctrine and complementary tools were updated. Much effort has been invested in the implementation of this knowledge and it has become binding (initially in policy and later in work agreements with fostering organizations and supervision processes).
Results and conclusion
A recently published study (Brookdale, 2016) presents a highly positive state of matters. Professional conduct, most (95%) children feel a sense of belonging to their foster families and even fit into it (98%). Most children (68%) stay with their initially matched family, a fact which shows of fostering stability. Another study conducted these days (Levy, 2017) which already includes initial findings shows that the knowledge is indeed used known (97%), used, accessible and according to most (95%) workers it contributes to their performance.Something good is happening in the field of fostering and since these changes are knowledge-based ones, it can be said that Knowledge Management is a substantial part of this change.