Hello and welcome to The Foster Innovation Lab! If you are considering joining the Foster Parent Pool, here is a list of potential questions that you might be asking. If we missed something, let us know. We are happy to answer questions.

But hurry, the Pool closes to foster parents on November 15th!

Why The Lab, why aren’t you working directly with Children’s Administration or the Legislature?

Great question, and the short answer is that we have tried and will continue to do so, but we also think that we need to try something completely different.

I (Shannon) have spent the last two years doing advocacy work through various different channels. I’ve been the 1624 rep for Region 2 south, which means that I have met with CA leadership numerous times in both state and regional meetings, as well as several other private meetings. I’ve also met with judges, legislators, members of the Blue Ribbon Commission, and more. I was one of the foster parents that contributed to passing HB 2591 last year and had a chance to watch how the law-making process operated and I’ve also been paying close attention to the effects that law had on notification. (HB2591 made it mandatory for foster parents and other caregivers to be notified about court hearings.)

Furthermore, last May a colleague and I had the chance to attend an innovation-focused event at the White House, where we had an incredible chance to meet leaders at a national level. It was an amazing and inspiring event that helped to confirm some of the thoughts and ideas I had - out of which we built this Lab.

We’ve built the lab out of these experiences, combined with much of what I’ve seen and learned while working as a consultant in a wide variety of public companies.

The idea of doing experiments is kind of strange, why do you think it will work?


Because it is working all around us, we just don’t see it. You heard about this page using Facebook, are reading this page on Squarespace, and will complete your surveys on MailChimp. Now, we don’t know the inner workings of each of these companies, but they are all innovative and constantly improving, so we are willing to bet that they are using the concepts of continuous improvement and agile development to drive their products. Using small experiments to drive big change is not the way things are currently done within foster care, but it is the way that things are done in many successful companies.

Now, inviting the general public to help guide those experiments, that is definitely stepping into unknown territory. But our thought is that we can’t just keep asking the same people to solve the same problems. We need to try something different.

How do I know that my answers won’t be shared with people?

Because we wouldn’t want our answers shared - and we are big fans of the Golden Rule. When you watch the training, you will learn a bit about how we are serious about confidentiality and are taking several protective steps.

How much time will I be required to invest?

Great question, we will break it down:

  • Initial survey: 5 minutes, should be really quick.
  • Training: 15 minutes. Sorry, we couldn’t make it any shorter because we need to be thorough about important things like confidentiality and data integrity.

Total: Jumping in the pool, about 20 minutes. A little bit more if you grab a beverage and hide from the children before watching the video.

  • First Weekly Survey: 15 minutes. This will take a bit longer just because you will need to read every question.
  • Subsequent Weekly Surveys: 5 - 10 minutes. The surveys are the same every week and focus on some big things like hearings or shared planning meetings. So, after you read through the first one, you can fly through them every week and skip quite a few questions unless you had an applicable event happen.
  • First Monthly Survey: Same as weekly, probably 10-15, again, just because you need to read it.
  • Subsequent Monthly Surveys: 5-10 minutes.

Total Monthly/Weekly Surveys: 5-10 minutes per week, plus an additional 5-10 for the monthly survey.

* It is important to note on the surveys that we have provided a lot of places to give more information. So if you had something big happen that week/month and want to tell us about it, your survey time might increase, but this is completely optional.

Once we begin running experiments, you will have the opportunity to opt in to those as well. There might be some time required for those, but we will let you know ahead of time so that you can decide whether to raise your hand. All experiments will be designed to fix a fostering pain point, so hopefully that investment of time would be valuable.

How do I know this is going to work?

You don’t. We don’t.

This effort is an experiment in and of itself. But our preference is to give every last bit of effort we have to driving change. The number of kids that need families is not dropping, but the number of qualified homes is steadily dropping. Watching the foster families I know struggle and hurt in the effort to care for these kids is heartbreaking. Watching kids harmed by the very system that should protect them is heartbreaking. We have to do better.

Will there be kitten photos?

Oh yes, there will be. Building this Lab has been a stressful endeavor. We’ve coped using a combination of wine and kitten photos. We can’t send you wine, but we will absolutely send kitten photos. And perhaps the occasional duck or raccoon.

Oh what, you've never seen a raccoon eat grapes? Well here you go.