New Guide for Child Welfare Leaders Provides Improvement Roadmap for Kids and Families

Posted April 22, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog newdeskguide 2015

Eval­u­at­ing and installing improved prac­tices has not always been a strong suit for gov­ern­ment agen­cies. That is chang­ing as more agen­cies — includ­ing some respon­si­ble for child wel­fare — use data to deter­mine what works and use that knowl­edge to improve services. 

A new tool from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, 10 Prac­tices: A Child Wel­fare Leader’s Desk Guide To Build­ing a High-Per­form­ing Agency,” helps new and expe­ri­enced child wel­fare lead­ers devel­op an effec­tive agen­da for agency improve­ment. The desk guide pro­vides a struc­tured, yet flex­i­ble roadmap for change that draws on research on what works to effec­tive­ly help chil­dren and families. 

Lead­ers play a crit­i­cal role

Lead­ers know there is a clear busi­ness case to be made for improv­ing their agen­cies,” says Tracey Feild, direc­tor of Casey’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group. The desk guide puts all the infor­ma­tion lead­ers need to know in one place, so they and their staff can com­pare their out­comes to oth­er agen­cies across the coun­try and install improve­ments proven to make a dif­fer­ence for chil­dren, fam­i­lies and communities.”

The desk guide has two parts. The first briefly describes 10 best prac­tices and out­comes for mea­sur­ing where an agency stands com­pared to oth­ers in the field. Busy lead­ers can use infor­ma­tion to devel­op a snap­shot of their strengths and oppor­tu­ni­ties for improve­ment, then take action,” Feild says. 

Part Two is more detailed. It includes 20 pages of links to research, mate­ri­als and tools that agency staff mem­bers can use to advance poli­cies, prac­tices and pro­grams. Appen­dices pro­vide infor­ma­tion on urgent top­ics, such as how to upgrade data col­lec­tion and mea­sure racial and oth­er dis­par­i­ties in child outcomes.

The 10 prac­tices in this desk guide can help moti­vate inter­nal and exter­nal part­ners to change for the bet­ter. When child wel­fare improve­ments are thought­ful­ly cho­sen, sequenced and installed, agen­cies do a bet­ter job of meet­ing the needs of chil­dren and fam­i­lies while ensur­ing qual­i­ty and con­trol­ling costs,” Feild says.

Qual­i­ty work pro­motes bet­ter outcomes

Among desk guide recommendations:

  • Focus on out­comes. If agen­cies can only make one step toward improve­ment, they should focus on out­comes, defined as what hap­pens to chil­dren and fam­i­lies in their care. Agen­cies can do this by ded­i­cat­ing them­selves to track­ing out­comes sys­temwide – and tying agency suc­cess to being effective.
  • Get con­trol of case­loads. An agency will only limp along if staff mem­bers don’t have the time and ener­gy to work direct­ly with chil­dren and fam­i­lies and make good deci­sions. Case­work­ers must have rea­son­able case­loads. If they don’t, agen­cies expe­ri­ence high staff turnover that fuels poor deci­sion mak­ing, spurs poor child and fam­i­ly out­comes, requires inor­di­nate recruit­ment and increas­es train­ing costs.” What are rea­son­able case­loads? The desk guide sug­gests lim­it­ing inves­tiga­tive staff to 810 new cas­es a month and in-home case­work­ers to 1215 cas­es at a time. 

Proven strate­gies

The desk guide’s proven strate­gies will help lead­ers make the case for change, improve child and fam­i­ly out­comes and pro­vide a fis­cal­ly sound path toward agency advance­ment,” Feild says. Research is reshap­ing our knowl­edge of what works; it is imper­a­tive that pub­lic sys­tems act on that knowledge.”

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