New Tool Measures Well-Being of Kids Served by Child Welfare Systems

Posted August 15, 2014
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog newtoolmeasureswellbeingofkids 2014

In recent years, many child wel­fare sys­tems have turned to assess­ment tools to pro­vide a stan­dard­ized pic­ture of children’s emo­tion­al, behav­ioral or men­tal health sta­tus. These tools often require trained clin­i­cians. This can be expen­sive and often the results do not present a time­ly or reli­able mea­sure of a child’s progress over time.

The Casey Foundation’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group – in part­ner­ship with the Duke Endow­ment – is col­lab­o­rat­ing with the non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion Kids Insight and the Out­come Refer­rals Inc. to devel­op and test an assess­ment tool, called the Treat­ment Out­come Pack­age (TOP) that is designed to help child wel­fare sys­tems gauge a child’s social and emo­tion­al well-being.

Rec­og­niz­ing the para­mount impor­tance of improv­ing out­comes for kids who find them­selves in our nation’s child wel­fare sys­tems, the Casey Foun­da­tion and the Duke Endow­ment are finan­cial­ly sup­port­ing the adap­ta­tion of this tool — orig­i­nal­ly devel­oped for use in the men­tal health field — to pro­vide a well-being tool that can be used to help agen­cies and fam­i­lies more reli­ably gauge how well chil­dren served in the child wel­fare sys­tem are doing social­ly and emotionally.

The bot­tom line ques­tion we seek to answer is: How can we be sure that the sup­ports and ser­vices pro­vid­ed for chil­dren involved with the child wel­fare sys­tem match their needs and set them on the path to success?”

TOP uses sta­tis­ti­cal­ly val­i­dat­ed ques­tions to iden­ti­fy children’s strengths and chal­lenges and track their progress over time using sim­ple, web-based tools. It fea­tures a short check­list com­plet­ed by the child and those clos­est to him or her — birth and fos­ter par­ents, clin­i­cians, teach­ers, case­work­ers — paired with imme­di­ate results and easy-to-fol­low reports.

TOP tracks and mea­sures two things. It tracks how chil­dren are doing using more than 40 child well-being indi­ca­tors, such as how well a child is sleep­ing or behav­ing in school, to help gauge whether a child’s behav­ioral and men­tal health needs are improv­ing through a par­tic­u­lar course of treat­ment. It also looks at spe­cif­ic providers’ track record of deliv­er­ing par­tic­u­lar ser­vices. The more we know about both, the bet­ter we can match kids’ needs with providers’ strengths.

While the mis­sion of child wel­fare is safe­ty, per­ma­nence and well-being, before TOP we didn’t have a reli­able way to gauge well-being. TOP is built on the world’s largest data­base of health, trau­ma and well-being infor­ma­tion to help agen­cies and providers with case man­age­ment respon­si­bil­i­ties assess and track children’s well-being over time.

Along with the Duke Endow­ment, we are com­mit­ted to help­ing child wel­fare agen­cies use this tool to ensure chil­dren have more oppor­tu­ni­ties to grow and thrive in school, at home and in life.

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