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

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

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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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