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Are We Counting Everything That Counts?

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Presentation on theme: "Are We Counting Everything That Counts?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Are We Counting Everything That Counts?
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Albert Einstein

2 Overview of Today Introductions of the presenters:
Theresa Costello, NRCCPS, Director Janet Ciarico, Consultant, NRC-CWDT Kim Wieczorek, SD SACWIS Project Director Pamela Bennett, NRCCPS Sr. Staff Associate, Former SD Ongoing Program Specialist Some context for the discussion: Decision points in the case process Terminology Impressions regarding some things that are NOT routinely counted in many states Reality check: what difference does that make? Ways to move incrementally towards counting the things that count South Dakota’s experiences Group discussion about moving away from a “wish list”

3 Decisions Made during the Investigation

4 Decisions Made Post-Investigation

5 Things We Don’t Always Track
Some Basic Premises Things We Know to Track Things We Don’t Always Track SAFETY is about the concern that in the near future a child will be severely harmed because the situation at home is so out of control. Accurately IDENTIFYING SAFETY THREATS and RESPONDING to SAFETY THREATS WITH SUFFICIENT SAFETY PLANS are the fundamental reasons why public child welfare agencies exist. Substantiation relates to whether some type of maltreatment already has happened. Timely initial contact helps demonstrate we are expending the right amount of effort to respond to allegations.

6 Terms Threats to a child’s safety can play out right in front of you: Immediate or Present Danger. Threats to a child’s safety can exist, but can be harder to discern without more information. The child is in Impending Danger. There may be no maltreatment (unsubstantiated), yet public child welfare needs to develop and implement a response due to Present or Impending Danger. The child is unsafe. When a child is unsafe, an analysis must determine what the sufficient response (correct level of intrusiveness) is. A SAFETY PLAN is developed to control the threats. The Safety Plan may be in home (the child continues to reside with the caregivers/parents) or out of home (the child lives elsewhere).

7 Some of the Things We Count
Number of reports Number of substantiated investigations Number of initial contacts made within timeframe Number of children placed in foster care Number of investigations closed Number of investigations opened for services Number of permanency plan reviews Length of stay in foster care Number of disrupted placements Number of re-referrals

8 What Often Isn’t Counted?
How many children at the onset of the investigation were in immediate danger? How many times was an immediate safety plan implemented in order to carry on with the rest of the investigation? How many of those children were moved “voluntarily” to a relative’s home?

9 What Often Isn’t Counted?
How many of those children are still at the relative’s home by the end of the investigation? How many children are deemed safe/unsafe by the end of the investigation? How many cases are opened for services with an in- home safety plan? How many cases are opened for services with an out- of-home safety plan (including a “voluntary” placement with a relative)?

10 Lack of Management Reports Obscures Practice Trends Like:
At initial contact, the CPS worker tells the family that the child needs to stay elsewhere. The family agrees, believing finding a relative for the child is a better alternative than court and/or foster care. The child goes to a relative’s home “voluntarily.” All contact between the parents and the child must be supervised by the relative. The case may then be closed for all services. In some states it may stay open. In many states the case is perceived as an “in-home” or “intact” case—not subject to permanency timeframes, hearings, etc. Hundreds of thousands of children are in these kinds of “placements,” with little or no tracking mechanisms. Studies show that when cases do remain open, kin receive fewer services, have less contact with workers. (Geen, Urban Institute, Dubowitz, Berrick)

11 Lack of Data Slows Analysis: Was a Fatality Part of a Systemic Practice Problem?
A 3-year-old child was killed while under the protection of a safety plan. Family members do not agree with the agency that there was a stipulation that the child have no contact with the father. Family members were genuinely surprised that the child was deemed “unsafe” by the agency, since the case was unsubstantiated and court was not involved. No information about the safety plan related to the start and end dates, the people/service providers involved, or the conditions set forth were available.

12 Data Influences Planning
Would it help in resource planning to know how many cases each year had certain types of safety threats identified? Would it help prevent placement or reunify more quickly if data were known regarding what kinds of services were deemed necessary (but unavailable) for an in-home safety plan to be sufficient? Would the community have a better understanding of CPS families and agency needs if data could show that 37% of unsubstantiated cases also had a finding that the children were nonetheless unsafe?

13 Work Together to Plan and Implement Program Changes
Program and systems staff should work together as a team from the planning stages. Working toward a common goal builds a positive working relationship. Communication between all parties is key. Maintain a common understanding of language and definitions.

14 Data Considerations Make a data plan based on updated goals.
Consider the data most useful to track and achieve your goals. Consider data that will be useful at all levels: To assist staff in meeting new agency goals. For the agency to assess new goals. Consider the data you already have in your system: How existing data can be used. How program changes may affect existing data collected. Consider new data items that are needed to track and meet your goals. Also, IT folks should consider implementing a data quality check the data in the system, and those data items added as it begins to be reported. Resolve any data entry issues resulting in missing or inaccurate data early!

15 Consult with Other Jurisdictions
Find out how other states and jurisdictions are addressing the same issues. What type of process did they develop? What type of system changes did they implement? How are they tracking and assessing safety goals? What can you learn from their experiences?

16 How Does an Agency Begin to Count the Things That Count?

17 South Dakota Timeline Safety Change in Practice (1998)
SACWIS Conversion ( ) SACWIS IFA Screen Changes (2001) SACWIS Reporting Changes (2001 – 2002) Ongoing Services – change in practice (2005 – 2007) PCA Workgroup – reviewed reports together (2007 – 2008)

18 Example Present Danger Response
Protective Plan – Agency/family response to children in present danger that does not involve custody removal. (This is often a number not counted in SACWIS or agencies. Consider this from the child’s view.) 2009 – 6.3% 2010 – 6.4% 2011 – 6.1%

19 Example Impending Safety Responses
Children Placed Out of Home Through Court Jurisdiction (42.0%) In-Home Safety Plan (27.1%) Maltreating Parent Left (4.2%) Non-maltreating Parent Can/Will Protect (26.7%)

20 Example 2009 Substantiated 22.87% Cases with children unsafe 26.0%

21 Milestones for Progress
Recognition that only counting SACWIS federal requirements did not tell the agency all they needed to know SACWIS evolution to provide program the outcomes they required to judge practice and model fidelity Ongoing program and system collaboration

22 Benefits Increases accountabilities
Increases transparencies (more focused and less “story” based) System ownership System integration in practice model Analysis of practice leading to strategic planning

23 For technical assistance on this topic
National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology Debbie Milner National Resource Center for Child Protective Services Theresa Costello

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