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Implementation & Accountability

Increase Exits from Foster Care to Permanence through Reunification

Implementation & Accountability

Implementation

Policies to improve the timely exit from foster care to reunification, adoption and guardianship must include provisions for implementation and accountability to ensure they are achieving their intended results.     

Prior to enactment, policymakers can anticipate implementation issues and include provisions to enhance chances for success.  Even after a policy has been enacted, policymakers can continue to explore its effectiveness and to understand any possible barriers to implementation. 

 

What You Need to Know

·          Align needs and goals.  Be clear about the goals, purpose and target audience for the policy. Support clear program standards, with sufficient resources to achieve them   

·          Make provisions for broad based input.  Consider who should be involved in implementation and how to ensure that the needs of children and families are being met by the policy.  Depending upon the policy, decide whether community (provider, parent, youth, and court) involvement in implementation is appropriate.   

·          Anticipate the frontline practice and provider needs.  Estimate the impact on front line staff and private providers and the resources needed for implementation.   

·          Support ongoing evaluation.  Ensure that resources are sufficient to evaluate implementation and support continuous program improvement.  Make provisions for sharing results with key stakeholders, including the public   

·          Monitor quality, fiscal accountability, and performance.   Develop processes for the state to monitor the quality of implementation, ensure fiscal accountability, and track performance based on standards that are set. Ensure the current data systems and analytic capacity is sufficient to measure and report outcomes.

Accountability

The child welfare system is at a critical stage for accountability.  In the past, child welfare reforms typically were motivated by individual tragedies or class action lawsuits.  Today, policymakers have much more sophisticated federal and state data available to them to provide leadership and oversight for better child welfare outcomes.  

State policymakers can also help develop internal state review processes that involve all the key stakeholders in the child welfare system, including agencies, courts, private providers and the community.  It is particularly important for families who are impacted by the child welfare system to be involved in these efforts.  

What Can Policymakers Do?  

·          Require public availability of data.  Several states now publish key child welfare outcomes data on their websites, including county-by-county data for county administered states.  The data can be used by administrators, policymakers, and the public to measure the state’s progress on key child welfare outcomes.  In California, the Child Welfare and System Improvement Accountability Act created a statewide system that mirrors the federal child and family services review process.  Counties now receive quarterly data to measure progress toward safety, permanency and well-being.  

·          Require reporting on implementation of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP).  After every Child and Family Service Review, states submit a PIP to the federal government with details of how they will make improvements to address shortcoming found in the review.  California and Washington statute requires reporting to the legislature on progress in PIP implementation.  Both California and Wisconsin appropriated funds for PIP implementation.  

·          Promote publication of annual data reports and/or evaluation.  The Children and Family Research Center in Illinois produces an annual report called Children in or at Risk of Foster Care that examines safety, permanency and well-being outcomes and assesses the outcomes in relation to key policy and practice initiatives in the state.  California statute required an evaluation of savings in foster care and child welfare services that can be attributed to dependency court programs. 

·          Establish oversight bodies.  States can establish meaningful oversight bodies that consistently review key actions by state child welfare systems.  Child abuse fatality review boards are critical for oversight in the event of child deaths.  In Rhode Island, the Office of Child Advocate is appointed by the governor and provides oversight of actions by the Department of Children, Youth and Families.  Massachusetts recently established a similar office through an executive order.  Special commissions such as the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care can bring together a diverse group of people in the state to deal with specific outcomes areas, including timeliness to reunification, adoption and guardianship.

 AB636. Available online 

 2005 Cal. Stats., SB 77, Chap. 28. Available online

 2005 Wis. Laws, AB 100, Act 25

  2005 Cal Stats. SB 68, Chap. 78. Available online

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Information on accountability through the federal CFSRs.