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DHS News June 2013    

Quality Service Report Underscores Approach to Child Welfare 

Jean O’Connell Jenkins sums up the Quality Service Report (QSR) this way:

It’s evidence that Allegheny County’s Office of Children, Youth and Families is helping keep kids safe in family or family-like settings.

“The findings of the report validate Allegheny County’s direction to continually improve case practices and systems’ performance to improve outcomes for the children and families we serve,” said Jean, Quality Improvement Manager for DHS.

Earlier this month, DHS joined the state and University of Pittsburgh Child Welfare Resource Center staff in presenting the results of the 2013 QSR, conducted in February by reviewing 20 cases selected at random.  This is the third year the county has conducted the review, which is being phased in statewide.

The QSR Next Steps presentation, held at the Human Services Building, Downtown, and attended by dozens of DHS staffers, providers and others, included the news that the state has continued CYF’s full Department of Public Welfare licensure.

Amber Kalp, Western Regional Office Supervisor for the state Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, lauded Allegheny County for re-licensure at the presentation. She also praised the county for the QSR results, saying there was “marked improvement “ in some areas of operation even while some performance spheres continue to be targeted for tweaking.

The QSR involved review of 20 randomly selected cases in an intensive process that began late last year. Cases reviewed included eight in which children are in out-of-home placement and 12 in which children are in the care of one or more parents.

Among tasks undertaken by reviewers, following a state protocol, were interviewing family members, caseworkers and supervisors, service providers, and more. On average, about 11 interviews were conducted per case.

Interviewers provided feedback to the caseworker and supervisor, wrote up a summary of each case that included suggestions for case practice and system improvements and aggregated results.

Two QSR participants, trained by Pitt’s Child Welfare Resource Center, were assigned to each case and reviewed nine “status indicators” about their case, rating them on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being optimal.

The scale shows the extent that desired conditions are present in the life of a child whose case was reviewed.  Indicators included safety (both exposure to threats of harm and risk to self or others), stability, living arrangement, permanency, physical health, emotional well-being, early learning and development, pathway to independence and parent or caregiver functioning.

As an example of improvement, Jean gave the rating for fathers in caregiver functioning. That status indicator showed an increase of 25 percent in the number of cases in which the fathers’ function falls in the acceptable range – a score of 4 to 6.

In the 2013 QSR, 75 percent of cases showed fathers “willing and able to provide the child/youth with assistance, protection, supervision (and) support necessary for daily living.”

 In 2012, 50 percent of cases reviewed fell into the acceptable category.

Overall, the review showed strengths in seven indicators.  Highlights include 93 to 100 percent of cases reviewed showing children having appropriate living arrangements; 95 percent showing children’s physical health is being maintained; and 95 percent showing acceptable emotional well-being.

Practice performance indicators were also reviewed. They showed strengths in cultural awareness and responsiveness; assessment and understanding; timeliness of permanency; resource availability; and maintaining a mother’s family relationship.

Opportunities for improvement covered three spheres of practice performance that DHS has targeted in past years. The complete QSR report will be available shortly on the DPW website.

It was noted that DHS’ rollout of the Conferencing and Teaming ­­­­ approach to family engagement and teaming practices over the past year and other commitments that Allegheny County has made through the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Demonstration Project, showed how the county was moving forward with those areas.

Teaming, permanency and engagement with fathers will be the three practice performance areas to be targeted in the County Improvement Plan that is due to the state by June 28, Jean said. That report will include suggestions made during roundtables conducted after the QSR meeting.

In his remarks to the group, DHS Director Marc Cherna noted the department’s work to improve outcomes by compiling and sharing data. That will improve efficiency by evaluating which approaches work and which do not.

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