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Dec/Jan 2003Vol. 3, No. 10ACYF Commissioner Speaks on CFSR Challenges, Encourages States' Plans for Improvement

The challenges of the Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs) and the implications to States' improvement programs were among the main topics Joan E. Ohl, HHS Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, discussed at the 2002 National Summit on Performance Measurement and Case Management Strategies for Child and Family Welfare Programs in October 2002. Ohl discussed the need to re-orient everyone's thinking around CFSRs from "compliance" and "passing or failing" to identifying the strengths and needs of State programs and implementing improvements to help them become more responsive to the needs of children and families. Other challenges mentioned included developing plans that will lead to measurable changes in outcomes for children and families and the need for States to engage the media throughout the CFSR process for the purpose of sharing findings and systemic needs.

Important components of effective improvement programs include:

  • Focusing on day-to-day practice in the field--what happens when caseworkers meet children and families.
  • Striving for systemic reform instead of short-term fixes.
  • Engaging other systems that serve the same populations served by child welfare (such as courts, education, mental health, juvenile justice, etc.) when developing program improvement plans.
  • Engaging other systems early on in the Statewide assessment process and onsite review.
  • Continuing to make improvements in the use of data to examine and evaluate the effectiveness of State programs.
  • Prioritizing State program improvement efforts while using the process to achieve long-term goals.

States' efforts to mobilize resources within the State and Federal government on behalf of children and families will set the tone for how child welfare programs at the State and Federal levels are evaluated in the future. Ohl challenged States to continue using CFSRs to make needed program changes and to adopt processes for self-evaluation and collaboration that look beyond compliance and what "has" to be done to what "can" be done to improve the outcomes in services for children and families.

Related Items:

Read more about CFSRs in these previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Results of 2001 Child and Family Services Reviews Released" (October 2002)
  • "State Agencies Preparing for Federal Child and Family Services Reviews to Receive Assistance" (August/September 2002)
  • "Georgia Offers Results and More on Child and Family Services Reviews Website" (July 2002)
  • "States Tell How to Share Findings from Child and Family Services Reviews" (June 2002)