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February 2004Vol. 5, No. 1Best Practice Guidelines for Service Planning

A new publication from the Casey Outcomes and Decision-Making Project, Tough Problems, Tough Choices: Guidelines for Needs-Based Service Planning in Child Welfare, recognizes the need both for consistency in service planning based on best practices and for flexibility to meet the specific needs of individual families.

Designed to be used after safety and risk assessments have been completed and a case has been opened, these guidelines assist caseworkers in service planning for 13 specific case types (such as medical neglect, sexual abuse, or physical abuse). An additional guideline assists workers in selecting the most appropriate placement when a child needs to be removed from the home.

Each guideline provides:

  • An introduction to the case type, including research findings, best practices, and the issues and factors often encountered in this type of case.
  • A decision tree that takes the worker step-by-step through the actions that should be taken during the service planning process (e.g., assess relevant cultural or family issues; identify goals and services; achieve permanency).

By providing a formal protocol, these guidelines can help ensure consistency of decisions and improve decision-making results. As the authors note, however, these guidelines cannot replace caseworker training, nor should they preclude a team approach to child welfare services.

The development of these guidelines was originally funded by both the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Programs. They can be downloaded free of charge from American Humane's website [Editor's note: This link is no longer available.]

There are two earlier publications in the same series, Improving the Quality of Children's Services: A Working Paper on Outcome-Based Models of Service Delivery and Managed Care and Assessing Outcomes in Child Welfare Services: Principles, Concepts, and a Framework of Core Indicators.