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September 2008Vol. 9, No. 7From the CFSR Team: The Second Round of the CFSRs

By Don Adams, Federal CFSR Team

The second round of onsite Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) began in March 2007, and they are expected to be completed in Federal fiscal year 2010. It has been exciting to participate in a renewed partnership with the States in an effort to improve child welfare services across the nation, and it is encouraging when States use the CFSR process as a focal point for this improvement.

Although no analysis of the second round CFSR findings has been completed thus far, several trends have been noted. (These trends are purely observational, and therefore cannot be considered as conclusive or definitive.)

  • Family involvement. Concerted efforts are being made by many child welfare agencies to improve family involvement in case decision-making and planning. More success is being realized with mothers, whereas progress has been less successful with fathers and/or noncustodial parents. The meaningful inclusiveness of youth in case planning is inconsistent but is becoming more of a focus for child welfare agencies. Another encouraging area is that increasing numbers of States are working more intensely with incarcerated parents. Other efforts to become more family-friendly include the use of family group decision-making, diligent searches for absent parents, relative searches, and family-friendly case plans.
  • Safety of children. Increasingly, States are addressing the safety of children through (1) standardized tools in the initial and ongoing assessments of risk and safety as well as at critical points of cases, (2) community involvement in the development and implementation of safety planning, and (3) supervisory oversight in decision-making.
  • Partnerships and shared responsibility. In many States, communities have assumed more responsibility and partnered with agencies to improve child welfare practice. This is especially true of courts, some of which have reexamined, revamped, and streamlined practices to enhance the safety, timely and appropriate permanency, and well-being of children.
  • Data quality. States have realized the benefit of capturing data to determine their current and improved performance in child welfare. To this end, many States have developed or enhanced their internal quality assurance system to measure the implementation of good child welfare practice as promoted by the CFSRs.

Thus far, the second round of CFSRs confirms that child welfare is a challenging and complex field where there is an ongoing need for improvements in outcome and systemic factor performance. The CFSR process continues to spotlight good child welfare practice and the importance of partnering to develop and monitor realistic goals that will move practice forward.