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September 2010Vol. 11, No. 7A Message From the Associate Commissioner

By the end of this month, the Children's Bureau will have completed the onsite portion of the second round of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Throughout the review process, we have stressed continuous, incremental improvements as opposed to passing or failing. At the Children's Bureau, we hold ourselves to the same expectation for continuous improvement. To that end, following the completion of the first round of CFSRs, the Bureau engaged in consultation with experts from around the country representing different disciplines to refine the review process. The changes seen in Round Two compared to Round One were the result of those consultations. We plan to engage in a similar process at the end of Round Two. 

In recent months, concerns have been raised about the composite measures that are used, in part, to assess States' achievement of outcomes and substantial conformity with the mandates of titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act. At the Children's Bureau, we take every concern seriously as we are fully committed to a process that is as accurate and complete as possible. In order to assess and evaluate specific concerns, our mathematical statistician, in consultation with a nationally recognized expert in developing composite measures, thoroughly analyzed the data and the methodology used in developing the composites. The following article ["How ACF Determined CFSR Composite Scores"] for this month’s Children's Bureau Express highlights these findings. In short, the analyses and other information provided in this report support the validity and use of the CFSR composites. [Editor's note: The full report is available on the CB website at ADD URL ]

We note that, in addition to technical concerns, some have suggested recently that State budgets as well as local political environments should somehow be a factor in developing our approaches to measurement. While the concerns of those making these statements are understandable, the overriding focus of those of us in the child welfare field must continue to be on improving the experiences of the children and families we are charged with serving. It is especially true in trying financial times that we must continue to ensure that no one loses sight of the critical needs of the vulnerable children we serve.

As always, we appreciate hearing the concerns and suggestions of fellow professionals in the field, and will continue to listen. We welcome the company of all who are invested in the hard work of continuous improvement, both in the services we provide children and their families and in the standards and measures we set for ourselves.

Joseph Bock, Acting Associate Commissioner
Children's Bureau
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services