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Dec/Jan 2011Vol. 11, No. 10Evaluating Solution-Based Casework in Washington State

The Children's Administration of Washington State is implementing a new practice model, Solution-Based Casework (SBC), to improve outcomes for the children and families it serves. SBC is a family-centered approach to child welfare that focuses on engaging and involving families in the helping process and building on their strengths. The three basic goals of SBC are:

  • Form respectful partnerships between families and caseworkers
  • Focus on pragmatic everyday family life tasks
  • Develop case plans that are specific to risk and safety concerns

The Children's Administration teamed with Partners for Our Children (POC) to evaluate the implementation and impact of SBC. POC staff collected data on the demographics and needs of families involved with child welfare in Washington State. The surveys showed that parents were more likely than caseworkers to report unmet needs, particularly basic needs like food, clothing, transportation, and housing.

A major focus of POC's evaluation to date has been determining the factors that affect family engagement. POC researchers conducted online surveys of parent perceptions, caseworker beliefs and attitudes, caseworker practices, and supervisor perceptions. The following characteristics were identified as having a positive influence on family engagement:

  • Parent/family characteristics
    • Older age and single
    • Child in the home
    • Greater need for assistance and number of hardships
    • Fewer unmet basic needs and psychological or health needs
  • Caseworker characteristics
    • Younger age and female
    • Master's degree or greater
    • Fewer years in current position
  • Organizational characteristics
    • Smaller caseload sizes
    • Medium office size
    • Positive attitudes about engagement
    • Fewer perceived obstacles to using new approaches

POC plans to use these baseline data and perform additional research to analyze family outcomes as SBC is fully implemented in the State. Find the most current reports from the SBC evaluation in the Knowledge Center on the POC website: