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August 2012Vol. 13, No. 7NH Implements Solution-Based Practice Model

When the Northeast and Caribbean Child Welfare Implementation Center (NCIC) selected New Hampshire as an implementation project in 2009, the scope of the project was twofold: (1) implement a practice model for the Division of Children Youth and Families and (2) develop a model focused on permanency for the Division for Juvenile Justice Services (JJS). After the project launched, the two divisions merged, forming three separate bureaus that provide direct child welfare services. While the project scope shifted, the goal remained the same: implement sustainable and systemic improvements that strengthen family engagement and consistency in practice. 

The merger of JJS field services and the Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC) into the Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) supports integrated policies and procedures that bring consistency. The merger also allows continued preservation of the specialized practices of child protection services (CPS) and JJS.

The CPS and JJS practice model's foundation is Solution-Based Casework, which creates a framework for decision-making and practice structure guiding all levels of agency efforts. SYSC's practice model—for which implementation began in 2012—will have an enhanced emphasis on Restorative Justice practices, which focus on engagement and providing offenders with opportunities to restore relationships with individuals and the community.

To prepare for the practice model implementation, DCYF organized a multidisciplinary design team composed of 45 members, including staff from all organizational levels and NCIC representatives, and each team member had an equal voting share. This collaboration was necessary, said Maggie Bishop, DCYF Director, to ensure a living, breathing model that standardized practice: "Given the time constraints of my schedule, I was hesitant to sit in a room 1 day every month with 45 staff members. In hindsight, it was the best thing I ever did. Having the director in the room with the staff as the model was built empowered staff. I told them, 'Once we walk into this room, we're all equal.'"

The design team, said Penthea Burns, State/Tribal Liaison with NCIC, created a new level of readiness in the district offices. "When the practice model was rolled out, New Hampshire had a State full of champions. The design team members actively took on the role of liaison, going back to their offices, talking about the model, getting input, and reporting back." A separate design team was developed for the JJS project and, just recently, for the SYSC project. A State level team oversaw implementation plans with an array of strategies that evolved throughout stages of the projects.

The full participation of youth and parent consultants on the design teams provided a dynamic element to practice model development. These former service recipients brought a creative tension to design meetings said Kimberly Crowe, Child and Family Services Review Coordinator: "If that tension is channeled in a positive way, it can be an accelerator for change. It was great to see staff reactions to their input in terms of an immediate greater awareness of what youth and families experience when involved in the child welfare system."

DCYF also conducted an Organizational Readiness Survey prior to implementation, and the survey will be administered annually to evaluate shifts in culture and climate elements as both a consequence of and a driver for practice model implementation. Crowe said, from an evaluation standpoint, the survey was critical. "It provided an understanding of the staffs' starting point. When you're in it every day, it is difficult to see incremental changes. When that data was run, we had tangible results to show staff that we had come a long way."

A strategic implementation plan was developed and managed that focused on training, coaching, and ongoing support to staff. The initial phase of this plan, said Todd Crumb, DCYF Senior Planner, was a statewide training on the model's structures and components. Various strategies have been piloted in advanced practice sites to allow for a well-planned rollout and a manageable change process for the field. Bishop added that continuous rollouts keep the practice model alive. A full statewide rollout of all CPS and JJS strategies will be completed by June 2013.

To strengthen fidelity to the Solution-Based Casework model, DCYF has developed a certification process for staff and supervisors. An evaluation tool  has been piloted and will be fully implemented as part of the agency's quality assurance processes to assess fidelity on an ongoing basis. Practice model language has been included in job descriptions, annual evaluations, and agency policies. "It is my intent to ensure that New Hampshire's children, youth, and families view the role of DCYF as a seamless, valuable intervention for all children regardless of petition type; that we demonstrate positive outcomes for those served and are able to meet their ever-changing needs," Bishop said.

New Hampshire's Practice Model Design and Implementation Project Logic Model (PDF - 38 KB), Beliefs and Guiding Principles (PDF - 264 KB), and Practice Model Fact Sheet (PDF - 83 KB) are available on the National Resource Center for Organizational Improvement's Practice Model Peer Network.

Special thanks to Maggie Bishop, Director for DCYF, Kimberly Crowe, Child and Family Services Review Coordinator, Todd Crumb, DCYF Senior Planner, Penthea Burns, State/Tribal Liaison with NCIC, and Kris Sahonchik, Principal Investigator for NCIC, for providing information for this article.

Related Item

Children's Bureau Express featured New Hampshire's work with the NCIC to implement its new practice model in the following article: "New Hampshire Uses Practice Model to Build PIP" (September 2011).