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June 2013Vol. 14, No. 5Evaluating Illinois DCFS' Birth Assessment

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) recently partnered with Chapin Hall to facilitate an evaluation of the agency's new birth assessment policy. The new birth assessment is an initiative by DCFS to provide appropriate and individualized services to teen parents who are in foster care when their children are born. Chapin Hall published a report conveying the findings of the evaluation and potential implications for practice and research.

New birth assessments require specialty service providers to conduct one or more home visits with the new parents within 60 days of the birth of the child. During the home visits, the workers observe parent-child interactions, provide parenting education, assess unmet family needs, record safety concerns and risk factors, and provide information on community resources. During the visits, workers administer two standardized assessments to the families. Results of these assessments are used to inform case plans.

In their evaluation of the policy, researchers interviewed subsets of specialty service providers, worker supervisors, and youth receiving services. They also analyzed administrative data from agency records. The interviews from all three groups generally revealed positive attitudes toward the program. Workers indicated that the assessments can reveal a great deal about parenting abilities. They also expressed satisfaction with the ability to personalize parenting education. Workers did express concern that the 60-day timeframe may not be a long enough to complete all of the steps required for an adequate assessment. The evaluators suggest a randomized control trial as a next step in testing the effectiveness of the program.

An Evaluation of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services New Birth Assessment, by Amy Dworsky and Melissa Wojnaroski, is available on the Chapin Hall website: