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April 2018Vol. 19, No. 3Is There a Missing Piece in Your Agency's CQI System?

Written by the Children's Bureau's Capacity Building Center for States.

The goal of continuous quality improvement (CQI) is to establish processes that enable teams to use data and other information to identify, understand, implement, and evaluate solutions to problems. Individuals with experience receiving child welfare services have a unique understanding of the problems and may identify creative solutions. Parents and young adults may feel empowered by being involved in solving problems that can help agencies effectively meet the needs of families. As a result, family partners can provide a compelling voice for change with the potential to increase community support and garner the attention of decision-makers. Additionally, through involvement in this process parents and young adults may gain valuable professional skills they can transfer to other settings in their lives.

Thoughtful, intentional preparation is needed to reap the benefits of engaging parents and youth in CQI. Agency leaders must actively endorse and communicate the role of family partners and facilitate their involvement by committing resources, including staff time and other supports. This may include transportation, child care, stipends, recognition of family partners at key project milestones, and ongoing agency-wide communication about their critical role. Agency leaders should prepare CQI team members by clearly articulating roles and expectations, addressing concerns about family involvement in CQI, and focusing on the benefits of participation.

CQI meetings often involve reviewing data, which can be intimidating for agency staff and family partners alike. While the perspectives of family partners can be particularly helpful in adding meaning to the data, agency CQI staff must ensure that all team members are equipped with the necessary skills to analyze relevant data. Parents and young adults may be empowered to share their ideas if they are prepared prior to meetings so they have a clear understanding of the purpose of the meeting, their role, and the information to be discussed. Purposeful strategies and leadership support will increase the success of meaningfully engaging families in CQI processes that improve services, and ultimately, families' lives.

The following resources support implementation of research-supported best practices for engaging families in CQI:

  1. "Focused CQI Services Indepth Module 8: Engaging Youth and Families in the CQI Process": This training builds staff and stakeholders' capacity to engage parents and young adults in CQI. Materials are available on CapLEARN, the Center's virtual learning site. Contact for support.
  2. "Family Empowerment Leadership Academy Training": This training builds capacity to empower families and form partnerships to achieve sustainable change in child welfare. The curricula focus on knowledge and skills for partnering with families and encourages change through family empowerment, shared leadership, and peer-to-peer support. Materials are available on CapLEARN.
  3. "Engaging Youth in NYTD": This training provides strategies to engage youth as partners in state efforts to use National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) data.
  4. National Youth in Transition Database Reviews: Factsheet for States: This document provides tips and examples for engaging youth in state NYTD reviews.