• June 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 6

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Child Welfare CQI Academy

In January 2014, JBS International, Inc., and its partner, the Center for the Support of Families (CSF), through a cooperative agreement with the Children's Bureau, launched the Child Welfare CQI Training Academy. The Academy is a seven-unit training program for child welfare managers who are responsible for performing and strengthening continuous quality improvement (CQI) activities and processes. Ultimately, the Academy aims to prepare these managers to facilitate a systematic problem-solving cycle, foster cultures of continuous learning and improvement, and facilitate sustainable changes in their agencies.

The Academy is organized into two training groups. A randomized controlled trial is being used to understand whether a self-directed or a group-based learning approach proves more effective at enhancing participants' knowledge and skills. The first group, comprising 158 participants, has access to self-directed learning modules only, which they can view at their own pace. The second group comprising 157 participants is exposed to the full learning program, including both self-directed and group learning activities on a predetermined schedule.

The curriculum is focused on teaching participants how to facilitate a six-step, systematic problem-solving cycle, referred to in the Academy as the Cycle of Learning and Improvement (http://www.jbsinternational.com/pdf/Advancing%20Continuous%20Quality%20Improvement.pdf). The six steps are:

  • Identify and understand the problem
  • Research the solution
  • Develop the theory of change
  • Adapt or develop the solution
  • Implement the solution
  • Monitor and assess the solution

For example, in the Academy's third unit, "Identifying and Understanding the Problem," participants learned the importance of collecting and analyzing data to understand "what" the problem is and "why" it's happening before moving on to solutions. They learned to conduct a root cause analysis, taking the key steps in collecting, assessing, and applying analytical techniques to identify and understand the problem. Each participant then selected a real problem in his or her agency, developed what and why questions, and determined what data to collect and how to analyze it. Participants came together in a group coaching session to refine and expand their thinking. In the words of one participant, "I appreciated the application of learning opportunity…and the information about asking the 'what' and 'why' questions—and not just to scratch the surface." 

The knowledge and skills gained by Academy participants can translate into better child welfare interventions—interventions that are built on a clear understanding of why problems exist, solid theories of how to solve problems, and solutions that are well aligned with theories of change and feasible for agencies. These new and strengthened skills can be applied in a variety contexts, including State and local participation in child and family services planning, monitoring reviews, program improvement, and ongoing CQI processes, to ultimately improve services and outcomes for children and families.

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Children's Bureau Express has featured the Child Welfare CQI Academy in the following articles:

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