• February 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 1

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Site Visit: Technology Promotes Project Knowledge, Implementation

The Village Family Service Center, partnering with the North Dakota Department of Human Services, developed and implemented the Family Engagement for Native American Youth project. The project, funded by a Children's Bureau Family Connection grant, implemented two family engagement processes —Family Team Decision-Making (FTDM) and Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM). The project serves Native American children, birth to 18 years of age, currently in out-of-home care or at imminent risk of placement out of the home, in rural and urban locations, in four regions of the State.

The project employed six group meeting facilitators who worked in multiple locations across the four regions of the State, with some working more than 4 hours away from the Village Family Service Center's main office. In order to ensure consistency in communication and training among the facilitators, the Project Evaluator, Melanie Sage, Ph.D., used information technology to establish communication venues and storage for forms and other relevant project information.

Dr. Sage began the process by creating a blog using the free website Blogger.com. The project blog site became an online manual for the project. It includes the following pages:

  • Home. New blogs are posted when project procedures are updated. Project facilitators are informed of the new blog post via email.
  • Scripts. The evaluator worked with the facilitators to develop scripts to guide facilitators when explaining the project to parents, other participants, and children and to explain and obtain consent for project participation. Use of these scripts improves the consistency of practice across the four regions.
  • Consent. There are explanations of, and scenarios about, who can provide consent for services based on the various child custody types encountered by the facilitators.
  • Forms. The website Dropbox.com stores project forms and files. A link to each form is embedded in the project blog site, allowing facilitators easy access to the forms they need. In addition, this page includes guidelines for completing the paperwork for both types of meetings, FGDM and FTDM.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Answers to questions asked by the facilitators are included within this page. The facilitator who asked the question writes the answer/response that was provided to the question, which is then reviewed by the evaluator, and added to the FAQs. This procedure allows the facilitator to demonstrate understanding of the response and to provide information to ensure consistency in the future.
  • Resources. Resource topics included within this page are Regional/Tribal Services, History and Information on North Dakota Tribes, National Resources, Education and Training, and Grant-Related Presentations.
  • Project Updates. This page features chronological updates on grant activities and events.
  • Contact Information. This page includes information on staff, including phone numbers and email addresses.

The project blog site, http://fgdm.blogspot.com/, is not password protected, but, in order to provide a degree of privacy, it is set as "unindexed" so it will not show up during an Internet search.

In addition to the other information on the project blog site, Dr. Sage developed nine video logs to inform project staff about project research and to instruct facilitators on how to complete the various project forms. Using Windows Live Movie Maker, Dr. Sage created and edited the videos and used a free screen-capture software, Jing (techsmith.com), to show images of forms with voice-over explanations for how to use and complete them. The videos were uploaded to Youtube.com and links were posted to the blog site. Facilitators are able to view the instructional video logs at their convenience. SurveyMonkey.com was used to assess facilitators' understanding and knowledge resulting from the instructional video logs and other project training. According to Dr. Sage, all of the facilitators successfully completed quizzes on SurveyMonkey.com, which indicated that they watched the video logs and understood the project's purpose and processes. If a facilitator completed a document or form incorrectly, they were asked to view that video log again. Two new facilitators were hired during the project. Access to the blog site and video logs allowed them to complete the training at their convenience and ensured consistency in their training, despite their different geographical locations and employment start dates.

The free technology used by the project did have its limitations, including limited storage space and concerns about confidentiality since the blog site could not be password protected; however, expanded services available for a fee provide more storage space and will ensure the protection of confidential information. The Family Engagement for Native American Youth project did not include any confidential information on its blog site.

Although the project covered a large geographic area, and project facilitators were in offices across the State, the technology used by the project allowed for consistency in communication and training and was seen as a useful tool by the project staff and the project evaluator.

For more information on this project, contact Sandi Zaleski, Project Director, The Village Family Service Center, at szaleski@thevillagefamily.org.

For more information about the technological and evaluation processes of the project, contact Melanie Sage, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, B.S.S.W. Program Director, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota, at melanie.sage@email.und.edu.

The Family Engagement for Native American Youth project is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award 90CF0033). This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.
 

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