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  • April 2017
  • Vol. 18, No. 2

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University-Child Welfare Agency Partnership Helps Build Evidence-Driven Workforce

The San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) is partnering with the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley in a public-private partnership aimed at developing an evidence-driven child welfare workforce.

The Cal-Child Welfare Leadership Training (Cal-CWLT) is a 5-year student and staff training and leadership partnership funded through a National Child Welfare Workforce Institute grant that includes HSA, Berkeley, and the Seneca Family of Agencies. The partnership was launched to help child welfare agencies make better decisions for the children in their care by relying more on evidence-based practice (EBP) and by sharing this knowledge with the incoming workforce and current child welfare administrators.

At the heart of this initiative is increasing Federal and State reliance on continuous quality improvement (CQI) as a tool to ensure greater use of EBP to guide the strategic use of limited resources. CQI is designed to provide a framework for making practice and policy decisions using the best information available. Round 3 of the Child and Family Services Reviews includes a provision for States to evaluate specific policy and practice changes by measuring their child welfare outcomes. The interest in building CQI capacity offers an opportunity to train existing and incoming child welfare staff on how to best use data and EBP for better decision-making in child welfare practice.

Cal-CWLT provides for collaboration between public and private agencies, a local university, students in the Master of Social Work program, and child welfare agency supervisors and middle managers that focuses on which child welfare practices are most successful in the field. Cal-CWLT uses the principles of CQI—observation, question and hypothesis development, testing, hypothesis revision, and theory development—to bridge the gap between research and practice.

A recent article in the Journal of Social Work Education describes this effort to build and support the components of a successful CQI infrastructure and points to several barriers to an EBP-based child welfare system, including the difficulty interpreting and choosing from the large amount of available research, time constraints, skepticism about the validity of data, and dilemmas in applying research to specific situations. To combat this, the article suggests that training can help familiarize workers with data and help them connect their practice with outcomes. The authors explain that the Cal-CWLT project aims to develop the type of "change agents" that will promote greater use of data by public child welfare agencies. They conclude by explaining that, if successful, Cal-CWLT will have prepared 25 new child welfare professionals to obtain and understand high-quality data, effectively rely on them as evidence, and provide leadership in an environment that values data.

Building an Evidence-Driven Child Welfare Workforce: A University-Agency Partnership is available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10437797.2015.1073080?needAccess=true (PDF - 454 KB).
 

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