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How can we enhance child welfare agencies' decisionmaking strategies?

Improving decisionmaking practices in child welfare agencies

Poorly designed and overtaxed child protection systems do not enable staff to make the best decisions to protect children and teens from abuse and neglect.

On the Frontline (OTF) is an initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Child Welfare Strategy Group. It is a front-end effort to enhance a child welfare agency’s organizational capacity to improve decisionmaking practices and, ultimately, improve child safety.

According to OTF, strengthening the front end of the child welfare system involves implementing 3 concurrent strategies:

  • Build a strong workforce
  • Strengthen system decisionmaking
  • Strengthen worker decisionmaking
  • Westat conducted an implementation evaluation of the OTF initiative in 2 public county-based welfare agencies to assess if all 3 strategies are necessary and if they should be implemented together.
  • We used a retrospective, mixed methods evaluation design that included interviews and focus groups, a web-based survey, and analysis of quarterly administrative data.
  • The workforce strategy showed consistent implementation and positive results. Based on multiple data sources, preliminary evidence indicated decreases in caseworker vacancy rates and time it takes to fill a vacant caseworker position.
  • For systems decisionmaking strategy, both agencies developed a system-wide process that combines quantitative data measures with qualitative case review data to
    • Observe patterns
    • Identify issues
    • Create data-informed solutions to improve child welfare practice

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