Poster Paper: Enhancing Wisconsin's Child Welfare Case Review Process: Developing Innovative Systems and Strengthening Collaboration to Continuously Improve Practice

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Hannah Knouse and Tyler Oettinger, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Decisions made within the first 60 days of a report of alleged maltreatment or neglect can have a significant impact on children’s well-being, safety and services provided to them by the child welfare agency. Understanding how caseworkers make these critical decisions and what key information is collected and documented for decision-making is vital to determining best practices and improvements for Wisconsin’s child welfare system.

In 2013, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) adopted a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) approach to understand the state-administered, county-operated child welfare system in Wisconsin and to identify ways of improving policy, practice and outcomes. As part of this CQI approach, DCF created a case review process that collects quantifiable data from a representative sample of child welfare cases in Wisconsin.

During the second round of case reviews beginning in 2016, DCF enhanced the case review process by focusing on developing and improving case review tools and advancing methods of data collection. DCF recruited and trained certified peer reviewers from counties throughout Wisconsin. The strategy was to strengthen the collaboration between state and county staff in using CQI initiatives and tools to better understand both local and statewide practices. These peer reviewers were trained child welfare professionals who worked in the field, were interested in learning about the CQI process, met pre-requisites related to experience and training, and completed additional training and test cases before reviewing child welfare cases. State CQI staff focused primarily on the oversight and management of the CQI program, by enhancing trainings on the use of CQI tools and case reviews, and completing quality management activities, such as reviewing a sample of cases completed by peer reviewers in order to ensure reliability and consistency across all reviewers.

DCF used its own CQI model to update the first iteration of the instrument for the Access case record review based on lessons learned from feedback received from certified peer reviewers. The tool was modified to have more intricate sets of questions that clearly asked what information was documented, where it was documented in the electronic case file, and whether it was adequate based on Wisconsin standards, policies and requirements. The Initial Assessment tool was enhanced based on what was learned in the Access tool development, and also automated into an electronic database, rather than being conducted via paper reviews (as was done in the first round).

DCF's poster highlights the CQI strategies and processes that DCF used to better understand and improve the complex work of child welfare professionals across the state in an effort to promote the safety, permanency and well-being of Wisconsin’s children and families.