Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume One. 6.8.2 Challenges to Implementation

12/01/2002

Data Collection. As in other study sites, the burden of data collection fell largely on private agency FP staff, however, even more so in Philadelphia where private workers provided services to both the experimental and control group cases. Because the study protocols were introduced to the private agencies early on in the process (in the middle of 1995), the agencies were able to incorporate some of the data collection instruments for the study into their normal data collection routines. In particular, the evaluation's contact sheet, a form which workers filled out upon each contact with a family, was adopted for use by several private agencies in Philadelphia.

Private Agencies. A site coordinator assisted in Philadelphia with data collection efforts. The site coordinator frequented the DHS and private agencies to gather information on cases. Reorganizations by two of the private agencies provided challenges to collecting information for the study. During the study period, one agency was purchased by a for-profit company and as a result key administrators and staff who were study contacts and had provided information for the study left the agency. This situation posed a significant challenge, but the site coordinator and study staff were able to maintain communication with the private agency staff and assemble information on cases as needed. Also, for a time in one agency, the same workers were reportedly serving both SCOH and FPS cases in the study.

Caseworker Assignment. By tracking cases as they moved through DHS and the private agency providers, the study documented substantial delays in the assignment of DHS caseworkers to SCOH cases and in the assignment of DHS FPS workers. This resulted in families not receiving services due to the requirement that both DHS and private worker meet with the family on the first visit. Table 6-7 illustrates the time between random assignment and assignment of a caseworker for cases over a one-year period of the study. Families to receive FPS at one agency waited an average of 6.7 weeks to receive a caseworker, and those families to receive SCOH services waited an average of 9 weeks. (72) Since FPS was supposed to be a 12-week program, delays of 7 weeks were substantial. Prolonged time between random assignment and assignment of a caseworker resulted in challenges in data collection. Initial caretaker interviews that were intended to capture a family's situation at the start of services were delayed. Further discussion about the time between random assignment and interviews in Philadelphia is presented in Volume 2, Chapter 4 of this report.

The information presented on characteristics of children and families in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia County, on child welfare services in Philadelphia County, and on implementation of the evaluation provides a context for understanding the study data and analyses on family characteristics, services to families, and outcome comparisons presented in Volume Two.

Table 6-7
The Time Between When a Case Entered the Program and Was Assigned a Caseworker
March 1998 - March 1999
Cases Caseworker Assignment (median number of weeks)
  FPS SCOH
Private Agency A 6.7 weeks
(N=8)
9.1 weeks
(N=21)
Private Agency B 2.3 weeks
(N=50)
7.1 weeks
(N=23)
Private Agency C N/A 2.9 weeks
(N=20)
TOTAL 4.5 weeks 6.4 weeks
Turnbacks and refusals are not included in these calculations.

Endnotes

60. Information in this chapter is based on reports and documents provided by the Department of Human Services of Philadelphia County, interviews conducted with personnel at both the public and private agencies, and data resources such as the 2000 U.S. Census and the Kids Count Data Book by Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2000.

61. Kids Count Data Book, Published by Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1999.

62. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Substance Abuse in States and Metropolitan Areas: Model-Based Estimates from the 1991-1993 National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse. Summary Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, September 1996.

63. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Substance Abuse in States and Metropolitan Areas: Model-Based Estimates from the 1991-1993 National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse. Summary Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, September 1996.

64. Curtis, et al., 1995.

65. Prior to 1995, CPS reports were limited to physical abuse resulting in pain or dysfunction, sexual abuse, medical or physical neglect leading to "a condition," emotional or psychological abuse reported by a physician or certified school psychologist, and "established patterns of injuries."

66. Formerly, GPS cases were not legally defined; however in 1999 the state promulgated regulations on GPS cases to promote more uniform investigation of these cases.

67. CPS/GPS investigations on open cases are conducted by Family Service Region (FSR) caseworkers.

68. Delinquency cases are handled by the probation office of family court and the probation office provides service planning and supervision for these children.

69. Abraxis Foundation, 1995.

70. Sex abuse cases are rarely served through FPS because they require long-term treatment.

71. The nine inappropriate referrals include reunification cases, cases in which the children identified as at risk were out of the home, one case that was already receiving services, and cases from units that were not participating in the study.

72. Caseworker assignment to cases was only tracked through 15 weeks from random assignment.

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