At the beginning of the project in 1993, provider agency workers completed an assessment form on cases in the experimental and comparison groups. The assessment form contained information on family composition, the child's foster care placement, and court actions. It contained information on the child's physical and mental health, development, and education. Each agency was to administer the demonstration-wide assessment to every case in the experimental and comparison groups. The assessment revealed inadequate access to substance abuse counseling, housing and housing assistance programs, lengthy processing requirements associated with finalizing adoptions, and a lack of aftercare resources for children returned home. However, most of the agencies did not find the assessment particularly helpful; a common complaint was that it was too long. Some of the agencies reported that caseworkers in both the experimental group and comparison group were to be paid $25 for completing the assessment; however, in most agencies the comparison group money was not funded. Some of the agencies also developed their own assessment instruments or used other standardized assessments.
Another intended use for the assessments was as a tool to prioritize cases and, at the start of the study, at least half of the agencies developed prioritization procedures. As discussed earlier, all agencies were encouraged to develop triaging plans to prioritize service delivery (see Section 2.2). The rationale behind the priority system was to determine which cases had been languishing in the system with problems that could be solved relatively quickly. Little Flower divided its cases into two categories, fast movers and slow movers, and worked on the fast moving cases first. Harlem Dowling categorized families by the number of problems they had: red flag families had six problems, yellow flag families had four to six problems, and green flag families had two or three remaining problems. The plan was to first provide services to those with fewer problems. St. ChristopherJennie Clarkson determined which families needed housing and established a goal of finding a family a home within 4 weeks. Staff indicated that this helped to discharge many families during the first year of the study. Miracle Makers indicated that it attempted to look at cases with one pending situation (needed housing or completion of parenting program) and worked to rectify that problem to move toward reunification. However, interviews revealed that this prioritization was not implemented consistently. St. ChristopherOttilie and New York Foundling said they did not prioritize cases. Instead, New York Foundling implemented a rigorous case review process for each case, and St. ChristopherOttilie used the city's required service plan reviews augmented by administrative review.
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