National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts: Site Visits Report . Conditions that Sustain Reform

05/01/2003

Conditions identified as important to sustaining reforms are discussed below.

Staff

The most commonly identified condition that must be met for reform to be supported and sustained is a decrease in the resistance of some staff, at all levels, to the changes required by the Utah Practice Model. This resistance is characterized primarily as pockets of established workers who are reluctant to change and prefer to continue with the status quo, or agency partners who prefer to continue using the more legalistic and punitive model. For example, some lawyers are concerned that their clients, in trusting their caseworker, may disclose information that could be a disadvantage in court.

The ongoing hiring and retention of trained and experienced staff must also continue during the implementation of the Utah Practice Model. The agency is finding it difficult to hire highly-trained workers who could fully understand and integrate the skills required for the Utah Practice Model. Many of the agency staff are recent graduates with a Bachelor of Social Work degree who do not have the training one would receive at the Master of Social Work level, which would be helpful to understand and utilize the skills to implement the model. Furthermore, the agency also experiences a high turnover rate because staff have little incentive to stay with the agency when other employment options offer higher pay, better benefits, and more opportunities. This is especially true for the workers who have a master's degree.

The agency is committed to overcoming these problems and maintaining experienced, trained staff. Creating an agency culture around the Model's principles and practices is considered essential to perpetuating the philosophy and to maintaining consistent and reliable working practices.

Training

The integration of training with other responsibilities also has been identified as a condition that is required for the continued implementation of the Utah Practice Model. Practice Model training is required for all DCFS workers. Workers select a block of 4 consecutive days when they are able to attend a training session. While training, workers are required to maintain their caseloads as well as to continue taking on new cases. However, maintaining contact with one's clients and the office through cell phones and pagers during a training session causes disruption to other trainees as well as the individuals who are attending to their clients. The agency has not yet determined how to provide the additional coverage needed while workers are in training.

Conflict of Interest

A conflict of interest has emerged for investigation and assessment workers who must implement the new practice principles and skills while they are responsible for investigation. Workers experience a conflict when they are seeking to establish a trusting relationship with a family while they are gathering information necessary to make a determination. This is another issue that must be addressed in order for the implementation of the model to come to fruition.

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