Changes occurred in the areas of resource allocation, training, and practice.
Agency administrators stated that immediately following the lawsuit there was a significant increase in the State's budget for DCFS. Between 1993 and 2000 the Utah Legislature doubled the allocation from approximately $60 million to $120 million. Since then the budget has leveled off and decreased slightly.
Implementation of the Utah Practice Model consisted primarily of providing intensive training to all DCFS staff. The initial training for DCFS workers began during spring 2000 and was completed during January 2002, and consisted of classroom training in each of five skills or "modules." The training consisted of interactive role playing exercises to foster greater understanding of what clients face when they enter the DCFS system.
The importance of training new staff members and updating experienced staff is reflected in the building of a new regional training center, which is staffed with full-time trainers. Ongoing training is mandatory and requires workers' commitment of 4 consecutive days, as well as maintaining their caseloads and taking on new cases while in training.
Changes in Practice
Slight changes have been made to practices and procedures to reflect the new model. For example, intake workers ask "solution-focused questions" of their referents. For example, they may request that the reporter describe the strengths of the family whom they are reporting. Investigation and assessment workers engage a family and focus on strengths while conducting their search for evidence that may result in a substantiated or unsubstantiated allegation of abuse. The requirements that are used to assist other workers on the case include: Functional assessments; written accounts detailing a family's story, including why they are involved with DCFS; and a description of the family's strengths. Case transitioning requires coordination between the two respective workers as a means of assuring continuity of service.
Evaluation is an important aspect of the Utah Practice Model. An important evaluation activity is the Quality Case Review, which is a yearly review of approximately 24 randomly selected cases within a region. This review is a joint effort between DCFS and a court-appointed monitor. Each region receives a score in two areas--child and family status and system performance. The scores provide regions with feedback for improving their practice and skills. Earning high scores on the Quality Case Review is an important step for regions exiting from court-ordered monitoring.
Additional evaluation activities that monitor system performance and facilitate quality improvement are listed below.
- Reviews of the achievement of action steps identified in the Milestone Plan: This is a bi-monthly report that is compiled by DCFS and is submitted to the court monitor. The report indicates progress on specific action steps and interventions that address barriers to satisfactory performance in protecting children from abuse and neglect, providing children with permanent homes, and supporting child well-being.
- Review of outcome indicator trends: This series of outcome indicators provides general information about system performance. The indicators are jointly selected by DCFS and the monitor and are used to inform them of changes or the lack thereof. Each division provides quarterly trend indicator reports to the monitor, which DCFS and the monitor regularly review to identify possible performance improvements or concerns.
Results for workers and families
Both workers and families appear to have benefited greatly as a result of the Utah Practice Model. Reciprocal relationships have been developed as workers share their power with families and families have been empowered to participate in solving their own problems. Agency workers and administrators stated that the Utah Practice Model benefits families in the following ways:
- Families are involved in the decisions that affect their lives;
- Families are more likely to trust DCFS workers and see them as allies;
- Families are better informed and more aware of what is happening because they understand the DCFS process;
- Families are more open to DCFS intervention; and
- Families respond more positively to intervention, if it happens.
Workers benefit from the Utah Practice Model in the following ways:
- Workers are able to do social work rather than policing;
- The model broadens the perspective of workers and help them to better understand the families;
- Workers are more realistic with what they expect from their clients;
- Workers are not solely responsible for the success or failure of a family;
- Workers are more committed because they feel they make an impact in the lives of their clients; and
- Workers' jobs are more pleasant and less stressful.