State Innovations in Child Welfare Financing. Contractor Assessments

04/01/2002

Many states (such as Maryland and Tennessee) allow the contractors to conduct their own client assessments so that they can develop their own service plans. In Maryland, the contractor takes the service plan originally developed by Baltimore caseworkers and other case records, meets with the family, and then uses the Structured Decision Making assessment tool to see if the original service plan needs to be revised. In Tennessee, contractor caseworkers have 15 days to conduct a thorough assessment. They use a triage system to place the child initially while they perform the assessment. Their assessments include a social history; an Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment screen; a community risk assessment to assess the risk the child poses to the community; and family strength and weakness screens. This assessment then feeds into the continuum of services the contractor offers. As a result of this system, Tennessee has been able to greatly reduce its use of emergency shelters.

There are degrees of integration of assessment and case planning. Some states (such as Connecticut) keep assessments separate from the development of a treatment plan. Connecticut initially assesses a child using a set of four-point scales that determine the child’s functioning. The assessment is then given to the contractor, which has the responsibility to develop a treatment plan for how it will broker the services. The reason for giving the contractor this responsibility is that the state does not want the assessment to limit the flexibility that the contractor has. However, many states seem to integrate assessment and case planning tightly. In Oklahoma, for example, all long-term cases requiring prevention, reunification, and placement maintenance services are referred to a contractor, which then conducts a battery of assessments and develops an intervention plan.

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