Using data in decisions for children in out-of-home care
To connect child caseworkers with the information they need to do the best job possible for children in care.
Who we’re working with
We’ve partnered with The NSW Department of Communities and Justice to trial a new approach to helping caseworkers continuously improve their work with children. This is part of a broader suite of reforms in NSW designed to strengthen the child protection system.
What we’re doing
In order to make the best decisions for the children they work with, community services caseworkers need reliable information about what’s going on in their lives. For example, how are they doing at school? How is their physical and mental health? How strong are their relationships?
Because this information can come from many sources it can be hard to access in a systematic way, making it difficult for caseworkers to get a comprehensive picture of how each child is faring over time and what difference services are making.
Consequently, the department commissioned us to design the Out-of-Home Care Quality Assurance Framework, which embeds this much-needed data into the way caseworkers do their jobs each day.
The framework, which we developed with The University of Melbourne, identifies the key outcomes on safety, permanency and wellbeing that should apply to all children in statutory out-of-home care.
We are working with the department to see how the framework is affecting its systems and processes. And the results will help inform its decisions on how to tailor and implement the framework more broadly.
Agencies working with children are already familiar with collecting data to monitor the safety and permanency of children in their care. But collecting data on wellbeing will be a new venture for many.
The framework means caseworkers can access regular, real-time reports based on information from administrative data (health, education, community services). This is combined with reports on safety, permanency and wellbeing from carers and from children themselves. But it’s important that the caseworkers collecting the information – and those providing it – don’t find the process a burden.
The results so far
The Quality Assurance Framework is being used in three non-government out-of-home care services and three DCJ Community Services Centres:
- Key Assets
- Burrun Dalai Aboriginal Corporation
- MacKillop Family Services
- DCJ Mid North Coast District (Kempsey, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie)
We have worked with these agencies to train caseworkers in all aspects of the framework. This includes administering wellbeing screening tools and understanding the data as it comes in.
We’ve also developed systems that help us learn from agencies about the strengths and challenges of using the framework. As a result, we will be able to continually improve and update it.
At the end of 2018 we provided a report to DCJ with lessons learned, to help the Department develop a plan on how best to implement the framework statewide. We are currently using what was learned to support existing sites with sustaining implementation, and to support the expansion of the Quality Assurance Framework to new sites within the existing agencies.