Decision-making, Predictors of placement outcomes

John Fluke, Researcher, University of Colorado, United States 

Dana M. Hollinshead, Researcher, Kempe Center, University of Colorado 

Whether the focus is on assessments of clients, foster care entry, or planned permanent exits from care, child welfare decision makers influence these key outcomes. To effectively implement and evaluate interventions aimed at affecting these outcomes, we must understand how the characteristics of staff and organizations influence the decisions that underlie them. Decision making in child welfare, which is often based on ambiguous, partial, and contradictory information, is characterized by low reliability and considerable variability across casework staff and organizational work units.  This variability not only threatens the fidelity with which interventions are implemented but has serious consequences for children and families. This presentation will present insights from a Title IV-E child welfare waiver evaluations which includes decision making research informed by the Decision Making Ecology (Fluke, Baumann, Dalgleish, & Kern, 2104; DME). This study explored associations between caseworkers’ experience, beliefs and attitudes and their decisions triggering planned permanency exits. Factors examined included: where a worker fell on a spectrum of child safety vs. family preservation beliefs; confidence in local services; perceptions of administrative leadership; tenure with the child welfare agency; and beliefs about whether their personal parenting experiences influenced case decisions. Findings suggest a worker’s personal characteristics have an association with the prevalence of particular case outcomes.

Keywords : successful foster placement, matching, decision-making, disruption, outcomes

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