The Child and Family Services Reviews are a federal-state collaborative effort designed to help ensure that quality services are provided to children and families through state child welfare systems. The Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has administered the reviews since 2000. They are reviews of state child welfare programs and practice that identify strengths and challenges in state programs and systems, focusing on outcomes for children and families in the areas of safety, permanency, and well-being. The reviews work in tandem with other state and federal frameworks for system planning, reform, and effective implementation, such as the Child and Family Services Plan and a well-functioning continuous quality improvement system.
Section 1123A of the Social Security Act (the Act) requires the Department of Health and Human Services to review state child and family services programs to ensure substantial conformity with the state plan requirements in titles IV-B and IV-E of the Act. Through the reviews, the Children's Bureau also assesses state programs implemented under titles IV-B and IV-E related to child protection, foster care, adoption, family preservation and family support, and independent living services. In addition to reviewing for states' substantial conformity with applicable state plan requirements, the reviews are designed to help states improve child welfare services and the outcomes for children and families who receive services. Based on the strengths and areas needing improvement within state programs identified by the reviews, states develop Program Improvement Plans to address areas in which they were found not to be in conformity with any of the seven outcomes or seven systemic factors under review. Implementing Program Improvement Plan strategies helps states create lasting and statewide systemic change while also addressing the immediate needs of children and families.
THE REVIEW PROCESS
The Child and Family Services Reviews are a partnership between federal and state staff and involve a two-phase process: (1) a statewide assessment, and (2) an onsite review as required by 45 CFR § 1355.33. If needed, a state will develop and implement a Program Improvement Plan to improve upon areas identified as not in substantial conformity.
- In the first phase, the staff of the state child welfare agency, representatives selected by the agency who were consulted in the development of the Child and Family Services Plan, and other individuals deemed appropriate and agreed upon by the state and the Children’s Bureau, complete a statewide assessment, using statewide data indicators to evaluate the programs under review and examine the outcomes and systemic factors subject to review.
- The second phase of the review process is an onsite review, which includes case reviews, case-related interviews for the purpose of determining outcome performance, and, as necessary, stakeholder interviews that further inform the assessment of systemic factors. There are two possible paths to the case reviews conducted during the onsite review: (1) the “Traditional Review,” a 1-week onsite review during which a federal and state team reviews a sample of cases at three sites and conducts case-related and stakeholder interviews; or (2) the “State Conducted Case Review,” when approved by the Children’s Bureau, which consists of case reviews within the context of the state’s ongoing case review process during a defined 6-month period.
- A state determined not to be in substantial conformity with one or more of the seven outcomes or seven systemic factors under review must develop a Program Improvement Plan jointly with the Children’s Bureau that addresses identified areas of nonconformity.
- The state then implements the approved Program Improvement Plan, seeking technical assistance as needed. The Children’s Bureau and the state monitor the plan’s implementation and the state’s progress toward plan-specified goals.
- If the state is unable to demonstrate the agreed-upon improvement, the Administration for Children and Families must take a financial penalty from a portion of the state’s title IV-B and IV-E federal child welfare funds.
Pennsylvania's Child and Family Services Review is scheduled for 2017. Onsite review preparations began in May 2014. For more specific information about the current preparations, please contact Jeanne Edwards at email@example.com or call 717-795-9048.