THE CHILD AND FAMILY
SERVICES IMPROVEMENT ACT
In September 2006, the Child and Family Services Improvement Act was signed into law (Public Law [P.L.] 109-288), creating newer and stronger safeguards to promote the safety and well-being of children and their families. The Child & Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 addressed findings from the Child and Family Service Review. Data collected demonstrated "a strong correlation between frequent caseworker visits with children and positive outcomes for these children, such as timely adherence to permanency and other indicators of child well-being". The legislation focused on improving the frequency and quality of monthly caseworker visits to children in federally defined foster care. Child & Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 authorized $55 million federal dollars to be used to support this effort. The funding was spread over a five year period (2007 – 2012) and, as such, each state was required to develop a five year plan. The plan was to be targeted toward meeting the federal standards of the frequency of caseworker visits to children in federally defined foster care. The legislation also encouraged states to use the funding to support other areas that could impact the frequency and quality of caseworker visits. These areas included: caseworker retention and recruitment issues, as well as access to mobile technology.
PENNSYLVANIA'S FIVE YEAR QUALITY VISITATION PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT PLAN
Quality Visitation Data
Following Pennsylvania's initial federal submission of visitation data in 2007, a baseline of 77% of children in federally defined foster care being visited on a monthly basis was established. After establishing their baseline percentage, states were required to develop a five-year program improvement plan focused on efforts to improve the percentage of children visited on a monthly basis in yearly increments in order to reach the federal benchmark of 90% by October 1, 2011 and 95% by 2015.
Amendment and Extension to the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act
On September 30, 2011, the amendment and extension of the Child and Family Services and Improvement Act was signed into law. A portion of this act extended the visitation benchmarks and funding support through 2016. The current benchmark of 90% of children in federally defined foster care being seen on a monthly basis is increased to 95% by 2015.
Various Quality Visitation Efforts
The Resource Center has been involved in other activities over the last several years to quality visitation for youth in federally defined foster care. These activities include but are not limited to modifying curriculum, conducting training and providing technical assistance to support the OCYF Bulletin issued on May 8, 2008.
Field Guide for the Practice of Quality Visitation with Children and Families
A field guide focusing on conducting monthly visits of quality with children placed in foster care settings has been developed through the ongoing work occurring in regard to CFSIA of 2006. The Field Guide was the result of work that began in May of 2008 and includes recommendations from a workgroup of key stakeholders, including youth and public and private child welfare workers and supervisors.
Distribution of Mobile Technology Through the Quality Visitation funding, a variety of Mobile Technology was able to be purchased and distributed to agency staff to enhance quality visitation efforts. The following technology was distributed in 2010-2011.
• 652 Tablet PCs
• 58 Mobile Printers
• 100 DragonNaturally Speaking Voice Recognition Software Licenses
• 352 Voice Recognition Software headsets
Mobile Technology Guide
Mobile Technology Guides were developed for Administrators and Information Technology Staff. Two versions of this guide have been created; one for counties that received the Fujitsu© Lifebook Tablet (T5010) Model and one for counties who received the Fujitsu© Lifebook Tablet (T901) Model. The guide included information pertaining to the implementation and distribution of mobile technology within the county agency. Information included in the guide includes:
• Background information about the funding of mobile technology distribution and research
• Tablet information including support, preparing for distribution, and training opportunities
• Mobile Printer Overview and Setup Information
• Voice recognition software including DragonSpeak and Windows 7
Mobile Technology Online Training
Online Trainings were developed for technology users to provide them with the many functions of the tablet, as well as how to ensure engagement is maintained with children, youth and families, while utilizing mobile technology. Prior to using the tablet in the field, it is highly recommended that individuals, supervisors and IT support staff complete the following online courses:
• Using Your Fujitsu Lifebook
• Youth and Family Engagement and the Use of Technology
Quarterly Networking Sessions
Staff from County Children and Youth agencies who are using mobile technology in their job, have been invited to participate in quarterly Technology User Networking sessions. These sessions will be held via WebEx and will allow individuals to share ideas and resources pertaining to how they use mobile technology in their casework tasks.
Mobile Technology Discussion Forum
Administrators, Information Technology Staff, and participants, who are using mobile technology, have access to the Mobile Technology Discussion Forum. This forum will provide individuals the opportunity to share ideas, as well as tips and techniques pertaining to mobile technology use.
Quality Visitation Workgroup
With the Amendment and Extension to the Child and Family Services Improvement Act that is providing additional funding until 2016, the Quality Visitation Workgroup was formed:
The purpose of the Quality Visitation workgroup is to design interventions to improve child welfare services throughout Pennsylvania as a result of the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006. As well, the workgroup makes recommendations/interventions including: to protect and promote the welfare of all children; prevent the neglect, abuse or exploitation of children; support at-risk families through services that allow children to remain with their families or return to their families in a timely manner; promote the safety, permanence and well-being of children in foster care and adoptive families; and provide training, professional development and support to ensure a well-qualified workforce.
For questions regarding the Quality Visitation Efforts please dial (717.795.9048) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.