SRI has developed a technical assistance model to enable programs to consistently incorporate evidence-based programming to better serve and improve outcomes for children and families involved in child welfare services. This process centers on the idea that a program, much like the children and families it serves, is able to improve more reliably and rapidly when provided with three specific items.
These three items guide the technical assistance model and are illustrated in Figure 8:
Item 1: Timely feedback on current functioning which produces actionable insight
Following an evaluation, SRI efficiently composes reports using a report writer tool which automates some of the report writing. Feedback is provided within one month of a site visit. SRI uses a web-based dashboard, accessible by program staff and SRI evaluators, to provide timely feedback on current functioning (see Figure 8 for a screen shot of the dashboard). We utilize the dashboard as a platform to share evaluation outcomes and guide the improvement process. For example, program directors develop a Plan of Action, in collaboration with SRI, to outline recommendations, goals, and action steps to meet these recommendations. SRI works with program staff to identify the training and consultation SRI can provide to assist the program in meeting their goals.
Item 2: Strategies that incorporate principles of learning to structure the change process
The technical assistance is framed by principles of learning including: identifying staff to train, training these staff while in the program, providing ongoing coaching and consultation, and assisting in the development and incorporation of staff performance assessments. For example, SRI provides ongoing training on topics such as group facilitation, effectively teaching skills, engaging youth in treatment, and choosing and implementing an empirically supported treatment. These trainings include an overview of content, an opportunity for staff to practice skills, and post-tests to ensure staff have retained the appropriate information. In addition, practitioner friendly summaries and how-to guides have been developed. These materials provide detailed guidance on how to improve on the areas that the CWPA measures (see https://sri.utah.edu/lit/ for examples).
Item 3: Extensive Motivational Support
As the program evaluation and improvement process has evolved, the evaluators have realized that extensive motivational support needs to be provided to in order to maintain the implementation of new strategies. The current support structure goes far beyond simple encouragement. The evaluators follow a disciplined engagement protocol designed to elicit program interest and cooperation. Some of crucial factors include: frequent contact; developing collaborative, friendly relations with program personnel; encouraging program ownership in the improvement process; and assisting the program administration and staff to understand how changes may benefit the program.
In addition, principles of adult learning are used to scaffold the change process in order to avoid the sense of overwhelming complexity that programs often find themselves entering when attempting to thoroughly implement evidence-based practices. For example, the program website is designed to be easily understood. SRI uses a stoplight metaphor to illustrate programs progress towards implementing best practice and meeting recommendations from the assessment. SRI also trains program staff to use the dashboard to access recommendations, notes on improvement, and ongoing outcomes related to attitude and behavior changes. SRI trains staff to interpret charts and figures related to Residential Placement Outcomes and Attitude and Behavior Changes. In addition, frequent, structured feedback is provided on progress. For detailed information, three appendices are included in this report.
Figure 8: SRI Program Evaluation and Improvement Technical Assistance Model