SRI is working at the forefront of research on training and evaluation in child welfare. Since the mid 1990’s, SRI has partnered with the Division of Child and Family Services and the College of Social Work in carrying out the Title IV-E related education efforts in the state. Through this contract, stipends are provided to train DCFS staff at the Bachelors and Masters levels. Many students, particularly those in the Public Services Domain, receive Title IV-E scholarships and subsequently have an obligation to become employed with DCFS.
The College offers a second-year MSW Public Services Domain whose mission is to serve the most vulnerable individuals and families throughout the life span. This domain provides students with models that are effective strategies with individuals and families who experience difficulties due to domestic violence, substance abuse, poverty, child and elder abuse, and limitations in physical and cognitive functioning.
We are currently developing and testing a comprehensive approach to training child welfare workers which has the lofty aim of measuring the impact of this approach on child and family outcomes in usual practice settings. This project will measure the impact of a training package that includes evidence-based training modalities such as online skills practice, coaching, in-person simulation experiences, and virtual reality training on caseworkers rates of removal and other system outcomes.
In addition to supporting Utah's IV-E education efforts, SRI is conducting the evaluation of Utah's Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration project, which is a five-year effort to reduce the number of children entering foster care by providing intensive, in-home services. This project is being carried out in collaboration with researchers from the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine; Louis de la Part Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida; and the Department of Economics, University of Utah.
As part of Title IV-E funding, SRI has developed a residential care quality improvement project which has been lauded by the Children's Bureau as "leading the field in using evaluation to inform practice."
The project has developed a system for continuous program evaluation and quality improvement for residential programs providing services to DCFS involved child and adolescents. The system enables DCFS administrators and program providers to know how effective a program is and how it can be improved on an ongoing basis. The overall objective of the evaluation is to increase the number of effective programs that serve DCFS youth.
SRI has played a role nationally in child welfare leadership. In 2008, the U.S. Children’s Bureau awarded a 17-month cooperative agreement to SRI to develop the National Child Welfare Leadership Institute (NCWLI) for public and tribal mid-level child welfare leaders across the country. The purpose of the project was to develop and provide leadership skills among mid-level managers in public and tribal child welfare agencies in order to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families in those systems. Public and tribal child welfare leaders from 36 states, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia participated in this professional development event.