Comprehensive Child Welfare Conference An Evaluation of Interagency Learning
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In Missouri, 9,833 reports of child abuse and neglect were substantiated in fiscal year 2004 and 8,725 children were under the care of the Department of Social Services, Children's Services Division. Each time a child enters the social service system, state law requires a team of professionals, including the Children's Services Division, judges, juvenile officers, court appointed special advocates (CASA), and guardian ad litems, to work together. These teams investigate the abuse / neglect issues and determine what steps should be taken in the best interest of the child. The wide impact of the new law (House Bill 1453, 2004) required a new approach, a multidisciplinary approach, that would allow circuits to work as a team to devise methods to implement the provisions. In an effort to improve the coordination and problem solving abilities of these teams at the local level, the Department of Social Services and the Office of State Courts Administrator funded, developed, and implemented a series of regional conferences in Spring 2005. The Comprehensive Child Welfare Conference (CCWC) brought together over 600 professionals from each of the judicial circuits in Missouri. The regional conferences were held in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield. Each circuit was represented by a team of twelve to twenty-five individuals and tended to be well balanced between court staff (judges, clerks, juvenile officers), Children's Division employees, attorneys (for parents and for children), and special advocates (CASA). Each regional conference provided education on House Bill 1453 and addressed other issues related to child welfare cases through plenary sessions and concurrent workshops. Further, each conference provided the opportunity for representatives of multiple perspectives within each circuit to discuss how changes can and should be made to child welfare case processing. Regional conferences are expensive and time-consuming undertakings. If the objectives of the conference - education and enhanced circuit level problem solving - were not achieved, new educational approaches would be necessary in the future. With this in mind, the Institute of Public Policy worked with OSCA to develop an evaluation plan that would, in part, determine successes and identify improvements for the future. The first step of this evaluation process was to identify the goals of the regional conferences. Through a series of meetings with the organizers, goals were identifi ed and linked to the assessment forms to be completed by attendees during the conference.
Richardson, L. E. & Stokes, S. D. (2005) Comprehensive Child Welfare Conference An Evaluation of Interagency Learning. Report 39-2005. Retrieved 09-24-09, from University of Missouri Columbia, Institute of Public Policy Web site: http://www. truman.missouri.edu/ipp/