Dashboards Can Help Workers Navigate to Child Safety

Dashboards Can Help Workers Navigate to Child Safety

April 21, 2021 | Bill James, LCSW

A laughing toddler in a stocking cap and plaid jacket is held by a smiling woman.

Everyone knows you shouldn’t stare constantly at the dashboard while driving. But what would happen if you never looked at your dashboard? You would risk not seeing a maintenance light come on or unexpectedly run out of gas—two situations that could lead to danger. 

SafeMeasures® is a data reporting system that makes dashboards available to child welfare professionals so that they can efficiently track next steps for keeping each child on their caseload safe. Every night, SafeMeasures takes an agency’s own data to create reports about children and families with system involvement. The following morning, child welfare workers and supervisors log in to view customized maps, lists, and graphs. This information can help workers and supervisors “get ahead” of mandated tasks and help keep children safe. When I was supervising a unit, the “my upcoming work” dashboards were set to come up every time I logged on to my computer.

SafeMeasures is one way Evident Change partners with system professionals to create tools and solutions that help them better serve their clients. The ability to “measure” outcomes through SafeMeasures allows professionals to constantly look for ways to improve the child welfare system, overcome bias, and treat all people with dignity.

Are caseloads too high in your office or region? The “cases open by risk level” report is a useful way to combine the power of SafeMeasures, the Structured Decision Making® (SDM) system, and safety-organized practice to make progress on this very common issue. Opening this report will show all cases grouped by risk level. You might be surprised at how many are low and moderate risk! 

The report reveals a list of those cases, and it’s a great place to start considering family-centered meetings to develop safety plans, watching if they work, and recommending the closure of in-home cases and returning children to parents in out-of-home care. Interested in improving disparate outcomes for families of color? In the same report, the “subset” function will help you focus on specific racial and ethnic groups. 

Would you like to increase the number of children in out-of-home care who reach permanency within 12 months of removal? An evaluation study from Michigan shows that completing the reunification assessment every 90 days had a positive effect on this metric. Through SafeMeasures, a worker or supervisor can see which families have risk assessments about 90 days in the past. This information is a useful prompt to ask about the progress a family is making on the reunification items and to complete the tool for documentation. (This would also demonstrate that safety and risk are regularly being assessed in the federal Child and Family Services Review case review process.)

As part of your continuous quality improvement efforts, would you like to have current data on process improvements? Evident Change offers technical assistance to help you think through system changes that can improve assessments of safety and risk. One agency saw the timeliness of risk assessments go from 53% near the end of 2019 to 86% in the spring of 2020. As of February 2021, they clocked in at more than 87%. Feedback from SafeMeasures helped them recognize that they were on the right track. 

Keeping your eyes on the road to a society where all children are safe in their homes and people can achieve their greatest potential is essential. However, integrating SafeMeasures and its dashboards into a thoughtful continuous quality improvement process can help you see how to get there.

Bill James  Bill James is a program specialist at Evident Change.