Using data now to keep children safe in the future
Unlike many traditional child welfare systems, which intervene only after a problem happens, some jurisdictions are using models designed to keep children safe before trouble escalates. In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, we’d like to look at one promising approach.
In Florida, the child welfare system uses a unique system of community-based care where the state Department of Children and Families contracts with 20 community-based care lead agencies that manage the child welfare system in each of the corresponding 20 judicial circuits. Eckerd is the lead agency in two judicial circuits containing three counties: Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas.
Eckerd started work in Hillsborough County in 2012 after nine child homicides occurred in less than three years. Eckerd was directed to identify the cases with the highest probability of a poor outcome. They developed a set of critical case factors that indicate high-risk situations and used those criteria to flag open cases to staff intensively.
Eckerd has been able to change the possible trajectory of these cases through a focused safety practice review and “real time” supportive coaching to staff handling the case. No child abuse–related deaths have occurred in the population receiving services from Eckerd since implementation of Eckerd Rapid Safety Feedback℠ three years ago.The model has been an important part of Hillsborough County’s effort to overhaul its child welfare work.
“Much of this started with the child deaths,” said 13th Judicial Circuit Judge Katherine Essrig. “It was tragic. But it forced everyone to take a look at the way the system wasn’t working and set aside jurisdictional differences and begin to make changes.”
The Eckerd model is so promising that the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities called it out in its recent report on national recommendations for keeping children safe.