HZA conducted this court-ordered needs assessment of child protective services to quantify the need for services to prevent placement and/or to aid in the child’s return home. Examining over 60 types of services, HZA read 1000 cases, interviewed clients in those same cases and conducted an additional 1000 interviews with county child protective caseworkers and private providers involved in those cases. The case reading data were used to document the pre-placement prevention and reunification services that were provided, while the interviews with hundreds of workers and families were conducted to identify unmet needs. While a few services were identified as in short supply, HZA determined the primary reason families failed to receive the services they needed was miscommunication between caseworkers and families.
Study of Validity and Reliability of the Family Risk Assessment Matrix
Because risk assessments are designed to determine whether child welfare cases should be opened for services, determining the impact of those services in reducing risk is a critical element in validating the assessment system. The agency asked HZA to focus most of its attention on the utilization of the Risk Assessment tool in the later stages of a child welfare case. The most important finding was that the structure of the Family Risk Assessment Matrix placed too much emphasis on factors that could not change; thus the earlier assessments of high risk masked the impact of the services that were delivered; in addition, workers did not use the tool consistently for follow-up periods. The initial risk assessments were reasonably valid and reliable, but the subsequent ones needed to be modified, if the agency was to direct its casework efforts where they were most needed.