Illinois private foster care providers get a crash course in Advanced Analytics
Last month, twenty-three child welfare professionals from across Illinois participated in the Center for State Child Welfare Data’s Advanced Analytics for Child Welfare Administration course in Chicago. Like previous cohorts, students learned best practices in child welfare performance measurement. However, in this specific class, modules and activities were designed especially for private providers—agencies contracted by the state to deliver foster care services to children in state custody.
Students not only learned how to measure critical foster care outcomes—permanency, length of stay, and placement stability, to name a few—but also applied those techniques to issues unique to private providers. Examples ranged from the very specific (e.g., What is the most accurate way to examine the likelihood of critical incidents such as the use of restraints?) to the general (e.g., How can we understand our agency’s performance vis-à-vis the rest of the state’s provider network? How should we interpret provider scorecards from the state and incorporate that information into our CQI decision making?).
What did the participants take away from the experience? To answer that question, we decided to let them do the talking:
“Advanced Analytics was, simply put, one of the most valuable courses I have ever taken in my professional development. After taking the class, I feel more prepared for being a one person CQI department at my agency. I feel that I am able to better help my agency choose what to measure, who to measure, and how to measure what it is we want to know about the children and families we serve. Ultimately, I am now prepared to tell a better story about what we do that helps children and families. I think other CQI professionals—whether they are at a public or private agency—can benefit from this course. I would love to see some of my colleagues at my agency be able to take it, particularly our CEO and agency leadership team. I really think VPs and Directors of Foster Care programs would especially benefit since the course focuses specifically on that type of program.”
Manager, Performance and Quality Improvement
“As a social worker, I am trained and inclined to work with people—not numbers—and am very interested in and curious about having evidence to assess the effectiveness of our work. For a long time, I have been in need of structured education and training on data and evidence use. Few opportunities can be directly applied to my organizational setting. However, Advanced Analytics is aimed at the specific work our agency does a lot of—child welfare. The course was set at my level of understanding, and since more than one person from my agency was able to attend, we now have the benefit of shared language and understanding of the material; together we will be able to make changes in how we present evidence. The course deepened my capacity to understand the reports that come cross my desk every day. I have a context for reading these documents I didn’t have before. This course was truly illuminating! And it hasn’t even been a week since the course was over!”
Vice President & Chief Organizational Development and Support Officer
Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois
“There were so many ‘ah-ha’ moments for me during the course. I never realized the extreme importance of choosing the correct denominator and what an impact it can have on the outcomes we report. Another game changer for me was idea that because ‘the process of improvement starts with the question,’ you have to have a question in mind before you set out to analyze your data. It made me realize that much of our data reporting has little to do with answering a specific question. This concept really helps define what is important to measure because it helps you get clear on what you actually want to know. I would absolutely recommend this class to others. It was definitely worth the time. I wish I had attended years ago.”
Quality Improvement Coordinator
Hoyleton Youth and Family Services
“If nothing else, having the two mantras of ‘What’s your question?’ and ‘What’s your denominator?’ paired with the understanding of what data set to use to get the information you need made the experience worthwhile. These techniques, along with discussions with peers around how to engage staff back in our organizations with this approach to problem solving, will definitely influence how I use data to do my job going forward. Advanced Analytics offered a solid foundation, but participation in this class was only the beginning of an ongoing process of working with and further understanding and appreciating the concepts covered. I would, most definitely, recommend Advanced Analytics to others. Those involved in Performance and Quality Improvement, Evidence-Based Planning, and Executives responsible for administration of child welfare organizations would all benefit from this experience.”
Associate Executive Director, CQI and Regulatory Compliance
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois
If that made you want to know more about Advanced Analytics, click here to learn about the curriculum and read additional feedback from former students. To stay updated on details for the next course, subscribe to the Data Center’s newsletter, or contact us to learn more about bringing Advanced Analytics to your state.
Want to learn more about the Data Center’s work with private foster care providers?
- Click here for a summary of our performance-based contracting work in Tennessee.
- Click here to read a research brief about our evaluation of provider performance in Wisconsin.
This Advanced Analytics course was made possible with the generous support of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.