A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found that one year of confirmed child abuse in the U.S. generates an estimated $124 billion of total lifetime financial costs to society. Utah’s children are our future and strong families provide the foundation of that future. When a child is abused or neglected, the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) provides services to protect the child and strengthen families. A timely response makes all the difference.
At DCFS, the operational excellence focus has been simple—to use the SUCCESS Framework as a means to increase capacity, timeliness, and the effectiveness of great social work service delivery. DCFS has established an operations council to evaluate system capacity and workflow and workers are actively producing business cases for over a dozen ideas. A key target is the Child Abuse Hotline or DCFS intake. Of all calls received through the hotline, 36% are “information only” and often completely unrelated to reporting child abuse or neglect. DCFS is evaluating ways to better connect the public with requested information while also freeing time for caseworkers to focus on quickly responding to the potential abuse of children.
Another key target is investigation cases. Over 60% of investigations show children are safe and the family does not need additional services. However, these cases take the identical amount of time to complete as those where abuse or neglect has occurred. DCFS is identifying ways to reduce the time it takes to close cases where children are safe and additional family support is not needed in order to increase and redirect capacity where resources are needed most. In addition, DCFS is enhancing the use of evidence-based practices, tools, and evaluation to ensure the freed-up time social workers will have to engage with children and families is used in a way that yields the best outcomes.
Brent Platt, DCFS director, says, “As social workers, public servants, and taxpayers, we value optimal outcomes. Our child welfare quality improvement program is already one of the most robust and rigorous in the country. We’ve sustained quality outcomes for kids and families but are excited to use this approach to increase our capacity to keep more kids safe at home and avoid the costs, trauma, and poor outcomes of foster care.”
DCFS works in one of the most important and challenging environments in government. Congratulations to the DCFS team for moving forward to improve operations while keeping kids safe through excellent social work.