In an effort to begin the process of assessing the quantity, validity, and reliability of the data available in Trails in order to inform future child welfare policy, practice, and outcome evaluation, the ARD initiated an action research project focused on examining referral and assessment data currently captured by Trails. The data in this report have been, and will continue to be, presented to a number of groups and individuals who are stakeholders in Colorado’s Child Welfare system (see cover inset for a complete list of stakeholders to date). During each presentation, the participants are asked to interpret the data and findings, with their input being added to this document. In this way, this report serves as a “living document” that will continually reflect the current state of this collaborative inquiry project. It is hoped that this process will engage Colorado’s Child Welfare professionals in a continual process of evaluation and improvement in efforts to protect children. This document can also be used to inform various constituents.
For nearly three decades foster care review has been required and practiced in the United States. It is well established that foster care review was designed with the intent to reduce the time children spend in foster care and increase permanent placements for children. In a recent doctoral dissertation, Tia Whitaker from the Administrative Review Division in Colorado, presents that foster care review is a social work intervention and quantitative results of this study demonstrate that as an intervention, timely administrative case review is an effective social work intervention related to improving child welfare outcomes for the children and families served in Colorado. The major findings show that timely administrative case review and increased levels of review attendance (mother, father, Guardian ad Litem's, and foster parents) are predictors of the child welfare outcomes of permanency and length of time in out-of-home care. These results indicate a median length of stay approximately 10.76 months longer for children who do not consistently receive timely case reviews. Additionally, this study found that timely case review has a more intense effect when caseworker contacts are low and the levels of timely case review are high. Children with both low levels of contacts and low levels of timely case review have the longest lengths of stay in out-of-home care (approximately 24 months). Children with high levels of caseworker contacts and high levels of timely care review have the shortest lengths of stay in out-of-home care (approximately 12 months). This study concludes that the administrative case review intervention in Colorado is a social work intervention that promotes shorter lengths of stay and improves permanency for children in out-of-home care. In essence, the administrative case review process in Colorado is effectively achieving what it was orginally created to achieve and care review as delivered in Colorado is an effective intervention for improving the lives of children in foster care.