The federal child welfare performance measurement system exerts a profound influence over the design, delivery, and evaluation of child welfare services at the local level, with funding contingent upon participation in the federally mandated Child and Family Services Review. In this exploratory study the authors focus on local efforts to respond to and comply with the federal child welfare performance measurement system in 11 northern California counties. The authors review the System Improvement Plans of each county and the findings from focus groups with child welfare staff conducted in five of the counties that included the limitations of federal performance measures, the difficulty using these measures to inform decision making, and the continuing struggle to achieve the major child welfare goals of safety, permanency, and well-being. The implications include the need for: flexibility in the federal performance measurement system, opportunities to integrate local values and priorities, and child well-being measures so that timeliness does not take on more significance than well-being or the quality of relationships among local stakeholders in the child welfare system.
May 24, 2013