The Innovation: Child Welfare Placement Packets

Why Change Was Needed

The placement process is very complex with different requirements depending on the situation/type of placement (emergency vs. non-emergency, business hours vs. after hours, DHS custody vs. parental/kin custody, kinship vs. foster care, etc.). While licensed placements (foster homes, group homes and residential facilities) are certified before placements can occur, there are a variety of additional requirements that must be completed when children are placed with kin. These requirements are in place to ensure that children are safe and that kinship providers have the information and resources that they need to be successful.

The following are the opportunities to innovate that were addressed:

  • There were several versions of the Placement Packets in rotation, each with different forms.
  • The packets were unorganized and contained forms that were outdated, confusing, or difficult to read.
  • Child Welfare had placement packets that were given to providers and contained information related to some of the requirements, but providers were not always given a placement packet at the time of placement.

The Action Plan

  • The team began with a gap analysis of the process to identify issues and barriers, followed by many brainstorming sessions with the Child Welfare administrators and supervisors to identify solutions.
  • Focus groups were held with caseworkers and kinship support workers to get their input on the placement packets, forms and process.
  • Each document was evaluated to determine if they were needed, if they required changes, and if they could be combined to reduce duplication.
  • A Kinship Welcome Letter that outlines several important initial requirements for new kinship placements and a Kinship Orientation Handbook that gives kinship providers extensive information on kinship care requirements, the child welfare process, assistance/resource options, parenting, safety any other important topics were created.
  • New procedural documents were created to assist caseworkers with the complex placement process.
  • A training plan, curriculum/materials were developed and the team worked with the Child Welfare division to organize, schedule and facilitate training for staff on the new documents.

The Results

  • The caseworkers have clear expectations for the out-of-home placement process and there are several standard work documents/tools to assist them.
  • Providers are receiving placement packets earlier/more often and they contain clear and accurate information.
  • They are on track to pass their 2020 State Review

The Innovators

  • Erin Mays (PIAD – Quality Improvement)
  • Erin Hall (Placement Services Administrator)
  • Charis Carr (One Line and Placement Navigation Supervisor)
  • Helen Onyeali (Kinship and Foster Care Support Program Manager) (Not Pictured)
  • Jennifer Collins (Assistant Director, City Attorney’s Office – Human Services Legal Section)
  • Craig Wells (Marketing & Communications Coordinator)

Q&A with Erin Mays – Black Belt Cohort 81

Tell us a little about yourself; what should the world know about you?

“I have worked at Denver Human Services (DHS) for 17 years and during this time I have developed a passion for quality assurance, program improvement and data analysis. I love identifying problems, exploring solutions and identifying ways to streamline processes. Currently, I am a Management Analyst on the Quality Improvement Team within the Performance Improvement and Accountability Division (PIAD). We support the DHS management team and the Child Welfare division through the implementation of continuous quality improvement efforts.”

What was the biggest challenge with implementing this innovation?

“I think the scope and complexity of the project was the biggest challenge. It took a lot of coordination with many staff throughout the organization including several sections within Child Welfare (Intake, Child Protection, Youth Services, Kinship Support and Placement Services) in addition to Legal and Marketing & Communications. Keeping everyone involved and engaged throughout the duration of the project was also challenging. From start to finish it took a little under 2 years to complete, but we did it and the hope is that it will have a lasting impact for both Child Welfare staff and our amazing placement providers throughout the community.”

How do you feel about the Placement Packets after using them and tracking the results?

“I am very happy with our final product and I believe that all of our hard work resulted in placement packets and related forms that are organized, contain clear and accurate information and look more professional. Our caseworkers now have the enhanced tools to help them with the complex placement process and our providers are receiving placement packets earlier/more frequently.”

Some of the feedback that was received from caseworkers:

  • “Great project, thank you so much for doing this. It was really needed!”
  • “The folders look very professional! (We were embarrassed to give out the old packets to providers)”
  • “The checklist/structure is very helpful for workers, especially those who do not place often and for after hours placements.”

“I really appreciate the strong support we had from the Child Welfare leadership team, which has helped with implementation. We are still working to get everyone on board with using the packets consistently and timely for all out-of-home placements, but we are starting to see improved results. Specifically, compliance with the requirements for kinship placements are improving and we are on track to pass our next State kinship review in January 2020.”

What was the biggest lesson you learned for future innovations?

“My biggest takeaway from this innovation is the importance of staying organized when working on a large project. I relied heavily on lists, outlines and action plans that identified what exactly needed to be accomplished and who was responsible for each task. Breaking larger components down into smaller tasks and regular check-in meetings kept us on track.

I really enjoyed collaborating with everyone on this project and am looking forward to continuing to utilize the Lean tools to improve the work we do and make things more efficient in order to accomplish more.”

What advice do you have for other innovators or people seeking to innovate in the future?

“When first starting out with implementing innovations, I would suggest starting out with small projects to develop your skills, but over time don’t be afraid to tackle larger projects as well. I believe that understanding that change is difficult and maintaining a positive attitude and focusing on the benefits of making improvements helps people accept and implement changes. Asking lots of questions (especially “why?”) is crucial to understanding a process. Collaborating with others and taking input from those who the process affects into consideration is also very essential. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the journey of process improvement!”

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