Power of Multiple Best Practices Adds Up

by Michele Rosenberg


Our adoption of Trauma Systems Therapy (TST) is a main driver of positive practice change in DC child welfare—and what this blog is all about. At the same time, it’s far from the only strategy we have underway to get better outcomes for children and families. I just want to give you a glimpse into three of the many best practices in our performance improvement renaissance. We’re finding that the synergy among all these new approaches is extremely powerful.

Focus on Families

The sea change taking place in DC child welfare is the shift from a system with a high child removal rate and geared primarily for foster care to a system focused on strengthening families and keeping them together. In the process, we’re taking a close look at family needs and developing a more nuanced array of community-based services. Although our first thought in becoming trauma-informed was to help child victims of abuse and neglect, we’re quickly finding that the trauma lens is invaluable in understanding and helping their parents as well.

Structuring Critical Thinking

RED (review/evaluate/direct) Teams is the best practice of bringing professionals together and structuring their critical thinking at significant points throughout the life of a case. This leads to vastly improved insights, judgment, and decisions about the difficult and delicate matters we confront in child welfare every day. We’ve found that purposefully asking trauma-informed questions during RED Teams enhances the discussion and resulting decisions.

Taking Good Care

CFSA has a major push underway to improve the well being of every child, youth, and adult we serve. TST fits perfectly with increased efforts in areas such as substance abuse treatment, educational achievement, and transitional planning for youth.

Sum Greater Than the Parts

Each of these (and all our other) major improvement strategies has its own champions and implementation body, but at the deputy director level in CFSA, we’re also paying attention to the big picture. By cross-pollenating our teams, we’ve been able to address concerns about integrating all these best practices and operationalizing them in day-to-day work. We’re working on an agency-wide model of practice improvement that will help social workers and all of us grasp the integration of these best practices and the great potential of their combined forces. I’m deep into looking for the best ways to communicate all that and will likely share more thoughts on this topic in the future. If you have ideas or suggestions about good ways to implement practice change, I look forward to hearing from you.