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Implementing Routine Outcome Monitoring in Statutory Children’s Services

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Abstract

Key challenges when implementing routine outcome monitoring developed for counseling into statutory children’s services were studied. Extensive field work was undertaken in a Danish municipality, followed by a thematic analysis. Working as counsellors was new to the statutory social workers. The challenges relating to combining counselling and statutory social work concerned how to take client preferences into account, how to maintain one’s authority and how to understand the term error. The scale used to measure outcomes was too simple for the statutory setting and did not focus on risk. The multiple potential uses of measures were played down. The feedback and case management software systems were not compatible. Some challenges were overcome during the implementation process, while others remain to be dealt with. While the approach is promising, new practices need to be developed that support transparency in the statutory role and a necessary risk orientation.
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Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal (2021) 38:193–200
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-020-00734-9
Implementing Routine Outcome Monitoring inStatutory Children’s
Services
ThomasMackrill1 · IdamarieLethSvendsen1
Accepted: 14 December 2020 / Published online: 4 January 2021
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC part of Springer Nature 2021
Abstract
Key challenges when implementing routine outcome monitoring developed for counseling into statutory children’s services
were studied. Extensive field work was undertaken in a Danish municipality, followed by a thematic analysis. Working as
counsellors was new to the statutory social workers. The challenges relating to combining counselling and statutory social
work concerned how to take client preferences into account, how to maintain one’s authority and how to understand the term
error. The scale used to measure outcomes was too simple for the statutory setting and did not focus on risk. The multiple
potential uses of measures were played down. The feedback and case management software systems were not compat-
ible. Some challenges were overcome during the implementation process, while others remain to be dealt with. While the
approach is promising, new practices need to be developed that support transparency in the statutory role and a necessary
risk orientation.
Keywords Statutory social work· Children’s services· Routine outcome monitoring· Feedback informed treatment·
Implementation
There has been an increased interest in the outcomes of
statutory children’s services in recent years. In a UK study,
La Valle etal. (2016) found a lack of consistent expecta-
tions about outcomes for children’s social care services
and the indicators used to monitor them. They found little
association between the outcome ratings of services collated
nationally in the UK by the Department for Education (DfE)
and Ofsted. Among six authorities where key DfE child out-
come indicators suggested good performance, two had been
rated as ‘inadequate’ and one as ‘requires improvement’ by
Ofsted. Following on from this work, La Valle, Di Hart,
Holmes & Pinto (2019) developed an outcomes framework
for children’s services based on the views of those who plan,
deliver, and use these services, as well as the existing evi-
dence base. They identified four key focus aims—Reaching
children and families who need help, outcomes for those
children who need help, children and families being val-
ued and involved, and staff having the right conditions and
culture to support good practice. Underlying each of these
aims are a range of subcategories that can be viewed as ele-
ments relating to the goals. The analysis also pointed to
concrete indicators whereby these elements could be moni-
tored in local practice. Somewhat similarly, Forrester (2017)
reviewed and reflected on what he had learnt about outcomes
from research projects that he had conducted with colleagues
into the field of children’ services. Forrester (2017) reflected
on outcomes in relation to children’s service functions such
as: helping children and parents; assessing risk and when
to intervene across a constant flux of referrals; and respect-
ing the rights of children and parents. Forrester (2017) sug-
gested that the evaluation of children’s services required
focusing on four types of outcomes: measuring the quality
of the service, assessing whether the “right” families are
being worked with, client defined measures of change, and
the development of appropriate standardized instruments.
This study explores key challenges when actually imple-
menting a routine outcome monitoring in children’s ser-
vices. By routine outcome monitoring, we are referring to
the use of outcome measuring on standardized scales in
every meeting in the statutory family services context from
initial statutory consultations following notifications, dur-
ing assessments, and when following up on interventions.
* Thomas Mackrill
thma@kp.dk
1 The Institute forSocial Work, University College
Copenhagen, Kronprinsesse Sofies Vej 35,
2000Frederiksberg, Denmark
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... The authors offer some recommendations for future research into Youth Initiated Mentoring. Mackrill and Svendsen (2021) in the paper, "Implementing Routine Outcome Monitoring in Statutory Children's Services" highlights the outcome of a 2-year long study on the effect of implementing a feedback-informed approach to family service provision in Denmark. In the study, they sought to understand how the feedback informed approach assisted in protecting children and families and what gaps exist in the service delivery chain. ...
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