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Criteria for Selecting Research & Demonstration Sites

Posted for Comment; October 19, 2010
Please respond as soon as possible, but no later than November 8, 2010

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this demonstration is to test whether implementation of QIC-Child Rep Best Practice Model of Child Representation will improve child representation from its current practice, and improve safety, permanency and well-being for children involved with the child welfare system.  The target of the intervention is attorneys whose primary practice (at least 25%) is to represent children in child abuse, neglect and dependency cases. 

We intend to award three sub-grants of approximately $200,000 per year for four years to each research and demonstration (R&D) site.  We are seeking three jurisdictions willing and able to implement the QIC Best Practice Model of Child Representation and who will fully cooperate with efforts to measure the effectiveness of different models of representation, including the use of randomized assignments of lawyers and cases to different representation models, data gathering and evaluation.  Here is our current thinking on framing the R&D sites and the Request for Proposals (RFP).  We invite you to review this description and provide us feedback as to the proposed structure of the R&D projects and the award criteria.  Please send your comments as soon as possible to QIC-ChildRep@umich.edu. We will review all comments received by November 8, 2010.

The RFP will be directed to programs delivering legal services to children in child welfare cases and will require letters of support and cooperation from the courts, the state child welfare agency and other relevant social service providers.  Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago will be conducting the evaluation of the three sites and they will require access to data and cooperation from the sites and associated courts, agencies and providers.

This summary contains four parts:  First is an RFP timeline and process outline for the QIC-ChildRep R&D Projects.  Second is a description of the interventions we are asking R&D sites to implement.  Third is a general framing of the expected outcomes and data collection. Fourth are proposed award criteria.  We ask if you would please review this material and provide us comments on content and whether you or a jurisdiction you know would be interested in applying.

 

I.                   TIMELINE AND PROCESS

        October 2010                                            Proposed RFP Criteria posted for comment

November 8, 2010                                                Comment period ends

December 15, 2010                                   RFPs for the R&D sites formally posted.

January 2011                                             Pre-application technical assistance

January 30, 2011                                       Applications due

February 25, 2011                                     R&D sites selected

March 2011                                               MOUs finalized;

May 2, 2011                                              R&D sites begin training and case service

The selection of the R&D sites will be accomplished through an open, competitive process. The RFP will be posted on December 15, 2010, with pre-applicant technical assistance to address questions and concerns provided by the QIC-ChildRep project team in early January 2011 through webinars and conference calls. Proposals will be due from applicants by January 30, 2011 with awards made in late February 2011.  Sites will be required to show that they can begin training and case service within approximately 60 days of the award, that is, by May 2, 2011.  An objective review team, selected and trained in advance, will rate each proposal independently and then meet as a group for discussion and final decisions. 

     

  II.                INTERVENTION

 

The intervention the QIC-ChildRep is seeking to test is whether implementation of QIC Best Practice Model of Child Representation will improve child representation from its current practice and as a result, improve safety, permanency and well-being for children involved with the child welfare system.  As discussed below, the intervention will take two forms.  The target of the intervention is attorneys whose primary practice is to represent children in child abuse, neglect and dependency cases. 

 

The QIC Best Practice Model is adapted from the 1996 ABA Standards of Practice for Lawyers Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases and promotes child representation practice grounded in solid legal skills that emphasizes the child’s needs and wishes.   It encourages attorneys to form a relationship with the child, conduct a thorough investigation, and be active in court. The standards also mandate that an attorney be supported by an organizational structure, receive adequate training and compensation, and have a caseload size that allows the child representative to perform the required duties. 

Each R&D site will be required to ensure that legal representation can be delivered through three different groups of attorneys 

1.      Lawyer Only, T1 A lawyer trained and credentialed in the delivery of the QIC Model, with appropriate administrative supports. 

2.      Lawyer Plus, T2 A trained and credentialed and supported lawyer, as above, with a multidisciplinary teaming that may include a social worker, paralegal, CASA, or another specialist or some combination of the above.  We are interested in testing the effect of legal service delivery by a team working jointly on cases.  (Models in which an attorney represents a CASA advocating for a child’s best interest before the court would not be considered under this definition.) 

3.      Comparison Lawyers, C – A lawyer operating as he or she did prior to the demonstration.

This approach permits comparisons of the two models within the same jurisdiction because the law, social services and court practices would be uniform, controlling for many otherwise dissimilar conditions.   Ideally, current and new attorneys would be randomly assigned to one of these three groups.

The R&D sites will be required to credential the experimental groups of child representatives, both T1 and T2.  The credentialing will happen through: 1) training of the experimental group child representatives;  2) supervision by site staff;  and 3) TA from the QIC-ChildRep.  The QIC-ChildRep will develop a training curriculum to implement the QIC Best Practice Model and will bring the R&D site supervising lawyers to Ann Arbor for training in the model.  At the R&D site, the QIC-ChildRep and trained supervisors, who are also knowledgeable about local law, procedure and practice, will together train the site’s child representatives in the Model.  The R&D sites will be required to monitor and supervise the child representatives to be sure that their practice is consistent with the QIC Model. The QIC-ChildRep will also provide on-going technical assistance and monitoring as to the faithful implementation and maintenance of the Model. 

The R&D sites will also be required to provide the experimental groups of attorneys (T1 and T2) adequate compensation and reasonable caseloads, as defined and justified by the applicant. 

With respect to T2, we seek some alternative approaches as to HOW sets of duties are discharged (that is, how organized and how supported) and BY WHOM the duties are discharged (that is, by lawyers teamed on a case with social workers or other specialists, paralegals, or CASAs).

Our website includes a QIC Best Practice Model of Child Representation, which we adapted from the 1996 ABA Standards. For a full statement of the QIC Model and how it differs from the ABA Standards, please see our website at www.ImproveChildRep.org.  Here is a summary. 

 

QIC ChildRep Model of Child Representation

Adapted from the 1996 ABA Standards of Practice for Lawyers Who

Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases

1.         General Duties and Activities of the Child’s Legal Representative

  • General Duties:  Timely appointment, represent child’s interests, undertake basic obligations, address conflict situations, address special needs and disabilities, accommodate client preferences.
  • Out of Court - Actions to be Taken:  Meet with child, undertake an investigation, provide advice and counseling, file pleadings, request services, address special needs, negotiate settlements.
  • In-Court - Active Participation in Hearings:  Appear in court, explain proceedings to client, present evidence, ensure child is present, expand scope of representation into other needed areas, undertake certain obligations post-disposition.
  • Post-Hearing:  Review court’s order, communicate order to child, monitor implementation of orders.
  • Appellate Advocacy:  Decision to appeal, withdrawal, participation in appeal, conclusion by appeal.
  • Cessation of Representation:  Contacts post representation, if any.

 

2.         Organizational and Administrative Supports Provided the Representative

  • General Representation Rules:  Administrative structure is clear for the appointment, support and accountability of the child’s representative. The child’s representative is independent from the court.
  • Lawyer Training:  Child representative trained, on-going training provided, new attorneys provided senior lawyer mentorship.
  • Lawyer Compensation:  Adequate and timely compensation, reimbursement provided expenses.
  • Caseload Levels:  Caseloads are of a manageable size.

 

 

Reimbursable expenses are anticipated to include: 

·         Costs associated with assuring that attorney practice is consistent with the model, including enhanced supervision and mentorship; 

·         Incremental costs associated with bringing attorney payments and caseloads in line with the expectations of the QIC Model;

·         Cost associated with multidisciplinary team enhancement;

·         Cost associated with training, including staff and facilities; and

·         Cost associated with data collection.

  

        III.             OUTCOME MEASURES AND DATA COLLECTION

 

The impact of the two interventions will be evaluated by both quantitative and qualitative measures.  Except for data about QIC-ChildRep Model trainings, the same data will be collected about all three groups, allowing comparisons among them.

Data will be collected primarily from administrative data resources from courts and child welfare agencies (see Award Criteria below), a supplementary on-line reporting database provided by the evaluator where attorneys would report case activities, and interviews with case-related respondents.

Sites will be required to collect data on attendance at all QIC ChildRep Model trainings.  Sites will be required to provide information about attorneys in all three groups (T1, T2, and C) including attorney administrative data ID, race, ethnicity, date of birth, years in practice as child welfare attorney, and previous credentialing or training.

With respect to improved child representation, we will seek to measure both the process and the quality of representation.  Examples of outcomes we anticipate measuring are:

 

·         Shorter time between assignment and first meeting

·         More frequent and longer visits with clients, in varied settings (i.e. in the family or foster home, school, etc.)

·         Earlier and more contacts with relatives

·         More contacts with other collaterals, such as caseworkers and teachers.

·         Shorter timeframes for court decisions

 

With respect to safety and permanency, using administrative data, outcomes we anticipate measuring:

·         Lower likelihood of placement

·         Lower likelihood of movements during placement

·         Reduced time in care

·         Lower likelihood of  repeat maltreatment

·         Lower likelihood of reentry to care

 

More detailed data collection plans are being developed. 


      IV.             AWARD CRITERIA

Because this is a research demonstration, applicants that meet certain conditions will be given preference.   The full award criteria will be shared with potential sites as part of the RFP process.  

Organizations that are assigned all the child representation cases in their jurisdiction must carefully explain how a comparison group of attorneys could be identified.  However, such programs where the court can randomly assign cases to such a program or to independent attorneys are eligible for the demonstration.

We anticipate requiring eligible organizations to be able to:

·         Provide letters of commitment from the courts and the child welfare agency noting their commitment to randomly assign attorneys and cases to the three evaluation groups (T1, T2, and C), to participate in QIC ChildRep trainings, to collect and report required data, and participate in project meetings and other required activities.

·         Identify enough attorneys to randomly assign to each group.

·         Require treatment attorneys to participate in credentialing and ongoing training.

·         Require attorneys from the three evaluation groups to report information about timing and type of contact with clients and other parties associated with cases.

·         Demonstrate that the control group (C) does not already substantially conform to the QIC ChildRep model of representation.

·         Use existing electronic tracking of assignment of cases to attorneys and court events.

·         Provide letters of commitment from state child welfare agency to enter into data sharing agreements with the evaluator to obtain information about child placement and abuse/neglect investigations.

·         Provide letters of commitment from state and/or local courts to enter into data sharing agreements with the evaluator to obtain information about the assignment of cases to attorneys and court proceedings.

 

We anticipate giving preference to organizations that best demonstrate the following:

·         Ability to implement random assignment of attorneys to the three evaluation groups (T1, T2, and C)

·         Ability to implement QIC Best Practice model item by item and to justify levels for caseload, compensation, etc.

·         Ability to participate with the QIC ChildRep study team to augment QIC ChildRep training curriculum to include state and local components.   

·         Readiness to implement the multidisciplinary team intervention (T2)

·         Clear understanding of data collection systems already in place within existing court and child welfare agency information systems and how those systems can and cannot be linked.

·         Demonstrate ability to provide cost accounting.

·         Extent to which attorney representation is consistent (i.e., most children are served by one attorney while under the jurisdiction of the court.)

 

 


 

Lawyers-Plus Study

During the QIC-ChildRep's first year needs assessment, one of the commonly cited ways to improve representation was to provide attorneys support in performing their complex roles. Specifically, there was consensus that providing attorneys with a social worker makes an important difference in the quality of representation. (See Needs Assessment for the full report.)

As part of the QIC-ChildRep’s mission to generate new knowledge, the Lawyers-Plus Study aims to create and evaluate a multidisciplinary team (MDT) of attorneys and social workers who collaborateto provide legal representation for children involved in child welfare. While the R&D projects in Georgia and Washington focus on investigating the impact of training and coaching on child representation, the scale of those projects is too large to also look at multidisciplinary approaches to representation. So, the QIC-ChildRep decided to carve out a smaller project to look specifically at those issues.

To date, there is very little data on the effectiveness of multidisciplinary teams in child welfare. There are a handful of evaluations, mostly on doctors working with law enforcement, and none on attorneys working with social workers. The QIC-ChildRep is hoping to provide some of the first data on outcomes from attorneys and social workers collaborating to represent children in the child welfare system. 

Study Design

Within-group random assignment design: An organized group of attorneys practicing child representation in child welfare matters will have their cases randomly assigned to either be a treatment case (represented by a multidisciplinary team) or a control case.  Attorneys shall collaborate with a social work professional on cases randomly assigned to be a treatment case. The same attorneys shall not collaborate with a social work professional on cases randomly assigned to be a control case. 

The already existing organized group of attorneys will be given the resources to recruit and hire two social work professionals for two years. The QIC-ChildRep is not imposing a strict structure on the MDT relationship; rather, the attorneys and social workers will jointly developing their approach to advocate for the children they represent. 

Data collected will include interviews with participating attorneys, interviews with youth represented either as a treatment or control case, data gleaned from a web-based case management system, and state and county administrative data.

The research questions the study aims to answer include:

  • Are professionals happier working in MDTs? Do they have less stress? Feel supported in their work? Feel like they are serving their clients better?
  • Are there differences in youth perceptions of being represented by MDTs versus a single attorney?
  • Do children have better outcomes when represented by MDTs?