Academic journal article Child Welfare

Organizational Influences on Data Use among Child Welfare Workers

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Organizational Influences on Data Use among Child Welfare Workers

Article excerpt

This study addresses organizational factors associated with child welfare workers' data use in their day-to-day work. Survey data from 237 respondents were analyzed using logistic regression. Familiarity with data and supervisor support were significant predictors of child welfare workers' data use. Findings highlight the value of child welfare organizations (a) facilitating workers' familiarity with child welfare data and data use and (b) training or educating supervisors so that they can support workers' use of data.

Effective use of data is a critical need for child welfare agencies and practitioners (Collins-Camargo, Sullivan, & Murphy, 2011; Lindsey & Schlonsky, 2008; Shackelford, Harper, Sullivan, & Edwards, 2007). A data-driven decisionmaking process is also crucial to effective implementation of new practices (National Implementation Research Network, 2008-2012). Previous literature has identified a gap in child welfare workers' ability to access and use data effectively, however (Schoech, Quinn, & Rycraft, 2000). The amount of available data in child welfare systems has become so tremendous that practitioners often have difficulty finding and using the information that would be most useful to them (Jamieson & Bodonyi, 1999; Shackelford et al., 2007).

For data to be used in child welfare agencies, organizational change may be necessary (Shackelford et al., 2007). Use of data is essential to create an organization in which constructive feedback is routine and expected (Fixsen, Blase, Naoom, & Haines, 2005). Child welfare data has the potential to inform policy efforts, measure quality of services, and provide essential information on child and family outcomes (Lavenda et al., 2011). Moreover, increased attention has been paid in recent years to the need for data to meet federal ments and benchmarks (Maza, 2000; Noonan, Sabel, <$c Simon, 2009). Little is known about what organizational factors may influence child welfare workers' data use and, importantly, whether or not child welfare professionals actually use data in their day-today work and decisionmaking. Therefore, the current study aims to describe child welfare workers' data use and identify organizational factors that are related to their ability to use data.

Literature Review

It is critical to use evidence effectively to improve child welfare workers' performance and organizational accountability, and this requires an organizational culture that encourages and emphasizes data use (Carrilio, Packard, & Clapp, 2003; Collins-C amargo et al., 2011). Although previous literature has underscored the effects of of organizational culture and climate on child welfare services and outcomes (e.g. Collins-Camargo 6c Royse, 2010; Glisson 6c Green, 2011; Shim, 2010), organizational influences on data use in childserving systems is an underdeveloped area of research.

Existing literature has explored and enumerated barriers or challenges to child welfare data use. Public child welfare agency staff members are noted to have low rates of data use and even data access. They report concerns such as skill deficits, lack of time, limited understanding of the value of data, and few dedicated organizational resources (Carrilio, 2008; Collins-Camargo et al., 2011). Child welfare supervisors are noted to need additional training and support to be able to use and interpret data (Frey et al., 2012), which may impact their ability to supervise frontline staff in using data. It has been noted that time to use data should be built into workers' schedules, yet schedules are already overburdened (Harrison, 2012).

Two studies have focused on organizational factors. Hodges and Hernandez (1999) developed a model of the influence of organizational culture on using and acting on data gathered in mental health organizations. Among other factors, they emphasized the importance of expressing a well-understood vision and mission, and providing access and training to support use of data. …

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