Regionalized Intake Operations improve outcomes
By Kim Guay
Child Welfare Administrator
Many aspects of our practice at OCS undergo consistent and quality reviews to ensure compliance with laws and policies — with the goal of improving outcomes for families. One area that has not benefited from that kind of quality assurance process is intake. Over the past several years, OCS has regionalized intake operations to increase timeliness for ensuring child safety, increasing the expertise and knowledge of those who provide the intake service, and to help our remote field offices focus on the work that demands that workers be in the field, not manning the phones.
Through this process, intake has been receiving more focus and attention to enhance and streamline processes so they are effective for both staff and community. As a part of these efforts, we have begun to conduct quality assurance reviews by region to evaluate the accuracy and appropriateness of screening decisions. We have so far completed reviews of both the Northern and South Central regions. We are examining if we are consistent in our decisions, what changes may be needed in policy and procedures, and what additional staff development activities are needed to ensure we have the highest level of scrutiny with a laser on child safety at all times through the decision-making process.
It is no surprise to us so far that we are seeing inconsistent practice between the regions and that it is abundantly clear we have not given enough attention and support to this critical program component. The remaining regions will be looked at in the upcoming months. As we move forward, a work plan for improvement and modifications will be created and implemented. We believe that through this process we can and will improve services to Alaska families.
We recognize that this has been a big change not only for our internal operations, but for the public as well, and that not everyone is entirely satisfied. However, we will continue to solicit both complaints and compliments as we endeavor to make this part of our operations shine. We encourage you to engage in ongoing dialogue with the intake staff within your region about what is working, what is not, and how we can help ensure that child safety information is being received in a timely manner and sufficiently detailed so that the agency can make the best decisions possible.