Best Practice Model Evaluation Research Design

The adopted research design uses the gold standard random assignment experimental design, as the Children’s Bureau had hoped we could. The research is focused primarily on attorneys who practice independently or in small firms or offices, the organizational form that most child representation takes. It seeks to test whether implementation of the QIC-ChildRep Best Practice Model of Child Representation improves child representation from its current practice, and, as a result,child welfare outcomes. Lawyers representing children in child protection cases are identified and then randomly assigned to two groups, a credentialed group(treatment group) and a comparison group. Our intervention for the credentialed group is the dissemination of the QIC Best Practice Model through two days of training and a system of coaching and supplemental trainings to facilitate fidelity to the Model.  The program of training and coaching emphasizes six core skills necessary to put into action the QIC Best Practice Model:

(1) Enter the child’s world and engage with the child

(2) Assess child safety

(3) Actively identify the needs of the child and family/diagnose the case  

(4) Advance a cogent case plan

(5) Develop a theory of the case that is active and forward-looking and that will give force and direction to the advocacy

(6) Advocacy Corollaries that emphasize problem-solving and non-adversarial means when possible.

The coaching and supplemental training process we use is rooted in adult learning theory. The essential purpose of the supplemental “pod” trainings is to provide boosters of the original 2-day training to both maintain a common understanding of the model and provide an opportunity for group reflection on the implementation of its components. Another goal of the coaching and pod trainings is to build enduring communities of practice, i.e. sustainable learning communities that support each other both during and following the study.

The representation of credentialed lawyers will be compared with a comparison group in each state who do not receive the same training and coaching.

For both groups, child welfare outcome data will be collected from administrative data sources about children represented by project attorneys.  In addition, the participating lawyers are describing their representation through case-specific, web-based surveys.  Attorneys also completed an initial baseline survey about their backgrounds, attitudes and context for representation.

Interviews with attorneys and key personnel will also be conducted throughout the study. Among other things, those interviews will solicit opinions about the training needs of lawyers who represent children and about the QIC Model training program, information about barriers to and support available to attorneys practicing the QIC Best Practice Model, and will help gauge the amount of information about the QIC program is known outside of the treatment group attorneys. 

Through this study the child representation field has the opportunity to learn both whether attorneys trained and coached in this model of child representation provide better advocacy for their clients and whether that advocacy results in an improved process and better outcomes for children.