Guiding Principles of Systems of Care: Accountability
What does accountability mean?
Accountability refers to the continual assessment of practice, organizational, and financial outcomes to determine the effectiveness of systems of care in meeting the needs of children and families. Two essential components of an effective accountability strategy in a system of care are:
- The development of an interagency management information system that tracks important indicators of service and system performance
- A strong evaluation strategy
Why is accountability important?
- By focusing on the effects and outcomes of the services provided, such as child safety while in care, communities are provided a benchmark against which they can set realistic goals and measure continuous improvement.
- To ensure continuous improvement of systems of care, it is critical to incorporate outcome data into ongoing decision-making at all levels.
- In times of limited resources, decision-makers are most likely to allocate resources to initiatives that demonstrate effectiveness and an efficient use of funds.
- The safety and well-being of children and families is a responsibility shared by the entire community. As such, systems of care communities join together in holding one another accountable for ensuring positive outcomes, regardless of where the child and family seek help.
Questions to ask about systems of care and accountability:
- Do caseworkers use data to monitor their progress and inform decision-making?
- Is the management information system designed to capture relevant performance information from all interagency partners?
- Have families been involved in the design and implementation of the data system?
- Does the management information system track costs, quality of services, and outcomes for children and families?
- How does the management information system line up with the federally mandated Child and Family Services Review data?
- Does the system of care have a structured process for ongoing performance improvement, including dissemination of key findings to stakeholders, regular review of performance data, and use of outcomes data in decision-making?
- Is an ongoing interagency data improvement committee a part of the systems of care infrastructure?
- Are data from the management information system used to improve services and supports?
- Are data generated from the management information system used to inform the public, legislators, and key policy administrators about the system of care status?
- Have cultural competency principles been included in the design of the management information system?
- Is the evaluation plan culturally and linguistically appropriate for the community it serves?
National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center for Systems of Care (2010)
Defines accountability, discusses its role in a child welfare driven system of care, and presents challenges and strategies in implementing accountability.
Using Evaluation Data to Manage, Improve, Market, and Sustain Children's Services (PDF - 342 KB)
National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health (2000)
Describes promising practices in the use of evaluation data at sites funded by the Federal Center for Mental Health Services as part of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and their Families program.
Circles of Care Evaluation Technical Assistance Center
Provides evaluation technical assistance to American Indian and Alaska Native communities who are developing initial health service programs for children with serious emotional and behavioral disturbances.