President's Message

Using Data to Inform Practice

The Children’s Services Council (CSC) of Palm Beach County is an independent special district established by Palm Beach County voters to direct tax-generated resources toward improving the well-being of its children. Projects sponsored by CSC are designed to ensure that children are born healthy, remain free from abuse and neglect, are ready for kindergarten, and have access to high quality afterschool and summer programming. As a learning organization, CSC maintains a serious commitment to using data derived from internal and external research and evaluation to systematically inform their practice and policies. Metis is proud to be counted among CSC’s technical and thought partners in this important work.

CSC’s Healthy Beginnings System of Care (HB System) initiative offers risk screenings to all pregnant women, newborns and young children in Palm Beach County. The screenings help to identify health-related issues and challenges that, if identified early, can be appropriately addressed through various community services. However, as discussed in the current In Focus article, data from the ongoing evaluation of the HB System reveal that CSC has encountered substantial challenges with engaging and retaining participants in the available network of needed services. In response, CSC engaged Metis to systematically study the reasons that eligible women may not be availing themselves of needed services (for themselves or for their children), and to suggest recommendations for improving the system. The resultant study revealed a number of valuable lessons and generated several targeted recommendations to inform and improve future practice – these are enumerated in the current In Focus article as well as in CSC’s recent issue brief.

Clearly, the CSC experience with the HB System is not unique. Engaging and retaining families in valuable social service initiatives is a far-too common challenge. However, the specific reasons and remedies for the problem are likely to be situational. There’s no “magic bullet” or panacea that will work to improve the problem in all places. We therefore strongly recommend that communities systematically study their own systems of care – programs, practices, participant characteristics, etc. - in order to develop the course of action that is best suited for them.

- Stanley Schneider, President