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RACHAEL LEBLOND: Hi, I'm Rachael LeBlond with SAGE Publishing.And we're talking about data-driven for macro practicesocial work with Jacquelyn McCroskey whois a professor at the University of Southern Californiaand also a commissioner for the LA County Commissionfor Children and Families.Jacquelyn, welcome.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Thank you.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: Could you tell usa little bit about what led you to social work and maybespecifically macro practice?
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Yes, so whenI graduated with my BA degree, which was in drama,I looked around for a job.And somebody suggested to me for some reasonthat I might like to be a probation officer I actuallywent to work as a probation officerat one of the juvenile halls here in LA Countyand learned through working with the kids
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: that there were lots of things that had led themto that place and lots of systemsthat hadn't worked for them.And so I got the bug very early on to become a social workerin order to work in macro practicein order to try to improve some of the systems thatserve children and families.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: So we're talkingabout data-driven decision-makingfor macro practice social work.Why is it important to understand this?
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Well, in direct practice,we have lots of skills and knowledge and techniques wecan rely on.There's been a lot of emphasis on evidence-based practiceand evidence-informed practice.And we've been drawing much, much moreon the background science, what we know about child developmentand family development over time and the research.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: And that helps us a lot as direct practitionersto know what might work in what situations.But when you move into macro practice,it's a little bit harder.There hasn't been as much research on macro practiceand what's most effective.And there aren't as many guidepostsin terms of how do you do the work at the macro level.And so this idea of drawing on what
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: we've got in order to inform practice at every levelhas become much more popular.And we call it data-driven decision-making.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: So how do you assesswhat works in macro practice?
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Well, first youhave to think about the fact that macro practice occursin so many different settings in somany different jurisdictions, including somany different kinds of people.So macro practice could be within a single largeorganization, or it could be across organizations,or it could be collaborative efforts where groups
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: are put together to try to solve social problemsor come up with better programs and new ways to do things,or it could be at the legislative or the policylevel.So just defining what macro practice isgives you an idea there's probablynot one way to assess practice.And then you also have almost every kind of macro practice
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: is done by groups.And so helping people stay on the same wavelengthand pursue the same path is particularly important.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: It seems that's where data then comes in.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Exactly, datais one of the tools that can help the macropractitioner make sure that we know what the best evidence isin place that we're thinking about.How do we become more effective?And how do we keep decision makers togetherin terms of the process of discoveringnew ways to do things?
RACHAEL LEBLOND: You've mentionedthere's all these players in macro practicewho are decision makers.And it's quite complex in relation to direct service.Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: If you think about the child welfaresystem for example, it not only includessocial workers who play a really important role,it includes attorneys.It includes judges.It includes doctors.It includes mental health therapists and counselors.It includes school teachers.I haven't exhausted the list.But that gives you a sense that each of those people
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: come with a different set of expectationsand a different set of experiences.And they have a different professional lensor disciplinary lens.So if you're a teacher, your primary goalyou're trying to achieve is proficiencyin reading and writing.If you're a judge, you've got to make a decision in court.And so that shapes how people see the whole thing.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: We usually don't look at the whole system.We look at a piece of it.So in macro practice, when you'retrying to pull people together to say,we want to create new programs to improve what's going onhere, you have to be very mindful of the factthat people come with these different assumptions.And one of the few things that can really draw people together
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: to look at the same problem in the same way is data.Now we don't always have the datathat we need but any data that canbe used to help people assess the problemand then come up with new directions basedon a similar understanding is going to be really helpful.In addition to all the people that I mentioned
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: who are directly in contact with children and families,we also have policymakers.And it's policymakers at different levelswho basically set the rules for how the system will work.And so you have elected officials at the federal level,at the state level, at the county level,at the municipal or city level, all of whom
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: have a part of the puzzle.And they have to be aware of even other factorsthan the direct service professionals do.So data can be a way also to translateacross the different roles--
RACHAEL LEBLOND: How interesting.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: --so that people in the direct servicefields can say to policymakers, here'swhy we need the change that we'relooking for here because our data showsthat if children have this kind of service or support,they're more likely to not need more intensive servicesdown the line or whatever the argument isyou're trying to make.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: It serves almost as a translation between peoplewith different roles in the systemand creates a common language.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: Can you back up a littleand explain how, without data, how are policies informed?Was there a different-- has therebeen a kind of a shift in how evidence-based practices havecome about?
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Well, I think realistically,there are always a lot of factorsinvolved in policymaking.There is what your budget is, how much money youhave available.There is what degrees of freedom you have.Is there already existing legislationthat says you have to do certain things?There are who can actually do this.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: Who are you going to suggest is going to bein charge of something new?And there's just plain old politics, either politicsbetween players or politics in the sense of different partiesand different ideas about what should happen.All of that is still in play.But in the past, when you were trying
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: to advocate for a new solution, a new direction, a better ideaabout what should be done, even if it's going to cost money,it's going to be much more effective to beable to say to people, but here's the datawe have about how it works now.Here's data from a study that's alreadybeen done in another jurisdiction showing
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: how it could work better.Or here's data that we're going to trackas we continue to follow this over timeto make sure that we're spending our resources aseffectively as possible.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: What tools are available to capture this data,to analyze it, to distribute it to all of these players whoare involved?
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: So there area lot of tools because there are a lot of different kindsof situations.One is research, in particular research thatreviews existing literature.So sometimes, you're looking for a study thatsays the exact kind of program we want to institute herehas already been tried someplace else,
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: and let's build on what they've done.But other times, what you're looking foris, even better, if it's been triedthree or four different ways in three or four different places,and so you can build on the pieces thatmake most sense to you.So for example, one of the thingsI'm working on with a lot of partners hereis new ideas about how do we prevent child abuse or neglect.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: That's a hard thing for a lot of people to imagine.And so there's a particular article review of researchthat I use with my students and other players to say,there's some wonderful researcherswho've gathered all the literature about whatwe know about how early intervention or prevention can
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: stop or decrease child maltreatment that will give ussome ideas for what we could do here in LA.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: Wow.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Another approachis if you can't find research or if you can't find studies,oftentimes on various websites or in historical records,there's really good information about why the program worksthe way it does now and what we're trying to change.So in something complicated like the child welfare system,
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: there have been numerous efforts to reform and change things.And it's really helpful to know which ones of those have workedand which ones haven't.And so if you can find that, it's wonderful.If you can't, sometimes the first stepin the change process is to bring people togetherand to develop a document about whereyou're trying to go because then that builds consensus.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: It builds trust.It also greatly increases your ability to inform other people.So just one example of that, somethingwe've been working on here in LA is a planfor how do we want in LA to try to decrease child maltreatment.So the plan was published by county government
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: but with the input of lots and lots of people.And so it provides a wonderful platform for saying,and here's how we're going to move forward from here.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: Wow.That was all because of a need because ithadn't happened yet so--
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Actually, what happened here in LAwas there was a tragic child fatality.There was a blue ribbon commissionthat was put together to say, how can the county do a betterjob of preventing these tragic occurrences.And one of the things that the ribbon commission saidis the county should pay a lot more attention to preventing
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: child maltreatment.And there actually were--it's a big place, right?So there were some wonderful programswhere things were going on.And there was some evidence about howyou could approach it.But it hadn't been tried on a large-scale basis.And it hadn't been really the focus of attentionof county departments.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: And so we said, all right, let's bring people togetherfrom these departments.Let's talk about what they alreadyknow, what they already do, what weknow about what works in other placesthat that might work here, and see if we can reach agreementon some of the key things we need to do next.It was very effective in terms of the players in the room,
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: but also very effective in terms of getting our electedofficials and other people who weren't in the roomtogether on a plan for what are our next steps.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: That's incredible.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Yeah, it's wonderful actually.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: Yeah.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: It's wonderful.Very exciting.Sometimes, what's really effectiveis to look at performance measures that are alreadyin place.So in child welfare, for example,we have federal outcome measures that we're lookingat that each state looks at.In California, we look at the same measures across counties.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: And so it's very, very helpful to see,because we're here in Los Angeles,to see how San Diego is doing on the same thing for exampleor how Santa Clara or San Franciscois doing the same thing.And we have a wonderful project here in Californiacalled the Child Welfare Indicators Project,which is a public website that displays child welfare
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: data from all of the counties.So it's open.It's publicly accessible.That also is a way to draw people together.Let's look at how LA is doing on that in comparisonto how other counties are doing because that may say to uswe should get in touch with the people in San Diegoand figure out how'd they turn that aroundor we should find out more about what's happening
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: in these other places.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: It takes a village, almost.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: It absolutelydoes because these systems are very complicated.I deal mostly with child welfare and juvenile justice.I also work in the early childhood education world.All of those are really complicatedwith a lot of players, a lot of different interests,a lot of different questions coming upfrom different people.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: Oh, I bet.Are there other tools?
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: Another thing that we found usefulis, or a lot of people are using now,are dashboards or scorecards.They're a way to simplify existing dataand say, how are our children doing?So we used to have a children's scorecard like thatin Los Angeles County.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: The signature effort across the countryis the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNTreports, which use the same indicators and compare states.So you can do the same thing I was just talkingabout in terms of our state.You can look, well, Illinois seems to be doing well on that.What should we learn from them?
RACHAEL LEBLOND: So I have to ask,is there an international aspect of thattoo so you can compare counties, you can compare states,can you compare countries?Is that a thing?
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: There are a number of efforts to do that.In fact, one of the things that we've just completed hereis something called A Portrait of LA County, whichlooks at the same indicators in the Human Development Indexthat are being applied internationally.So it gives us a chance to say which countries are ahead
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: on this and where is it that the United States and LAin particular falls.The portrait of LA is particularly interestingbecause it takes--you can compare to an international audience,but you can also look within LA County at particular regions
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: of LA County and see how widely thingsvary within a jurisdiction and across jurisdictions.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: Seems so important to beable to make those comparisons and find those bridges.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: It gets everybody grounded.Oh, I had no idea we were falling behind what'shappening in Spain or wherever.What haven't we been doing?What do we need to do?But it also pulls people together around, wow,we're making great progress in that.Remember, it was only five years ago that we were at this level.And we decided to really focus on it.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY [continued]: And this is what happens.One of the sayings that I use at any rate,but a lot of other people do too,is what gets measured get noticed.And that's one of the reasons whythis idea of using data to drive macro practiceis particularly important.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: It's an excellent quote.And I love that that's something that you'resaying and spreading the word on because Ithink that's so powerful.All this data and decision-makingbecause of the data is so important.So thank you so much for sharing your insights with us.
JACQUELYN MCCROSKEY: I'm so happy to have this opportunity.As you can tell, I'm pretty passionate about this topic.And I've actually seen it work over my multiple yearsof practice here in LA.So I'm really happy to share with you.
RACHAEL LEBLOND: Thank you.
Data-Driven Decision-Making in Macro Practice Social Work
View Segments Segment :
Jacquelyn McCroskey, MSW, Associate Professor of Social Work at USC, discusses her research with data-driven decision-making in macro practice social work.
Jacquelyn McCroskey, MSW, Associate Professor of Social Work at USC, discusses her research with data-driven decision-making in macro practice social work.