PNA CindyHeroFor 18 intense weeks, 12 Center staff stepped out of their usual roles and teamed up to conduct the Placement Needs Assessment, or PNA, for the South Carolina Department of Social Services. This major study is part of DSS’s Continuous Quality Improvement plan for making changes to the process of placing youth in foster homes. DSS asked the Center to assist in this effort to meet one of the requirements of the Michelle H. v. Haley lawsuit settlement agreement.

The PNA required Center staff to travel across the state, interviewing 90 children in foster care and others connected to these cases. Center staff are currently analyzing the data gathered in these interviews to identify patterns and figure out ways DSS can improve its placement process.

Center Director Cynthia Flynn, who is in charge of the PNA, says the Center’s “deep dive” into how DSS places youth in foster homes showcases the Center’s agility. The Center’s mission and values promote flexibility, which in turn increases the Center’s capacity to serve clients in a variety of ways.  

This agility impresses Bach Pham, a member of the research team at the Center who is participating in the PNA. For him, the Center’s agility stems in part from its cultivation of teamwork. He says, “It was interesting when we gathered on a weekly basis to watch our skill sets come together. Staff from Quality Assurance, Child Welfare, Research, and Leadership teams quickly learned how to work together to produce better content.”

Quality Assurance reviewer Hattie Greene is also participating in the study. For Hattie, the Center displayed excellence in “making efforts to establish rapport” with children in foster care, despite the time constraints. She said she and the team worked hard to avoid making assumptions about what foster parents know about a child’s “underlying issues.”

Through close examination and an honest approach to data, the Center’s work on the PNA demonstrates its commitment to helping its partners reach their goals and improve their outcomes.