Solution-Based Casework (SBC)

About This Program

Target Population: Families who have an open child welfare case due to allegations of abuse and neglect; also been used with families involved with juvenile agencies and as a preventative program

For children/adolescents ages: 0 – 17

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 17

Program Overview

Solution-Based Casework is a case management approach to assessment, case planning, and ongoing casework. The approach is designed to help the caseworker focus on the family in order to support the safety and well-being of their children. The goal is to work in partnership with the family to help identify their strengths, focus on everyday life events, and help them build the skills necessary to manage situations that are difficult for them. This approach targets specific everyday events in the life of a family that have caused the family difficulty and represent a situation in which at least one family member cannot reliably maintain the behavior that the family needs to accomplish its goals. The model combines the best of the problem-focused relapse prevention approaches that evolved from work with addiction, violence, and helplessness, with solution-focused models that evolved from family systems casework and therapy. By integrating the two approaches, partnerships between family, caseworker, and service providers can be developed that account for basic needs and restore the family’s pride in their own competence.

The approach was developed through consultation with workers and supervisors who were attempting to remedy problems contributing to re-occurrence of abuse and neglect. However, it is applicable to a wide range of family problems such as mental health or work related issues.

Program Goals

The goals of Solution-Based Casework are:

  • Develop a partnership with the family
  • Focus on pragmatic everyday family life tasks in areas of safety concerns
  • Promote specific prevention skills tied to the family’s tasks of concern
  • Establish a documented record of behavior change
  • Notice, support, and celebrate that record of behavioral change

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Solution-Based Casework (SBC).

Essential Components

The essential components of Solution-Based Casework include:

  • Developing a partnership with the family:
    • Assumes that the family members want to be successful
    • Normalizes the stresses and challenges that have made solving the problem difficult
    • Isolates and externalizes the problem pattern
  • Focusing on pragmatic everyday family life tasks:
    • Morning and evening routine
    • Arranging for care of young family members
    • Getting children up and off to school
    • Arranging for supervision of older family members
    • Caring for ill family members
    • Keeping clean and healthy
    • Controlling anger with family members or others
    • Staying motivated to perform daily care tasks
    • Controlling substance use that interferes with family life
  • Promote specific prevention skills tied to the family’s tasks:
    • Identify high risk situations that lead to difficulties
    • Identify early warning signals in the pattern
    • Develop a plan to avoid the high risk situations
    • Develop a plan to interrupt the pattern early if not avoided
    • Have a backup or “escape” plan if all else fails
  • Solution-Based Casework has been shown to serve as a common conceptual framework for integrating disparate segments of a response network. Because the model provides for specific outcome skills necessary for relapse prevention, all providers in a service system can work toward common goals. Because the model utilizes a partnership approach based on what is successful, Solution-Based Casework provides a method for tapping a family’s competence without diminishing the absolute need to meet certain criteria. Developing partnerships that lead to identifiable solutions in everyday family life is the best way to prevent future relapse.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Solution-Based Casework (SBC) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Experiencing child maltreatment, abuse or neglect

Parent/Caregiver Services

Solution-Based Casework (SBC) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Has a child who experienced child maltreatment, abuse or neglect

Recommended Intensity:

Varies according to family needs

Recommended Duration:

Varies according to family needs

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Adoptive Home
  • Birth Family Home
  • Foster / Kinship Care
  • Hospital
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • Group or Residential Care
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


Solution-Based Casework (SBC) includes a homework component:

Solution Based Casework often involves the parents doing work on their own between visits since they are empowered to be central to the change process and are assisted in making decisions on how to best accomplish the outcomes within their home.


Solution-Based Casework (SBC) has materials available in languages other than English:

Mandarin, Spanish

For information on which materials are available in these languages, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

When a state or private agency decides to adopt the Solution Based Casework practice model, the first step is to review the jurisdictional needs, then train all levels of staff, assist in modifying its new employee training academy, develop internal training and coaching expertise, and help them modify and adapt their information system and data forms.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

There are no additional educational requirements aside from what is required by the child welfare agency for their caseworkers.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

The training is typically offered onsite and tailored to the jurisdiction and agency size.

Number of days/hours:

The training length varies on jurisdictional size and needs, however the caseworker can be quickly oriented and prepared for immediate use in the field in only 2 ½ days. The full implementation systemwide takes several months, however time out of the office is designed to be short and manageable.

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Solution-Based Casework (SBC) as listed below:

Guidance is provided to programs by establishing an Implementation Team, with key representation from all critical components of their organization. The team is first asked to perform a Jurisdictional Readiness Review following a provided outline.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Solution-Based Casework (SBC) as listed below:

Implementation of Solution Based Casework is fully supported through a range of activities that include pre-training reading groups, management training, initial training, supervisor training, learning transfer, use of eLearning for new employees, implementation website, follow-up Coaching calls, and SBC Certification at the Caseworker, Supervisor, Coach and Trainer level. Trainer of trainer (TOT) is also available for larger jurisdictions such as state public child welfare agencies.

Solution Based Casework staff has implementation experience and can assist new jurisdictions with the process. The web-based implementation site has assists in tracking statewide or agency-wide progress. Collaborative Teams are created to assist agencies in working with each other and their provider networks to offer joint training and share resources. Several articles on implementation have been written, including articles that detail specific state implementation experiences.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Solution-Based Casework (SBC) as listed below:

The entire Solution Based Casework Certification of Skills process has been developed based on research regarding the critical skills that lead to improved outcomes. Each supervisor mentors their workers on 16 specific skills related to outcomes. Progress is tracked via an Implementation Website and reviewed for fidelity on a monthly basis the Lead Coach who assigned by Solution Based Casework. Once a caseworker is believed to demonstrate all 16 skills, he/she is observed and interviewed, and submits sample case records for review by the Implementation Team using standard tools developed by Solution Based Casework to ensure that skill acquisition has been demonstrated. Additional preparation activities credential the Implementation Team’s inter-rater reliability though mock reviews.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Solution-Based Casework (SBC) as listed below:

Programs that adopt Solution Based Casework have full access to all of the materials, both those that are generic to the model, and those that have been adapted in various jurisdictions.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has been conducted on how to implement Solution-Based Casework (SBC) as listed below:

  • Antle, B. F., Barbee, A. P., & van Zyl, M. A. (2008). A comprehensive model for child welfare training evaluation. Child and Youth Services Review, 30(9), 1063-1080.
  • Antle, B. F., Sullivan, D. J., Barbee, A. P., & Christensen, D. N. (2010). The Effects of Training Reinforcement on Training Transfer. Child Welfare, 32(2), 223-230.
  • Barbee, A. P., Christensen, D., Antle, B., Wandersman, A., & Cahn, K. (2011). Successful adoption and implementation of a comprehensive casework practice model in a public child welfare agency: Application of the Getting to Outcomes (GTO) model. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 622–633.
  • Pipkin, S., Sterrett, E. M., Antle, B., & Christensen, D. N. (2013). Washington State's adoption of a child welfare practice model: An illustration of the Getting To Outcomes implementation framework. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(12), 1923-1932.
  • van Zyl, M. A., Barbee, A. P., Cunningham, M. R., Antle, B. F., Christensen, D. N., & Boamah, D. (2014). Components of the solution-based casework child welfare practice model that predict positive child outcomes. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 8(4), 433-465.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcomes: Safety, Permanency and Child/Family Well-Being

Antle, B. F., Barbee, A. P., Christensen, D. N. & Martin, M. H. (2008). Solution-Based Casework: Preliminary evaluation research. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 2(2), 197-227.

Type of Study: Quasi-experimental retrospective case review studies
Number of Participants: Set A: 48 cases, Set B: 100 cases


  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Set A: 65.9% Caucasian, 12.2% African American, and 6.1% Biracial; Set B: Caucasian 56%, African American 42%, and Biracial 2%
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Subjects were from Set A: Child Welfare cases that were opened after the completion of training by the caseworker, or Set B: Child Welfare case plan evaluation was used to identify groups for comparison based on implementation score.

Location/Institution: University of Louisville/Kentucky

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
Two case review studies were conducted. The first study compared 48 cases from two worker groups differing in degree of training and implementation of the Solution-Based Casework (SBC) model. The second study compared the outcomes of 100 high-risk cases based on implementation level of the SBC model. Results indicated that SBC can be implemented across cases differing in type of maltreatment, comorbid factors, and other demographic variables; and that workers were more actively involved in case planning and service acquisition for families when SBC was implemented. Families in the SBC groups were significantly more compliant with casework requirements and achieved more case goals and objectives. The model was particularly effective for families with a history of chronic involvement with the child welfare system.  Limitations include possible selection bias in how workers were selected for SBC training, differences in geographic locations and the small sample size.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Not specified.

Antle, B. F., Barbee, A. P., Christensen, D. N., & Sullivan, D. J. (2009). The prevention of child maltreatment recidivism through the Solution-Based Casework model of child welfare practice. Children and Youth Services Review, 31, 1346-1351.

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest control group design
Number of Participants: 77


  • Age — Not Specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified
  • Gender — Not Specified
  • Status — Participants were child welfare workers working with families with histories of child maltreatment referred by Child Protective Services.

Location/Institution: Kentucky

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The study evaluated the effectiveness of the Solution-Based Casework model on lowering child maltreatment recidivism. Participants were assigned to an intervention or non-intervention comparison group and recidivism data for workers’ caseloads were tracked for 6 months post-intervention. Workers completed the Learning Benefit Inventory and the Team Learning Conditions Sub-Scale of the Training Transfer Inventory. Results indicated that the Solution-Based Casework group had significantly fewer recidivism referrals for child maltreatment than the comparison group during the follow-up time period. Study limitations included lack of randomization and the limited follow-up time period for the recidivism outcome.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 6 months.

Antle, B. F., Christensen, D. N., van Zyl, M. A., & Barbee, A. P. (2012). The impact of the Solution-Based Casework (SBC) practice model on federal outcomes in public child welfare. Child Abuse and Neglect, 36, 342– 353.

Type of Study: Quasi-experimental – retrospective data review
Number of Participants: 4,559


  • Age — Not Specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified
  • Gender — Not Specified
  • Status — Subjects were from Public Child Welfare Cases that were selected for the State’s Continuous Quality Improvement Process. They were randomly selected from all nine service regions of the state.

Location/Institution: State of Kentucky Child Welfare

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study involved the retrospective review of 4,559 public child welfare cases from the state of Kentucky.  The outcomes of safety, permanency and well-being were operationalized according to federal definitions. For some analyses, cases were assigned to a high adherence-Solution-Based Casework (SBC) implementation group and a low adherence-SBC implementation group based upon their scores on a number of items from the public child welfare system’s Continuous Quality Improvement tool. This study found that the use of the SBC model is associated with significantly better scores on all 23 Child and Family Service Review items and the seven federal outcomes of Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being. In addition, a higher degree of use of the SBC model resulted in exceeding federal standards for safety, permanency and well-being. Limitations include no random assignment and limited data on case characteristics, such as race and other family factors.

Length of postintervention follow-up: Not specified.

Additional References

Christensen, D., & Todahl, J. (1999). Solution-Based Casework: Case planning to reduce risk. Journal of Family Social Work, 3(4), 3-24.

Christensen, D., Todahl, J., & Barrett, B. (1999). Solution-Based Casework: An introduction to clinical and casework skills in social work practice. New York: Aldine DeGruyter Press.

Contact Information

Natalie Bowlds, LCSW
Title: National Operations Manager
Phone: (502) 741-2620

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: August 2019

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: November 2018

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: May 2008