Topic: Casework Practice

Scientific Ratings in this topic:

1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence

2 - Supported by Research Evidence

3 - Promising Research Evidence

4 - Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Effect

5 - Concerning Practice

NR - Not able to be Rated

Learn more about the scale

Definition for Casework Practice:

Casework Practice is the foundation of Public Child Welfare. The CEBC defines casework practice as services, delivered by a caseworker employed or contracted by a Public Child Welfare agency, that are designed to help families strengthen family functioning and address challenges that may threaten family stability. These activities include administering family-centered assessment and case planning; discussing strengths and needs with families; identifying specific interventions such as self-sufficiency needs, counseling, parenting, educational support, and skill building; and connecting families with the supportive services and resources they need to achieve a nurturing and stable family environment.

  • Target population: Caseworkers employed or contracted by a Public Child Welfare agency and the families that they work with
  • Services/types that fit: Assessment, case planning, case management, education, and skill building
  • Delivered by: Caseworkers employed or contracted by a Public Child Welfare agency
  • In order to be included: Program must be delivered by caseworkers directly
  • In order to be rated: There must be research evidence (as specified by the Scientific Rating Scale) that examines changes in caseworker behavior and/or changes in child welfare outcomes for families (recidivism, out-of-home placement changes, etc.)

Programs in this Topic Area

The programs listed below have been reviewed by the CEBC and, if appropriate, been rated using the Scientific Rating Scale.

Five Programs with a Scientific Rating of 3 - Promising Research Evidence:

Two Programs with a Scientific Rating of NR - Not able to be Rated:

  • 3-5-7 Model®
    Young people and parents (biological, foster, kinship, and adoptive) receiving services in the child welfare system
  • Signs of Safety
    Children and families where there has been suspected or substantiated child abuse or neglect

Why was this topic chosen by the Advisory Committee?

The Casework Practice topic area is relevant to child welfare because the child welfare worker's use of engagement strategies that encourage families to work as partners with Public Child Welfare for the protection of their children are vital to ensure that families receive appropriate services. Findings from the federal Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs), which examine state child welfare agency performance, have shown an association between a positive rating on caseworker visits and positive ratings on other areas under review. (Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Compiled results of the fiscal years 2001 - 2010 Child and Family Services Reviews, available at

Because of the CFSRs, we now know that caseworker visits are important and may be have a positive impact on outcomes for families. How often a caseworker visits, what happens during that visit, and how focused the visits are on the achievement of Federal Outcomes may determine if a family is reunified or if a child has an opportunity for permanency through adoption or guardianship. Understanding what needs to happen in the interaction between the caseworker and the family and establishing standards for those interactions is an important next step in enhancing child welfare practices.

Debby Jeter
Former CEBC Advisory Committee Member

Topic Expert

Diane Depanfilis, PhD, MSW, Professor
Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College
New York, NY