In Child Welfare the target for intervention is typically the caregivers, however, knowing about the needs of the child is critical because many maltreated children or those in foster care have emotional and behavioral needs. At the same time, budgets are tight; strict standards must be met; and there are few resources for clinical assessment. For these reasons, we developed the JIFF Interviewer® (JIFF®), which is cost effective and easy to implement because it is self-administered and does NOT require training or a clinician to administer. It is available in FAS Outcomes®, our web hosted technology, and can assist greatly in meeting critical performance standards:
Assess presence of mental health and substance use issues and other needs (Well-being)
The JIFF is an empirically-based rapid assessment process that begins with a self-administered computer interview completed by youth or parents/caregivers (there are two versions) and results in an individualized strengths- and goal-based Service Plan. The JIFF Interview assesses whether the youth has any mental health (depression, anxiety, trauma, self-harm, irrational thoughts) and/or substance use issues. In addition, the JIFF inquires about the youth’s day-to-day functioning in school, at home, with peers, and in the community (delinquency). Finally, it asks the youth about his/her family environment and about health-related needs. The JIFF helps you know about the “whole child”. After the interview, the JIFF automatically generates an assessment report, nominates individualized goals, which are linked to local resources, to form a one-page Service Plan. The Service Plan is used to coordinate care with youth & adolescent justice, schools, public health, and mental health and to specify any specialized services that the youth may receive from caseworkers or contractors. If evidence-informed treatments are available, the JIFF helps determine, for example, which children are most in need of trauma-focused treatment or which parents could benefit the most from parent management training.
Some contract agencies serving youth from Child Welfare also use the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS®) or the Preschool and Early Childhood Assessment Scale (PECFAS®), which provide a more in-depth assessment conducted by a practitioner.
Decrease the length of time to achieve permanency (reunification or adoption)
Child welfare providers use the JIFF results to help caregivers (biological or adoptive) understand, anticipate and respond to the children’s challenging behaviors, and, if needed, to obtain services. Some reunification programs work on enhancing caregivers’ parent management skills by using the Caregiver Wish List (CWL®), a self-report assessment of parenting skills that generates a skills and strengths-based coaching plan for the parent.
Stabilize foster care placement
If behavioral or emotional issues are identified on the JIFF screening, these are discussed with the foster parent at the start of placement. After the initial adjustment period, if the foster parent has difficulty with the child, some caseworkers ask them to take caregiver version of the JIFF, with the aim of pinpointing any behaviors that might disrupt placement. In some settings, the JIFF is periodically administered to keep informed about the youth’s status. Matching youth needs with known foster parent’s strengths could also improve stability.
Prevent Reoccurrence of maltreatment (recidivism)
Preventing reoccurrence is challenging, especially when contributory factors are beyond the caseworker’s control. However, the specificity of the approach taken in each case can be greatly enhanced by obtaining information about the youth’s current functioning, emotional needs and behaviorally challenging behaviors (via the youth and caregiver JIFF) and by learning about the parent’s report of how they manage their child (via the CWL). With the CWL, the parent is informed of “growth opportunities” for skill-building that leads to better and more satisfying interactions with their child.
Preventing maltreatment in at-risk families (unsubstantiated referrals of abuse/neglect)
Families reported to Child Welfare are typically at-risk, even when abuse or neglect is not substantiated. Successfully offering services to strengthen these families and their positive attachment to their child is a form of diverting families from future or deeper involvement with Child Welfare. Learning about the families by using the standardized JIFF at entry, and helping each family design their own JIFF Service Plan, quickly helps the family define their family context and solutions that they are comfortable for them.
If administered at least at entry and exit from services, the JIFF can evaluation change in overall well being of the children served by a program or agency.