The “cycle of accountability” framework focuses on results and continuous quality improvement. The cycle of accountability relies on operationalizing five key activities, or phases, to further advance the child welfare system’s efforts to evaluate performance on outcomes, identify new or promising interventions and strategies, review the validity of programs, and conduct continuous quality improvement to ensure the child welfare community is learning and moving toward the accomplishment of goals which positively impact children and their families.
The cycle of accountability comprises the following activity phases:
1. Outcomes Monitoring includes activities required to define, validate, implement and monitor outcome measures throughout the Child Welfare Community. In this phase, outcome goals are defined, valid and reliable performance measures are constructed and data is collected to evaluate and corroborate performance. This stage establishes construct validity, or the match between measures and the complex ideas or theories they are supposed to represent.
2. Data Analysis encompasses approaches and procedures required to critically analyze performance results to determine if variances noted are in fact issues which should be explored further. This phase is concerned with determining the statistical validity of the observed gap, i.e., is the variance spurious or is it an actual issue to be explore further, based on statistical tests?
3. Research Review is a series of activities employed to gather and to validate evidence to support interventions to address results not meeting expectations. Research Review assesses external validity, or the credibility of promising interventions in a variety of settings, with different populations.
4. Evaluation includes the activities and procedures required to consider promising interventions for children and families to determine if implementation on a wider basis is warranted. The Evaluation phase helps to establish internal validity of the intervention; through development of empirical evidence the intervention is causally linked to the desired outcomes.
5. Quality Improvement is an interrelated series of actions required to implement interventions across new domains, or to challenge, modify and test new assumptions about the underlying goals supporting the Child Welfare practice model. Quality Improvement increases or validates construct validity, by creating a culture in which performance is tracked, actions are taken and new strategies are developed. This phase reinforces organizational learning and reflexivity through double-loop learning, including regularly analyzing existing practices and exploring innovative solutions.