School Based Youth Services Program
On Tuesday, July 11, 2006, Governor Corzine signed legislation, which received overwhelming support in the legislature, to officially establish the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF). The new department is staffed by over 6,600 state child welfare employees who were already working in divisions within the Department of Human Services (DHS) focused on child protection, welfare, education and permanency, child behavioral health and abuse prevention. The School Based Youth Services Program (SBYSP) was established in 1987 to provide at-risk teenage youth with an array of employment, health and social services. Now implemented in over 88 schools, SBYSP serves about 36,000 youths annually.
Faced with the task of tracking program participation and evaluating outcomes, SBYSP sought to develop a data-management tool that could be operated at the site level. Prior to adopting YouthServices.net, a desktop system had been deployed, but proved difficult to maintain over time. Based on this experience, SBYSP was particularly concerned that any new system be simple to administer, responsive and user friendly to site-level workers. The system also needed to incorporate a series of existing paper forms and reports that had been used to track participant and service information.
Working with SBYSP staff, Cityspan developed a custom management system to meet the program's site-level and statewide reporting requirements. The process began by converting existing paper registration forms and service logs to online equivalents. The intake forms capture client contact information, demographics, risk assessments and other background data. Service logs track the provision of group and individual services in the areas of mental health, learning support, substance abuse, pregnancy prevention, medical and preventive health. All service logs are configured to track the number of clients, sessions and hours provided. Using this input, a set of reports was then developed to document each site's client base and the type and intensity of services provided.
Benefits and Results
The management system has provided significant benefits to individual CAS sites and the initiative as a whole. SBYSP's data system has provided a host of benefits to individual service sites and SBYSP state administrators. Because the software is on the web, site staff can manage services in team settings and from multiple locations. This has allowed staff to serve clients in a more standardized and coordinated manner. Detailed reporting has allowed sites to document their work fully and show results to major funders.
For SBYSP administrators, the management system has proved to be a valuable tool for monitoring individual site performance and reporting aggregate statistics to the state legislature. According to Kay Reiss, SBYSP Coordinator, "Cityspan has given us the numbers we need to evaluate our service investments." By documenting the number of clients and distribution and intensity of services, the software guides overall policy approaches and supports the making of informed improvements to the program design.