How does IPR fit into existing child welfare service systems and processes within the communities it serves?
Are the children whose cases are reviewed by IPR achieving permanency in a timelier manner?
How are judges utilizing the IPR findings and recommendations report?
Methods: A mixed-method study was implemented to address these research questions. Data were retrieved for analysis from databases maintained by AOC, including both cases which had underwent IPR (n=761) and a random sample of those which had only received a standard CFCRB paper review (n=715) for comparison. Differences between group means on the number of months in foster care were analyzed with t-tests. Judges (n=10) and state child welfare employees (n=32) were interviewed by telephone, and their responses were thematically analyzed. This non-randomized, purposive sample of interviewees was recruited to elicit useful information from those who were familiar with IPR. Last, judges participated in an online survey about the IPR program (n=19) and their responses were recorded in an anonymous database for analysis. The survey sampling frame included the universe of judges who had received at least one IPR report according to AOC's records.
Results: On average, children receiving IPR review stayed in foster care eight months less than those who did not [t (431)= -3.41, p≤.001]. Over half of interviewees perceived IPR as beneficial and useful to the child welfare system. Sixty-one percent of judges surveyed indicated that they often referred to the IPR report during permanency hearings, and 66.7% reported that IPR findings had influenced them to change their mind about a ruling. The vast majority of those surveyed thought IPR enhanced the court process.
Conclusions and Implications: The more intensive process of case review employed by Kentucky's IPR appears to have positively affected children's permanency outcomes, and is viewed by many stakeholders familiar with it as an important component of the child welfare system. These findings indicate that Kentucky's IPR may offer an easily replicable model for other states that facilitates earlier system exit into permanency and more informed decision-making about permanency goals.