This symposium will present results from four studies that address questions drawn from Decision Making theoretical frameworks and which also drive the selected methods. Two of the studies originate from the US, one from the Netherlands, and the fourth from Switzerland. These four new studies consider the relative contributions of context; case-, worker-, and agency-level factors and their influences on the range of decisions along the child welfare continuum. A moderator/facilitator will briefly introduce the topic including key themes and questions to contemplate throughout the presentations. Presenter 1 will share results from a southeastern state of a linked analysis of worker and organizational characteristics survey data with case level administrative data, where the survey was administered to a population of Child Protective Services caseworkers and linked to the caseworkers' placement and/or permanency decisions. Presenter 2 will present results from a Bayesian predictive model study conducted in a residential care population in Tennessee examining case level assessment characteristics and the likelihood that a child will achieve permanency. Presenter 3 will describe a vignette study of the use by staff in Dutch child welfare agencies of decision heuristics in reaching the decision regarding where to place a child. Presenter 4 will present findings from a multifactorial and multilevel vignette study of risk assessment and recommendations for placement among professionals doing child protection assessment in Switzerland. The results from the four studies will be summarized and synthesized by a discussant and presented to the symposium participants for further exploration.
The methods represented by the four studies constitute a picture of the predominant methodological approaches used; vignette studies and studies of actual decisions. In addition they take into account the multi-level nature of the context in which the decisions take place. Finally, all are efforts to address improvements in the theoretical understanding of decision making in child welfare settings and across the child welfare continuum, and the practical applications of that knowledge.