Consultation Services


Evidence-Based Program Support

Field Training

Organizational Assessments



The Northern California Training Academy's research team offers the northern region expertise and experience in research, grants and evaluation. The team possesses extensive experience working with nonprofit, community-based, policy/advocacy, governmental, nongovernmental and private sector stakeholders conducting innovative research and evaluation projects.

We provide a coordinated approach for data collection and use to foster data-driven decision making for programs and services that strive to support children and families. Our team works to customize a research or evaluation design that ensures counties obtain and understand the data, analysis and implications to make informed decisions and engage in continuous improvement.

Strategic Objectives

  • Develop and coordinate assessment, evaluation and research projects that align with our larger mission of the division and institution of UC Davis
  • Balancing scientific rigor with a flexible, community-based approach
  • Assist with implementation of assessment and research projects including:
    • Project design
    • Strategies and technical aspects of data collection
    • Interpretation of findings
    • Implementation of findings into practice
    • Grant writing

Sample Projects

Agnews Evaluation. In keeping with the Lanterman Act, the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) proposed a plan to build community capacity to support full community integration of residents from Agnews Development Center (DC). After an extensive multi-year collaborative process, Agnews DC transitioned all of its residents into community-based residences in March 2009. The Agnews outpatient clinic serves as a resource to provide medical and dental care for former residents during the transition to community-based services.

Planning for the needs of the community's Agnews residents, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 962, establishing the Adult Residential Facility for Persons with Special Health Care Needs pilot project. Per SB 962, DDS contracted with the Center for Human Services at UC Davis Extension to conduct an independent evaluation of this pilot project.

Grants to Expand Services to Children Affected by Methamphetamine in Families Participating in Family Treatment Drug Court. In partnership with Butte County's Family Treatment Drug Court program, the Northern Academy performed a rigorous evaluation of family-centered services to children ages 0-5 designed to help prevent child abuse among child welfare families in substance abuse treatment and recovery. This prospective, longitudinal study of child welfare families used a mixed-method quasi-experimental design with four goals: 1) to evaluate the effectiveness of the family-centered services for families participating in Family Treatment Drug Court, 2) to uncover the underlying mechanisms through which the family-centered services outcomes are achieved, 3) to identify the contributing factors to positive outcomes, and 4) to share findings with researchers, policy makers and practitioners to improve practice and enhance understanding of substance abuse in the child welfare context.

Evaluating a Training Program for a Supported Decision-Making Model in Child Welfare. The Northern Academy is evaluating participants from Northern California child welfare agencies to determine the most effective manner to deliver professional development training to child welfare workers. The training integrates Structured Decision Making (SDM) and Safety Organized Practice and includes in-class skills practice. The evaluation seeks to determine that Safety Organized Practice/SDM training workshops combined with coaching will contribute to positive practice changes (Duff , 2002), as empirically demonstrated by both worker and birth parent satisfaction with case planning practices. Our findings will inform the merits of further investments in the practice model intended to improve case planning and will verify the influence of combined training and coaching.

Research and Evaluation Webinar Institute. We are evaluating participants' experience and perceived utility of using web-based training supporting evaluation development, implementation, program development and improvement in Northern California child welfare agencies. Each webinar explores a different aspect of research and evaluation to address the needs of managers, analysts and supervisors.

New Tools for Supervisory Excellence is a comprehensive professional development program designed to support skill building and networking opportunities for new and experienced child welfare supervisors through proven, best-practice approaches. Based on similar programs implemented in conjunction with the Quality Improvement Center at the University of Kentucky, the Northern California Training Academy convened an advisory committee in 2007 to guide the design of this program and continues to evaluate its effectiveness, employing both surveys and focus groups.

Evidence-Based Program Support

The Northern California Training Academy provides leadership to child welfare professionals in Northern California in the training and support for evidence-based and/or promising practices and programs. Further consultation is available for specific programs based on regional requests, identified needs and/or emerging research.

Ages and Stages

The Northern California Training Academy can provide county-specific training on the use and implementation of Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ). The ASQ screening tools are appropriate for use with children ages 0-5. It is important to note that screening refers to instruments designed to identify children who are at risk of having mental health problems or concerns and/or those who would most benefit from more in-depth assessment. "Assessment tools" are instruments that provide a thorough assessment of mental health and/or social-emotional functioning.

The training provides an in-depth discussion of how to use the ASQ screening tool including how and when to refer for further assessment. Training components include screening, question clarification, maintaining professional boundaries, integrating parenting, cultural and gender differences when interpreting screening scores, outcomes and much more. There is a heavy emphasis on social-emotional development and problem solving to give workers the tools to follow through with treatment plans and referrals. In addition, an ASQ tracking/tickler system will be presented that allows clinicians to tabulate scores and identify areas in which the child needs further assessment. An available toolkit assists the county in attaining early intervention services for children in the 0-5 age group.

The key objectives of the toolkit are the following:

  • To develop and implement a model program for children that includes their developmental needs
  • To help parents understand developmental milestones and behavior that facilitates healthy development
  • To identify and respond to provider concerns about developmental screening
  • To monitor and track the impact of implementing the Ages and Stages screening tools

To download a copy of the ASQ toolkit, click here.

For more information on Ages and Stages, please contact us.

Concurrent Planning

The Northern California Training Academy partners with the Administrative Office of the Courts to provide county-specific training on concurrent planning. This course addresses the child welfare dilemma of protecting children and preserving families while concurrently developing alternative plans for the same children. Session participants include county, legal and community professionals along with foster parents, relative caregivers and older youth who are in care. Participants engage in identifying current practices that are successful and what practice enhancements are needed.

The goal of this workshop is to identify the roles and responsibilities of all the parties in the process of obtaining timely permanency for every child and family.

For more information on arranging for these services in your county, please contact us.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an internationally recognized, evidence-based, best-practice approach approved by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), among others. The Northern Academy offers two courses in Motivational Interviewing: 1) Motivational Interviewing for Social Workers, a two-day course that provides an introduction to the concepts of spirit and strategies in Motivational Interviewing to workers in child welfare settings, and 2) Motivational Interviewing for Supervisors, a one-day course focusing specifically on skills supervisors can utilize to encourage implementation of MI techniques with staff who have completed the course.

Beyond these courses, the Northern Academy maintains a team of MI field trainers who can provide one-on-one coaching and feedback to staff who are interested in further developing their skills in MI.

For more information on arranging for these services in your county, please contact us.

Safety Organized Practice

Safety Organized Practice (SOP) is a collaborative practice approach that emphasizes the importance of teamwork in child welfare. SOP aims to build and strengthen partnerships with the child welfare agency and within a family by involving their informal support networks of friends and family members. A central belief of SOP is that all families have strengths. SOP uses strategies and techniques that align with the belief that a child and his or her family are the central focus, and that the partnership between the agency and the family exists in an effort to find solutions that ensure safety, permanency, and well-being for children. Safety Organized Practice is informed by an integration of practices and approaches, including:

  • Solution-focused practice
  • Signs of Safety
  • Structured Decision Making
  • Child and family engagement
  • Risk and safety assessment research
  • Group Supervision and Interactional Supervision
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Consultation and Information Sharing Framework
  • Cultural Humility
  • Trauma-Informed Practice

The objectives of Safety Organized Practice:

  • Engagement: To create a shared focus to guide casework among all stakeholders (child, family, worker, supervisor, etc.)
  • Critical thinking: To help these stakeholders consider complicated and ambiguous case information and sort it into meaningful child welfare categories
  • Enhancing safety: To provide a path for stakeholders to engage in "rigorous, sustainable, on the ground child safety" efforts

For more information on arranging for these services in your county, please contact us.

Field Training

The Northern California Training Academy maintains a team of field trainers who are available to provide one-on-one training/instruction to child welfare professionals in Northern California. Field trainers can provide targeted assistance to individual staff or counties as they implement evidence-based programs, restructure county practice models or develop policy and procedure manuals. Additionally, field trainers are available to support new program managers, supervisors or child welfare directors as they transition into new roles and responsibilities.

For more information on arranging for these services in your county, please contact us.

Organizational Assessements


The Northern California Training Academy has a team of experienced child welfare experts who are equipped to lead your organization in a holistic assessment of program delivery.

A review of organizational practice and training requires examining all aspects of the agency and how these components work together to support children and families.

The Baldridge Model

UC Davis consultants use the Baldridge Criteria as a framework for reviewing the following:

  • Comprehensiveness and consistency of child welfare practices
  • Relationship to specific child welfare outcomes
  • Ability to influence and improve outcomes
  • Support to staff
  • Perspective of the children and families served
  • Resources–both staffing and services for children and families
  • Connection each practice has to a fully supported continuum of care for children and families

Methods to gather information include:

  • Conducting a business process review of child welfare practice from referral to case closure
  • Reviewing for compliance policies and procedures for child welfare and systems in place
  • Interviewing individually, or in focus groups, community partners, parents, youth, social workers, agency support positions, supervisors and administration including program managers, directors and assistant directors, legal representatives, foster parents and other partners of child welfare service delivery
  • Reviewing a sampling of case files
  • Reviewing a sampling of data and management reports

For more information on arranging for these services in your county, please contact us.



The California Child and Family Services Review (C-CFSR) operates on the philosophy of continuous quality improvement, interagency partnerships, community involvement and public reporting of program outcomes. The principle components of the system include quarterly data reports published by the CDSS, PQCRs, CSAs, SIPs, SIP annual updates and state technical assistance and monitoring.

The Northern California Training Academy has prepared extensive literature reviews to assist counties in the C-CFSR process and improvement of practices. Additionally, the Northern Academy is proud to offer consultation services to counties in need of assistance with any of the three components of the C-CFSR. Please see our Resource Library for literature reviews, sample PQCR interview and case review tools, as well as the most updated C-CFSR guides.

Peer Quality Case Review (PQCR)

The PQCR is the first component in the cyclical C-CFSR process and is designed to allow individual counties the opportunity to gain deeper understanding of the strengths and barriers they face in their field practices as they pertain to one specific outcome measure.

Our experienced staff are prepared to assist your county with the facilitation of community meetings and/or focus groups, survey preparation and administration, and report writing.

County Self Assessment (CSA)

The CSA is driven by a focused analysis of child welfare data and feedback from child welfare stakeholders with the purpose of reviewing the full scope of child welfare and probation services provided in the county.

The CSA includes a multidisciplinary needs assessment to be conducted once every three years and requires Board of Supervisor (BOS) approval. Along with the qualitative information gleaned from the PQCR and the quantitative information contained in the quarterly data reports, the CSA provides the foundation and context for the development of the county’s three-year improvement plan.

System Improvement Plan (SIP)

The SIP is a culmination of the PQCR and CSA and serves as the operational agreement between the county and the state. The SIP outlines how each county will improve outcomes for children, youth and families using specific milestones, timeframes and improvement targets. The SIP is approved by both the County BOS and CDSS. The plan is a commitment to specific measurable improvements in performance outcomes that the county will achieve within a defined timeframe and includes prevention strategies. Counties, in partnership with the state, utilize quarterly data reports to track progress.

For more information on arranging for these services in your county, please contact us.

Contact Us

Contact us about Consultation Services.