Child and Family Services Reviews History and Reviewer Qualifications

Publication Date: November 5, 2015

The 1994 Amendments to the Social Security Act authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to review state child and family service programs to ensure conformity with the requirements in titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act. The Children’s Bureau, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, administers the review system, known as the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs).

In 2000, the Children’s Bureau published a final rule in the Federal Register to establish a process for monitoring state child welfare programs. Under the rule, states are assessed for substantial conformity with federal requirements for child welfare services.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico completed their first CFSR by 2004 and their second CFSR by 2010. After each review cycle, or “round,” no state was found to be in substantial conformity in all of the seven outcome areas and seven systemic factors. States developed and implemented Program Improvement Plans after each review to correct those areas not found in substantial conformity.

The third round of reviews began in 2015 and runs through 2018.

The Children's Bureau conducts the CFSRs to achieve three goals:

  • Ensure conformity with federal child welfare requirements
  • Determine what is actually happening to children and families as they are engaged in child welfare services
  • Assist states in helping children and families achieve positive outcomes

The federal government conducts the reviews in partnership with state child welfare agency staff. CFSR Reviewers may supplement the Federal Review Team.

The Child Welfare Reviews Project assists the Children's Bureau in recruiting and maintaining a national pool of CFSR Reviewers. They are qualified child welfare professionals who meet the established minimum education and experience requirements. The qualifications for individuals interested in participating as CFSR Reviewers are discussed below.

Minimum CFSR Reviewer Requirements

CFSR Reviewers, QA Specialists, and Note-Taking Specialists are child welfare experts with experience in making professional judgments based on information collected from various sources. They apply this knowledge to participate in the CFSRs. Minimum qualifications are:

  • Minimum of 5 years of direct field experience and/or supervisory, administrative, or management experience in a public or private child welfare agency. This may include providing services or supervising, administering, or managing programs supporting child protective services, foster care, adoption, family preservation, family support, independent living services, or licensure/approval of foster and adoptive families.
  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work, human services, public administration, counseling, or a closely related field; or a juris doctor degree with experience working for a state Court Improvement Program or juvenile or family court dealing with child welfare cases.
  • Strong assessment skills, including the ability to: (1) gather information from interviews and from written documents; (2) pursue the collection of information from various sources; (3) take notes and compile information obtained from multiple sources; and (4) make professional judgments based on the information collected during the reviews.
  • Strong interviewing skills with either individuals or groups.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills.

Preferred CFSR Reviewer Requirements

  • Master’s degree in social work, human services, counseling, public administration, or a closely related field; or juris doctor degree with experience working for a state Court Improvement Project or juvenile or family court dealing with child welfare cases.
  • Supervisory, administrative, and/or management experience in a public (federal, state, or local) or private child welfare agency; or at least 2 years of direct experience working for a state Court Improvement Project or juvenile or family court dealing with child welfare cases.
  • Experience in quality assurance or performance reviews of child welfare services.

Child welfare professionals who are fluent in Spanish or another second language, or who have Tribal experience, are especially encouraged to apply.

Child welfare experts participating in the reviews are at times supplemented by Reviewers who bring to the process their personal experience in foster care rather than years of experience working in a public or private child welfare agency. These Reviewers have been engaged with child welfare services at a state or Tribal agency. They will receive additional support and mentoring while participating in onsite reviews.

CFSR Participation Responsibilities

  • Working alone or paired with a state CFSR reviewer: Review case records, interview involved parties, and complete the CFSR Onsite Review Instrument (OSRI)
  • Use professional judgment to make rating decisions based on CFSR instructions and regulations
  • Participate in group meetings scheduled during the onsite review, as required
  • Attend the final team debriefing and present information on cases reviewed, as required
  • Assist in compiling a summary of the team’s findings during the onsite review
  • Remain present at the review site for the entire duration of the onsite review, and participate in all scheduled review activities, from the entrance conference through the last of the review activities and exit conference
  • Remain available for telephone consultation after the review, if needed, to clarify or supplement information recorded on the instruments

A CFSR Reviewer may also be asked to perform as a Note-Taking Specialist or QA Specialist.

Note-Taking Specialists take notes regarding relevant information during stakeholder interviews, condense information gathered during interviews, and use it to complete the CFSR Stakeholder Interview Guide. Work is completed during the onsite review or remotely.

QA Specialists are experts in the CFSR process and work collaboratively with review teams, including state and federal team members; review completed OSRIs to determine compliance with OSRI instructions; interpret state policy as it relates to the OSRI; and assist the Federal Team Leader in managing the onsite review. For more information on the CFSRs, please e-mail the Child Welfare Reviews Project at

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