2019 QIC: that’s a Wrap! by John Robertson

Speaking for Team Pablo, housed here at Florida Network headquarters on Pablo Ave. in Tallahassee, (and Pablo South, our Early Intervention Specialist down in Brevard County) we train like prize fighters for these meetings. To be successful, the rising stars and seasoned veterans at the front line of our work will challenge and examine at the molecular level, our policy proposals and contractual expectations. The debate is invigorating, and my hope is that we all leave these gatherings better for it, understanding each other’s needs and with clear direction from the mundane policy minutia to life or death issues.

We call it the Quality Improvement Committee because that’s what it is, a gathering of leaders from the field committed to improving the chances for all youth and families we serve, with a common vision of a Florida, and a world where our services are no longer needed. It isn’t the most intriguing name, but it’s ours. We could call it the Youth and Family Defenders Council, or maybe just go with something trendy like the Quality Improvement Festival, but it’s really just a statewide meeting of people responsible for translating the shared mission of the Florida Network and the State of Florida into action- to serve children and families before their troubles become so serious they need intervention from the juvenile justice or child welfare systems.

We rotate these meetings around the state, often coupling them with a tour of the local member agency’s shelter facility, and highlighting the unique services of all Network members from the area. Our first meeting, held last April convened in Gainesville, hosted by CDS Behavioral Health Inc. We toured the venerable Interface Central Youth Shelter hosted by Zeke Whittier and Cassandra McCray. We learned about their ongoing capital campaign to give the hardest working building in Hog town (Sorry Ben Hill Griffin Stadium) a break and upgrade their facilities. Get in touch if you would like to join that effort.

Special guest Amber Jordan, Pediatric ER Nurse, launched the meeting with an experiential presentation demonstrating how the loose threads we leave in serving children become frayed knots later in their lives. The point was heavily brought home as we discussed the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Commission Report and drafted recommendations for campus security to screening for behaviors and attributes that may indicate a propensity for violent behavior. New policies for conducting searches and client contact debuted, and we all puzzled over how to detect the insidious vaping devices that resemble a tiny USB drive and can be hacked to deliver substances besides nicotine, dangerous enough without company. Youth Care Workers with eyes in the backs of their heads and a sixth sense for suspicious behavior continue to be our greatest defense, well, that and the tendency for teens to tell on each other.

Federal changes impacting background screening and hiring brought us to a conversation about suitability assessments, and the benefits of a professionally designed third-party instrument over writing one yourself. While we were on the subject, we shared ideas beyond monetary solutions for retaining direct care workers in a competitive economy. Consider that an ongoing topic.

It’s too late to offer a disclaimer about getting into the weeds here, but I did warn you in the second paragraph that is where these meetings are meant to be. We wrapped up the meeting with a rousing conversation on data reconciliation between multiple data collection instruments and I have it on good authority that we are making great progress with our partners at DJJ. If this is your thing, and you would like to know more, you may want to reach out to someone other than this writer. You can call me, and I’ll chat with you about it, but better yet, call Kirk and Jeniffer. Some trend analysis of incidents and on-site QI reviews, some program updates, and we were on our way home.

Our last Quality Improvement Festival (just trying it out here) convened in Sanibel Island down in Lee County, territory of Lutheran Services Southwest. We did not descend on Oasis youth shelter en masse, but they welcomed travelers to drop by on their way in our out of town. Storm clouds darkened the cerulean waters outside while we tackled the inherent contradictions in our gender-based staffing policy and mapped a path forward based on redundancies in protections for youth and staff equally, and a competency-based measure over a perceived biological standard. With that simple task behind us, we knocked out some more data reconciliation strategy, Network coordination of the DJJ mandated trainings; JJIS, Prevention Assessment Tool, and Motivational Interviewing, and rolled into lunch feeling pretty good about things.

During lunch we presented our Best Care Provider awards aka Besties. This distinction recognizes programs that earned a Quality Improvement on-site review with no exceptions to their practice. This year we had six programs clear that high hurdle: Family Resources Safe Place 2B North (Clearwater), CDS Interface East (Palatka), Orange County Youth and Family Services (Orlando), Thaise Educational and Exposure Tours earned two (Orlando and Pinellas, and maybe Jacksonville pending appeal) and Children’s Home Society Osceola. Although these programs achieved the near-impossible, all Florida Network programs successfully passed their on-site reviews with at least a Satisfactory rating. We know, it doesn’t sound as impressive as it really is, our agencies tell us all the time.

We broke for the afternoon into topic-specific groups where our community-based Neighborhood Partner agencies hosted Florida Network Lobbyist, James Harris, to hear legislative updates, and discuss goals for the 2019-20 Legislative Session. Then, a timely follow-up by staff from Mt. Bethel Human Services on communication styles and strategies.

Our residential shelter providers were briefed by our contracted partner, BD, on the big Pyxis Medication Management upgrade rolling out this year. These changes will reduce the footprint of the existing equipment, allow for client entry and formulary to be done from any online access point, and allow support from remote access by our trained consultants.

Communications Coordinator, Rachel Tullius, hosted a session on coordinating legislative visits, newsletters, and discussed social media from best practices to reporting to tools and more. We are upping our game, and don’t forget to join DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller’s weekly Friday gif dance party on Twitter!

Next up, Compliance Monitoring partner, Forefront LLC, presented new changes to the Quality Improvement review process for 2019-20, intending to reduce subjectivity in the final reports and streamline our time on-site to focus more deeply on practice, and reviewing policies prior to visiting on-site.

We closed the meeting the next day with the ever- ebullient, Christian Moore, founder of the Why Try? curriculum and author of The Resilience Breakthrough. Many Network programs use the Why Try materials daily, and we will reinforce that with three training events around the state this year. You can’t be resilient without hardship, and hardships are a powerful fuel for change. It’s a lot more inspiring when he says it.

So that is what happened this 2019 QIC season, as faithfully as I can record it. I left out all the hugs and hallway conversations that typify these meetings, the masterful work of Celia Moser in organizing us, and the comedy of errors involved in six Network staff, all the luggage, and half of the event materials barreling down I-75 in the rain under the sure hand of COO Amy Orman, but that is a story for another day.

John serves the Network as its Program Services Director