Written by: Natalie Craver, Community Partnerships Administrator, District of Columbia’s Child and Family Services Agency and Katie Rollins, Senior Policy Analyst, Chapin Hall.

In September 2020, the District of Columbia’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) received approval from the Children’s Bureau for its amended Title IV-E Prevention Plan proposing the use of Motivational Interviewing (MI). This approval is particularly notable because while MI was approved by the Title IV-E Clearinghouse for Family First reimbursement only as a substance abuse service, DC received approval to implement and claim for it as an integral component of CFSA’s case management practice for all families.

MI is a method of counselling that is designed to clarify goals, address barriers, and facilitate personal change processes. As such, MI will be carried out by CFSA case managers in partnership with families to advance diverse case goals identified in the child-specific prevention plan. When additional EBP services are warranted, CFSA posits that MI will help to improve EBP selection, uptake, and sustained participation in the service—thereby boosting the reach and the impact of other EBPs and preventive services. CFSA’s approved prevention plan cites empirical evidence of MI’s effectiveness with diverse populations to bring about a range personal and family change—well beyond narrow use as a substance abuse service. The plan also cites passages from MI’s program manual (Miller & Rollnick, 2012), indicating that MI is appropriate for use outside of substance abuse.

DC’s use of MI confers numerous potential benefits. Above all, CFSA believes that integrating MI within case management across the child welfare continuum will lead to better outcomes for children and families. Moreover, MI has proven popular with CFSA workers who have been trained, suggesting that investment in the model has promise to increase worker satisfaction and retention. Also, because MI possesses the highest level of evidence of effectiveness (“well-supported”), DC can easily achieve the Family First requirement that half or more of Family First funds be invested in “well-supported” services—a rule that many jurisdictions struggle with. Last, CFSA anticipates a significant and sustainable increase in federal revenue via the use of MI, which can be reinvested in prevention services and supports to children and families.

Although CFSA just received approval for Title IV-E funding this month, MI training and implementation began early in 2020, and fidelity monitoring is underway.Follow CWLA future e-learning and webinars tab for a future presentation on how states can use this new tool.