Using data to solve our toughest challenges

STEP—Striving Toward Excellent Practice—is a data leadership and quality improvement program that educates and empowers local child welfare staff across the city in order to increase positive outcomes for children and families.

STEP provides the NYC child welfare workforce with the skills, resources and support to strengthen Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) through data mining, analysis, research, planning, project development, evaluation, communication, brainstorming and effective use of technology.


An investment in time that delivers real-world results

STEP is designed to accommodate a Child Welfare employee's busy schedule. Over 9 months, participants commit to a day of classroom instruction and a day of coaching focused on their borough office's challenges. Learning in strengthened via web-based lessons. STEP is designed for the child welfare professional who enjoys meeting challenges, facilitating problem solving, and getting to results.

Our Mission

To promote a data-driven and results-oriented protective services process to support children and strengthen families.


The program is firmly grounded in the values of the child welfare agency with a workforce committed to the goals of helping children and their families. We are committed to finding solutions to some of our most persistent problems—both internal and external to the organization.


We envision a statewide network of child welfare professionals skilled in data analysis, working together, sharing strategies, and overcoming challenges. We envision borough offices that have the capacity to best serve their communities.


Four components provide personalized instruction and accommodate a busy workforce

Classroom Instruction

Multimedia presentations plus large and small group discussions to provide opportunities to learn, share, debate, role play and dialogue. The activities promote empowerment, nurture creativity and strengthen critical thinking.


Participants receive coaching focused on identifying problems and building skills needed to initiate and strengthen CQI. Coaching provides technical assistance in data analysis, research, software, technology, capacity-building, group facilitation and communication.

Web-Based Lessons + Resources

The STEP website provides participants with lessons, links to data, access to research and all the tools and virtual training needed to support a data-driven, results-oriented process.

Sharing + Projects

Participants choose a challenge to solve with on-going support from the instructors. Participants are given the tools to share all aspects of the program, including the development of the local data-driven projects, with their borough office.


Education continues online with a learning management system

The web-based learning management system provides unique features to strengthen all aspects of CQI including: project management, assessment, planning, data-informed action, evaluation, policy and program research. The website allows the participant to continue learning in their present work environment and supports the blended learning approach, combining web-based instruction and classroom experiences. Web-based instruction supports participants with different learning styles and levels of interest.

State-of-the-art features:

  • Lessons on nine topic areas
  • Multimedia to reinforce topics
  • Links to data
  • Infographics to illustrate key concepts
  • Guide to data mining and analysis
  • Guide to policy, protocol and program research
  • Training materials for local office staff
  • Comments and feedback features
  • Post-lesson surveys
  • Teleconferencing with instructors
  • Complete Course Curricula
  • Evaluation Tools and Procedures

To learn more about the evaluation of STEP and customizing the program to meet local needs, click: STEP Evaluation.


STEP Empowers Institutional Change

Hover over the course topics below for more details on lesson content:

Session 1:
Begin Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Process
Session 2:
Assess Work Flow Strengths and Challenges
Session 3:
Explore Evidence-Based Practice
Session 4:
Plan with Logic + Research
Session 5:
Test a Hypothesis + Collect Evidence
Session 6:
Use Data to Inform Action
Session 7:
Evaluate Results with Data
Session 8:
Communicate About Change
Session 9:
Get to Results
Implementation and Evaluation of Innovations

STEP focuses on quality improvement and reaching measurable goals in all areas of child welfare including investigations, foster care and prevention. Course project areas include: strengthening family engagement, improving safety assessments and planning, increasing recruitment and retention of staff, strengthening all aspects of foster care and prevention and promoting racial equity across the child welfare system.


Instructors and coaches understand the power of data and research

headshotDominic Cappello (Developer and CQI Specialist) is the co-founder of Safety+Success — a socially-engaged design and strategic planning firm. He began his work in public service as a health educator in Seattle's Juvenile Detention Facility and youth group residential homes. He worked for the NM Department of Health's Epidemiology and Response Division and the NM Protective Services-Research, Assessment and Data Bureau. His training and curricula development clients include Casey Family Programs, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Rhode Island Department of Health, National Education Association and Navaho Nation. He has a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Language and Communication from Regis University. Dominic is the co-author of the Ten Talks book series on family safety that gained a national audience when he appeared on Oprah. Dominic resides in Santa Fe and is currently leading the development of the STEP Data Leaders and Quality Improvement Initiatives in child welfare in New York City, Connecticut and New Mexico.

headshot Richard Dunks (STEP Co-Facilitator and Data Specialist) is the founder of Datapolitan, an urban informatics consultancy based in New York City that focuses on the data and information needs of the public sector, including government agencies and non-profits. A graduate of the urban data science program at NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress, Richard works on applying new and innovative techniques to the processing, analysis, and visualization of public data to make meaningful and positive actions with measurable impact. With over 6 years of experience as a data analyst in the public sector, Richard brings a variety of skills to the task of making sense of data. Through past work with the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, he helped develop innovative methods of data analysis and visualization to medium-sized cities across the country. He currently teaches a series of informative and engaging classes in open data and geospatial analysis for the City of New York, and has taught courses in data mining, spatial analysis, information visualization, and informatics at Columbia University, Fordham University, and Pratt Institute. With an almost pathological aversion to the well-worn path or the box to which it leads, Richard is often found blazing his own trail through the maze of data that surrounds us.

headshot Loren Ganoe (STEP Co-Facilitator/Content Specialist) is Chief of Staff/Chief Operating Officer for the ACS Division of Family Permanency Services (FPS). As Chief of Staff, Loren works closely with the Deputy Commissioner of FPS, the FPS leadership and external stakeholders to identify, develop, and implement strategic initiatives to improve services and outcomes for children in foster care and their families. She previously served as the Chief of Staff to the Commissioner of the Washington, D.C. child welfare system. Loren has also held positions at the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services in Maryland, FEGS Health & Human Services and Fedcap Rehabilitation Services. Loren earned a Master of Public Administration(MPA) from the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College and a Bachelor of Science International Business from Westminster College.

headshot Markus Kessler (STEP Co-Facilitator) is a Senior Advisor on the Data & Innovation/ Strategic Initiatives Team. As Senior Advisor, Markus ensures the work of the Division of Prevention Services is informed by data, leading child welfare research, and human-centered design strategies. He leads the work of the Strategic Initiatives Team and manages the strategic planning, development, and launch of major new initiatives and improvement projects. Prior to this, Markus served as a Project Manager in the Division of Policy, Planning, and Measurement. While there, he coordinated the development of community-based CQI initiatives aimed at improving school readiness, healthy pregnancy, and secure attachment outcomes in partnership with the Mayor's Children's Cabinet and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Before working at ACS, Markus was a Summer Fellow at the Mayor’s Center for Economic Opportunity and a Research Associate at the NYU School of Medicine’s Section on Health Choice, Policy and Evaluation. He received his B.A. from Pomona College and his Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

headshot Joanne Hicks-Campbell (NYC Data Leaders Project Manager and Coach) works as the Administrative Staff Analyst/Manager at the City of New York, Administration for Children's Services. In addition to managing projects for the Commissioner for Research and Analysis at the Administration for Children’s Services, Joanne continues to coordinate the development of NYC STEP Data Leaders program, overseeing the first cohort focused on investigations and the second cohort focused on foster care and prevention. She serves as liaison with the STEP project developer, instructors, coaches and managers participating in the course. She also shares her expertise in project management and a result-focused process with participants as a coach in the data leaders and continuous quality improvement program.

headshotSandra Davidson (Content Expert and Coach) began her career in child welfare 27 years ago and has been with the Administration for Children Services, Division of Child Protection for the past 16 years. Ms. Davidson started as a Child Protective Specialist and is currently the Executive Director of Program Development, Quality Assurance and IT/Systems for the Division of Child Protection and currently leads a number of demonstration projects in NYC (e.g., Family Assessment Response, Cross Over Youth Program, ACS/DHS initiatives as well as DCP Quality Assurance/Data Scholars Program). Ms. Davidson received her Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree from Long Island University and her Masters of Social Work from Stony Brook University.

headshotBrian Clapier (Project Developer and Content Expert), works as a Policy Fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. He oversaw the customization of STEP when he was in his previous role as the Associate Commissioner for Research and Analysis at the Administration for Children’s Services in New York City. Brian began his career as a direct practice social worker working across the child welfare continuum, including an extensive time as a Child Protective Service investigator and supervisor. In his current position, Brian is responsible for the oversight and leadership of system-wide data collection, data reporting and analytic processes. He is also responsible for the oversight for contracted provider evaluation and system continuous quality improvement processes. Prior to this role Mr. Clapier served as the Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Performance Management and Accountability as well as the Chief Implementation Officer for the Improving Outcomes initiative at the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.

headshotKatherine Ortega Courtney (Strategic Planner and Consultant) has a PhD from the Texas Christian University where she studied at the Institute of Behavioral Research. Her focus has been on improving organizations. Dr. Courtney worked with the State of New Mexico for six years, first as the Juvenile Justice Epidemiologist, then as the Bureau Chief for Protective Services Research Assessment and Data Bureau. An advocate for data-informed decision-making, Dr. Courtney championed the development of STEP to strengthen continuous quality improvement throughout child welfare. She currently is directing initiatives with the Santa Fe Community Foundation.

headshotHeather Labansat (Guest Instructor/Coach) graduated from Texas Christian University with a PhD in Experimental Psychology with an emphasis in Cognition. Interested in applied research, her research developed new strategies for helping people be more effective at goal attainment and learning. Her work with Child Welfare focuses on using scientific methodology to develop evidence-based practices to solve workplace and community problems. Heather currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses for Tarleton State University in Dallas-Fort Worth..

headshotPatrice Perrault (Content Specialist/Coach) has worked in human services for almost 30 years and as a professional social worker for 17 years. She earned her Bachelor's Degree from The American University in 1985 with dual majors in Psychology and International Relations. Patrice earned her MSW from Catholic University in Washington, DC in 1997. Patrice has worked in a variety of service fields including child welfare, behavioral health, homeless youth, HIV/AIDS services, crisis intervention and developmental disabilities. For five years she has served as the Youth Services Bureau Chief for the state of New Mexico's Children, Youth and Families Department. Patrice currently works as a Child Welfare Specialist with the Children's Bureau, Region 3 for Administration for Children and Families.

headshot Chad Shaver (STEP Coach) currently works with the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare Results Oriented Management (ROM) project. ROM provides reporting and analytical tools for human services agencies for monitoring and reporting outcomes. Chad is currently the lead developer and liaison to both New Mexico and Colorado. Prior to joining the ROM project, Chad spent a decade in state service with the Wyoming Department of Family Services where he served as a data analyst, CQI manager and SACWIS manager. Chad has a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University Of Wyoming and lives in Laramie.

headshotBarbara Needell (Consultant) provides support to public child welfare agencies in the use of administrative data. She recently retired from her position as Principal Investigator of the California Child Welfare Indicators Project (CCWIP) at UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare. Barbara graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Mills College, with a B.A. with Honors in Psychology. She received her M.S.W. and Ph.D. with Distinction from the School of Social Welfare at Berkeley, and was the recipient of the 2008 Peter Forsythe Award for Leadership in Public Child Welfare from the American Public Human Services Association.




To view the answers, click on the

STEP is designed to reinforce and complement the experimentation and use of data that is integral to the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) process. STEP participants will receive focused training on CQI, data mining and analysis, and research into evidence-based practice. STEP participants will bring back what they learn from the program to their individual offices, addressing challenges specific to that office, team, or facility.

STEP is designed to empower individual offices to identify the strengths and challenges unique to their communities; understand how data informs local change initiatives; and how evaluation effectively measures progress. STEP provides participants with the skills to solve problems using data, research and technology— strengthening systems change on the agency and community levels.

STEP is designed for child welfare professionals who are interested in data, research and evidence-informed practice. We seek self-directed participants who are motivated to learn, share, challenge assumptions and manage change.

Qualities of successful participants include: being invested in using data to inform practice and decision-making; being invested in CQI; a willingness to enhance communication skills to present the relevant skills learned in STEP to their local office; and an interest in proactively improving agency performance and outcomes for families and children.

STEP is an ongoing CQI process, which will continue to impact participant's work in years to come. STEP begins with a series of training sessions taking place over a nine month period. Participants attend two full days of classroom and coaching sessions per month. Participants will impart the knowledge, skills, and insights they gained with co-workers.

The application process includes getting buy-in from immediate supervisors to ensure that participants are allotted the time needed to invest in the STEP and fully commit to data-informed decision-making. DCP Leadership is committed to ensuring that those participating in STEP have time to dedicate to the process.

Classroom/Coaching Sessions

Oct. 11/12 9am-4pm Step 1
Begin Continuous Quality Improvement

Nov. 13/17 9am-4pm Step 2
Assess Work Flow, Strengths + Challenges

Dec. 4/5 9am-4pm Step 3
Explore Evidence-Based Practice

Jan. 10/11 9am-4pm Step 4
Plan with Logic + Research

Feb. 14/15 9am-4pm Step 5
Test a Hypothesis + Collect Evidence

March 14/15 9am-4pm Step 6
Use Data to Inform Action

April 11/14 9am-4pm Step 7
Evaluate Results with Data

May 9/19 10am-3pm Step 8
Communicate About Change

June 17/18 graduation (TBD)

Please contact us to inquire about the next course.