Substantial Conformity and Program Improvement Plans

Because child welfare agencies work with the nation’s most vulnerable children and families, the Children’s Bureau has established very high standards of performance for child and family services systems. States are expected to meet defined criteria regarding the outcomes and systemic factors examined in the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs), as well as national standards established by the Children’s Bureau regarding safety and permanency. These high standards underpin the entire CFSR process and are designed to strengthen the delivery of effective services, fortify partnerships, encourage ongoing self-monitoring and continuous quality improvement (CQI), and achieve more positive outcomes overall for children and families.

At the end of a CFSR onsite review, the Children’s Bureau analyzes information from a variety of sources to determine whether a State is in substantial conformity with the seven outcomes and seven systemic factors. Substantial conformity means that the State meets Federal criteria established for each outcome or systemic factor. 

States determined by the Children’s Bureau not to have achieved substantial conformity in one or more of the assessed areas must develop and implement a Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The PIP is a critically important component of the CFSR, since each State’s PIP serves as a blueprint for addressing  identified areas needing improvement in order to achieve substantial conformity across all outcomes and systemic factors. Additionally, the PIP enables a State to build ongoing capacity to evaluate the performance of its entire child welfare system.