Cloud-based assessments simplify child welfare agency training


Spaulding for Children, a private, non-profit child welfare agency was established in 1968 when several entities, each seeking a way to make life better for children without families, joined together. One of the entities was Warren Spaulding, an elderly gentleman farmer who donated his farmhouse and surrounding land to establish Spaulding’s first office. Spaulding for Children finds permanent homes for children that have been in the foster care and adoption system the longest. It was one of the first agencies in the country that specialized in finding and training adoptive families for the placement of special needs children. 

Recognized for its innovative programs and collaborative initiatives, the agency provides standup training as well as webinars, self-paced and online learning to social workers, care providers and others involved in adoption, foster care and related services.


Until 2002, the agency used pencil and paper surveys to gather responses to its training programs. Processing paper-based surveys was time consuming and inconvenient, especially since follow-up questions required staff to make phone calls.

“Our evaluator would input the answers crunch the numbers and send the results back to us,” recalls Spaulding for Children Vice President Kris Henneman. “It would take weeks.”

With more than 800 trainers affiliated with agency, there was a need to create a flexible system to collect evaluation information that would ensure that the trainings were effective.

Switching to Questionmark for online course and instructor evaluations meant being able to send results to instructors shortly after they completed their training. Course participants received results of their quizzes and tests more quickly, too. But for a small agency that wanted to focus on training rather than technology, maintaining the system internally took time that could be used for other things.

Choosing the Cloud

In 2013, Spaulding switched from hosting its own system on-premise to using Questionmark OnDemand, a software-as-a service solution that has freed staff from having to install software updates and look after servers. The software updates automatically, bringing the latest features and improvements. Server maintenance is taken care of, too, freeing staff members to focus on other tasks. Questionmark's SSAE 16-audited data center provides a secure, reliable,  operating environment for delivering the agency's assessments.

“Having the updates come automatically has worked out really well,” says Henneman. “It has made things a lot easier for us. We no longer need to use valuable time ascertaining if there is a newer version or updates that need to be installed and then verify if this has effected anything else.”

Performance-based Questions

The agency is using scenario-based questions to ensure the learners can apply what they have been studying to real-life situations. For example, a video can be used to present a situation someone might encounter during the adoption process.

“Then we ask, ‘what would you do?’ explains Henneman. “You can really look at how well people have translated ideas into practice when you ask question in this way.”

Short-essay or fill-in-the-blank questions also offer ways to test people’s understanding without giving them any hints as to the answers.

Regional and National Connections

The agency provides stateside and national learning programs such as training in infant adoption awareness, Adoption Support and Preservation and Family and Child Preparation. At the end of online training sessions and web conferences, participants give instructors quick feedback via a Questionmark survey. Being able to deliver evaluations quickly, without regard to geography, helps the agency continually improve its offerings.

Surveys are also used to analyze how well Spaulding collaborates nationally with healthcare providers and adoption agencies – and to evaluate Spaulding’s consulting processes.

Quick Feedback

Henneman describes Questionmark OnDemand as “a tool that meets all our needs. We have set it up so that we can get the information we want. We use a 360-degree approach with our board, our clients, our workers, and we gather information from them constantly. For instance, we kick out right from a webinar and say, ‘Hey, could you take a couple of minutes to do a survey?’ So we can get feedback within a matter of seconds. Quick feedback really helps us do our job better.”