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October 2007Vol. 8, No. 9Promoting Cultural Competence and Collaboration: The Frontline Connections QIC

Second in a series of articles on the Children's Bureau's Quality Improvement Centers

To improve the outcomes for children of color referred to child protective services (CPS) for neglect, the Frontline Connections Quality Improvement Center (FCQIC) at the University of Washington focused on how families, kin, and communities could be engaged in the process. In 2001, the FCQIC selected three grant recipients from among agencies in the northwestern States that submitted proposals on using culturally specific practices and collaboration to engage families involved with CPS. These included a Native village in Alaska, a Native American Tribe in northwest Washington, and a community-based agency in Seattle. The FCQIC provided extensive technical assistance for the life of the project in addition to project funding through the Children's Bureau.

In implementing the project services and interacting with parents, the grantees built on natural helping systems and cultural strengths in Alaska Native, Native American, and African-American families and communities. The following recommendations for culturally competent child welfare practice resulted:

  • Understand the importance of relationships; build relationships with families by listening to parents and interacting with extended family members prior to implementing plans.
  • Maintain a nonjudgmental stance; understand that parenting happens in a cultural context.
  • Help families reconnect with their cultural identity.
  • Be understanding of the problems that can result when families are disconnected from their traditions and communities.
  • Accept the shared history that some groups may feel.
  • Use a strengths-based approach to assess parents' goals.

"Through the FCQIC, the three grantees informed others about their practices and the families that received services; this reminded professionals in child welfare of the importance of assessing and incorporating families' values in developing service plans," according to Maggie McKenna, FCQIC Evaluator.

Grantee staff also developed successful strategies to identify, locate, and engage immediate and extended family members of children in need of out-of-home placement with CPS. Using a strengths-based approach, staff involved kin in case planning and helped them navigate the child welfare system.

When funding ended in 2005, the FCQIC continued the evaluation and synthesis of results across the three projects. Some of the findings included the following:

  • Efforts to improve interaction cross-culturally led to improved communication between families and CPS social workers, as well as greater engagement of families.
  • When kin and community members could be identified to care for children referred to CPS, the children were able to maintain their connections with their cultural heritage.
  • The focus on engaging families needed to be balanced with risk and safety assessments to protect the safety and well-being of children referred to CPS.

The FCQIC was one of the original four QICs funded by the Children's Bureau. Its unique focus on engaging families and communities to improve outcomes for children of color and to address the issue of their overrepresentation in the child welfare system has led to a greater understanding of the importance of culturally relevant services and collaboration in child welfare. While the Children's Bureau funding has ended, the FCQIC legacy will be sustained through the successful practices and collaborations that were developed and refined by its grantees.

For more information, including the FCQIC project highlights and summaries, visit the FCQIC website, or contact the Project Manager or Project Evaluator:

Bekki Ow-Arhus, M.S.W.
FCQIC Project Manager

Maggie McKenna, Ph.D.
FCQIC Evaluator