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June 2009Vol. 10, No. 5Learning From Collaborative Reform Efforts

A new report from the Center for the Study of Social Policy examines three large-scale child welfare reform efforts that relied heavily on community collaboration to achieve and sustain change. The report, Scale of Change, highlights similarities in these efforts to demonstrate how reform can be brought to scale across large areas by engaging a wide variety of community partners. The report summarizes reform efforts in three locations:

  • California's Family to Family Initiative
  • Iowa's Community Partnerships for Protecting Children Project
  • Washington, D.C.'s Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaboratives

Each initiative aimed to substantially reshape child welfare services by infusing collaborative values and practices throughout systems serving children and families. Agencies used strengths-based, collaborative methods when working with parents in need of help, including those reported for child abuse or neglect. These three localities achieved widespread change through the development of specific, detailed structures for reform that were adopted by a variety of community partners, including elected officials, government and community leaders, nonprofit foundations, frontline staff, families, and other stakeholders.

The report identifies common aspects of infrastructure and strategic planning, including:

  • Embedding the project within government funding streams for child and family services
  • Using centralized committees to steer efforts
  • Offering a specific package of strategies and tools
  • Devising standards of quality case practice
  • Emphasizing the use of family team conferencing
  • Leveraging the self-interest of high-level administrators and elected officials
  • Developing stakeholders on the frontlines of child and family services
  • Building a strong training and technical assistance infrastructure

The projects cite their broad base of community support and involvement as a strong indication of their sustainability. In addition, each project has established mechanisms for collecting data and reporting outcomes, which will allow the communities they serve, as well as other communities interested in implementing similar reform efforts, to learn from their successes.

The full report, Scale of Change: Creating and Sustaining Collaborative Child Welfare Reform Across Cities and States, by Andrew White, is available on the Center for the Study of Social Policy website: (761 KB)