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April 2010Vol. 11, No. 3Site Visit: Supporting Leaders to Improve Collaboration in Connecticut

A leadership training program for midlevel managers in public and Tribal child welfare agencies has contributed to the success of a collaborative system in Connecticut serving families affected by substance abuse. A Connecticut child welfare agency manager helped lead the collaborative efforts after participating in the National Child Welfare Leadership Institute (NCWLI), a project funded by the Children's Bureau to help local child welfare professionals understand and implement systems change projects in their communities through a series of trainings and ongoing technical assistance.

The goal of the Connecticut project was to support and improve upon the redesign of a collaborative system for substance abuse treatment and child welfare work in one area of the State. Although a system had been in place since 1995, evaluations indicated it was less effective than desired in providing services to substance-abusing parents involved with the child welfare system. Elements of the redesign included:

  • A new managed service system for cases involving both systems
  • Weekly joint case discussion meetings for open cases in both systems
  • A voluntary program offering recovery case managers and, as part of a subsequent pilot program, a recovery specialist to support substance abuse treatment and reunification efforts for parents whose children were removed
  • Improved use of office and in-home evaluations, drug testing, and drop-in drug screens

In order to promote the long-term success of the redesigned collaborative system, one of the NCWLI participants helped plan and implement several strategies based on the systems change principles she learned during the training. Focusing on the importance of staff commitment to and understanding of systems change, she organized several events, such as:

  • Group discussions to explain the benefits of the redesign
  • Extensive joint trainings to improve staff knowledge of processes and protocol in the child welfare and substance abuse systems
  • A day-long event to build consensus and develop a shared vision for collaboration between systems
  • Regularly scheduled meetings to revisit the purpose of the redesign, reevaluate the collaborative system, and establish next steps when needed

Staff members report several indications that the redesign is having the desired impact. The system has seen a significant increase in the rate at which parents engage in substance abuse treatment. Service providers from both systems appear committed to the redesign and feel the project is sustainable in the long term. Staff members have also been contacted by other regions of Connecticut interested in replicating the redesigned system.

For more information on Connecticut's collaborative project, contact Christine Lau, Regional Director:

The full site visit report will be posted on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

For more information on NCWLI, visit the NCWLI website:

The National Child Welfare Leadership Institute is funded by the Children's Bureau, CFDA #93.648.This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.