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September 2010Vol. 11, No. 7Privatization Efforts in Two States

As part of the growing trend in child welfare for greater accountability, many jurisdictions have turned to privatized child welfare services that involve performance-based contracting. A recent report from Casey Family Programs analyzes the privatization efforts of Florida and Kansas, the only two States that have fully privatized their child welfare systems (other than investigations).

As part of the Casey study, interviews were conducted with leaders and private provider staff directly involved with each of the targeted privatization initiatives. In Florida, the consensus among those interviewed was that the Federal IV-E waiver was a critical component of their successful privatization efforts. The waiver provided flexibility in the funding, which allowed for innovative practices essential to improvement, including Florida's reduction of children in out-of-home care. Other Florida outcomes included an increase in adoptions and decreases in caseloads and staff vacancy rates.

Interviews and data from Kansas showed that statewide privatization resulted in a slight decrease in the number of children in out-of-home care and more sizeable decreases in the number of children in residential placement and in the average length of time children spent in out-of-home care. Adoptions from foster care in Kansas also increased.

Themes considered key to implementing a successful privatized system included:

  • Phased-in transition with a clear and articulated plan
  • A strong public-private partnership
  • Engagement of all stakeholders
  • Sufficient staffing and financial resources
  • Commitment to change from leadership

The report also provides information on the historical background of the Florida and Kansas initiatives, a summary of challenges and lessons learned during the transition process, the benefits of privatization, and performance and fiscal outcomes. The full report, An Analysis of the Kansas and Florida Privatization Initiatives, and an executive summary can be found on the Michigan Federation for Children and Families website: