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January/February 2016Vol. 16, No. 10Partnering to Improve Mental Health Outcomes in Child Welfare

By Melinda J. Baldwin, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., Child Welfare Program Specialist, Children's Bureau, and Leslie Rozeff, M.S.S.W., L.C.S.W.-C, Director, National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Child Welfare, University of Maryland School of Social Work

We know that many children and youth involved with child welfare services experience depression, anxiety, behavioral challenges, and traumatic symptoms. We also know the child welfare services, and our mental health partners, need to continue to deepen the quality of our responses. What if there was a model that incorporated evidence-based treatment practices responsive to the most common mental health issues confronting young people in child welfare? What if there was an approach that brought the child welfare and mental health systems together to more efficiently integrate and coordinate responsiveness and treatment?

The Children's Bureau has funded the National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Child Welfare (NCEBPCW) to make such a model and approach available to the child welfare field. Work with an initial group of implementation sites is going very well.

The NCEBPCW, launched in October 2013 under a 5-year cooperative agreement, created the Partnering for Success (PfS) model, which incorporates a common elements, evidence-based approach utilizing cognitive behavioral treatments. It is available to agencies at the State, county, and municipal levels. PfS pulls together the most current knowledge and insights regarding evidence-based practice implementation, change management, transfer of learning, interorganizational relations, practice and system reform, and continuous quality improvement. The NCEBPCW engages jurisdictions in designing targeted implementation approaches and identifying strategic, operational, and tactical issues associated with initially delivering PfS. It actively works to resolve these issues in partnership with site stakeholders as it simultaneously works with sites in the development of an implementation platform to inform model scaling up and sustainability.

The NCEBPCW has worked with senior child welfare and mental health administrators, supervisors, and direct service professionals in Baltimore County, MD, and New York City (NYC). The leadership, practice, supervisory, interagency, and delivery network benefits identified during the targeted phase of work has prompted both jurisdictions to take steps to scale up PfS systemwide. Baltimore County is actively seeking State IV-E Waiver approval to scale the model up throughout the county. NYC has made PfS a core component of the New York State's IV-E Waiver Plan.

Andrew White, deputy commissioner, NYC Administration for Children and Families, says, "Partnering for Success and the National Center have helped New York City's child welfare system pave the way for much stronger, individualized behavioral health planning for foster children and their families. We've taken what we've learned in the initial pilot and begun to expand it across the system, systematically building new bridges between mental health providers and child welfare professionals. We've worked with the Center to build in new components to help strengthen the family engagement skills of case planners, which should make a major difference in supporting young people and reducing their time in foster care."

Sharon Dillon, a director at the child and family serving agency MercyFirst in NYC, focuses on Partnering for Success' ability to improve service quality by changing the status quo. She states, "It's a step up for us. It allows us to go beyond just referring a child out to therapy and not really knowing what is taking place, and if treatment is benefiting their lives in any way while in a foster home, or even when they get discharged to their birth parents."

The NCEBPCW is also initiating implementation activities in the States of Maine and Oklahoma. For additional information or to explore the possibility of becoming an implementation site, please contact Leslie Rozeff, director, at