• December 2014/January 2015
  • Vol. 15, No. 11

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Site Visit: Colorado's PIECES

Many young children involved with child welfare do not always receive the early care, intervention, and education services necessary to support their healthy development and well-being. The Colorado Department of Human Services (DHS) believes strengthening family-focused models of intervention across all child-serving systems will benefit families and children and increase the likelihood that maltreated children receive quality care and intervention. Using a 17-month infrastructure building grant from the Children's Bureau, DHS's Division of Child Welfare is working to increase partnerships between child welfare and early childhood education and to better identify children served by both agencies.

The project, Colorado Partnership in Early Childhood Education Services (PIECES), is a collaboration between State-level agencies and local agencies within three counties: El Paso, Fremont, and Jefferson. In addition to increasing collaboration among agencies, PIECES set out to increase child welfare and early child care professionals' knowledge of and skills in implementing protective factor strategies, as well as increase the number of children in care who also receive developmental screening and appropriate referrals. The project also aims to change local and State policies and procedures to better serve the needs of young children who are in foster care. 

To achieve these goals at the county level, the three county sites implemented the Strengthening Families protective factors framework. Representatives from each partner agency attended Strengthening Families training, either in person or online, and have trained, or are in the process of training, staff from their respective agencies. In addition, the partner agencies are incorporating the protective factors into their daily operations.

At the State level, an Office of Early Childhood (OEC) was created within DHS that brought together seven programs that previously existed in four divisions. The PIECES grant moved with the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program to the OEC as part of the development of the office. The consolidation of these programs within the OEC allows the State to better administer early childhood programs, strengthen collaboration and coordination between the State and local-level programs, and ensure programs across the State provide the same level of quality care.
In addition to implementing the Strengthening Families framework in each community, the following tasks were implemented and will continue after the grant ends:

El Paso County

  • Integrated the Strengthening Families framework into parenting education classes
  • Established a new referral and screening process for sharing screening results among the partner agencies
  • Provided training to child welfare staff on the benefits of early childhood education and on how to read developmental screenings
  • Educated the community about the child welfare system
  • Educated parents on how to select quality child care

Fremont County

  • Developed a video brochure that provides information on the early childhood services available and that will play continually in early childhood family center waiting rooms
  • Created and implemented a cross-agency referral and screening process for families and children involved in both child welfare and early childhood services
  • Purchased tablets for child welfare staff to use in the field with families
  • Developed a tracking system within each agency to capture the accurate number of children served
  • Provided training to early childhood and child welfare workers on the Brazelton Touchpoints program1

Jefferson County

  • Provided training to child welfare staff on:
    • Quality early learning/child care provider selection
    • Child abuse and prevention treatment act requirements
    • Early childhood education benefits
    • Child development
    • Ages and Stages Questionnaire
  • Educated the public on the benefits of early childhood education
  • Conducted an Early Childhood Conference for community stakeholders
  • Provided coaching and support to child care providers to improve the quality of their programs
  • Provided Strengthening Families training to child care providers
  • Developed screening tools to be used by child welfare and early childhood providers

The 17-month infrastructure building grant was meant to build procedures and processes; therefore, not all of the expected outcomes were achieved by the end of the grant period (February 28, 2013). However, the project received a no-cost extension through November 30, 2013. According to project staff at both the State and county levels, the new collaborations have built the infrastructure, created processes, and formed relationships that will sustain the work.

For more information about this project, contact Jill Jordan at jill.jordan2@state.co.us. The full site visit report is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/management/funding/funding-sources/federal-funding/cb-funding/cbreports/earlyeducation/.

The Colorado PIECES project is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award 90CO1060). 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.

1 The Brazelton Touchpoints program is an evidence-based theory of child development that provides ongoing opportunities for parents and providers to help each other understand children's behaviors, strengths, and growing capacities.

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