• April 2019
  • Vol. 20, No. 3

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Podcast Looks at DC's Effort to Improve, Streamline Community-Based Prevention

A Child Welfare Information Gateway podcast details how the Washington, DC, Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) reorganized its community collaboratives to improve local child abuse and neglect prevention efforts.

In an interview with Information Gateway, CFSA deputy director of community partnerships Robert Matthews discusses how CFSA partnered with the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) to improve the community prevention response across DC's city wards. This partnership is called the DC Cross-Connect program. Under CFSA's Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention program, the city had previously organized community collaboratives around the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program. CFSA reorganized after a recent assessment suggested those collaborative arrangements were not serving DC families well, particularly with regard to case management and clinical interventions.

As CFSA deputy director Matthews explains, the city wanted to develop a more flexible service array. The assessment was based on a community survey, CFSA's geographic information system, and a partnership with Casey Family Programs to study family resource centers across the United States. The process revealed that CFSA families needed access to more quality mental health services to address issues such as substance use, depression, and domestic violence. The assessment also showed that there was only one grocery store in one of the city's larger wards. "It's really about identifying services, finding the service gaps, then identifying the additional partners you need to bring to the table to then develop a more robust prevention model," Matthews says. This led to the agreement that CFSA should rewrite its contracts with its community partners to more clearly spell out its expectations. This in turn resulted in an increase in the number of family support workers from different collaboratives, which allowed for an expansion of services to families. 

"If you're looking at a family that needs to be connected to TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] benefits, or if you have a family that needs to be linked with mental health services, and then you have a family that also has an open case with CFSA because of abuse and neglect. All of those case plans could overwhelm the family," Matthews explains. To remedy this, CFSA has proposed moving to one universal case plan that would "bring all of your community partners together" to prioritize what the family should work on first based on social worker recommendations. When this is done, families avoid having to do everything at once and can instead take gradual steps toward certain goals. When they complete goals with one agency, that agency can "step out," and the family can continue working with the other two.

To learn more about how DC Cross-Connect works to identify priorities and implement universal case plans for families in need, listen to the podcast at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/child-welfare-podcast-prevention-reorg-community.

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