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Building Partnerships with Neighborhoods and Local Communities

Developing working partnerships with the community helps child welfare agencies build the capacity to keep children safe within their own neighborhoods. Resources do not flow out of the neighborhoods but benefit the community, and its residents share the responsibility and resources for their own children and families. When the community is involved in decisionmaking about its children, agency workers make more informed judgments, build community consensus (and political support) for the role and mission of the public child welfare agency, and reinvest dollars within neighborhoods. The effort also creates jobs, helping to improve economic development in poorer neighborhoods. Finally, it helps the community understand the complexity of child welfare work, thus improving the image of the child welfare system.

What is "Building Partnerships With Neighborhoods and Local Communities"?

This tool consists of a variety of specific strategies that Family to Family sites have found helpful in defining and empowering a community, breaking down barriers within neighborhoods, developing contractual relationships with community agencies, and implementing geographic assignment of child welfare cases.

How was this tool applied in Family to Family?

From the start, each site set up a participatory planning process that included a broad array of community representatives. As each group planned local Family to Family activities, it became clear that the relationship of the public child welfare agency to the community would undergo fundamental change. The initiative's end goal of developing neighborhood-based foster care thus also became a means of changing the way the agency related to the community.

What did we learn from these applications?

Working partnerships with the community demonstrated the worth of neighborhood-based foster care. They helped to ensure the cultural relevance of child welfare services; to increase cooperation among families, providers of services, the community, and caseworkers; to build a network of neighborhood-based supports for families, and to improve child welfare's relationship with the broader community.

What you need to get started:

Order and share this tool with agency staff members and with community leaders in order to begin the community involvement process immediately.