Supporting Families With Funding Streams to Prevent Child Welfare Involvement
How can financing strategies help child welfare leaders make sure that families are supported, connected and safe? In a series of interviews, the Annie E. Casey Foundation learned about six jurisdictions across the country using the Family First Prevention Services Act and other strategies to support family strengths and well-being before children are brought into the child welfare system.
Highlights of these interviews are captured in two new tools for the field: a snapshot of key funding streams to support families and a look at common funding strategies child welfare leaders are pursuing to expand access to a continuum of support, including evidence-based programs and services. The briefs detail a wide range of federal, state and local funding sources that can help families meet basic needs like food, medicine and housing; connect to networks of friends, family and community that help nurture their children; and access mental health, substance abuse and other services readily available.
“Child welfare leaders are looking for the best solutions to provide families with services and community connections that promote child well-being,” says Ilene Berman, a senior associate with the Foundation’s Evidence-Based Practice Group. “These new tools aim to help leaders achieve this goal by showcasing how peers across the country are maximizing public and private funding streams to support strong community partnerships and facilitate high-quality implementation of evidence-based programs.”
Most reports to child welfare agencies are related to neglect, and these neglect reports often stem from families’ struggles to meet basic needs. An important foundation for supporting family well-being and limiting involvement with the child welfare system, especially for families of color, is to ensure access to opportunities, resources and services that support families in meeting their basic needs for income, housing, food, child care and health care. Partnerships with state social service agencies, state Medicaid agencies, local housing authorities and economic and community development departments can expand resources for families and prevent more families from ever becoming involved with child welfare.
Colorado and Nebraska, both part of Thriving Families, Safer Children, a 22-jurisdiction effort to reimagine child welfare, have developed policy, infrastructure and partnerships within the community to bring together funding that supports a broader array of services for families.
Pooling Funds and Creating Resource Centers in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Human Services (DHS) supports a network of 35 family resource centers that provide the local infrastructure through which the state implements its broad-based family support efforts. DHS provides grants to local family resource centers, as well as the statewide Family Resource Center Association that supports statewide evaluation.
In 2021, Colorado passed legislation to leverage Family First funding to support its statewide prevention infrastructure and local prevention services. The legislation requires that reimbursements from Title IV‑E through the Family First Prevention Services Act be pooled in a new sub-account of the Colorado Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund. The Trust Fund will make grants to further build out their state and local prevention capacity to implement Family First prevention services listed on the Title IV‑E Prevention Services Clearinghouse and help ensure equitable access to services across the state.
“There is so much innovation and willingness to push toward more prevention,” says Kendra Dunn, director of the Division of Community and Family Support in the Office of Early Childhood at Colorado’s DHS. “Our challenge isn’t about doing new or more or different. It’s aligning all the things and connecting all the dots so that they are leveraging one another.”
Supporting Families Through Local Partnerships in Nebraska
As the statewide intermediary in Nebraska, the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (NCFF) brings together multiple funding streams for family support, including CBCAP, Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Social Services Block Grants, John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project, Office of Victims of Crime funds, Elementary and Secondary Education Emergency Relief funds and state general revenue funds. NCFF — which also serves as site lead for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative® in Nebraska and is a partner in the Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential™ initiative — leads a statewide collective-impact prevention effort called the Nebraska Statewide Child Abuse Prevention Partnership. This collaboration brings together a diverse group of public and private system leaders to improve the array of preventive services and reduce disproportionality in outcomes.
In 2008, the partners began to pilot community well-being collaboratives to implement prevention methods on a local level and are now expanding these collaboratives across the state through a network called Bring Up Nebraska. These local partnerships work to meet family needs while NCFF determines how to reimburse against the different funding sources. Working with more than 75 Nebraska counties, the initiative served more than 4,300 parents and 9,000 children and young adults in 2020.
NCFF also works to identify private funding to fill funding gaps, such as the private funding that was used to start the evidence-based program Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. The program, which helps parents improve their relationship with their children and learn how to identify and deal with different kinds of behavior, is now funded by Medicaid.
“It is critical to Invest in a partnership either with an intermediary or partners outside of the child welfare department who can engage without the stigma of what child welfare does,” says Jenny Skala, senior vice president at NCFF. “Child welfare leaders should look to find partners who do what child welfare leaders can’t do alone, and make sure leaders in the community aren’t seeing prevention work as only child abuse and neglect prevention — it is for all families to achieve well-being.”