Coalition pinpoints intervention goals

overhead looking down on circle of childern with drawing of globe at centerThe Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition, of which NASW is a supporter, met in Washington, D.C., in September, to discuss evidence-based interventions that are part of Title IV-E waiver implementation.

Title IV-E is the major source of federal funding for child welfare services in the United States. In 2011, Congress provided reauthorization for demonstration programs by states to use Title IV-E funds more flexibly through Title IV-E waivers in up to 10 states per year.

Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of NASW’s Social Work Policy Institute, said attendees at the September meeting discussed the fact that implementing many of the Title IV-E waiver demonstrations includes programs that require the child welfare agency to work more closely with families and children, and to provide training to parents to give them skills to be more effective with their children.

The discussion also highlighted the fact that such interventions take time and a skilled workforce.

“One of the lessons learned as these programs are being implemented is that it makes a difference what the background and workloads of the social workers are,” Zlotnik said.

Peter Pecora, managing director of research services for Casey Family Programs and a professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work, was one of the authors of a research brief presented at the meeting called Levels of Research Evidence and Benefit-Cost Data for Title IV-E Waiver Interventions. (PDF)

Pecora discussed the brief, which examines the interventions being used to achieve the three main outcome goals in child welfare — child safety, permanency and well-being.

The primary goal is to protect children from harm; the second is to preserve existing family units, which include birth families or relative families; and the third goal focuses on promoting children’s development into adults who can live independently and contribute to their communities.

Abigail Horn, senior adviser in the Office of Data Analysis, Research and Evaluation within the Health and Human Services Department in Allegheny County, Pa., gave a presentation that looked at the implementation of a Child Welfare Demonstration Project that was put in place in six Pennsylvania counties. They are Allegheny, Crawford, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Venango and Philadelphia, which represent about 50 percent of the state’s foster-care population.

The committed goals of the CWDP project over the course of five years is to reach a 30 percent reduction in the areas of foster care re-entry rates, congregate (independent) care, and the number of days a child is in foster care.

Clare Anderson, a policy fellow with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago who is working with Pecora to help states implement IV-E waivers, and Debra Porchia-Usher, principal deputy director of operations for Child and Family Services Agency in Washington, D.C., also spoke at the meeting. Porchia-Usher’s presentation focused on the engagement of neighborhood stakeholders to implement evidence-based child welfare innovations in their communities.

The Children’s Defense Fund organizes the Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition, which meets regularly to discuss and share research related to child welfare topics. Attendees include stakeholders from national organizations that represent the breadth of services to children. Staff from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau who are overseeing Title IV-E Waiver Demonstrations also attended the meeting.