As part of our third fellowship cohort, we placed a total of five fellows across different jurisdictions in the state of Colorado. This distribution has allowed us to explore whether a regional cohort may be more impactful than five individual fellows. So far, we believe the emerging evidence suggests the answer is yes. Our fellows have accelerated one another in learning the child welfare landscape in Colorado. They have gotten a clearer picture of the system, been invited to more of the critical influencer tables, and moved information not only between one another but to additional stakeholders that they’re connected to in each of their placements. They continue to explore whether they might have a more explicit role in amplifying and accelerating each other’s efforts, such as through a data-sharing approach, a prevention-focused shared project, or a multi-fellow effort on implementing some component of Family First. Read on for additional details about our fellows’ work in Colorado since January 2019:
At the Colorado Human Services Directors Association, Yumiko Dougherty is heavily involved in the coordination of Family First implementation planning and a range of prevention-oriented activities at various levels – statewide, regionally, and with individual counties. Key achievements include collaborating with key stakeholders to establish and launch a Family First governance structure that deepens and formalizes a strong voice for counties. An emerging core theme for her work with the Human Services Directors Association is working with counties to identify key priorities and concerns, translating them into actionable strategies or policies, and working with other partners toward implementation. Coordinating the feedback loop between the state and the large number and range of different counties is a critical ingredient for successful systems change, and Yumiko is playing a major role in facilitation, communication, and change management.
Mollie Bradlee is coordinating the implementation of the state’s three Pay for Success initiatives at the Colorado Department of Human Services, all to benefit vulnerable children and families. The projects include an initiative to improve educational outcomes for youth in foster care, an initiative to reduce future systems involvement for Denver runaway youth, and an initiative to expand an evidence-based therapeutic intervention to underserved regions of Colorado. She’s successfully stewarding the many relationships – practitioners, county leaders, state leaders, researchers, philanthropists, and program participants – that keep these projects moving forward. Emerging from the work on these initiatives is a clear sense that the flow of data between the state and counties across various units of government (for example, local child welfare agencies and school systems) is a barrier to truly understanding and improving child and family outcomes. Performance management, data sharing, and flow of information for informed decision-making are emerging as key areas of focus for her fellowship.
Meanwhile in Douglas County, Jeff Tran has already built a user-ready analysis tool for the county leaders and supervisors. He has programmed using Microsoft PowerBI an application to pull and integrate data from the TRAILS data system, linking its administrative and financial data. Douglas County now has a simple, visual, readily-accessible way to see which children and families are getting what services and what the total investment in different service types are. This enables the county to answer – easily and in real-time – questions about where they are at relative to budget, how service use is similar and/or different by worker/supervisory team, and what the total investment by different service types are. Jeff will continue to expand capabilities for this tool, and after testing it further in Douglas County, it could also be spread to other counties. Additionally, Jeff will be working with service providers as well as the judicial system to continuously monitor and improve outcomes for children and families.
Becca Frank has been working with the City and County of Denver to hone in on the key initial purpose/functionality of the client-facing technology they are building. Through her listening tour with stakeholders and observational research of the current client experience, she and the team are taking a deeper look at two potential first areas of focus – one is accessing economic benefits like SNAP and EBT without calling or visiting the county offices, the other is connecting families to additional services and resources. The next phase of her work is user feedback. She’ll be pursuing this work in several rounds, beginning from open-ended interviews, which Becca and her team at Denver Human Services will conduct, and progressing to consultant-supported methods, including sharing prototypes for rapid feedback.
Finally, Anthony Silverman is working to better coordinate those in Larimer County who support children and families to create better child welfare outcomes. His listening tour with stakeholders in Larimer revealed several high-leverage points for greater coordination. One strategy is to get those tracking outcomes for children – provider agencies, United Way, and philanthropy – to regularly collaborate. The strategic involvement of data professionals and influence for more of them to track and help decrease child maltreatment is an emergent approach that holds great promise. The first project for this data professionals group is a service mapping tool, which will help show where services are dense and where there may be gaps. Another point of collaboration for Anthony is to find formal and informal “brokers” of services: those who help families connect to what they need to support their children. Anthony and Larimer County are working on a theory of change that these brokers are critical in reducing maltreatment. The ones that organically exist need more information about what services and supports families can access. In the communities where fewer brokers exist, these roles can be developed and serve as the first line of prevention.