Engaging families in Family First implementation in Colorado

August 29, 2019

By Sarah Lipscomb, County Liaison, Colorado Department of Human Services

The passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act provided an opportunity to continue creating positive change in the systems that serve Colorado's children, youth and families. We knew gathering input from those who are or who have been involved in child welfare would be crucial to inform future decisions. As Colorado brought together stakeholders to create a roadmap for implementing Family First, a constituency workgroup was formed to ensure child, youth and family voice is represented throughout Colorado’s design and implementation. Through their lived experience, these individuals are experts on the impact of policy and practice decisions. That expertise is critical to understand child welfare issues holistically to create sustainable, effective solutions that benefit all Coloradans.

To ensure family voice is incorporated into decision making, we created several formal ongoing strategies to incorporate family voice into decision making. 

  • Maintain a Constituency Engagement Workgroup that represents state and county program and practice experience, with members who have direct access to constituents for ongoing feedback loops. 
  • Develop and implement surveys, focus groups or targeted outreach to specific constituent group(s) to seek input, guidance, or reactions and provide feedback regarding impact and next steps.
  • Assist with constituent representation on Family First teams or workgroups as needed or requested.
    • We currently have a constituent that serves on the Implementation team who brings perspectives from several family voice groups to the decision-making table.

A survey was developed to receive broad input from young people, parent or family members and foster parents or kinship caregivers. We received 723 responses and created a framework to incorporate their input into decisions.

This framework keeps the main feedback themes from the survey participants at the forefront of the implementation team’s decision making. Those themes include: 

  1. Supporting better communication, building more respect between the system and clients, and valuing the youth, family, and foster parent/kinship provider as decision-makers
  2. Improving overall system issues including ease of navigation, timeliness of services, and over burdensome and unclear requirements 
  3. Lowering financial burdens around childcare, transportation, housing, food and energy
  4. Increasing timely access to behavior supports and therapy for the  youth and overall family

Incorporating family voice will be an ongoing process. To date the Family First Implementation Team has incorporated constituent family voice by:

  • Working to limit the number of times a young person or family is assessed by streamlining those efforts,
  • Working to increase timely access to behavior and therapeutic supports; and
  • And formally integrating residential providers and counties on discharge and after-care plans to provide wrap-around support to help with families with the transition back home. 

For more information, contact email cdhs_countyLiaison@state.co.us. Visit the Family First Implementation Team webpage to learn more.

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