Making effective investments: What if we could invest more of our federal child welfare funding in preventing child abuse and neglect rather than placing children in foster care?
Government at the local, state and federal levels has established a broad array of services designed to respond to a variety of health, safety and human services needs in communities. These include child welfare, education, health care, veterans affairs, criminal justice and homelessness, among others.
At all levels, government is a complex system. It produces a web of programs, agencies and departments that report up a chain of command to executive leadership. They work in an environment where legislative bodies set public policies, hold systems accountable and, of course, approve budgets where departments compete with other worthy programs for a share of limited funding. This categorical approach to funding often results in siloed service delivery systems that are difficult to coordinate – even when agencies are working on issues that are intricately connected.
Understanding that dynamic and breaking down those silos are crucial parts of building a Community of Hope.
A powerful example of that kind of understanding is reflected in a report released in late 2013 by Los Angeles County’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors created the commission after the death of an 8-year-old boy within the foster care system. It was tasked with making recommendations for improving the community’s ability to keep children safe from harm.
There must be a fundamental cultural and structural shift to a multi-disciplinary system of county departments with common priorities, shared responsibilities, and collaborative problem solving.
– Los Angeles County's Blue Ribbon Commission Report 2013
The commission recognized that “the failure to protect children cannot be attributed to one agency or department.” Its recommendations included the following:
“There must be a fundamental cultural and structural shift to a multi-disciplinary system of county departments with common priorities, shared responsibilities, and collaborative problem solving. Child safety must become a priority across these departments, coupled with mechanisms to work collaboratively.”
This call to action reflects the importance of coordinating governments’ many opportunities to affect the lives of children and families. When this kind of thinking is combined with local leadership, strong community coalitions, a shared vision and effective use of data, a Community of Hope can become a reality for all of our children.