The Permanency Innovations Initiative:  A New Way to Work in Child Welfare

The Permanency Innovations Initiative: A New Way to Work in Child Welfare

Narrator: The Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII): A New Way to Work
in Child Welfare. One of the greatest challenges
in child welfare is our most vulnerable
children and youth who remain in foster care
the longest. The Permanency Innovations
Initiative, or PII, a five-year,
Presidential initiative, responded to this need– but not by doing
what has always been done. PII includes six grantees working to solve
different challenges related to long-term foster care
using a common strategy. The grantees, Arizona Department of Economic Security; California Department
of Social Services (CAPP); Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; Los Angeles LGBT Center (RISE); University of Kansas (KIPP); and Washoe County, Nevada
Department of Social Services knew that sub-populations
in their systems have disproportionately longer
lengths of stay in foster care. These groups include
Native American and African-American children; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
and questioning youth; children with severe
emotional disturbances; and children
affected by trauma. – Many children
will enter foster care, and will exit foster care. But for a small minority
of young people, the system is not providing
the outcomes that we want. They are not exiting
into permanency. This is a fundamental failure
of the child welfare system. Narrator: PII grantees
have gone on a learning journey. The PII Approach
offers a new way to examine challenges
facing children and families in the child welfare system
and test solutions. The PII Approach
is distinguished by the integration of implementation science and evaluation research
into a comprehensive approach. The PII approach is very unique among other implementation experiences that I have had, for a number of reasons. Integration of evaluation,
from the very beginning, is something that I think
is an ideal arrangement for implementing any innovation. But also, the robust technical
assistance that we received, and probably most notably, the conceptualization
of implementation through the lens of
implementation science. – It’s really
the staged approach that is most significant in
allowing people the opportunity to collect data, you know, begin implementing early with
a smaller group of participants, and collect data,
see how that goes, because you know
there’s going to be those unanticipated obstacles. Because of that staged approach and this more careful, systematic planning, what I think it creates
is the opportunity to have not only more stable
implementations, but more replicable implementations and interventions. So then we can take
what we learn and hopefully use it
in other communities. Narrator:
What has been learned from PII is a new way to plan for
and approach the journey. The PII Approach means a more
deliberate way of working, yet many in child welfare
feel they cannot slow down because of pressing issues
with much at stake. – Sometimes in child welfare, because of the crisis mode
that we’re in, we feel like we have to
make a decision really quickly, but when we do that, we aren’t exploring
all the possibilities. So what PII allowed us to do
was take a moment to just be
in that exploration mode. – Child welfare
is a very fast-paced, crisis-oriented process, and it is very difficult
to slow down. There is a lot of tensions
within community, within agencies,
within systems of hurry up, hurry up,
hurry up. So, I think the best way
to have the system slow down was really through communication and relationship building. In the PII journey, tollgates were used
as mile markers to assess progress. George Gabel: Tollgates really
serve a valuable function. It brings together
the decision makers to see how things are going, whether things are moving
in the right direction, and whether you should proceed in the same direction, or whether you need to
adjust and move in a slightly different
direction, or if conditions
really demand it, to stop and to start over,
but in a more deliberate way that is going to allow you to sort of redirect your resources. Narrator:
PII is creating a new way of working in child welfare. We are learning that it is
important to slow down and take the right steps
at the right time. – The PII approach required us to be more systemic. We have never implemented
a process previously that evaluated a model,
that studied it, that implemented,
that went back and tweaked it. And, what I’ve noticed since the research component
has been over, is that there have been times that we just want to implement
something that is large scale without using the rigor
of the PII approach, and we realize
that we can’t do that because the PII methodology requires you to be
very disciplined. Narrator:
With the PII journey, we are moving
in the right direction. As always, the journey is just
as important as the destination. – The Children’s Bureau has been
very intentional about putting an increased emphasis on evidence building,
and its grant making requiring grantees to rigorously
evaluate their programs, and disseminate those findings
effectively to the field. – Our team created
a five-volume PDF guide that can also support
the development and implementation
of interventions. The evaluation team
has created several briefs and provided materials
that will be very valuable to other evaluators
who are trying to either use Child Welfare
administrative data, or trying to use this approach
for evaluation, and helping them think
through data mining, and think through
other key work that was conducted
with the PII grantees. There have been
multiple resources that have been created
to support the field, and other human services as well
to try to use this approach. Narrator:
Change is not easy, but these guidance tools
and manuals can help. Resources
are also available from the Children’s Bureau’s Capacity Building Collaborative. For more information about PII, visit the Children’s Bureau website at

Daniel Yohans

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