The vision of DCYF is that Washington state’s children and youth grow up safe and healthy – thriving physically, emotionally, and academically, nurtured by family and community. In order to achieve this, we must maintain a relentless focus on outcomes for children.
We will work with state agency partners, research institutions, and other external stakeholders to develop overarching child outcome goals. The purpose of identifying these goals is to give us a snapshot of what tools, skills, and resources children need to grow up healthy and thriving. These goals will help us understand areas we are succeeding in right now, and places where we have improvements to make. While setting these goals, we will be paying particular attention to the ways in which race, ethnicity, and poverty impact a child’s opportunity for success. With a better understanding of our population, we will be better able to prioritize and develop services for the children, youth, and families furthest from opportunity.
As we determine the child outcome goals, we also need an effective tool to measure, track, and report on outcomes. So, we will simultaneously be focused on building analytic frameworks to go along with the outcome goals. This will help us make sense of the data we get and determine how to use that data in a meaningful way in our recommendations on how to improve the education, health, and resilience of Washington’s children and youth.
At DCYF, our goal is to help all children, youth and families thrive. In order to achieve this, we must use policies and procedures that are shown to get the best results. That means we have to measure how well the Children’s Administration, the Department of Early Learning, and the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration contribute to the health, education, and resilience of Washington’s children, youth and families.
First, we’ll look at where we are now. We’ll gather data and talk to people who work at or in partnership with the agencies of origin, and we’ll come up with quantitative measures of our performance. It will be important as we’re doing this exercise to ask ourselves: “Are our processes set up to deliver our services in the ways that best support outcomes for children, youth, and families?” This means not just counting transactions, but measuring the quality and the sustained impact our actions. Then, we’ll connect those driving factors to the child outcome goals that we are working right now to establish, as well as to effective practices throughout the country. That will help us set targets for improvement ― and strategies to reach them.
This assessment and plan for improvement will help the new agency shift gears where necessary and monitor success as we implement new efforts. In this first year of the new agency and into the future, we will increase the positive observable impact we have on children, youth and families by setting these targets and implementing high-quality plans to meet them.
We know that when we provide the right combination of services at the right time, we can build resilience in a child or family, or prevent them from even entering into the child welfare and juvenile justice system in the first place. Our task at DCYF is to provide a suite of support services needed to reduce further trauma and help families to experience healthy and resilient lives.
Building an integrated services approach allows us to look critically at how clients move through our systems and what improvements we can make to those experiences. Where the Baseline Performance Assessment will look at what determines the quality and sustained impact of our actions with clients, the integrated services approach will help re-envision how we deliver the system of services.
Our work begins by looking at the current services we offer and evaluating them on how well they achieve positive outcomes goals. We will identify problem and success points across child welfare, early learning and juvenile justice programs and look for opportunities to create a cohesive approach, increase efficiencies and improve family experiences. We will identify gaps in delivery of and connection to services in order to align the structure of our system with the outcomes we hope to achieve.
We will place children, youth, and families firmly at the center of our thinking when designing the improved system. Our focus will be on keeping children and youth from entering, having lengthy involvement with, or reentering child welfare or juvenile justice systems. From this, we will develop a better understanding of how the new agency’s programs and services can be best organized into a system to improve the health, education, and resilience of Washington’s children.
DCYF is proud to partner with many service providers around the state to provide critical services to children and their families. The contracted services they provide should be high quality and lead to positive outcomes for children and youth. To help make sure that’s the case, as directed by the legislature, all client service contracts under the new department will be performance-based.
So what exactly does that mean?
There are many steps that need to happen for us to achieve better outcomes for children and youth. Some will happen before the department launches July 1, 2018 and others will happen during the department’s early formative years. It’s important to acknowledge previous efforts to implement performance based contracting so we can build on successes and avoid the same missteps as we establish a new culture and approach. It’s also important for the new department to draw on data, best practices, and input from the community.
We’ll begin by reviewing current state laws, policies and contracting practices at the Children’s Administration, Department of Early Learning, and Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, as well as engage community partners to help us develop a common definition of what “performance-based” contracting will mean for the new department moving forward. Once the definition is developed we’ll turn our attention to implementing a set of core performance standards for client services contracts executed July 1, 2018 or later.
Our long-term vision is to build a framework for DCYF client services contracts to support the achievement of child outcomes, what we’re calling “outcomes-oriented” performance based contracting. We know we can’t do this alone. Throughout this work our goal is to support providers and the critical work they do, while ensuring state resources are directed toward services that have a positive impact on the child, youth and families.