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Washington CASA Association is a network of 10 local programs in Washington state serving 12 counties. Through our valued membership with National CASA/GAL, we belong to a network of 950 community-based programs nationwide, that recruit, screen, train, and support court-appointed special advocate (CASA) and guardian ad litem (GAL) volunteers. Those advocates are volunteers, just like you, who stand up and speak out to help children experiencing abuse and neglect.


June if Family Reunification Month

June is National Reunification Month. It’s a time to reflect on family strengths that lead to successful reunifications. In honor of the month, Washington CASA Association celebrates families, volunteers and service providers who work hard to reunite separated families.

According to the Children’s Bureau with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the majority of children exiting foster care are reunited with their families. In fact, over the past few years, the percentage of reunifications that occurred in less than 12 months from the time of entry into foster care was between 65.5-67 percent.

In Washington State, the % of children who reunited with their families within 3 years.

(Source: Partners for Our Children)

In Washington, CASA/GAL Programs helped 49% of families served reunify or remain together

(Source: WA CASA Association 2019 Survey)

One of National CASA/GAL’s guiding principles or best practices for its member network of 948 state organizations and local programs recognizes the importance of family preservation and/or reunification. In guiding principle 2 of the 2020 National CASA/GAL Standards for Local Programs, it states:


Black Lives Matter- We Stand in Solidarity

The inhumane and senseless murder of Mr. George Floyd and the many others who have gone before him provide a painful reminder of the racial injustices that pervade American life. Staff and volunteers at CASA programs know this too well. The higher rates of incarceration, poverty, and unemployment, and the poorer health outcomes among Blacks manifest themselves in disproportional representation of Black children in the child welfare system. 


Latest News

The child care system has received an enormous influx of federal funds through the various relief packages Congress passed since the beginning of the pandemic. These funds provide challenges and opportunities to transform the child care system, address systemic inequities, and implement innovative approaches to help children, families, and providers navigate this unstable period. Contract-based financing mechanisms can drive stable and predictable resources to increase resources and improve quality for child care centers and home-based providers.

A contract-based financing approach brings some of the most complex state government systems into the policy discussion. State administrators interested in this approach are best served by developing a detailed plan before implementing contracts with providers to ensure that programs receiving a contract are not overburdened by paperwork and other requirements. We identify eight questions state administrators should consider when developing a plan for a contracted approach. We additionally outline what a successful contracting plan should consider, including timelines, needs and definitions, roles and responsibilities, transparency, capacity, performance-based contracting, targeted contracting goals, data systems, and reporting requirements. Effective contracting approaches that promote equity require states to thoughtfully consider a range of questions, include stakeholder engagement, and carefully plan how they want to proceed given their state procurement systems and goals or desired outcomes. Adopting a plan for contracts will help ensure that both states and providers benefit from the contract design.

The child care/early care and education (CC/ECE) workforce faces serious challenges because of the pandemic’s impact, which has compounded other challenges the field has faced for decades. Contract-based financing mechanisms are one approach that could help stabilize the field. To inform state efforts to stabilize the workforce with the significant new federal pandemic relief investment in child care, we convened 26 state administrators, researchers, stakeholders, and advocates to discuss the potential of using contracts to advance specific workforce goals.

Key takeaways from this convening include the following:

Prioritizing contract-based financing approaches to address systemic inequities is critical.
Contracts can be linked or delinked from subsidy slots.
Contracts can be with individual workers, programs, or intermediary organizations.
Contracts can be targeted to affect various workforce goals, including salaries/income, benefits, and/or professional development opportunities.
Contracts can be financed through numerous funding sources.

In this work, we present more than 30 contracting strategies states might consider using to achieve their goals to support the workforce.

This brief explains how to engage stakeholders in your research and the benefits of doing so. We use examples from recent early care and education studies to illustrate how Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) stakeholders have been included in research. These examples show what you can learn by listening to and talking with (engaging) the people or groups affected by the services your agency provides (the stakeholders). We also include resource tips with links in case you want to learn more about particular strategies for improving the quality and usefulness of your research.

Data from the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey show that household food insecurity fell by nearly 30 percent between spring 2020 and 2021. In the first few weeks of the pandemic shutdown in March/April 2020, more than 1 in 5 adults (21.7 percent) ages 18 to 64 reported experiencing food insecurity in the past 30 days. By April 2021, this share had declined to 15.3 percent, or approximately 1 in 7.

This downward trend was apparent across all racial and ethnic groups; however, worrisome disparities persisted among communities of color, with Hispanic/Latinx adults reporting the highest rates of food insecurity in the past 30 days in April 2021. Nutrition policy changes, including increasing the maximum SNAP benefit, facilitating broader access to school meal programs, and implementing the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program helped provide a buffer for families struggling to afford an adequate diet. More broadly, enhanced unemployment benefits and periodic economic impact payments (stimulus checks or recovery rebates) have provided households with additional resources that can help meet basic needs.

Steven Brown, a senior research associate and associate director of the Racial Equity Analytics Lab, testified before the Council of the District of Columbia’s Committee on Business and Economic Development. The hearing included a discussion on the “Child Wealth Building Act of 2021” (B24-236) and tax policy proposals to build wealth equity in the District’s COVID-19 economic recovery plans. In his testimony, Steven Brown demonstrated how baby bonds can be a bold wealth-based solution to addressing the large racial wealth gap. Signe-Mary, vice president of the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population also participated in the hearing as an expert witness.

Elaine Maag, Principal Research Associate in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, testified before the Council of the District of Columbia’s Committee on Business and Economic Development. The hearing included a discussion on the “Child Wealth Building Act of 2021” (B24-236) and tax policy proposals to build wealth equity in the District’s covid-19 economic recovery plans. In her testimony, Elaine Maag provided an overview of the Thrive Project and the evidence-based benefits of universal basic income.

Family-Centered Community Change (FCCC), launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (the Foundation), supported local partnerships in three neighborhoods with low economic resources over seven years (2012–19) as they developed more integrated sets of services to help adults and children succeed together in a two-generation approach. This innovative effort sought to bring two-generation strategies into existing place-based comprehensive community initiatives in Buffalo, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and San Antonio, Texas. The Foundation also provided training and technical assistance in the third year of the effort to help the community partnerships to incorporate principles of racial and ethnic equity and inclusion. The Urban Institute conducted a formative evaluation of this effort that included qualitative data collection, descriptive analysis of program data, and a cost study.

By the end of 2019, community grantees had enhanced their partnerships and developed new coaching and family supports. They also built out the existing single-generation services available to FCCC families. They achieved many of the tenets of integrated two-generation services, though we describe in this report opportunities for deepening and enhancing the work. Tangible legacies of this work include new mutual commitments among partners; new cultures of data sharing; new models of service delivery (e.g., embedding family services within schools); and improvements in the quality of and/or connections to early care and education (ECE) providers.

Adult and family services: A key service across the three FCCC efforts was family coaching, in which coaches helped adults set goals for themselves and often for their children. Coaches then helped connect families with resources and opportunities to meet those goals. Two of the three communities also offered financial coaching. Other services included housing assistance, employment services, adult education and training, and family events. Mental health was one common area of unmet need, and all three communities were challenged in finding appropriate providers. One community succeeded in developing an adult mental health partnership late in the grant period.

Child services: Each community partnership took a different approach to child services. In one community, the lead organization ran high-quality child care centers and neighborhood elementary schools, so it was able to directly integrate family services in those spaces. Another community struggled for many years with the availability and affordability of ECE slots and eventually doubled down on integrating an enhanced service partnership in the local elementary school, focusing on supplementing the services for young school-age children and their families. The third community took a structural approach, improving the quality of community ECE providers so families and their children would have better options available, but it did not provide many direct child services to participating families. Finally, all three communities offered some form of parenting education or home visiting.

Common service challenges: All three communities had to contend with structural inequities, as detailed in Popkin et al. (2019). These inequities included challenges with job quality and availability, transportation, and housing quality and affordability. In addition, although all three community partnerships wanted to orient services to meet adult and family goals, they sometimes found it difficult to put together the right combination of services to meet the wide range of goals families established. They also struggled to secure funding to supplement the FCCC grants. The challenge of the limited supply of quality and affordable ECE options (and in some cases elementary education options)—an issue well documented in child policy research (e.g., Henly and Adams 2018)—sometimes proved to be insurmountable. Individual communities also faced challenges around shortage of adult training slots, difficulty engaging employers, and staff turnover.

Partnership development: Partners needed to overcome traditional organizational boundaries that naturally define independent organizations. Generally, partnerships were strongest when funding was secure, when partners felt invested in the work, when leaders communicated a clear vision and direction, and when staff felt they understood each other’s contributions and roles. Informed by the FCCC experience, the Urban research team developed a framework to characterize partnership integration in two-generation efforts (McDaniel et al. 2021).

Costs: As detailed in a separate report, combining and coordinating adult and child services and developing an infrastructure to support families requires substantial personnel investments (Gold et al. 2021). The Foundation gave communities flexibility in their FCCC grants to be able to build service infrastructure—a cost considered to be “overhead” in traditional funding models but that is necessary to disrupt traditional models.

Lessons:

Communities need to have a deep understanding of the community-level contextual factors that affect families’ opportunities and constraints. Residents and long-established community-serving organizations are experts on many of these contextual challenges and can provide important insights to orient community-based work, alongside a traditional scan of community data indicators.
Identifying key concepts and goals at the outset would help orient future work. Setting out a framework for two-generation efforts that includes not only the types of services, but also the nature of the coordination and alignment that should bring them together, could improve coherency in family experiences.
Despite the emphasis on racial and ethnic equity and inclusion and resources provided by the Foundation, it was difficult for community partnerships to internalize and operationalize key concepts, especially midcourse. Disrupting racist paradigms requires real power-sharing that not merely includes families and communities but centers them in the development of strategies to break their own cycle of intergenerational poverty and gives them the necessary resources and tools to take action.
This type of work has potential stakeholders at multiple organizational levels. The FCCC experience suggests that engaging policymakers and government service providers, individual organizations, and resident families in planning and design may allow for new, creative opportunities to emerge.
Effective partnerships are complex but critical, and they take time to develop, often through trial and error. Determining key elements of partnerships explicitly in a way that all partners are comfortable with—including funding relationships, organizational culture alignment, development infrastructure, communications channels, and other dynamics—will increase the chance of successful, sustained organizational relationships.
It will be important for researchers documenting future efforts to try to understand how families fared as a result of their participation through an outcomes or impact study. Documenting the effectiveness of an intervention helps inform meaningful change efforts and makes the case for continued investment of energy, time, and financial resources. Such evaluation efforts should also be sensitive to the issues raised here, including the context, the framework and goals (including ideally a logic model or well-specified theory of change), and how community members and the various partners can be appropriately respected and involved in the research process so that the work is not extractive.

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession, the renewed attention on racial justice, and the turbulent 2020 presidential election occurred after the end of the grant and research period. As pressures from these changes continue and even after they are nominally over, service providers and other stakeholders will want to consider a purposeful approach to deal with social recovery and processing continued trauma rather than returning to business as usual.

Across the United States, interest has grown in two-generation approaches as a strategy for lifting families out of poverty. These approaches vary in the combination of services they offer and their target population, but they all share a common goal of supporting low-income children and their parents simultaneously so entire families can progress together (Aspen Ascend 2014). Despite the growing prominence of two-generation approaches, less is known about their cost and the size of the investment needed to make them successful. Only one published study has estimated the full cost of operating two-generation programs (James Bell Associates 2018). Yet, no study to date has isolated the specific costs associated with bringing together existing single-generation services (i.e., those for parents only and those for children only), building two-generation services, and coordinating interventions for families within a two-generation framework.

This study seeks to address this knowledge gap by estimating the staff labor cost of the two-generation coordination and integration that holds together Family-Centered Community Change (FCCC). Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, FCCC is a two-generation effort that integrated existing single-generation neighborhood services and developed new family-focused services in three service footprints located in Buffalo, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and San Antonio, Texas.

 This study may be useful for multiple audiences. By providing three case studies of the staff labor costs of two-generation service coordination, this research may help other localities and nonprofit service providers in budget planning and resource allocation when organizing their own two-generation efforts. Funders and policymakers, including representatives of state and local governments, interested in supporting similar collaborative work may benefit from understanding the personnel investment necessary to support cross-organizational partnerships and coordinated service delivery. Researchers may also benefit from the findings, which could benchmark future two-generation cost studies.

Cost Estimates

This study isolates and estimates the staff labor costs associated with the connective tissue of two-generation programs, as follows:

Coordinating and integrating existing child services and adult education and training services in a place-based effort: These costs included time staff spent on outreach and enrollment for two-generation programs; leadership, management, and data activities; and development and maintenance of cross-sector partnerships and relationships over the lifetime of the program.
Directly providing services that had an explicit two-generation focus, such as family coaching and family services and events: These services were designed to support the entire family. The community partners built these as part of the two-generation efforts.
Directly providing new single-generation services: These services were created as a result of the FCCC program. However, the study did not include the full cost of directly providing single-generation services that preexisted FCCC, as these were already funded and operating within each community.

Two-generation programs will incur other nonlabor costs in addition to the costs presented in this study. Service providers may also incur nonlabor costs if they helped participants overcome financial barriers, for example, by covering costs like groceries, transportation, or tuition. We excluded nonlabor expenses from this study, considering they are often discretionary, not well tracked, and vary from program to program and across cities. We also think that many community organizations can estimate nonlabor costs reasonably well using local knowledge, while the cost of the staff time required to enhance existing place-based services with a two-generation model is less well known and harder to estimate. The main contribution of this study is helping program planners estimate these costs on the basis of three case studies. Box 1 summarizes the types of costs tracked.

We conducted this study during the sixth and seventh years of FCCC’s seven-year grant period. The two-generation interventions in each community were continuously evolving over the grant period, and core elements of the programming have continued even after the grant period ended. Therefore, the costs represent a snapshot at a point in time after several years of evolution in each two-generation effort. Given the timing of the study, we do not have information about start-up costs.

Two-Generation Costs Tracked in the FCCC Study

Outreach and enrollment: costs related to interactions with the community’s target population to inform, engage, or bring in prospective clients or currently enrolled clients who may or may not be involved in activities.

Coaching: costs related to all forms of coaching, including financial counseling and job coaching, for enrolled adults.

Training and adult education: costs related to the direct provision of any new training or credentialing program established because of FCCC, as well as costs related to coordinating of any existing training or credentialing program.

Child services: costs related to the direct provision of any new child services established because of FCCC, as well as costs related to coordinating any existing educational services for children, including child care, early education and prekindergarten, and auxiliary elementary school services.

Family services: costs related to integrating the parent and child components of FCCC interventions.

Coordination and referrals: costs related to linking clients with services and resources, which may be part of the FCCC partnership or outside it.

Data entry and analysis: costs related to collecting, entering, managing, and analyzing two-generation programmatic data (excludes costs directly related to the evaluation).

Management and supervision: costs related to management and supervision of employees on FCCC activities.

Leadership: costs that shape the organizational and institutional composition of the FCCC effort.

Key Findings

The three communities were different from each other—each represented a distinct approach to two-generation programming with a different number of organizational partners and staff providing services, various levels of service intensity, and different services offered. All three cities had a similar cost of living (Popkin et al. 2019). The number of families served over the entire FCCC grant period also varied by community, though the official enrollment numbers reported here substantially underestimate the total number of individuals and families that received any FCCC service. Therefore, we do not compute or report a per-participant cost. Findings represent three separate case studies and should only be compared across communities to understand which activities were more or less costly, rather than to compare total dollar amounts.

Buffalo’s cost of staff labor came to an estimated $120,600 over a three-month period (October 2018–December 2018). The largest proportion of costs came from data activities (23 percent), coaching (18 percent), management (14 percent), and outreach and enrollment (12 percent). The share of costs spent on data activities aligned with Buffalo’s emphasis on refining its data-tracking procedures and using them for management purposes. Buffalo formally enrolled 274 families over the entire grant period.
Columbus’s cost of staff labor came to an estimated $104,200 over a three-month period (October–December 2019). Most costs were related to coaching (22 percent), leadership activities (19 percent), child services (16 percent), and data activities (15 percent). The share of costs spent on coaching aligned with Columbus’s intensive approach to family coaching. In Columbus, 112 families were formally enrolled in FCCC.
San Antonio’s cost of staff labor came to an estimated $295,300 over a three-month period (January–March 2019). The largest costs were related to leadership activities (21 percent), followed by management (20 percent), data activities (16 percent), and child services (14 percent). The share of costs spent on leadership activities aligned with San Antonio’s emphasis on coordination across numerous two-generation organizational and agency partners. San Antonio formally enrolled 461 families.
Nearly all labor costs (92 percent or more) were compensated in every community, meaning that staff were paid for their time (as opposed to working “off the clock”). The staff roles that reported working the largest amount of uncompensated time varied across each community. The tasks that required the most uncompensated work were outreach and enrollment activities in San Antonio and leadership in Buffalo and Columbus.
Data tasks were among the top four most costly activities in every community. Staff used data to track participants’ service receipt and to coordinate service delivery. The communities were also required to report data to outside organizations (including FCCC evaluators) for performance measurement and evaluation. The research team instructed FCCC staff members to record evaluation-related costs separately so they would be excluded from this study, but some community leadership members thought that some evaluation costs may have been captured in the reported totals.
Adult education and training were among the least costly activities in each community, though this is likely because our study captures the costs of coordinating these services, rather than the full cost of providing them.

Opportunities for Future Research

The costs presented in the study estimate the resources staff needed to bring and hold together two-generation programming in three separate communities. Questions remain about the costs associated with planning and setting up two-generation programming and what programs cost per person or per family served. More evidence is needed on the cost of providing the entire package of family services, including child and adult education and training and nonlabor costs. Future research could explore these questions to estimate the full cost of two-generation programs. In conjunction with an impact study, future efforts could also compare the costs against the benefits of two-generation efforts for the families and communities they serve.

This report examines how the pandemic and related economic downturn affected the need for safety net supports; actions states are taking to mitigate the immense hardship the pandemic has caused; implications for racial equity; and challenges, opportunities, and questions facing state leaders as of April 2021. Drawing on interviews with experts on state budgets, governance, and safety net programs between December 2020 and February 2021, and other sources, we examine the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food assistance programs; housing assistance; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance; child care; and Medicaid and other health programs. We find that although the timing and depth of the crisis has varied by state, with significant federal help, most states’ situations are now improving. To mitigate the pandemic’s effects, states have, for example, used federal flexibilities to improve access to food assistance; provided emergency rental assistance and established moratoria on evictions and utility shut-offs; implemented online and telephone application and case management systems to help people access cash assistance and other supports remotely; adjusted policies to ensure child care providers can remain in business; and used federal flexibilities to safeguard coverage of Medicaid enrollees, support health care providers, and improve access to telehealth. Following passage of the American Rescue Plan and improved health and economic situations, states now face crucial questions about how to equitably and efficiently spend the large and temporary influx of federal relief funds; address the racial and ethnic disparities and economic inequality that have worsened during the pandemic; prepare for an uncertain future; and determine which investments or innovations of policy and practice to carry forward beyond the pandemic.

Promoting Adolescent Sexual Health and Safety (PASS) is a unique, community-based effort in Washington, DC, to create and evaluate a program for teenagers that is focused on sexual health and tailored to their experiences and needs. PASS is the result of a partnership between the Benning Terrace District of Columbia Housing Authority community, including participating teens, and the Urban Institute.

This report presents an overview of the PASS program model. We begin with a description of the PASS process and the community engagement theory behind the approach. We then present a discussion of participant outcomes and an implementation narrative that represents the experiences of both the PASS facilitators and participants. We also describe changes we made to the PASS model and innovations that occurred at least in part because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The final section presents the lessons learned and next steps for PASS.

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