The Jeffco Community Connection (JCC) project was developed to be a model of system collaboration. Within the Jefferson County Human Services Department, JCC connects two programs, the Federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Jefferson County's Division of Children, Youth and Families (CYF). Funded by a Children's Bureau discretionary grant, JCC began in 2006 as a new practice for serving dual-system families and established a bridge between the two programs by identifying and addressing service delivery gaps and coordinating services for families. As envisioned, CYF staff provides case planning, family assessment, job resource development, and data-sharing technology while TANF provides income support and employment assistance.
The JCC project compared 160 dual-system families, which included kinship families, children in the child welfare system, and families receiving in-home services. They were divided into three intervention groups to participate in the following practices:
- Comprehensive family assessment (CFA)
- CFA and family group conferencing (FGC)
- CFA, FGC, and Parent Partner mentoring
To determine effectiveness of the program, outcome data was collected at several levels. Family outcome data were collected at baseline, every 6 months, and at case closure using the North Carolina Family Assessment Scale for General Services (NCFAS-G), CFA, and about eight self-report instruments. Project staff assessed client and staff perceptions of collaborative services; measures of family permanency, safety, self-sufficiency, prosperity, and support; and community partnerships. Results from these assessments are used for intervention, case planning, and to evaluate the program's impact.
In April 2011 the project completed a preliminary evaluation report, Assessing Outcomes Among Dual-System Welfare and Child Welfare Involved Families, which included both qualitative and quantitative data. Findings that emerged from the qualitative case study of one family included the importance of timely case closure, the need to match program services to a family's unique situation, and the potential for Parent Partner mentors to increase their instrumental assistance to families in addition to providing social support.
One quantitative analysis did not identify any significant changes by treatment group from baseline to 6-month follow-up, most likely due to the small follow-up sample size (40 cases) and to inconsistency in delivery of services. As the program comes to an end, JCC hopes, with high-quality data and a comprehensive evaluation approach, to show solid evidence of the benefit of service collaboration, CFA, FGC, Parent Partner mentoring, and other services implemented by the program.
Families gave positive feedback about the project. They said they experienced an increase in effective support, clearer expectations and guidelines, help with developing realistic case planning goals, and less anxiety when meeting with social services workers. Mentors from Parent Partners appeared helpful in preventing relapse from substance abuse and collecting data for the CFAs.
The preliminary evaluation report offers recommendations for program personnel, which include placing more focus on improving program processes and communication related to referral, participant status, and tracking.
Reprinted from Children's Bureau Express, "Site Visit: Jeffco Community Connection" (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov).