"Child welfare agencies are accountable to the community not only because they spend local, state, and federal dollars, but also, most critically, because they are charged with protecting vulnerable children from abuse and neglect." (Blome & Steib, 2007, p. 4)
Accountability enables funders, stakeholders, and voters to ensure agencies and their representatives fulfill their responsibilities to those they serve. Within systems serving vulnerable populations, where decisions about safety, permanency, and well-being for children and families must be made every day, accountability is essential. Within a systems of care framework, the principle of accountability extends beyond data or evaluation to focus on processes necessary to build evaluative capacity throughout the child welfare system. Accountability also emphasizes the value of communicating with and soliciting feedback from stakeholders about agency or program activities, expectations, and outcomes.
Meaningful, participatory accountability not only protects those who are served but also helps systems identify better ways to operate, motivate staff, and inform agency decision-makers and funders. Ideally, accountability is integrated seamlessly into routine operations and practices; if not, accountability can be perceived by system staff as a low-value bureaucratic burden.
In the context of the Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration initiative, accountability ensures implementation of the other principles is effective and grant communities' progress is tracked toward improving the child welfare system and outcomes for children and families.
Table of Contents
- Defining Accountability
- Accountability in a Child Welfare Driven System of Care
- Challenges and Strategies in Implementing Accountability
- Implications for Administrators and Stakeholders
- Demonstration Sites, References, and Additional Resources
Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care
In 2003, the Children's Bureau funded nine demonstration grants to test the efficacy of a systems of care approach to improving outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system and to address policy, practice, and cross-system collaboration issues raised by the Child and Family Services Reviews. Specifically, this approach is designed to improve the capacity of human service agencies to strengthen and support families involved in public child welfare through a set of six guiding principles:
- Interagency collaboration;
- Individualized, strengths-based care;
- Cultural and linguistic competence;
- Child, youth, and family involvement;
- Community-based approaches, and;
A Closer Look is a series of short reports that spotlight issues addressed by public child welfare agencies and their partners in implementing systems of care approaches to improve services and outcomes for the children and families they serve. These reports draw on the experiences of communities participating in the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration initiative, and summarize their challenges, promising practices, and lessons learned. The reports provide information communities nationwide can use in planning, implementing, and evaluating effective child welfare driven systems of care.
*The National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center wishes to thank the following individuals for their contributions to the development of this resource: Peggy Taylor, Patrick Harrington, and Jennifer Zajac. back
This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.