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National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center for Systems of Care.
Interagency Collaboration in a Child Welfare Driven System of Care
For decades, many working in child welfare policy and practice have recognized that the children and families served by the child welfare system have needs that are linked to their home, community, and school environments. In addition, children and families often have emotional, health, and legal needs (Kortenkamp & Ehrle, 2002). No single agency has ever had the legislative authority, mandate, staff, or financial resources to meet all the needs of children and families within these environments. Caseworkers have always sought to connect children and families with services of other government and community-based providers. However, the siloed structures of agencies, each with its unique State and Federal mandates, categorical funding, and discrete and sometimes overlapping array of services, have presented some challenges.
Child welfare administrations have been involved in systems of care development since the mid-1980s, primarily by supporting the work of mental health systems addressing the needs of children with serious mental health disorders. Beginning in 2000, however, the Federal government implemented the Child and Family Services Reviews, which are results-oriented, comprehensive reviews designed to assist States with continuous quality improvement of outcomes for the children, youth, and families in care. The first round of reviews pointed out the significant need for systemic change and increased interagency collaboration to ensure permanency, safety, and well-being. While the reviews are guided by a set of core values, there is considerable overlap between the Child and Family Services Reviews values and systems of care principles (Pires, 2007), making systems of care a potentially useful approach in the development and implementation of Program Improvement Plans.