The Western and Pacific Child Welfare Implementation Center (WPIC) (www.wpicenter.org) provides information and resources that may be of interest to you as you work to improve child welfare services. WPIC provides implementation-focused resources and services to states, counties, territories, and tribes in Regions IX and X and in-depth and long-term consultation and technical assistance to child welfare systems through implementation projects designed to achieve sustainable, systemic change and improve safety, permanency, and well-being for families. Implementation Projects are currently underway in Alaska, Navajo Nation, and Los Angeles.

WPIC Hosts National Tribal Peer-to-Peer Learning Exchange

On April 7, 2013, WPIC sponsored a tribal peer-to-peer exchange in conjunction with the National Indian Child Welfare Association’s (NICWA) annual conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Representatives from 14 tribal nations met with child welfare leaders from the two tribally focused WPIC implementation projects. The peer learning exchange was framed within the context of the WPIC theory of change and the critical aspects of successful implementation: identifying shared vision and values, building leadership capacity, importance of stakeholder engagement, strengthening worker capacity and organizational infrastructure, and working within historical, political, and cultural environment.

The WPIC Navajo Nation Child Welfare Implementation Project facilitated round table discussions focusing on the importance of data tracking and utilization of traditional Navajo values in improving permanency outcomes of Navajo children. Navajo leaders discussed the significance of engaging leadership across systems when working to achieve systems change. Tribal representatives shared common challenges and achievements in working towards their vision of keeping children safe.

Tribal child welfare leaders and the Alaska Office of Children’s Services (OCS) child welfare staff shared perspectives on lessons learned from the Alaska Child Welfare Disproportionality Reduction Project including approaches for improving interagency collaboration and problem solving between tribes, Alaska OCS, courts, and other service organizations. Tribal and state leaders stressed the value in staying at the table together despite tremendous challenges and mistrust. A significant aspect shared by both entities was the necessity of holding courageous conversations in order to build relationships over time. In addition, WPIC shared the ways it had helped to build tribal leadership capacity, advocacy skills, and community engagement that resulted in greater tribal participation in decision making and service delivery for children and families in the tribal child welfare system. Tribal leaders also shared how they identified available services in their community to keep families together and children in their own home, whenever possible, through the development of a tribal in-home services model.

Navajo Nation, Chief Justice Herb Yazzie, provided an inspirational luncheon keynote presentation on his vision for leadership within tribal child welfare. Chief Justice Yazzie stressed the importance of advocating on behalf of Native children and keeping them within their tribe and culture stating, “we can make our voice heard that our law, our value is not to be diminished or belittled and we will question what is being imposed. We are a distinct people with every right to make those demands.” Furthermore he proclaimed, “Laws don’t mean anything unless they reflect the values of the people.”

Leadership Summits Held in Remote Regions of Alaska

Two Tribal Leadership Summits were held in remote regions in Alaska in April and May 2013. Each summit stressed the importance of tribal and regional Office of Children’s Services (OCS) staff stepping into a leadership role to protect Alaskan Native children. Participants engaged in activities that helped empower them to act with authority and to take responsibility for protecting the children within their community. Engaging young people and families in the Summits helped staff better understand the implications of child welfare policies and practices. The Summit also provided an opportunity to celebrate cultural values, beliefs, and customs of the Alaskan Native villages and an opportunity for regional OCS staff to become more connected with people within the villages.

WPIC Sponsors Peer Exchange to Improve Data-driven Decision Making

In January 2013 Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services (LADCFS) Director Philip Browning and members of his executive leadership participated in a two-day peer exchange with New York’s Administration for Children’s Services (NYACS). The peer exchange was sponsored by WPIC to create an opportunity for LADCFS staff to experience and understand New York’s Child Protective Services (NYCPS) Stat Meeting. The Stat meetings provided a time to review, discuss, problem solve, and develop action plans to more effectively use data. LADCFS staff learned about NYCPS’ integration of qualitative and quantitative performance assessments and feedback from external partners so that they could include qualitative data and case reviews in LADCFS Stat meetings.

Fall 2012 Navajo Update Image

NYACS conducts a ChildStat meeting with LADCFS in attendance.

The peer exchange helped LADCFS get a clearer understanding of the level of staff support and capacity required to implement and sustain a data-driven decision making process, the importance of external partner engagement that can be organized through a Stat process, and perhaps most importantly, the evolution of the New York Stat process from a focus on compliance to a focus on child and family outcomes. The WPIC team will provide follow-up technical support including revamping the structure of the LADCFS Stat Meetings, strengthening accountability and follow-up mechanisms, deepening implementation of the bureau and office level Stat meetings, and integrating the DCFS practice model, strategic plan, and the data-driven decision making processes.