Academic journal article Child Welfare

Co-Production Dynamics and Time Dollar Programs in Community-Based Child Welfare Initiatives for Hard-to-Serve Youth and Families

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Co-Production Dynamics and Time Dollar Programs in Community-Based Child Welfare Initiatives for Hard-to-Serve Youth and Families

Article excerpt

Hard-to-serve youth and families residing in high-poverty communities often have multiple, interlocking needs. These needs necessitate complex service models. The complex model described in this article combines a unique approach to wraparound services with a co-production framework and related theories. The model aims to improve outcomes for vulnerable youth and their families, simultaneously strengthening communities by employing residents and engaging participants in community service. Examples derived from current pilot projects illustrate co-production's importance for other child welfare initiatives.

Local child welfare and juvenile justice professionals confront formidable challenges as they strive to meet the needs of so-called hard-to-serve youth and their families. These youth tend to have interlocking needs (e.g., Wandersman & Florin, 2003). As a result, they often are involved in two or more service systems, including child welfare, mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, special education, and juvenile justice. Unfortunately, single-issue interventions (e.g., some family preservation programs, conventional casework) have limited effectiveness with this population (Lindsey, Martin, & Doh, 2002), in part because they do little to alleviate the harms associated with poverty and its correlates, and also because they often entail one-size-fits-all protocols. Youth and families with complex, co-occurring needs require innovative, complex, and tailored interventions.

A nationally known service provider, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP), has piloted one such innovative, complex intervention model. This analysis describes this emergent model, including its theoretical rationale. The innovative pilot builds on the strengths of a unique wraparound and mentoring service model. The researchers later added co-production theory and practice because discussions with staff revealed that wraparound and mentoring were necessary, but often-insufficient strategies to meet the complex needs of many of the youth and families served. Other new components included best practice strategies derived from the research on youth development and leadership (e.g., Burt, Resnick, & Novick, 1998), family support (e.g., Briar-Lawson, Lawson, Hennon, & Jones, 2001), mutual aid (e.g., Cameron & Birnie-Lefcovitch, 2000), restorative community service (Bazemore & Karp, in press; Bazemore & Maloney, 1994; Bazemore & Terry, 1997), and community-based child protection (Farrow & the Executive Session on Child Protection, 1997). Together these new components may signal the development of a powerful theory of change.

YAP's Initial Model

YAP works with public agencies essentially to reallocate program funds that would have been spent on out-of-home placement and treatment to serve youth and families in their community. This approach reduces economic and social costs (YAP, 2003). The initial YAP model of service consisted of four key components (see http: / / www.yapinc.org for more information on YAP and its service model).

Intensive Case Management Based on Wraparound Principles. Wraparound is a philosophy of care. The core objective is to alter the youth's environment so that supportive relationships that span several life domains are integrated. These domains include the family, school, and neighborhood. Caseworkers need to coordinate all of them and, in many situations, enhance them, for the purpose of facilitating improved behavior functioning (Burns, Schoenwald, Burchard, Faw, & Santos, 2000).

YAP's wraparound elements are consistent with this philosophy of care. These elements include community-based programming and the development of individualized, strengths-based services and supports. A key activity is the convening and facilitation of the child and family team. Team meetings, facilitated by YAP leadership staff, consist of important people in the child's life (parents, teacher, clergy, therapist, friend, relatives) as well as professionals involved with the family. …

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