Magazine article Policy & Practice

Colorado Making Strides in Reshaping Child Welfare

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Colorado Making Strides in Reshaping Child Welfare

Article excerpt

In late 2007, the Colorado Department of Human Services noted a spike in child abuse fatalities with prior involvement of county child protection. The department conducted an in-depth review of the fatalities to identify common factors in the deaths to facilitate system improvement. Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. created the Governor's Child Welfare Action Committee, charging the committee to make system reform recommendations to him within 18 months.

The Child Welfare Action Committee was dedicated to making recommendations founded on best practices and data driven to result in increased consistency, transparency and accountability. The guiding principle of the committee was that where a child lives ought not to be the predictor of the access to services provided to the child.

The committee, composed of 25 geographically, professionally and culturally diverse Coloradoans, met from July 2008 through December 2009. Membership included county commissioners, county department directors, judges, foster parents and representatives of the faith, medical, education, advocate and legal professions. They submitted 29 recommendations in two reports to the governor. Of the original 29 recommendations, 27 were accepted for implementation.

As chair of the committee, I was impressed with the level of passion and commitment that its members brought to the task. In addition to the Action Committee, five subcommittees were created: Training, Child and Family Outcomes, Cultural Competency Administrative Structure and Co-Occurring Issues. The Action Committee and subcommittees reviewed extensive program, practice and research material from successful approaches across the country as the basis of their recommendations.

The resulting recommendations and the speed with which many have been implemented, are nothing short of amazing. Colorado is a state-supervised, county-operated state and continues its efforts to communicate with 64 counties, training county staff on new rules and developing implementation plans that require legislation and budget requests. Following are a few of the recommendations being implemented:

* The department launched the Colorado Child Welfare Training Academy, one of the first recommendations the committee made. The academy will assure competency in the practice of child protection. If competency is not exhibited at the end of the training curriculum, the state will not reimburse the county department for the staff member's salary.

* At the recommendation of the committee, the department applied for and received a grant to implement a Differential Response program in several pilot counties. …

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