DHS Home Page
Department of Human Services    Follow DHS on Facebook Follow DHS on Twitter Watch DHS Videos on Vimeo Connect with DHS on LinkedIn

DHS News Header

DHS News Newsletter June 2008 

DHS takes integration of services for children to next level, aims to improve outcomes

June 2008

DHS Director Marc Cherna has identified improving outcomes for children and their families by implementing a comprehensive, integrated system of care across all child-serving human services systems as a DHS priority for the next decade. To that end, intensive work is underway.

Noteworthy progress has been made toward the “Improving Outcomes for Children and Families” (Improving Outcomes) goal.
Within DHS, senior staff (which includes the deputy directors of each DHS office as well as additional members of the Executive Office) developed a concept paper—or working document—that provides a general framework for the tasks ahead. As a tool for moving forward, the concept paper recognizes three goals that, once achieved, will fundamentally improve outcomes for children and their families by:

  • Designing a seamless integration of services;
  • Reducing the number of children requiring out-of-home placement and the number of families that re-enter the system; and  
  • Supporting a common intake and assessment process that leads to a singular family service plan.

To achieve these goals the concept paper proposes that:

  • DHS expand existing successful practices that have proven to work (i.e., evidence-based practices) and “home grown” models (e.g., Family Group Decision Making; Models for Change: Comprehensive Systems Change Initiative; and the Systems of Care Initiative) into system-wide initiatives;
  • the DHS data system be enhanced to permit the integration, collection, tracking and evaluation of all consumers’ demographic and services-related data; and 
  • emphasis be placed on training front-line staff (i.e., work force development) and awarding contracts based upon compliance with the integrated-system goals (i.e., performance-based contracting) that will improve service delivery and outcomes to families as a whole.

In keeping with the DHS guiding principles, input and analysis from stakeholders outside DHS are also seen as critically important to such a far-reaching, long-term process.

For this reason, Cherna appointed an advisory committee of individuals external to DHS to present the voice of the public in the Improving Outcomes process. The advisory committee—using the revived moniker The Children’s Cabinet—includes youth and family members who have been recipients of services, as well as community leaders, service providers and other key human services stakeholders.

Foundations onboard

With the working document in hand, DHS found support among the local foundation community and Casey Family Programs for assistance in meeting the desired goals.

The Grable Foundation made their offer of support concrete by funding a staff person to give administrative support to The Children’s Cabinet.

Casey Family Programs is primarily funding the technical assistance needed by DHS to more strategically analyze and utilize the child- and family-related data we have stored in the DHS Data Warehouse and the DHS Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF) Mainframe. Fred Wulczyn of Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago was selected as the lead on that project. Casey is also funding VROON VanDenBerg to conduct training and credentialing of professional staff – some, former DHS recipients of services – who will then be qualified to participate as “support partners” in the High Fidelity Wraparound process.

The High Fidelity Wraparound process is a service planning process very similar to the CYF Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) process, which relies on a team of family-selected individuals, their “natural supports,” to assist a family in reaching the goals identified by the family through means designed by the family.

Similarly, in High Fidelity Wraparound, a facilitator works with the young person’s family and their natural supports to progress through the goals of the singular family plan. The one difference between FGDM and High Fidelity Wraparound is the option the family has of choosing to include a trained and credentialed family support partner and/or peer support partner in the process. The ultimate goal is for natural supports to remain in place long after the formal system supports are no longer required.

The generosity of Pittsburgh-area foundations is also being sought to meet two other critical needs: to constitute a DHS Youth Advisory Council and to assist with data system transformation. 

As proposed, the Youth Advisory Council will be built by the DHS Youth Engagement Specialist. To ensure the position represents a high level of understanding, the Youth Engagement Specialist was selected from youth who have personally received services through DHS. The Youth Engagement Specialist and the Youth Advisory Council will provide adult stakeholders with the invaluable input of young consumers who are particularly suited to judge the strengths and deficiencies of the child-serving systems.

The address the second critical need, Dr. John Lyons of Northwestern University is assisting with data system transformation and has customized his Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Assessment Tool to the needs of Allegheny County, as the first step in designing a common intake and assessment process. Additionally, an automated web-based training module will be created with Dr. Lyons’ guidance. Work will also be done on shaping what it means to have a singular family plan that reaches across all child-serving areas within DHS.

Community partners increase involvement

Intermingled with the Improving Outcomes for Children and Families process, Casey Family Programs is also supporting the work of DHS in improving outcomes for transition-aged youth.

As featured in the May 2008 issue of DH NEWS, Howard Knoll, on loan from Casey Family Programs, has been working with JoAnn Hannah, Transition Program Manager in the DHS Executive Office, and Jonathan Walkush, Planning & Operations Manager, Bureau of Employment and Training, in the DHS Office of Community Services, to help achieve these improved outcomes.

Recent focus has centered on increasing the amount of community-based buy-in. As a result, community partners have stepped-up their commitment to meeting the needs of youth in Allegheny County.  Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild/Bidwell Corporation, KEYS Service Corps/AmeriCorps, Project Employ, YouthWorks and Investing NOW have all pledged concrete support.  Details of proposed programs will be presented in upcoming issues of DHS NEWS.

DHS News Archive