Last week, a number of state child-welfare agencies joined together for a single goal – to protect the well-being of children in our state. Working behind the scenes developing the strategies over the past two years was the Department of Children, Youth & Families, the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Government Performance Lab (GPL) at Harvard Kennedy School.
The two-year Rhode Island study analyzed deaths or near-deaths of children due to neglect or maltreatment and the agencies have developed and proposed actions to dramatically improve outcomes. The child welfare agencies plan to implement these strategies by October of this year.
DCYF is committed to focusing on being more proactive with the families that are in contact with their agency. The study finds that connecting with families early on, even during pregnancy, can have a significant impact on results. By screening all newborns and having a tiered risk assessment that prioritizes those who may need the most intervention, the agencies can make sure they persistently follow-up with those families throughout the early years of the child’s life. The study determined that an intentional effort needs to be made to ensure families connect with the agencies and are not just referred to them without additional follow-up.
DCYF and DOH are committed to sharing data timely to better monitor and track referrals from Child Proactive Services. With the cooperation of the agencies and additional follow through with families, we can hope to see a decrease in death or near deaths of children in the future.
It is welcoming to have the Government Performance Lab, a non-profit think-tank, as an external source to work in conjunction with non-profit and government agencies to determine innovative solutions to improve the well-being of children.