Building Connections Background

Building Connections Community Forum 2011

The Building Connections in Child Welfare, Community Forum was held on November 29, 2011 in response to a request from the Clark County Manager’s Office and the Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS) to offer an opportunity for community advocates and child welfare service providers to share their insights on effective means to improve collaboration and communication between DFS and the community. Over 90 individuals attended the forum and participated in a facilitated discussion designed to solicit feedback, insight and recommendations around three core issues in child welfare:

 Identification of the most pressing issues facing our community, including strengths and weaknesses in these areas;
 Identification of the most significant organizational challenges to serving the child welfare population, including insights on capacity building approaches; and
 Discussion of strategies to strengthen collaboration and partnerships to improve outcomes for children and families.

A summary of the facilitated discussion responses was prepared and distributed in January 2012. Responses included challenges and strengths, as well as barriers and solutions, in all three core issue areas. An analysis of these responses has resulted in the identification of four overarching themes that are relevant to improving the overall structure and functioning of our child welfare system, as a whole:

 The need to identify, adapt/adopt and implement best practices that are data driven and outcome focused – both at the agency and community level.
 The need to establish Family Friendly and Family Focused policies and practices that are interwoven into every aspect of the child welfare system and that continue to ensure child safety and protection.
 The need to identify and advocate for an appropriate level of resources needed to adequately serve the children and families involved in the child welfare system, including an appropriate funding structure to support these resources.
 The need to establish genuine partnerships and collaborations that focus on meeting the needs of children and families in our community (shifting the focus to the needs of children and families as opposed to the needs of the organization or agency).

The full summary report can be accessed by clicking here.


Building Connections Community Forum 2013

There were two Building Connections Forums held in 2013. One was a DFS approach and the second was a statewide approach. The first 2013 Building Connections held in August was hosted by DFS and focused on the Department; whereas, the second 2013 Building Connections was held in September and was hosted by the Children’s Advocacy Alliance to focus on statewide systems reform.

There were 53 individuals in attendance which comprised of service providers representing agencies such as Clark County Department of Family Services, Washoe County Social Services, State of Nevada Division of Child & Family Services, Clark County District Attorney’s Office, mental health counseling centers, foster care agencies, and child welfare nonprofit organizations.

Julie Collins from The Children’s Welfare League of America (CWLA) was the guest speaker for September 26, 2013 Building Connections Event. Julie presented on the CWLA’s National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. A summary of the blueprint can be found here: The Blueprint is intended to be a catalyst of change by outlining eight guiding principles to structure reform efforts.

These principles include:
1. Rights of Children
2. Shared Responsibility and Leadership
3. Engagement/Participation
4. Supports and Services
5. Quality Improvement
6. Workforce
7. Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

A survey was administered prior to the Building Connections event to assess the child welfare community’s perception on these eight principles. It was found that respondents were least satisfied with the following three principles: Engagement/Participation, Quality Improvement, and Funding & Resources.

These three principles were chosen as the focus of the Building Connections event. There were three groups of participants and each group was given 30 minutes to discuss each principle.


Principle Summary: Children, youth, and families are engaged and empowered to promote family success and build community capacity. Service providers and organizations acknowledge, appreciate, and validate the voices and experiences of those whose lives they touch, so that responsive, community-based resources and services are developed, nurtured, and sustained.

 Historically, little organized effort was put forward to encourage the voices and experiences of those touched by the child welfare system for the benefit of others entering or navigating the system (e.g., parent and youth mentors, quality improvement, procedures, etc.)
 There has been little organized communication outside of those directly involved in child welfare to further educate and engage the broader community/public (i.e., legislators, business leaders, funders, etc.)
 Personal interviews, anonymous suggestion box, and surveys should be used to gain feedback from children, youth and families regarding the child welfare system.

Quality Improvement

Principle Summary: Supports and services are designed and implemented based on evidence and knowledge; data collection is focused on measuring outcomes and achieving success; continuous quality improvement is emphasized and supported; and innovation practices and programs are encouraged.

 Use of best practice programs. Programs should be data driven-with shared measurement of outcomes and success. Data should be shared among organizations. Use the data to inform decision makers and to improve the system and outcomes.
 The desire to have a system built on the prevention of abuse and neglect and less reactionary.
 A system flexible to meet families where they are. Use of non-traditional service providers and safety nets in the community. i.e. faith based, schools, other social services and supports, community centers.
 Services in the community should be mapped and gaps should be identified. Focus on areas where there are no services or more is needed. Stronger alignment between system providers.
 Improved communication-specifically between County and State and then out to partners, providers etc.
 Competent staff at all levels-developed workforce from top to bottom.

Funding & Resources

Principle Summary: Funding decisions in the private sector and at federal, state, local, and tribal levels are informed by the certainty that the well-being of children, families, and communities are interconnected and that sufficient and equitable funding is essential to the well-being of all of them.

 There are a multitude of dollars that support services within the Child Welfare arena including federal, state, local and philanthropic dollars. It would be important to understand the varying sources to have a true knowledge of what the system really costs to support children and families.
 There needs to be statewide coordinated efforts when applying for funding.
 There needs to be education about why data is important and how it can help the system and future funding opportunities.
 If moving to a prevention model focus then funding needs to shift to support that approach.

A copy of the full report for the 2013 Building Connections (a statewide approach hosted by CAA) can be access by clicking here.