The collaboration structure is designed to accomplish the following:
Develop a strong leadership structure and team
The Partnership's board is comprised exclusively of directors of public agencies operating in the areas of children and family needs, including social services, health, education, law enforcement, and juvenile justice. As these positions do not turn over simultaneously, there is considerable institutional memory at the level of the Partnership board. There is also a professional staff working for the Partnership and serving the interests of all participating public agencies; since initiation of Partnership activities in 2000, turnover among these core staff members has been quite rare, providing even more program continuity.
From the beginning, the Partnership members took responsibility for the processes of selecting evidence-based programs to implement in the community. This has allowed for
- cross-agency data collection, training, and other collaborative activities;
- the establishment of both process and outcome benchmarks; and
- both governmental and other non-governmental agencies involved in Partnership work being held accountable.
The Partnership established agency and programmatic legitimacy by making data-driven decisions, by continuously insisting on fidelity to proven programs, and by revealing short- and long-term outcomes in a timely manner. The Board operates on the well-established principles that complex social and emotional problems require a multiplicity of responses; that effective program implementation requires systematic, cross-system collaboration; and that, for proven programs, fidelity of implementation is critical for obtaining positive outcomes.
The Partnership is designed to be constantly innovating in terms of deciding when to phase programs in or out; keeping abreast of funding streams at the federal, state, and local levels; and reevaluating what they do and how they do it. Evaluation is built into every phase of everything they do to support data-driven decision-making.
The Partnership design is based on research indicating that many children are multiply at risk. To assess those risks thoroughly requires cross-agency data collection for the purposes of assessment, treatment planning, and service coordination. In order to collect information across agencies in a rights-protective manner, from the beginning, the Partnership established a set of operational principles and legal structures. All the public agencies on the Partnership Board agreed on a common consent form, how the data would be safeguarded and privacy maintained, and what kinds of information could be collected.
The Partnership data aggregation process is not information sharing, which is generally problematic as a legal matter, and often as a practical one. Data collection across agency lines, however, is generally permissible under limited circumstances. The Partnership has developed a consent-driven system of data collection that permits professional service providers to collect data from a wide array of pertinent sources, supporting more comprehensive assessment and treatment of clients and improving their capacity to coordinate interventions. Disclosure of any portion of a file is also governed by principles of informed client consent that are clearly articulated in the Partnership’s consent form. The Partnership’s interagency databases are all developed to ensure that the principles of this consent-driven system are monitored and reinforced.
The consent form for families, which permits systematic, multi-agency data collection for the purposes of comprehensive assessment and treatment, is complex but written in plain language. Program implementers discuss data collection, assessment, and treatment in non-threatening, natural settings, and those providing consent (typically primary caregivers) are given an opportunity to explore how their households stand to benefit from comprehensive service planning. See Best Practices for more about the benefits of cross-agency awareness.
The Partnership’s approach to supporting programs is informed by research demonstrating that there is a clear tendency of evidence-based programs to regress to a mean; in other words, when replicated, many proven programs have strong results upon initial implementation but diminished efficacy over time. To address this problem, every program implemented by the Partnership is evaluated regularly, often semi-annually. The Partnership takes care to ensure that critical outcome measures are as accessible as possible. Evaluation results are widely shared so that stakeholders and other members of the community can stay informed of trends in program outcomes and provide supports, when needed, to improve programmatic effectiveness. To monitor and evaluate programs, the Partnership relies both on outside evaluators, as well as a staff person whose duty is to monitor program data.
The Partnership has created interagency databases to monitor and reinforce fidelity of implementation. Such databases permit both supervisors and implementers to know, in a timely manner, that salient elements of evidence-based programs are being implemented as intended. The databases also support clinician efforts to comprehensively assess children, link treatment goals and service needs, track client development, and effectively integrate services. Partnership staff members play a critical role in database development, identifying the kinds of information that they think is important to collect, and helping ensure that the databases are easy to use and useful tools for assessing and supporting the positive development of youth. Program data is typically entered by those implementing the programs, and users are given the capacity to build reports permitting them to monitor whether or not they are meeting their own standards and goals.
The Partnership Board exercises a joint fiduciary responsibility across lines of government for a number of its initiatives. The agency has created the legal infrastructure necessary to share, or braid, funding in new ways, which involve many legal documents, memoranda of understanding (MOUs), etc.
The Partnership uses a variety of different funding sources to braid funding, including grant funds, government contracts, and local resources. Ongoing review of program data has firmly established that the complex and multiple adverse circumstances affecting children require shared, cross-agency responses and, as a result, shared costs. See Best Practices for more about sharing fiscal responsibility.