When STRYVE got off the ground, HDHHS was surprised to learn that many of Houston’s youth-serving agencies were eager to come on board. For example, the City of Houston Public Works and Engineering Department proactively came to HDHHS and asked how it could contribute. Houston’s Immunization Bureau, faith-based groups, and private businesses also expressed interest, looking to involve youth in efforts to promote safe and supportive relationships in the community. Positive momentum has been achieved with juvenile justice organizations, and child welfare organizations are becoming more and more engaged within a broader strategy of supporting young people aging out of foster care to be safe, healthy, and successful.
HDHHS puts great care into relationship-building with staff members in partnering agencies, but those staff members may end up leaving their positions (thus negating all of the previous efforts). To increase the likelihood that relationships with agencies are sustainable, HDHHS identifies staff as backups. For example, when HDHHS sponsors cross-agency trainings, two people from each agency are trained so that if one person leaves, the other can pick up. Interestingly, although staff turnover presents a challenge, a major strength is that the people who are involved in this field care deeply and tend to keep on doing the work (they may just move from one agency to another).
A big challenge going into the STRYVE grant was how to best share data between partners. Despite some efforts to build on existing data-sharing agreements between partners, a larger concern was that having to submit data requests might slow down the work in a way that was not efficient or productive. To address this concern, the partners created the Data and Evaluation Workgroup as a way to share data informally, in an often on-demand way. The Workgroup allows for multiple perspectives, thus deepening the partners’ shared understanding of the data. For example, the Houston Independent School District houses data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey that are also relevant to program planning in HDHHS. Generally, these data are available based on a formal request or upon public release. As a more productive and efficient alternative, HDHHS can get these same data by integrating this focus into the data sharing, dialogue, and review that occurs as part of the Data and Evaluation Workgroup meetings.