Spotlight On Starting CFSR Round 4 Strong

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Starting CFSR Round 4 Strong


Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) help states identify ways to improve service delivery and outcomes by understanding how well they are meeting the needs of children, young people, and families involved with the child welfare system.1 As states advance through CFSR Round 4—many with the support of Capacity Building Center for States (Center) experts and tailored services—they should consider the below advice and considerations from Year 1 state teams.

1.   Start Early to Be Strategic

  • An early start ensures state CFSR teams have time to be strategic in data collection and planning efforts. Starting early gives state teams ample time to make a data plan, to identify from existing data the answers to questions being raised during the Statewide Assessment, and, through engaging partners, better identify and determine new data, as well as address data gaps.
  • States can also use this time to reflect and build on successes or lessons learned from prior system improvement efforts. Starting early gives states more time to align CFSR processes with other strategic plans, make connections, and integrate with other initiatives.
  • Authentically engaging young people, community partners, and families with lived experience requires plenty of planning and forethought.2 Starting early ensures state teams have time to properly plan how they will engage partners and lived experience. State teams that engage community partners without a clear purpose may fail to gather the information that those partners could provide for their Statewide Assessment. It would not be the best use of the partner’s time and could hinder future engagement.
  • Starting early also allows Children's Bureau (CB) reviewers and technical assistance providers to engage with early state drafts, share feedback, and provide continuous support to state teams as they prepare their Statewide Assessment submissions.

Center Resources to Support Strategic Planning

Use the following resources to begin planning and preparing for the Statewide Assessment as early as possible:

2. Plan to Generate Data and Evidence for Effective Improvement

CFSR Statewide Assessment Data Analysis Checklist
  • Generating evidence using best practices in data collection and analysis to inform system improvements is fundamental to the CFSR process. By delving deeper into data, child welfare agencies can showcase areas of positive performance and identify areas that require attention.3 In their reflections with the Center, Year 1 states emphasized the need to carefully consider data used for analysis in Statewide Assessments and develop a data plan as soon as possible. 
  • As an appendix (pages 14–15) to their Guiding Principles, Framework, and Tools for the Statewide Assessment Process, CB provides a checklist to help state teams assess the quality and relevance of data and analyses they intend to use in their Statewide Assessments and other CFSR processes. The checklist focuses on questions about the scope and methods used to generate evidence, designed to confirm the relevance and reliability of data used for analysis.
  • Collecting diverse perspectives is critical to understanding data trends, disproportionality, and disparate outcomes for different populations. States should convene agency personnel at various levels, young people and families with firsthand experience in child welfare, tribes, other system partners, and community members to help states interpret data trends and identify areas for further exploration. There are opportunities for states to engage lived experience and expertise at all stages of the data planning process, from the development of questions to collection, analysis, and beyond.

Center Resources to Support Data Planning

Use the following resources to improve the assessment of quality and relevant data and support the development of data plans:

3.   Authentically Engage Lived Experience

  • There is no one-size-fits-all approach to partnering with people with lived experience. State teams should employ multiple strategies and methods to reflect and appeal to the diversity of young people and family members in the communities they serve.4 States should remember engagement is a continuum that begins with young people and families informing and consulting and deepens into shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration and shared decision-making.
  • Engaging lived experience requires more than just inviting young people and families to the table. States should invest in the infrastructure necessary to sustain meaningful engagement, such as outreach and communication plans, staff training, coaching and ongoing support for those engaged, transparent internal processes and avenues for feedback, and more.
  • States should fairly compensate young people, families, and individuals with lived experience for the expertise and value they provide. Again, states that get an early start will be better equipped to budget for or identify grant opportunities to engage lived experience.

Center Resources to Support Engagement

Use the following resources to support the engagement of young people and families with lived experience in child welfare:

Preparation Checklist for Engagement of Young People and Families in the CFSR

CFSR Round 4 In Action

Vermont Telling Our Story

In the early stages of planning for CFSR Round 4, the Vermont Department for Children and Families, Family Services Division (FSD) team reached out to the Center for support. Learn more about how Center experts and Tailored Services Liaisons helped Vermont FSD establish a foundation of support for their Statewide Assessment and other CFSR Round 4 Initiatives in our Telling Our Story series.

Read Vermont's Story

Additional Resources

The Center has several resources to help agencies build capacity to strategically plan, leverage data, and engage community members and individuals with lived experience in their CFSR Round 4 activities. In addition to the tailored guides and tools for state teams above, explore our CFSR topic page for even more resources.

Below you will find additional resources from our peers and federal partners to support state teams at any stage of their CFSR journey.

Related Resources

Related Resource Collections

CFFSR Information Portal
  • Round 4 of the CFSRs | The Administration for Children and Families: Explore this Children’s Bureau webpage to find information on CFSR round 4, including resources to help teams understand the CFSR process, legislation, policies, and factsheets for Round 4.
  • CFSR Information Portal: Explore tools and resources on the entire CFSR process including Children’s Bureau guidance and announcements, state-specific CFSR information, e-learning opportunities, and more.

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