The Grantee Connection // January 2024

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The Grantee Connection. Sharing Knowledge. Building Evidence.

January 2024 | Issue 18

The Grantee Connection is a quarterly digest featuring new and noteworthy products, information, and lessons learned from select Children's Bureau discretionary grants to inform research, capacity building, and program improvement efforts.

Featured Grantees

Core Characteristics for Promoting Authentic Youth Engagement

Project Description: The Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency (QIC-EY) is a 5-year cooperative agreement funded in 2021 to bring about systemic culture shifts resulting in intentional policy and practice changes directly related to the child welfare system's engagement and empowerment of and partnership with children and youth. The QIC-EY is informed by the lived experiences and professional expertise of youth who were formerly in foster care.

QIC-EY NOW tool wheel with "Commitment," "Flexibility," and "Self-Awareness"

Project Highlight: In an environment where hiring a workforce that embodies all of the critical characteristics is challenging and recognizing that ongoing skill development is essential, the QIC-EY team produced the QIC-EY NOW multimedia tool. With the help of lived-experience experts and professionals, QIC-EY NOW introduces three core characteristics that need to be understood, developed, and fine-tuned for a child welfare workforce to become centered on authentic engagement with children and youth: commitment, flexibility, and self-awareness. The QIC-EY defines “characteristics” as the helpful, internal traits that professionals may bring to their work in varying capacities. Child welfare professionals can learn about each characteristic with a short video containing tips to help them validate the work that they are already doing. In addition, these materials will encourage a deeper understanding of authentic engagement with children and youth and facilitate skill development in this area.

Learn More: View the QIC-EY's Lessons Learned webpage to gain fundamental insights about engaging children and youth—including around permanency. In each of the four lessons, the QIC-EY highlights products and exclusive content that bring the insights and knowledge gained to life.

Graphic from the QIC-EY NOW tool

Lessons Learned on Successfully Collaborating With Tribes and Tribal Communities

Project Description: The Center for Native Child and Family Resilience (CNCFR), funded in 2017 through a 5-year cooperative agreement, supports child welfare prevention and intervention practices and strategies designed by and for American Indian/Alaska Native populations. CNCFR develops and disseminates knowledge of culturally relevant practice models, interventions, and services contributing to child maltreatment prevention. CNCFR also partnered with tribes and tribal communities to identify and enhance culturally based programs designed to strengthen community and family resilience.

A group of people participating in a ribbon ceremony

Project Highlight: CNCFR recently released lessons learned about the efforts that went into making CNCFR successful in collaborating with tribal organizations and communities in creating materials for their child welfare programs and helping to begin building evidence for them. Although CNCFR has numerous Native staff, relied on a large community of Native consultants, and centered Native approaches to tribal child welfare, it is a non-Indigenous organization. The staff knew that significant, unique challenges would arise due to the historical and contemporary contexts of settler colonialism and Western approaches to knowledge-making—in addition to potential social and cultural gaps. The two examples of lessons learned below highlight how adjusting practices, behavior, language, and attitudes led to better results for the organization, partners, and the communities they worked with:

  • Partnership: Cultivating genuine partnerships with the tribal organizations and communities you work with helps bridge intercultural gaps, promote bidirectional learning, and foster a sense of trust that results in better evidence gathering with more authentic and representative information about programs.
  • Information gathering: Authentic relationships based on mutual trust support better information-gathering processes.

Learn More: Five projects partnered with CNCFR to build and enhance their culturally based programs that were designed to strengthen community and family resilience. Learn more about each project and how they envision strengthening their prevention services and decreasing child endangerment programs.

Photo provided by CNCFR 

New Center for Addressing Workforce Challenges Through Data-Driven Solutions Is Looking for Sites 

Project Description: The Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Analytics (QIC-WA) was recently established to address persistent child welfare workforce challenges with data-driven solutions. It believes that agencies that effectively use their workforce data to improve operations are best suited to support children and families. The QIC-WA strives to meet organizations where they are and empower them to use their data to determine workforce strategies around diversity, equity, and inclusion; belonging; recruitment; performance; retention; and well-being.


Project Highlight: The QIC-WA is seeking six sites—including state, county, territorial, and tribal child welfare agencies—interested in workforce analytics and testing evidence-informed workforce strategies. Selected sites will implement a strategy to strengthen their child welfare workforce, use workforce analytics to support decision-making, participate in an evaluation, and engage in tailored capacity building and a peer-learning network.

Review the website to learn more about the call for sites and find frequently asked questions and recorded webinars. Applications are due February 15, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. PT, and site selection will be completed by April 2024. Agency leaders should email the QIC-WA if they have additional questions. Tribal agencies are welcome to apply but will have an adapted application process and timelines. A separate tribal agency announcement will be posted on the QIC-WA website in early February 2024.

Learn More: Check out the newly launched QIC-WA website to learn more about the project, staff, and site selection process.

Graphic from the QIC-WA

Grantee Blog:

Tool Piloted to Support Better Informed Case Assignment Decisions

Case worker interviewing a man with two children

Photo from Strong Foundations website

Unmanageable caseloads are one of many barriers to effective engagement with parents of children who are in foster care. The Strong Foundations project, funded in 2018 under the Strengthening Child Welfare Systems to Achieve Expected Child and Family Outcomes grant cluster, found that case managers are often overloaded and are not able to engage parents in frequent and quality face-to-face visits at the level necessary to achieve case goals.

In Florida, the current case distribution system is typically based on the number of children served, resulting in imbalanced caseloads across caseworkers. Research in this area has been limited to trying to define a “magic number” of children each caseworker should be serving. The Strong Foundations project found this approach does not consider the highly complex needs of some children and families who require significantly more effort on the part of the case manager.

The team realized there was a need to determine an objective measurement of the complexity of cases to make more informed and equitable decisions around case assignments. Case managers and supervisors across Florida were surveyed to rate cases based on the complexity of factors within the domains of child, parent, caregiver, placement, and case characteristics. The scores from the surveys trained machine learning algorithms to learn what ultimately makes a case complex. From the trained machine learning model, predictions were created, giving each case a complexity score on a scale from 1 to 9, with 1 being the least complex cases and 9 being the most complex.

This tool, dubbed the Case Complexity Tool, was piloted in sites in Osceola, Alachua, Leon, and Jefferson Counties. Using the case score developed through the tool, in conjunction with other factors and dynamics related to circumstances within teams, supervisors can make better informed decisions about case assignments. The information gained through this tool is not intended to replace discretion when assigning cases; rather, it is to be used as an additional source of information to assist in the decision-making process.

The latest findings from Leon and Alachua Counties support that the caseload complexity protocol produces a long-term increase in sufficiency of time to visit families and a short-term increase in satisfaction with the fairness of case distribution. Of note, the tool appears to be less helpful when the agency is starting with huge deficits in the workforce.

Want to learn more? Visit the Strong Foundations website to find more on the project and the Case Complexity Tool, including a user manual for practitioners making case assignment decisions and a manual for system administrators.

Resources From

Child Welfare Information Gateway

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Visit the webpage.

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Caseload and Workload Management

Read the publication.  

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“Episode 85: “In-Home Restorative Justice"

Listen to the podcast


Grantee News & Updates

  • Families Rising announced the establishment of the Center for Workforce Equity and Leadership (CWEL), funded through a 5-year cooperative agreement (HHS-2023-ACF-ACYF-CT-0012). CWEL has a broad vision to enhance the child welfare workforce by focusing on equity, collaboration, and innovation. Read the full announcement to learn more.
  • The newly established National Center for Enhanced Post-Adoption Support will provide a central hub for postadoption expertise and evidence-informed technical assistance for states, tribal nations, and territories. Sign up for the listserv now to stay informed about updates and opportunities! The full website goes live in February 2024. 

  • The Children's Bureau recently published new fiscal year 2024 discretionary grant forecasts. Tip: Filter search results by “Administration for Children and Families - ACYF/CB [HHS-ACF-CB]” (under “All Department of Health and Human Services [HHS]”) to only see Children's Bureau opportunities.
  • Looking for more information on applying for Children's Bureau grants? Visit the How to Apply for a Grant web section to learn about the complete process—from finding notices of funding opportunities to writing and submitting a strong application.
  • Interested in supporting the Children's Bureau discretionary grant process? Apply today to be a grant reviewer!

Are you a Children's Bureau grant recipient? SUBMIT YOUR UPDATES AND RESOURCES