Los Angeles Child Welfare Early Education Partners Infrastructure Project (LA-CWEE)
Increasing early care systems (ECS) access for the child welfare population has become an issue of growing importance in the past decade, during which time the numbers of infants and young children entering the child welfare system has steadily increased. Infants and toddlers represent the largest segment of the nation’s foster care population and are also more likely than older children to experience recurrent abuse and neglect. Although young children in the child welfare system are especially at-risk for developmental problems, research indicates low levels of early care service utilization by this population. This is problematic given that comprehensive, high quality early care services can improve outcomes for at-risk youth, preventing developmental delay as well as reducing grade retention and placement in special education.
Target Population & Region
- The target population includes infants and young children involved in the child welfare system who live in foster care, at home, or with adoptive families in the Long Beach area.
- Los Angeles County is home to the nation’s largest child welfare population, including more than 9,500 children under the age of five.
- DCFS’ South County Office currently supervises more than 800 children birth through four years old.
- The City of Long Beach, located within the DCFS South County Region, is home to more than 500 DCFS-supervised children in this age group.
LA-CWEE Infrastructure Project
- This is a 17-month project with an overarching goal of increasing the number of children in the Los Angeles County child welfare system benefitting from access to high quality ECS services.
- The project utilizes a multi-modal infrastructure building approach for increasing support for, and linkage to, ECS services that help to integrate the child welfare system and the early education system. The project seeks to develop:
- An electronic DCFS-LBUSD Head Start/Early Head Start referral system for comprehensive, high quality ECS services that maximizes the identification, enrollment, attendance and support of infants and young children birth to five years old who are involved in the child welfare system.
- A mechanism for training Long Beach child welfare, ECS, Juvenile Dependency Court staff, parents and caregivers on the benefits of ECS for the child welfare population and navigation of related service systems.
- The project is expected to develop into a model site for Los Angeles County DCFS and other jurisdictions to look to in developing early childhood systems infrastructure as an ongoing part of their operational functions.
- The evaluation has two primary components:
- A process (formative) component that will focus on the project’s infrastructure building activities.
- An outcome (summative) study that will focus on assessing the extent to which the project accomplishes its initial outcome objectives.
South County/Long Beach ECS Advisory Committee
To provide guidance during the award period and continuity for the project following completion of the grant, a South County Child Welfare-Early Care Systems Steering Committee was developed and has the responsibility for several functions and products. This committee is co-led by the DCFS Early Education Manager and the Chair of the Long Beach Early Care & Education Committee (who is also the Assistant Director of Family Services for the LBUSD Head Start program). Targeted membership for the Steering Committee includes ECE providers in Long Beach and other parts of the DCFS South County Region, representatives from the DCFS South County Regional Office and the DCFS Education, Juvenile Dependency Court, the local Part C/Early Intervention provider, Los Angeles County Office of Child Care and the Departments of Public Health (specifically home visiting services) and Mental Health (e.g. LADMH’s Countywide Birth to Five Program and/or Enhanced Specialized Foster Care Program), the local child care resource and referral agency, First 5 LA’s Best Start program, and the parents and caregivers.
- Todd Franke, PhD
Principal Investigator, UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities
- Loc Nguyen, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator, Inter-University Consortium
- Sacha Mareka Klein, PhD
Independent Evaluator, Michigan State University
- Sei-Young Lee, PhD
Training Evaluation Coordinator, Inter-University Consortium
- Luanne Mauro-Atkinson, MA
Assistant Director, Family Services, LBUSD Head Start
- Frank Ramos, MA
Regional Administrator, Los Angeles County-Department of Children & Family Services
- Ann Reyes-Robbins, PhD, JD
Evaluation Specialist & Trainer, Inter-University Consortium
- Steve Sturm, MA
Program Manager, Department of Children & Family Services, Education & Mentoring Unit
- Stephanie Benson, MSW
Graduate Student Researcher, Inter-University Consortium
At the onset of this infrastructure project, an Advisory Committee, which consisted of key stakeholders from the areas of early care and education, mental health, and child welfare, was convened. A workgroup within this committee was tasked with developing a targeted curriculum aimed at addressing barriers to ECE utilization by increasing knowledge among child welfare staff, ECE providers, Juvenile Dependency Court personnel, parents and caregivers regarding the benefits of ECE for infants and young children in the child welfare system and how to more effectively navigate relevant service systems.
The three core learning objectives that the Workgroup identified for training participants were to develop:
- A clear understanding of how to navigate the early care and education (ECE) system to connect families and children impacted by the child welfare system to developmentally appropriate ECE programs;
- A clear understanding of the common barriers to enrolling children birth to five years old impacted by the child welfare system in early care and education (ECE) programs; and
- A clear understanding of the potential of quality early care and education (ECE) programs to improve developmental outcomes and school readiness for children birth to five years old within the child welfare system.
Click here to download training slides (pdf format).