Category Archives: Prevention

Social Impact Bonds, Hot New Experiment

Both House and Senate bills have been introduced this summer to fund a model called “Social Impact Bonds.” The two bills (HR 4885 and S 2691) are bipartisan and they attempt to expand the use of a funding strategy that would attract private investment to address a social problem or challenge with investors rewarded with a pay-back by government only if specific outcomes and goals are reached over time.

HR 4885 was introduced in June by Congressman Todd Young (R-IN) with 22 cosponsors with the sponsorship split down the middle between the two parties—a rarity in recent congresses. S 2691 was introduced by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) just before the August break. The House bill is called the Social Impact Bond Act while the Senate bill is called the Pay for Performance Act. Both bills amend the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) by adding a subsection C with $300 million designated in the subsection but the funds are not necessarily drawn from SSBG (they do not alter the $1.7 billion for the base block grant).

The state or local governments could apply for funding. The general structure is that a non-governmental entity or agency would attract funding from non-profit and for-profit sources to address a specific social challenge. In England a project near London has become one of the earliest tests of the strategy by targeted recidivism rates among inmates exiting prison. If the agency/entity reaches the set outcome, for example a ten percent reduction in recidivism rates over a specific period of time investors would receive their investment with interest back with the government held harmless if the outcomes are not met.

Over the past few years the Center for American Progress has examined the strategy and issued reports including Investing for Success and also hosted a roundtable on the challenges and issues with such strategies. They have also created a factsheet on some of these “pay for performance” approaches to addressing social human service challenges.

The two bills are somewhat different in their structure with the House bill including 13 types of projects that would be eligible for funding and the Senate bill including 14 categories of projects. The common projects in both bills include:

Projects that can qualify:
• Increasing work and earnings by individuals who have been unemployed for more than six consecutive months;
• Increasing employment and earnings of individuals age 16 to 24;
• Increasing employment among individuals receiving Federal disability benefits;
• Reducing the dependence of low-income families on Federal means-tested benefits;
• Improving rates of high school graduation;
• Reducing teen and unplanned pregnancies;
• Improving birth outcomes among low-income families and individuals;
• Reducing rates of asthma, diabetes, or other preventable diseases among low-income families and individuals;
• Increasing the proportion of children living in two-parent families;
• Reducing incidences of child abuse and neglect;
• Reducing recidivism among individuals released from prison; and
• Other measurable outcomes defined by the State or local government that result in positive social outcomes and federal savings.

The House also includes
• Increasing adoptions of children from foster care
While the Senate specifies:
• Reducing the number of youth in foster care who are emancipated from care by increasing adoptions, permanent guardianship arrangements, reunification, or placement with a fit and willing relative for children and youth in foster care; and
• Reducing the number of children and youth in foster care residing in group homes, child care institutions, agency-operated foster homes, or other non-family foster homes, unless it is determined that it is in the interest of the child’s long-term health, safety, or psychological well-being to not be placed in a family foster home.

The Administration has also proposed in recent budgets $300 million in pay for success funding. In fact the former head of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Obama, Melody Barnes issued a statement at the introduction of the Senate bill that said, “The Pay for Performance Act gives policymakers a critical, evidence-based strategy for dealing with major societal challenges. By connecting the tools of impact investing to a ‘what works’ approach, this bill takes us one step closer to a smarter, leaner, results focused government.”

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Pre-KNation Summit in New York City

On Tuesday, August 5, New York City became the site for a “Preschool Nation Summit.” The summit, the first one, was a bicoastal event broadcast through a webinar presented by Scholastic Inc based in New York City. The nation’s largest city was an appropriate setting since Mayor Bill de Blasio ran on a campaign that included a proposal to expand universal preschool in the city.

Mayor de Blasio’s opened the event with keynote remarks that discussed his support and belief that providing universal preschool is vital to addressing a range of issues including poverty. He recounted his recent visits to some of the city’s preschool programs and what they were accomplishing and discussed the experiences of his own children and how they were helped by effective programs. As far as New York City, the Mayor said that the just completed school year resulted in 20,000 children enrolled in full-day Pre-K and that this coming September that figure will increase to 50,000. He also said more would be needed because they estimated the need to be approximately 70,000.

The opening panel focused on the current status of programs across the country and how effective models are being put together and how state and local programs are leveraging funds. That panel included comments by Carmen Fariña, New York City Education Chancellor, Kris Perry, the First Five Years Fund, Celia C. Ayala, Los Angeles Universal Preschool, Steve Barnett, National Institute for Early Education Research, Aaron Lieberman, Acelero Learning; CEO, Shine Early Learning.

Their presentation was followed by a discussion of pre-k’s relevance to a cross-section of key
stakeholders including law enforcement, businesses and the military. The discussion included comments by Rob Dugger, Co-Chair of the ReadyNation Advisory Board, Frank Fowler, Syracuse Chief of Police a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Major General Mike Hall (ret.) and member of Mission:Readiness and Suzanne Immerman, Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Explaining Mission Readiness’s reason for being involved in this issue, Major General Hall indicated that 75 percent of youth aged 17 to 24 could not enter the military due to being poorly educated, having health care issues or having a serious criminal record.

The final panel focused on advocacy and strategies to increase the support and implementation of preschool programs nationally. This group included Patti Miller, Too Small To Fail, Adrián Pedroza, Partnership for Community Action and member of President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Helen Blank, National Women’s Law Center and Albert Wat, the National Governors Association. Participants were urged to raise the issue during the upcoming elections and that members of Congress need to hear about the importance of expanded access to universal preschool.

For additional information on the event go to Preschool Nation Summit 2014.

Research On Differential Response

The National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC-DR) has released the final report from the Cross-Site Evaluation on Differential Response. Differential Response (DR) represents a different way of structuring a state’s child protective services system (CPS). DR allows CPS agencies to respond differently to child abuse and neglect based on the level of risk and needs of the family without compromising child safety. It is sometimes referred to as “dual track,” “multiple response system,” “alternative response,” and “family assessment response” in various jurisdictions. Lower risk cases may be directed to an alternate path while more serious cases will still be evaluated under the more traditional investigative response (IR).

The research represents the fourth major evaluation report coming out of the QIC-DR this year, following three individual site evaluation reports from Colorado, Illinois and Ohio. All of the reports are available on the website, under the “evaluation” tab. On Tuesday, July 29th from 12:00-1:30PM ET, Marc Winokur, Social Work Research Center, School of Social Work Colorado State University; Raquel Ellis, Westat; and Ida Drury, Colorado Department of Human Services, will be presenting a free webinar on the findings from their study of Differential Response in five counties in Colorado. Space is limited, so sign up early by visiting the website.

Part of the conclusion of the report states,

“In two of the three QIC-DR sites, the entire CPS system was impacted by the introduction of the new AR pathway. Most of the changes observed in Colorado’s and Ohio’s implementations of DR were not reserved for AR (alternate response) families, but rather the modifications became embedded into child welfare systems for all CPS families. The AR pathway, like the IR pathway, is guided by procedures and policies, and influenced by the skills and characteristics of caseworkers.

Although AR might be considered to be merely an alternative to IR, as its name implies, a fully implemented DR system may have deep impacts upon the community and its families; the CPS workforce; the policies, practices, and procedures guiding child protection casework; and the child welfare agency mandate. These impacts may not be solely in terms of different outcomes for those who have come to the attention of CPS, but rather may widen the reach and influence of CPS to other families who may be at risk or vulnerable. DR may indeed reshape the core mission of CPS.”

Some states have implemented their DR practices under more rigorous evaluation including the states of Ohio and Minnesota which included random control studies designs. There is no federal regulation or definitions as states implement this approach but the QIC-DR was a five year project funded by HHS and intended to help in that process.

Commission on Child Deaths Goes to Florida

The Commission To Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities conducted a second field hearing last Thursday, July 10 when they went to Tampa Florida. The Commission heard from both Florida officials as well as national experts. Panelists included Interim Secretary Mike Carroll, Florida Department of Children and Families, Dr. Celeste Philip, Florida Department of Health, Richard Barth, University of Maryland, and Howard Davidson, of the American Bar Association among several others. The topics included child protective services involvement with child deaths, using child welfare administrative data to protect vulnerable children, the use of predictive analytics and the issue of confidentiality.

Much of the discussion focused on what data and research tells us about the most likely cases of child fatalities and strategies that might be built into prevention efforts based on that information. The afternoon focused on some of the challenges the state of Florida has experienced with rising numbers of child deaths and how different Florida communities are implementing different practices resulting in more effective results. Emily Putnam-Hornstein, PhD, Children’s Data Network, University of Southern California, provided an overview of child protection and child fatalities data. Her presentation indicated that annual estimates of children reported for abuse and neglect understate how many children are involved with child protection over time and that what we think of as a relatively rare event is much more common than has been indicated. Citing recent studies, she said that while one in 100 US children are substantiated annually as being victims of child abuse, one in eight children (12.5%) have been confirmed as a victim by age 18. The prevalence for black children is 20.9%. She also indicated that after adjusting for other risk factors at birth, a previous report to CPS (regardless of disposition) emerged as the strongest predictor of injury or death during a child’s first five years of life.

That and other similar comments set the stage for a series of witnesses who discussed data-driven strategies that could assist in pinpointing the greatest risks. Certain characteristics are more likely to be present in child fatalities, characteristics such as the presence of substance abuse, the presence of a “paramour” or an unrelated adult in the family and other common factors such as water-related and sleeping-related deaths are more likely to be found in these cases. The data discussions include ways to match child welfare related data such as NDACAN (National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect) and the foster care SACWIS (Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System) as well as health and birth related data. There was also a great deal of discussion regarding the use of predictive analytics—a methodology that is becoming a buzz word within the human services field—that attempts to use statistical data and mining of the information to determine the most effective policies and strategies.

A significant part of the Commission time was devoted to the state of Florida and the differences in child deaths between jurisdictions and what different practices within the state might be effecting why some areas are more successful than other areas in preventing child deaths. In March the, Miami Herald ran an extensive report: Innocents Lost which highlighted the increasing numbers of child deaths, particularly those children that had previously been know to the child protection and child welfare system.

Last month the Commission held a hearing in the state of Texas, the state with the highest number of child fatalities in each of the last five years according to NCANDS data. Florida has had the second highest number of child deaths for four of the past five years. The five states with the highest rates of child deaths per 100,000 children in 2012 were: New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, and Florida.

The next and third field hearing scheduled for the Commission is scheduled for August 28 in Detroit, MI.
To obtain more information about the Commission go to its website which has a link for submitting comments, the latest news reports on child deaths within states, event schedules and other information on the Commission and its actions.