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Making it Count Through Coordination and Collaboration

Community Science helps build strong community infrastructure by supporting Systems of Care

Change is rarely an individual effort. In order to shift even the simplest process, multiple stakeholders must be involved, working collaboratively to ensure that no needs are left unmet. Unfortunately, it's far easier in theory than it is in practice. For youth- and family-serving systems, achieving this goal means working with their counterparts in other agencies and organizations to coordinate - and integrate - services available for children and youth in the multiple systems, and those at risk of behavioral and other health challenges.

Meeting the needs of these children means building a better system.

That's the foundation of Systems of Care programs throughout the United States - a service delivery approach that builds partnerships across agencies and communities to create a broad, integrated process for meeting families' multiple needs.
Although Systems of Care were originally developed to address the needs of children with serious emotional disturbances, the approach is now being applied to other populations whose needs require services from multiple agencies, including youth involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Simply defined, a System of Care is a wide-ranging spectrum of effective, community-based services and supports for children and youth with or at risk for mental health or other challenges and their families. The system is organized into a coordinated network, building meaningful partnerships with families and youth, and addressing their cultural and linguistic needs, in order to help them to function better at home, in school, in the community, and throughout life. On the ground level, that means reducing the number of children placed outside of their homes for care.
However, unlike some "top-down" programs, the key difference in a System of Care is that it's driven by the communities and families that benefit from it. From government agencies to local community leaders, the system only works when everyone works together.

The Systems of Care approach is based on the principles of interagency collaboration; individualized,
strengths-based care practices; cultural competence; community-based services; accountability; and full participation of families and youth at all levels of the system.

Community Science is proud to help build, support, and evaluate these systems through our own passion, partnerships, and expertise. Senior Associate LaKeesha Woods, Ph.D. is currently working with the Nassau County Family Support System of Care as co-project director and an evaluator.

"System of Care in general, and Nassau County's No Wrong Door Family Support System of Care in particular, promote the holistic health of diverse children and families. As local evaluators, we are charged not only with measuring the initiative's desired outcomes, but providing information to help the program develop and improve, celebrate its successes, and add to the field of children's mental health," said Dr. Woods.

In this role, Dr. Woods follows the implementation of services and supports as well as the progress of children and their families throughout the program, documenting outcomes and assessing impact. The constructive, detailed feedback and insight based on the evaluation findings enable program administrators to make data-informed decisions to strengthen the system of care. This data are also fed to a national Systems of Care evaluation team to build the evidence base for the field.

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