Funding from ACF; Private and Public Go Head-to-Head in Washington State; Project to Help Moms Wronged by the System; and more

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***The Administration for Children and Families issued two solicitations for the Strengthening Communities Fund, which is part of the Recovery Act funds allotted to the agency. Both solicitations carry a deadline of July 7.

The Nonprofit Capacity Building Fund will make 34 grants of $1 million to organizations that will serve as lead agencies in their area. Grantees will be tasked with helping other area nonprofits serving children and families increase capacity on five counts: organizational development, program development, collaboration and community engagement, leadership development and evaluation of effectiveness.

The State, Local, and Tribal Government Capacity Building Program goes to public agencies for some "helping you help us" work. The agencies can use the money to help nonprofits and faith-based groups build their capacity to assist states and county agencies provide services to families. Priorities include helping nonprofits adjust services based on needs created by the economic downturn, bringing groups together to seek out Recovery Act funds, and improving the coherence of local referrals for services or benefits. ACF expects to fund about 48 projects with $250,000 each over two years.

***The Family Defense Center, a Chicago-based group that advocates for families involved in the child welfare system, has launched an interesting new project that CW Today will be keeping tabs on. The Mothers Defense Project will take on the cause of mothers who the FDC believes have had children removed from them illegally, and make efforts to publicize the facts of such cases. 

That is a well-timed endeavor. Lots of newspapers, hampered by buyouts and layoffs, are struggling to fill pages with valuable content. So you would think that feeding editors and reporters the lede to potentially interesting features should have more impact now than ever.

The project, which had its initial planning meeting in mid-April, is profiled on page five of this newsletter from FDC.

***The mad rush to finalize legislation for the year in the State of Washington produced an interesting experiment for the state's child welfare system. After a lot of back and forth between legislators, lobbyists and Gov. Chris Gregoire (D), a deal was struck to conduct an enormous experiment in privatization.

In a nutshell, 20 percent to 40 percent of the state's caseload will be taken over by caseworkers and staff employed by private providers, while the rest will remain under the auspices of state social workers. In the experimental areas, the state workers will still handle initial investigations and foster care licensing.

This constitutes one of, if not the, largest side-by-side comparisons of private and public child welfare operation. On top of that, the reform bill requires the Children's Administration to change all of its contracts to performance-based agreements in less than two years.

"In the past, we've based funding on caseload sizes and service volumes, which rewards and encourages bigger caseloads and more services," said state Rep. Ruth Kagi in a statement last week. "The new approach will focus on rewarding those service providers who most effectively help at-risk children and families," Kagi said.

A report measuring the performance of the privately run areas will be produced by 2015. Anyone interested in following this and other developments with Washington's system should read Olympian reporter Adam Wilson's blog. Excellent resource.

***A couple of resources on the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act. First, the National Governors Association hosted two webcasts over the past two months on the act. One features leaders from the child welfare agencies in Connecticut and Massachusetts discussing how to use the act to assist older youth in care, particularly those on the precipice of aging out. The other is a discussion about the act's education provisions with Pennsylvania leaders and American Bar Association Assistant Staff Director Kathleen McNaught. The ABA has also produced a basic Q&A about the education portion of the act.

Also worth perusing is the Juvenile Law Center's report on the act, which was born of  a convening the organization held right after the act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in October. Discussions of the act's provisions focused on six main themes: permanency and planning, education, employment, health/mental health, housing, and court practices. 

***On June 22, the Performance Institute's Center for Social and Youth Policy is hosting an online training session about child and family service grants available under the Recovery Act. The 90-minute session is designed to help organizations figure out the distribution of new funds and how a private or nonprofit provider can tap into those dollars. Tuition is $199.