The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group is involved with multiple states and projects ranging from strengthening child welfare systems to independent consulting arrangements, all with the goal of improving the lives of children and families across the United States.  

New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD)

The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group (CWG) worked closely in 2021 and 2022 with CYFD in New Mexico to support the development, training, and implementation of a teaming model for case planning.  The New Mexico model calls for an Individualized Planning Process (IPP), which features heightened family engagement and informal and formal supports being utilized to achieve improved outcomes. 

The Kevin S. Settlement Agreement (  requires “Individualized planning meetings for each child—a process informed by Child and Family Teaming (CFT), collaborative decision-making, and High-Fidelity Wraparound models”.   The model supports the belief that families are the experts who best know their strengths, challenges, and hopes for the future. The model will be a sweeping revision, as the divisions  of Protective Services, Juvenile Justice, and Children’s Behavioral Health work to reduce the number of single-purpose meetings with families and use the Individualized Planning Meeting (IPM) to accomplish requirements in one setting.  

CWG is on the ground across the state to support training, provide coaching in real-time with families, and develop CYFD-internal capacity to ensure that the model is utilized now and in the future.  CWG will continue to support the excellent work in NM until 2023. 

Residential Treatment Facility Assessment

CWG’s history and expertise include years of systems and facility evaluations. A large-scale assessment of a Residential Treatment Facility* was conducted in February – March 2020. This project included a review of policy, curriculum, and financial and regulatory reports. Interviews were conducted with youth, staff, family members, and others. Input was received from community partners and prior employees. Surveys were completed by staff and others, which resulted in helpful data collection. The Board of Directors, Administration, and other leaders received reports of findings and recommendations. In addition, findings were discussed with all staff in small – medium group meetings, during which they gave feedback about findings and made recommendations for leadership.

*For more information about this and other residential assessments, please call CWG at 334-264-8300 or email

Illinois – Agency Performance Monitoring and Execution Support

In 2022, CWG continues to support the Agency Performance Monitoring and Execution (APME) program, which plays a critical role in monitoring quality in practice and outcomes for children and their families. When direct service utilizes Child and Family Team Meetings (CFTM) in a frequent and quality-focused manner, practice and outcomes for safety, permanency, and well-being will improve. Agency monitoring can have a positive impact on the use of CFTM by reinforcing them as a priority and using a more hands on approach in the participation and coaching of selected CFTM.  For this to occur, the Department has utilized CWG as support for APME staff in the CFTM model, with the intent that APME will attend selected CFTM meetings with an agency worker for the purpose of supporting supervisors to coach and reinforce the need for quality CFTM.

In 2020 - 2021, CWG continued to support the ongoing development of Child and Family Team Meetings in Illinois; work was completed virtually. We worked in partnership with the Department of Children and Family Services and the University of Illinois to strengthen the state’s capacity to have meaningful planning opportunities with families through training and coaching, which included virtual support for the design and production of “Master Coach Summits”. One important goal for the partnership is to support the development of ongoing capacity in the state for training and coaching Child and Family Team Meetings.

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Oklahoma Department of Human Services

In 2022, consultation is focused on supporting the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Child Welfare Services in its efforts to safely reduce the need for out of home care for children. Specific work includes analysis and interpretation of agency outcome data as a basis for focusing practice, design of leadership approaches for implementation by the agency’s executive team, and strategies for improving rates of attaining safe and timely permanent families for children in foster care.

Miami-Dade County, FL

In 2019, CWG continued to provide Family Engagement/Motivational Interviewing workshops and trainings to newly hired workers on track to become Child Protective Investigators. The purpose of this two-day training is to support the development of the workers’ skills relative to family engagement and to demonstrate motivational interviewing techniques that strengthen the workers’ abilities to assess safety/risk, build a trust-based relationship with families, and reach safety related solutions for children and their families.

Trainees will learn to identify the stages of change and assess which stage the caregiver is experiencing. The training will demonstrate the advantages of motivational interviewing and teach social workers to incorporate change-talk language, decisional balance, and the working agreement into their practice so they can better engage, assess, intervene and plan with families around safety needs and solutions to meet needs.

Allegheny County, PA

A new model for practice and services launched in Pennsylvania with support from the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group. Under the new model, the goal is for services to be streamlined and integrated to provide a more unified experience for families whose members are receiving more than one service through DHS. The model gives families greater input in the services they receive in an effort to strengthen families and maintain the family unit. This is a change from other models where children are often removed from their families.


A sweeping assessment of the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) was undertaken by the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group (CWG) at the request of Governor Eric Holcomb, who asked CWG to:

  • Examine the current performance of the child welfare functions of the agency and compare it  to generally accepted national practice standards and outcome measures
  • Identify prominent strengths and challenges 
  • Produce recommendations for changes in any areas needing improvement  

Assessment activities began in January 2018 around the same time Terry Stigdon, the current Director of DCS, assumed her role. 

Many of the recommendations made by CWG have been implemented or are under exploration as the state works to strengthen its child welfare system.

Statement from Director Terri Stigdon
Read the Assessment Documents


The Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services requested an independent study of the Department’s strengths and challenges to inform elected officials, stakeholders and the citizens of Louisiana of the status of child welfare in the state. CWG was asked to conduct the study, which was completed in the fall of 2015. The findings of the review featured information about improved or falling outcome trends in practice, the impact of budgetary restrictions, and the workforce environment.

Los Angeles, CA

CWG Executive Director Freida Baker conducted a congregate care review in the fall of 2018 to support assessment and monitoring of the Katie A. lawsuit. CWG founder and former director, Paul Vincent, serves as chair of the Katie A. Advisory and Monitoring Panel in Los Angeles County, California. The Katie A. vs. Bonta lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County on July 18, 2002. The suit called for improved services for children and youth currently in foster care, and those at imminent risk of placement into foster care. Federal District Court Judge A. Howard Matz approved the settlement agreement, which calls for systemic improvements in case planning, mental health and supportive services, and use of congregate and shelter care for youth.

Read about the long term impact here

Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Broward County, FL

CWG worked with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, which handles intake and assessment of reports of child abuse and neglect in the County, to direct its efforts toward more effective engagement with families in two high-referral zip code areas. This 2017 project focused on collaboration with community leaders and service providers to address the cultural needs of these locales which are largely communities of color, and to improve individual family engagement and assessment as a basis for safety planning to keep children safely at home or within their extended families.

Learn More - coming soon!

Philadelphia Department of Health and Human Services

This extensive assessment examined performance in both HHS and ten Community Umbrella Agencies contracted to provide ongoing services to families across the City. CWG was engaged in 2016 by the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia.  CWG submitted the final report of our 2017 work to evaluate the “Improving Outcomes for Children” child welfare redesign in the City’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The final report which details the in-depth assessment process, findings, and CWG’s recommendations may be seen here: 

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Iowa Department of Human Services

In 2019, CWG facilitated 12 “Provider Forums” held across the state.  In preparation for implementation of Family First, agency leaders were interested in the unique perspectives of the provider community, and asked CWG to conduct the meetings.  Issues ranging from practice philosophy to billing structure were discussed. Importantly, Iowa used the overall CWG report and recommendations as decisions were made about Family First. The report also yielded fresh information about provider strengths, needs, and suggestions.       

CWG conducted an assessment of Iowa’s Family Team Decision Making (FTDM) process in 2018, with a particular focus on their facilitation model.  As long ago as 2002, CWG assisted the state as they crafted their Family Team Decision Making (FTDM) model which encourages  family-focused practice and improved outcomes.  CWG’s report yielded findings and recommendations about ways to strengthen the FTDM facilitator’s skills. 

CWG completed a targeted review in December 2017 which focused primarily on the intake and child protection assessment functions of the Iowa Department of Human Services. The final report of the initial review may be seen here:

Read the Report

Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Florida

In 2017, CWG completed a Qualitative Service Review of a sample of ChildNet cases to assist the agency in identifying opportunities to strengthen practice and improve child and family outcomes. CWG utilized the coaching process to develop staff abilities, including mentoring and modeling best practices.


CWG, upon the request of the governor, conducted a review in 2015 of the Arkansas child welfare system and specifically the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS). CWG provided information, report, and guidance to the state.  The review included research into DCFS policy and procedures, agency performance and trend data, internal studies and interviews with approximately 200 DCFS staff and external stakeholders. DCFS staff at all levels were interviewed and external stakeholders consisted of legislators, judges, other state agency representatives, other legal partners, foster and adoptive parents, service providers, former foster youth, advocates and other individuals and groups with an interest in the welfare of children. The input of those individuals was critical to the accurate analysis of the child welfare system. 
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In 2018, CWPPG continued to work with the Child Welfare Quality Assurance Division of the Alabama State Department of Human Resources toward their goal of improving the collaborative work between state staff and county staff, who are responsible for working directly with families and children.  By observing the de-briefing discussions at the conclusion of the QSR and coaching according to the desired outcomes identified in a county's Quality Service Review, CWPPG has provided guidance to the Division's Practice Specialists in partnering with counties and engaging county leaders in creating a long-term vision for their county's success.  CWPPG has recently facilitated discussions in the Division to look toward the future, in terms of readiness to address changes in both technology and the workforce in a way that will enhance their effectiveness.
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Since 2012 to date, CWG has assisted the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Qualitative Review Process (QSR).  CWG assisted the State in developing its own QSR protocol, train its QA staff in its use, provide coaching to the review team and introduce the process to the initial review counties.  Periodically, CWG has assisted the system with inter-rater reliability assessments and coaching.

CWG Senior Associate Cornelius Bird presented Keynote and workshops at the 2018 MITEAM CQI Conference in Lansing.

2014 Progress Report
2017 Progress Report


In December 2018, Senior Associate Cornelius Bird presented the Keynote address and workshops at the Virginia Trauma-Informed Family Engagement Conference sponsored by the Virginia Department of Social Services. The Keynote and workshop opportunities featured an historical perspective on family engagement practice changes that have evolved in child welfare over the past 50 years.
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