This ambitious, visionary, $45,000,000 initiative by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation was designed to reduce the large backlog of children who, unable to return to their birth families, linger in state and local child welfare systems without alternative permanent families. The initiative was also designed to change both the culture and the practices of the public and private agencies, which are responsible for these children. The Foundation chose WRMA to evaluate both the initial "Community Visioning" phase and the subsequent implementation activities. WRMA was thus integrally involved in the Families for Kids (FFK) initiative from its earliest stages.
During the "Community Visioning" phase, local FFK grantee staff from 19 communities in 15 States worked with 14,000 stakeholders, who gave voice to the ideas and concerns of groups and individuals affected by the child welfare system. These traditional and non-traditional stakeholders developed a vision for child welfare in their communities and a strategic plan to implement that vision. WRMA followed, documented, supported, and analyzed this visioning and strategic planning process at all 19 sites. In each, it met with a variety of stakeholders; documented the legal, organizational, political, and demographic environments; and collected data, evaluated progress, and made recommendations. WRMA also developed the conceptual framework and evaluative infrastructure used to evaluate both the planning and implementation stages of the FFK initiative.
Following the "Community Visioning" phase, 11 of the grantees were awarded multi-year implementation grants based on the strategic plans and implementation proposals they developed. WRMA was selected to evaluate the initiative and to provide programmatic and evaluative technical assistance during this phase. The implementation evaluation was designed to inform the Foundation, the implementation sites, and the child welfare field in general, as to progress made, lessons learned, and challenges remaining.
To that end, WRMA examined the initiative across all sites and identified those common themes that unified the initiative and served as a foundation for change. WRMA also helped the involved communities to overcome barriers to implementing their strategic plans for permanent change to the local social service and judicial systems. Policies and practices that could be powerful tools for meeting the needs for permanency of children in communities across the United States were also identified by the evaluation. A series of reports, detailing the results of the evaluation were prepared by WRMA and submitted to the Foundation.