Philanthropy Northwest

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Health, Families and Innovative Collaboration: A Field Trip to Spokane

Health, Families and Innovative Collaboration: A Field Trip to Spokane

June 15, 2015

Ted Lord and Leslie Silverman, The Giving Practice

Members of the Philanthropist Forum, a collaborative of Washington and California funders focusing on child welfare issues and staffed by The Giving Practice, spent Wednesday, May 27 on an all-day site visit to Spokane hosted by Empire Health Foundation. Along with a health-outcome-inspired waterfall walk after lunch, the day included dialogue with key community members (including a family court commissioner and the executive director of Catholic Charities) working on child well-being and updates from a recent investee, the Family Impact Network, working to support system improvements through performance-based contracting.

Family Impact Network (FIN) is a new nonprofit that will implement a performance-based contracting program designed to improve child welfare outcomes and increase services in Washington state. The goal of the program is to reduce foster care placements by 50% over five years and improve outcomes for children, youth and their families. The pilot phase of FIN will be based in Spokane. If the pilot succeeds, there will be further exploration about how FIN can be a resource for shared services that may be accessed by other regional organizations charged with managing on-the-ground service provider contracts.

We also heard from another Philanthropist Forum grantee, Partners for Our Children, who is developing new data tracking and analysis systems for FIN to increase shared understanding of key performance evidence. A good example of this is a recent survey that revealed that although only 1% of kids in Spokane are currently enrolled in an aspect of the child welfare system, over 60% of those currently incarcerated in the county were involved in the child welfare system as children.

And the day wrapped up with a report from iFoster, another Philanthropist Forum grantee, who has created an online community and benefits program for transition-age foster youth, their families, case workers and direct service organizations. Launched in 2010 in nearly every county in California, the collaborative’s grant is allowing iFoster to explore readiness and interest in Washington state. iFoster works to bring free and discounted resources to the community from private, public and government service providers to help close the funding gap in foster care.

One recurring theme of the day was a reminder of the power shared data collection and analysis can have in revealing key levers to improving systems and practice, especially in identifying early wins to encourage cross-sector participation in a virtuous cycle of evidence-based decision-making.

A special thank you to the Empire Health Foundation for hosting the site visit and sharing your newly opened Philanthropy Center with us — a landmark building that will continue to spark landmark changes positively impacting the region.

If you are interested in learning more about any of these grant programs or this funder collaborative and the peer learning community it fosters, please contact Ted Lord tlord@philanthropynw.org .