Data Story

Strong Children (Safety)
Prevention and Aftercare Networks Data Story 

As part of identifying and tracking Countywide Prevention Metrics (CPM), it is important to show current data trends related to the development of strong children, strong families, and strong communities in the areas of health, safety, and well-being within LA County. Apart from presenting such data in our Dashboards, there is a need to provide thoughtful interpretation of the data to help tell a comprehensive story and inform policy, prevention programming, and data-driven decision-making. Additionally, this type of data story will assist with drawing a connection between each impact indicator and their corresponding actionable indicators. For this preliminary release of the CPM, we included a data story on the Prevention and Aftercare (P&A) Networks to demonstrate how this program affects the impact indicator of Child Protective Services Involvement. Future iterations of the CPM will include more data stories incorporated into the product to help draw similar connections between impact and actionable indicators.  
The role of P&A Networks in strengthening families and reducing involvement with Child Protective Services
The Prevention and Aftercare (P&A) Networks program is a critical component of the Countywide Prevention Plan, aimed at strengthening families by increasing their protective factors, fostering community connectedness, and streamlining access to needed services. The purpose of the P&A networks is not only to strengthen families but also to decrease their involvement with Child Protective Services (CPS). It is the goal of the P&A networks that by increasing front-end preventive services, there will be a decrease in overall CPS involvement, including fewer 1) referrals of alleged maltreatment to the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS), 2) substantiated cases for maltreatment, and 3) children placed in out-of-home care. Based on the P&A data in the Child Protective Service dashboard, the County has shown an increase in P&A referrals over a three-year period. Through these front-end preventive services to families, we anticipate that the County will experience a decrease in the impact indicator of CPS involvement in the first five years of life. Early data from the DCFS Hotline pilot, further described below, provides support for this.
What do Prevention and Aftercare (P&A) Networks do?
P&A networks focus on: 
  • Preventing child maltreatment 
  • Decreasing social isolation
  • Increasing economic opportunity
  • Increasing access to resources
  • Strengthening family protective factors
  • Improving collaboration between the County’s public child-welfare system and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs)

* Pictures posted with permission from the families.
More information about the P&A Network program, as well as DCFS’ other family-centered services, can be found in the Children’s Data Network (CDN) report “Los Angeles County Family Centered Services: Using Administrative Data to Understand the Landscape of Community-Based Child Welfare Supports.” (Please note that the CDN report uses a deduplicated count of families referred and served by the P&A Networks, while the P&A data in this report reflect total referral counts.)
Summary of trends in P&A referral data from DCFS

It is important to note that community referrals to P&A Networks account for a large portion of clients the P&A Networks serve -- this data story, however, focuses specifically on DCFS referrals to the P&A Networks. From 2016-2019, there was an 186% increase in overall referrals to the P&A Networks. This referral increase is attributed to the P&A Network program expansion strategy in the Countywide Prevention Plan as well as strengthening the Hotline Community Prevention Linkages (CPL) program, described below.

There was a 120% increase in the acceptance rate of referrals between 2016 and 2018 due to the expansion of the P&A Networks, process improvements that streamlined families' access to services, and the implementation in 2018 of the CPL program.

There was also a slight dip in the acceptance rate from 2018 to 2019 but this may be due to 1) the sheer increase in referrals over the year and 2) the CPL process change of the community-based P&A Network agencies calling families directly to offer services instead of DCFS contacting the families. While this latter process change streamlined the time it takes for families to be connected to services, the P&A Network agencies essentially cold-call families, which may affect service acceptance rates. Since this is a voluntary service, families are informed about available supports and services and encouraged to get in touch at any point when they could use assistance. Higher acceptance rates, particularly in SPAs 2, 3, 6, and 7 may be attributed to strong service providers who are experienced in engaging families and are widely known in the communities they serve. Throughout the SPAs, White and Black families had fewer referrals for community services, and Black families generally had a lower acceptance rate of referrals in the SPAs. This could be explained by a distrust of the child welfare system due to a history of negative experiences for Black families. Higher acceptance rates in SPAs 2, 3, and 7 may also reflect larger Latino populations in these regions.

Improving quality of family engagement and reducing re-referrals to DCFS: Hotline Community Prevention Linkages Pilot
 In July 2018, the DCFS Hotline and the Office of Child Protection launched the Community Prevention Linkages (CPL) pilot with the P&A Networks to test a new approach for engaging families referred to the Hotline. The pilot is aimed at addressing Hotline calls that do not warrant a DCFS investigation, but where an identified need exists that could be addressed through community-based prevention supports. With this new pilot, community-based services are offered by the P&A Networks directly instead of through DCFS Hotline workers. Multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) were created to identify the right supports and services before calling families, the referral process was streamlined, and all DCFS Hotline staff were trained on the program criteria and the new streamlined process. In addition, Hotline and P&A staff were cross-trained and a more collegial and responsive MDT process was put in place.

This new enhanced teaming approach has improved family engagement, service planning and the quality of services offered. The impact is seen most clearly in increased acceptance rates, faster connection to services, and reduced re-referrals to DCFS. Public and private agencies are working together to tailor individualized responses so that families know where they can go to get needed support, and the offer of community-based support remains open even if families are reluctant to accept services immediately.  In just one year of implementation (July 2018-June 2019) the total number of families identified for supports almost doubled from 2,257 in 2017 to 4,488 in one year. Families who have accepted services have tripled from 224 in 2017 to 784 in one year.

Through DCFS’ and P&A Networks’ process improvements, families were connected to services an average of 13 business days sooner, which cut down on excessive wait time by 48% (from 27 business days to 14 business days). Lastly, during the first six months of the CPL protocol 16.54% more CPL-program children were able to safely remain in their homes with their families and substantiated abuse or neglect rates dropped by 1.22% for CPL families.  

The CPL pilot has helped turn the DCFS Hotline into a “helpline” for many families when allegations did not warrant a DCFS investigation. By offering community-based support through the P&A Networks, CPL helped families find resources, opportunities, and services close to home, strengthening families and mitigating risk factors that might lead to child abuse or neglect. As further described in the Countywide Prevention Plan, research suggests that child welfare systems experience pressure because families are not getting the support they need early enough, and because some are referred back to the system over and over again. Ensuring that prevention-oriented services are available, culturally competent, and accessible in local communities can provide support for families before problems escalate. In turn, knowing that community-based agencies are ready and willing to help also bolsters the child welfare system—strengthening the families it serves, increasing opportunities for family economic development, assisting social workers in their search for appropriate service referrals, and helping parents navigate local health, education, and family service systems. The CPL and the P&A Networks are an example of programming where the county is collaborating with community partners to develop new approaches to child abuse prevention and reducing involvement in the child welfare system by providing access to appropriate services earlier and strengthening protective factors in families.