The Case for "Community-Centered" Design.

Author:Evans, Tracy Wareing
Position:President's memo - Meeting on 21st century child welfare system hosted by Casey Family Programs - Conference notes

At the heart of the human-centered design movement is the need to shift practice models and engagement strategies in ways that put the consumer in the driver's seat. In human services, these design methodologies are helping translate historically paternalistic models of engagement to ones that better meet individuals within the context of their lives. These person- and family-focused efforts are key to first understanding root causes at the individual level (i.e., the integrative stage of the Human Services Value Curve). But they are not enough. To truly advance economic and social mobility for everyone, we must leverage the assets of communities and the will of the people who live in them. Borrowing from our colleagues in public health, we need to amplify our efforts with intentional population level strategies--what we might call "community-centered design."

A ripe and powerful example is the emerging national movement to prevent child maltreatment. Through a series of multisector convenings hosted by Casey Family Programs, leaders across the country are focused on building a 21st century child welfare system. At the most recent meeting on March 21-22, we joined Casey Family Programs and more than 200 leaders in child welfare, public health, justice, and constituent advocacy to identify ways to accelerate work at national, state, and local levels to collectively move our focus upstream, and prevent the conditions that lead to child maltreatment.

In his opening remarks, Casey's Executive Vice President, David Sanders, noted that for too long "we have isolated [child protective services] CPS agencies to solve a community problem," and our national outcomes unfortunately reflect it. Despite fewer children dying today than ever before, the number of child fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect has increased. Moreover, we know that exposure to adverse experiences early in life is related to 8 of 10 cases of early death in adults. As David implored, we need the same level of national commitment and urgency of action across sectors and systems to solve for child maltreatment as we have for so many childhood diseases.

At the core of this commitment is a paradigm shift that requires us to flip our understanding of what it means for a child to be safe, stable, and well. Today, safety is "rooted in investigation as a response to children that have already experienced abuse and neglect." (1) Safety must instead be understood as a core part...

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