In the first year of the initiative, stakeholders in the Central region of the State participated in focus groups, examined local permanency achievement data, and engaged in a Permanency Enhancement Symposium where they developed “location action plans” to address community level barriers to permanency for children.
Phase one of the project was completed in spring of 2007, when action teams and community stakeholders across the Central region participated in the first Permanency Enhancement Symposium. The morning session consisted of a review of the nature of the problem with an overview by DCFS Director Erwin McEwen. A discussion of the needs of African American families was facilitated by nationally known speaker Zena Oglesby of the Institute for Black Parenting. Illinois State University Center for Adoption Studies faculty members Dr. Jeanne Howard and Dr. Doris M. Houston presented data on permanency and disproportionality and findings from focus groups. In addition, a panel of judges, assistant state’s attorneys and a youth who graduated from foster care discussed the challenges of moving children more quickly to reunification or other permanency.
The session was telecast from Illinois State University to 5 additional sites across the region.
In the afternoon, participants divided into action teams to establish goals for their particular community. Each team had data specific to its county which presented 12 and 36 month permanency rates compared to the region as a whole and permanency rates by race. Action teams then set times to meet to continue planning to address goals they identified.
In Phase Two of the project, beginning in January of 2008, the initiative expanded to include every region within State of Illinois. University partnerships were also expanded to include Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northern Illinois University. The University partners affiliated with each region of the state work with action teams to carefully define goals and objectives and to overcome barriers to action team progress. Additionally, the University Partners provide training, technical assistance, and evaluation services to community stakeholders and child welfare staff.