The Center for Policy, Practice and Innovation aims to:
- Promote effective state and federal public policies and services;
- Improve the quality of services – inside and outside of Children’s Home & Aid – available to vulnerable children and families;
- Incubate innovative practices to improve outcomes and inform public policies.
The Center is focusing on three broad areas to improve policy, practice and innovation:
- Start to Finish: Opportunities for Youth Ages 8 to 25. Mobilizing support for a state-level policy and advocacy agenda to increase opportunities for youth ages 8 to 25.
- Enhancing Access to High-Quality Early Care and Education by Families involved with the Child Welfare System. Utilizing our work in the Illinois Birth to Three Waiver (IB3), Project Link, and the Illinois Pregnant and Parenting Youth in Care (IPPYC) Home Visiting project to promote sound policies and better services for very young children in the child welfare system.
- Improving Children and Young Adults’ Access to Mental Health Services. Advocating for more robust mental health services for children and adolescents, particularly youth exposed to trauma and involved in the child welfare system.
- Increasing Access to Child Care for Those Who Need It the Most. The Ahlquist Center was instrumental in the passage of HB4885. Signed into law in August 2018, this bill provides families with children ages zero to five with an indicated case of abuse and neglect access to free- or low-cost child care through the Child Care Assistance Program while they are in the DCFS Intact Family Services program. Families retain their access to child care for six months after leaving the Intact program. Allowing families in the child welfare system to access subsidized child care aligns Illinois with the vast majority of states.
- Expanding Access to Home Visiting to Youth in Care. In order to better understand how to support children whose parents are in foster care themselves, the Ahlquist Center worked with state government and partner organizations to develop and implement the Illinois Pregnant and Parenting Youth in Care (IPPYC) Home Visiting pilot. For over two years, the IPPYC pilot worked specifically with pregnant and parenting youth in care, providing home visiting in nine communities in Illinois. The pilot generated important lessons on how to tailor home visiting services to meet the unique situations of parents in foster care. The recommendations promoted by the model provide greater opportunities to reach young parents in foster care and break the cycle of abuse and neglect. To view our full report on the Illinois Pregnant and Parenting Youth in Care Home Visiting Pilot Experience, click here.
- Creating Government Tools to Support Older Youth and Young Adults. In 2015, the Ahlquist Center, thanks to the generous support of the Chicago Community Trust, partnered with the Federation for Community Schools, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and United Way of Illinois, to develop a new analysis of the state budget. Looking at the budget as a series of interconnected goals rather than a list of departments and programs, the Fiscal Scan of Illinois Public Investments in Children and Youth Ages 8-25, examined how much public funding is invested in youth ages 8-25 by key developmental area. This approach gave us deeper insight into whether or not the state is providing the necessary supports to allow these youth to flourish.
In 2018, this analysis was formalized by the state with the enactment of PA100-0818, which created the Youth Budget Commission, a legislative effort spearheaded by the Ahlquist Center and the Start to Finish Coalition. The 15-member Youth Budget Commission appointed by the Governor will oversee the creation of the future versions of the scan and will use the document to develop comprehensive policy recommendations that support our goal of ensuring youth are stable, safe, healthy, educated, employable and connected. You can learn more about the Youth Budget Commission here.
- Power of Fathers.This collaboration between Children’s Home & Aid, Family Focus, Metropolitan Family Services and Fathers, Families and Healthy Communities is working to improve the well-being of fathers and enhance their connections to their families. The partnership works directly with 100 low-income fathers of color in Chicago’s Englewood and North Lawndale communities. In addition to providing direct services to fathers, the organizations are improving their ability to fully engage fathers in all of their programs and engaging in advocacy to change the systems that have a direct impact on low-income fathers and their families.
- Choose to Change. Choose 2 Change is an innovative youth violence prevention program jointly delivered by Children’s Home & Aid and Youth Advocate Programs and rigorously evaluated by the University of Chicago Crime Lab. As the winner of the 2015 Chicago Design Competition, the program works in Chicago neighborhoods with high rates of gun violence and has served nearly 600 youth to date who are at high risk of being victims or perpetrators of violence. Choose 2 Change receives generous support from the Chicago Sports Alliance, the City of Chicago, and several private foundation partners.
- Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI) Chicago-Cook County Two-Generational Residential Mobility Demonstration. Children’s Home & Aid is developing the family counseling services for this demonstration project to support 240 families in building lives in communities of greater opportunity after moving from communities of deep poverty.