The Ahlquist Center for Policy, Practice and Innovation aims to:
- Promote effective state and federal public policies and services;
- Improve the quality of services 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: Completing Our Commitment to Youth. Mobilizing support for a state-level policy, research and advocacy agenda to increase opportunities for youth ages 8 to 25.
- Educational Success of Children and Youth in the Child Welfare System
- Access to early childhood care and education for young children
- Improving the transition to school and experiences while in elementary and high school
- Children’s Mental Health. Improving access to quality mental health services.
Establishment of the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth. Children’s Home & Aid led the discussion with members of the state administration on the benefits of creating a Cabinet for Children and Youth. In February, the Governor signed an Executive Order creating the Cabinet.
Children’s Home & Aid presented a fiscal scan of funding supporting programming for youth ages 8 to 25 to the inaugural meeting of the Cabinet on Children and Youth in March.
Development of a tool tracking funding for programs to youth ages 8 to 25 that will be utilized by the Illinois Secretary of Education and the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth.
The fiscal scan explores how public funding is directed to keeping children and youth educated, safe, stable, healthy, educated, employable and connected. This is the first time that the state budget is organized around the developmental goals children and youth need to reach to be successful in life. To view the full Fiscal Scan and its companion reports, please visit the Illinois Public Investments in Children and Youth page.
Leadership on state efforts to enroll more children involved in the child welfare system in early childhood programs.
Children’s Home & Aid is directing a pilot providing evidence-informed home visiting services to pregnant and parenting teens and young adults who are in foster care. The I PICK Home Visiting pilot is currently providing services to 18 young families in eight locations throughout the state. The pilot is being evaluated by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to inform the state’s efforts to expand home visiting to more families involved in the child welfare system.
- 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.
- Northwestern University Settlement House Mental Health Initiative. This partnership, which began in June, will reach 1,200 majority low-income and minority children and families on the West Side. Children’s Home & Aid will provide bilingual mental health services at the settlement house. The initiative includes a partnership with Rush Medical Center to provide child and adolescent psychiatry through tele-health.
- Wicked Problems and the Children’s Home Society of America. Staff is facilitating regular discussions which bring together the private sector, the public sector and university-based research partners to analyze and develop solutions to the thorniest issues in child welfare.