The Ahlquist 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 two broad areas to improve policy, practice and innovation:
- Opportunities for Youth Ages 8 to 18. Mobilizing support for a state-level policy and advocacy agenda to increase opportunities for vulnerable youth ages 8 to 18.
- Improving the Connection between Early Childhood and Families involved with the Child Welfare System. Utilizing our work in the Illinois Birth to Three Waiver (IB3), Project Link, and the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) initiative to promote sound policies and better services for very young children in the child welfare system.
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 21 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 21 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, healthy, employable, thriving and connected. As the Secretary of Education said at the inaugural Cabinet meeting, she had never seen the state budget presented in this way that tracks funding toward developmental goals for children.
- Leadership on state efforts to enroll more children involved in the child welfare system in early childhood programs.
Children’s Home + Aid is co-chairing a committee of the Home Visiting Task Force charged with developing a pilot program to enroll infants of young parents who are wards of the state into home visiting programs. The pilot will begin in July 2016.
Staff is providing technical assistance to the Race to the Top Innovation Zones in Thornton Township and East Saint Louis on enrolling children involved in the child welfare system in early childhood programs.
- 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.
- Adult Connections. Using the learning from our federal grant testing the impact of mentoring and supported work experiences, staff is working to shape both policy and practice for youth transitioning out of foster care.
- Chicago Youth Development and Data Collaborative. Public and private youth service providers in Chicago and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago are collecting and reporting robust data to inform discussions on the needs of youth and the impact of specific services.
- Child Welfare Practice-Based Research Networks. Advancing the pairing of local university-affiliated research entities with Children’s Home Society of America member agencies to advance of the research agenda associated with the “grand challenges” emerging from the Wicked Problems Institutes.
- 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.
- Community Schools Services for Charter Schools Exploration. Staff is approaching a charter school about providing services to improve the social and emotional well-being of students. These services are designed to meet the needs of youth who have experienced trauma and exposure to violence and are based on our clinical expertise and community schools experience.