A PREVENT Case Study in Hawaii
Partnering and collaboration are widely encouraged in underfunded fields such as public health and child welfare. It is considered imperative by many funders of non-profit organizations. Yet it can seem like a lot of time and effort with uncertain gains, especially when you are supposed to be partnering with organizations competing for the same limited sources of funding. Within the world of child maltreatment prevention there is such an overwhelming amount of work for any one organization to do that it can be hard to prioritize more meetings that may or may not seem central to your mission. Maui County in Hawaii has faced the same problems with limited time and financial resources in addressing child maltreatment as any other county in the country; however, a group of organizations that work to prevent child abuse and neglect has found some extraordinary results from taking the time to build a real and meaningful partnership there.
The story begins when an agency called the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center was looking at some of their prevention education efforts and began to wonder if they were spending their limited money in the best ways possible. They pulled together an oversight committee that obtained funding to do research on best practices in child abuse and neglect prevention. When they received the final report from this research several members of this ad hoc committee realized that they wanted to find a way to continue their efforts to implement best practice and to work together in doing so. Just at this moment, they became aware of an application for the PREVENT Institute. It seemed a perfect match. In two days they developed an application, applied, and soon were accepted to attend.
The PREVENT team from Maui represented three non-profit organizations, and the state department of health. In the first part of the Institute, they addressed the question of how to expand the use of best practice in child abuse prevention in Maui. While there were many agencies involved in child abuse and neglect prevention, there was no coordinated effort to share results, evaluate effectiveness or emphasize evidence based projects. PREVENT encourages multidisciplinary collaboration, and the team decided to create a neweir mission was to create a seamless safety net of child abuse and neglect prevention services for children and their caregivers.
The Ho’oikaika Partnership made great strides in the 6 months between the two onsite sessions of the PREVENT Institute. They invited all of the agencies involved in primary prevention of child abuse and neglect in the county, and by the second Institute they were holding monthly meetings that transformed 14 regularly attending agencies into a real partnership. The Consuelo Foundation recognized the importance of this endeavor and funded their initial efforts. As a partnership they created an organizational structure, collected and shared data, built avenues for communication, and educated themselves. For example, the partnership invited guest speakers on key issues like cultural competency in working with the Hawaiian, Filipino, and Pacific Islander communities in the county. They developed guiding principles and talking points for partners to use in discussing their vision with the larger community. They identified a social networking system that all partnering agencies could access and started a resource library on primary prevention that could be accessed through this system. A survey of partners allowed them to map the child abuse and neglect resources in the county.
The partnership also completed activities that built cohesiveness and confidence between agencies. At each meeting two agencies reported about their activities and future plans. Maui is not a huge county (2008 population of <150,000), and you might expect every agency within the field of child abuse and neglect to know each other well; but every partnering agency commented at some point that they learned new things about what other agencies were doing. The PREVENT team members reflected that the reporting was a vital part of building the partnership: it made every representative feel more ownership of the overall process. This process helped clarify the differences among agencies which seemed to decrease the sense of competition for funding and other resources. In addition, the partnership also engaged in legislative advocacy, another skill taught and emphasized by PREVENT. One of the partnering agencies was facing the loss of funding for one of its main programs. The partners contacted local, state, and federal leaders to advocate for maintaining this evidence-based program. While the ultimate outcome of that particular advocacy was not favorable, the experience created confidence among the partners in their abilities to do collective advocacy. It also helped them identify 6 leaders with whom they would pursue ongoing relationships in building a base of support for future legislative efforts around child maltreatment.
The Ho’oikaika Partnership engaged with and received substantial support and recognition from the larger community. They facilitated the filming of the Mayor’s “April is Child Abuse Prevention Month” proclamation signing event; the event itself was well attended and the footage was replayed on local television stations. They were offered funding by two local foundations to establish and expand their efforts; the Hawaii Community Foundation funded their use of social media and the Hawaii Children’s Trust Fund provided a Public Awareness grant. The Friends of the Children’s Justice Center published an article about the PREVENT team in their regular publication. In the eight short months of the Institute, the partnerships’ efforts were bearing fruit in Maui County:
We could not have anticipated a better result from the work done to create and expand the Ho’oikaika Partners. Through networking and sharing at monthly meetings, the committee has seen the gradual emergence of education; understanding; and cooperation of the agencies into a force that will lead to social change regarding child maltreatment prevention within the community... The Team has developed significant and invaluable social capital through this process. (Team Final Report 2009)
Even more impressive results from the effort of the PREVENT team in establishing the Ho’oikaika Partnership came in the six months following the Institute. The Hawaii State Department of Health completed a statewide needs survey, one of the requirements of the maternal and child health (MCH) block grant. While Maui has just over 10% of the population of the state, over 50% of the responses to the survey came from Maui where the Ho’oikaika partnership had prominently raised the issue of child maltreatment prevention. The results of the survey were that child abuse and neglect was chosen as one of seven MCH priorities for the state over the next 5 years. The state MCH branch has acknowledged the role of the Hawaii PREVENT team and the Partnership’s contribution towards this outcome. They have also acknowledged the quality of the team’s work in other ways. When the Department of Health needed to do a statewide environmental scan of child abuse and neglect resources, they used the partnership’s county resource mapping survey as their model. The MCH branch included the PREVENT team project in an application for a national grant―they were funded for a home visitation project. Finally, as part of a child abuse and neglect initiative, the Department of Health contracted with the Children’s Safety Network (CSN) as technical advisors. In a two day workshop to kick off this initiative, the CSN advisors said that the State Department of Health should use the Maui County PREVENT final report as a model to create the statewide plan.
And their exact words were, why reinvent the wheel? Maui has given you the framework, and you should run with it. (Team member interview November 2009)
So while the efforts of the team were focused on their county, the impacts are being felt very significantly statewide through the state department of health’s use of the Maui PREVENT team’s model of partnership and evidence.
PREVENT Institute 2009 Maui County Team
- Established active partnership of agencies doing primary prevention of child abuse and neglect in Maui
- Engaged 15 active agencies
- Developed vision, mission, guiding principles, talking points
- Created social networking site and resource library for use by partners
- Completed mapping of child maltreatment prevention resources in the county
- Identified and engaged local, state, and federal legislators
- Received funding from local foundation for continuation of activities
- Partnered with Mayor for Child Abuse Prevention Month proclamation
- Shared models and resources with State Department of Health
- Maui project plan recommended to DOH for modeling statewide Child Abuse and Neglect
- Prevention Plan
- Maui resource mapping survey used as model for statewide survey
- High response rate from Maui County on statewide needs assessment survey led to child abuse and neglect being chosen as one of top Maternal and Child Health priorities for next five years in Hawaii