Brown School Awarded Systems for Action Grant to Improve Child Welfare

Faculty; Public Health; Research; Social Work

​The Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis has been awarded 3-year, $457,000 Systems for Action grant, a national program of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation (RWJF) for a parent empowerment initiative.

Investigating PACT-STL: Understanding System Alignment and Health Equity Outcomes of a Multi-sector Agency Alignment and Parent Empowerment provides support for a rigorous evaluation of the Parents and Children Together-St. Louis (PACT-STL) project program, which is funded through the Administration of Children and Families (ACYF-CA-1559).

PACT-STL, an initiative led by the Vision for Children at Risk, convenes medical, public health and social services organizations at the state and regional levels with a focus on reducing health and service disparities for children in families with lower risk referrals to Child Protective Services (CPS).  Over 6 million children are reported to CPS annually, but CPS lacks resources to serve lower risk referrals, which are the majority of reports. These children have much higher rates of costly negative health and behavioral outcomes than non-CPS involved children. PACT-STL aligns services and funding, and implements parent empowerment and public health strategies to prevent maltreatment and promote healthy development.

While collaboration among community stakeholders shows promise in addressing these service gaps, little is known about the effectiveness of such approaches. This project advances the Systems for Action initiative of the RWJF by investigating a recently funded multi-sector “outside-in” alignment and parent empowerment initiative.

Brown School Associate Professor Patricia Kohl is lead evaluator of PACT-STL and co-PI with Melissa Jonson-Reid, Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work and principal investigator. They are joined by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine including Drs. Adrienne Aztemis and John Constantino. At the Brown School, additional investigators include Derek Brown, associate professor; Barry Rosenberg, professor of practice; and Ellis Ballard, associate director of the Social System Design Lab. Consultants include Sanaria Sulaiman, CEO of Vision for Children at Risk, and Dr. Nancy Weaver of Saint Louis University. 

“This project in collaboration with the PACT-STL implementation team will advance our understanding of how community-based collaboratives realign services to meet the needs of families—as well as the impact of such realignment on child health and risk of maltreatment.,” said Kohl.

The study’s aims, using various data and analyses, include:

  • Examine alignment of services and funding
  • Understand community-level change in child outcomes
  • Model outcomes and cost effectiveness of services

“Finding effective, feasible means of improving health equity outcomes for CPS-involved children has tremendous relevance to child welfare and health care policy,” said Jonson-Reid. “We want to produce impactful, evidence-based briefs and reports for organizations, policymakers, community stakeholder and funders so we can ultimately help more children thrive.”

Systems for Action is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that aims to discover and apply new evidence about ways of aligning the delivery and financing systems that support a “Culture of Health.”