Systems of Care: Wraparound for the Whole Community

We have all heard that high fidelity wraparound cannot happen in a vacuum. We need our system partners on board, we need our community to pitch in. We need strong systems of care. But what exactly does that mean?

Systems of Care and the wraparound process are different from most other forms of service delivery systems and processes in that they are based on a partnership approach.  The wraparound process is based on a partnership between the family and a child and family team selected by the family.  This partnership may take different forms based on family composition and cohesion, legal status of the involved children, and age of the child. Systems of Care are how a community comes together to support the children and families of the community.  Both are team approaches built on partnership.

Many families, policy makers, funders, and providers of human services have in recent years participated in developing any number of interagency or collaborative partnerships. Indeed, many people talk about going to large numbers of different collaborative partnerships. Collaboration may have become an overused buzzword in today’s service arena, and many communities find themselves inundated with interagency groups serving various targeted populations.   There are, in fact, many community boards in existence today.

However, it is rare that communities have come together in effective partnerships and embraced Systems of Care as a total community process to be utilized for all children and their families. It is this overarching community process that ties the community together in developing broad based public administrative and community supports for wraparound that we are discussing. It is imperative that communities begin discussions about what values and beliefs will guide the community in developing the infrastructure that provides support to the wraparound process and drives the community capacity building efforts.

Communities will quickly come to difficult and important discussions about what outcomes are desired in their own communities. These community conversations about outcomes and values are critical to any future success. These conversations are not activities in futility – they are essential elements in trust building and values clarification between and among the partners. It is in these discussions that communities begin to create links, combining efforts between different target populations and different programmatic initiatives in a meaningful way.  It is these mechanisms of connection between community efforts and the teaming of those efforts that truly begin to increase the community’s capacity to go to scale in embracing the wraparound process.

These efforts are worth it. Let’s look at examples of some of the things that can occur in a System of Care.  The members have come together and know the mandates, goals, and requirements of each program. They have developed an integrated vision of what they want for their community and have committed to common values for how they support families, partner with each other, and support strong family involvement in system development.   They have developed a comprehensive resource directory, know what to expect from each resource, and who to contact to help families access the resource.  The community team does ongoing assessment of program needs, gaps in services, access and integration challenges, and outcomes for children and families.

Examples of Collaborative System Work

Working together to develop a common set of values
Developing a comprehensive list of services and who to contact
Working together to identify gaps in services and supports and working to fill the gaps
Working together to identify access and integration challenges, and addressing them together
Working together to develop a joint resource or program
Working together to address a common need
Working together to develop a single plan of care format

These mechanisms created by system of care work can create truly transformative outcomes. Some of the priorities developed and successfully addressed by community teams include:  truancy prevention programs, teenage pregnancy prevention, education programs for teen mothers and their children, substance abuse prevention, summer education  and recreation programs with free lunches and snacks for any elementary age children, free after school recreation centers, GED programs, scholarship programs for summer camps and recreation programs, sexual abuse prevention programs, community-based crisis services, and community-based alternatives to residential care.  System of Care programs have supported more youth to seek and complete education past high school, universal early education and care programs, increased immunizations and well child health care.  System of Care programs have expanded childhood screen programs to access early intervention programs before problems become severe.

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