Child Safety Forward is a Department of Justice-Funded National Demonstration Initiative Across Five Sites: Cook County Health in Illinois; Indiana Department of Health; Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut; and Sacramento County, California’s Child Abuse Prevention Council

Washington, D.C.  – Child Safety Forward has released implementation plans for five sites that were selected by the Department of Justice to receive a grant for a national demonstration initiative aimed at reducing serious injuries and fatalities to children caused by abuse or neglect. The five sites include: 

  • Cook County Health in Illinois
  • Indiana Department of Health
  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
  • St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut
  • Sacramento County, California’s Child Abuse Prevention Council

The technical assistance team is led by the Within Our Reach Office at the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. 

“Each of the implementation strategies identified by the five sites are unique and specific to their communities, honoring the data they collected over the past year to identify community-led solutions that support resilient families and keep children safe in their homes,” commented Amy Templeman, director of Within Our Reach at the Alliance. “They share one common trait—they are predicated on demonstrating a public health approach to child and family well-being called for by the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. With a focus on increasing equity in systems that serve families, elevating families into relationships of equal power, building protective factors, and supporting families who are having trouble weathering one or more of the storms impacting our country right now, each of the demonstration sites are hoping to create a body of knowledge about what works to reduce child fatalities.”

The following summarizes the implementation focus for each site:

Cook County Health in Illinois
Based on a data review of Cook, Peoria, and Vermillion counties, as well as data released in the annual Office of the Inspector General report, they will focus on community awareness programs targeting unsafe sleep practices and coping with infant crying. They will also work to improve systems and training to support earlier detection of families in need of support. Their efforts will help to normalize and destigmatize parents seeking help and foster collaboration among community leaders by opening new opportunities to work together to strengthen multidisciplinary teams.

Indiana Department of Health
Based on research conducted over the past year in four target counties, Clark, Delaware, Grant, and Madison, unsafe sleep-related deaths were the leading cause of death due to external cause for children ages 0-18 years old, when excluding medically expected fatalities. Based on this data, they will focus on local safe sleep interventions. Child Fatality Review teams and community stakeholders will have the opportunity to engage with training in such areas as trauma-informed care, social determinants of health, inter-state record sharing, and death investigation training. They will also focus efforts on a one-year research plan to increase knowledge around unsafe sleep behaviors in the state of Indiana.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
With input from an advisory panel, they will employ a collective impact approach to enhance the level of services for families in need of support and improve safety planning across Michigan’s child protection system. To improve the level of services for families, they will examine outcomes of current policies and practices related to families with low or moderate risk for child maltreatment to identify change recommendations. They will also partner with statewide or regional outreach efforts that focus on protective factors and work to promote these services to families. Finally, they will review current safety planning practices, assess the perceived needs, barriers, and facilitators to safety planning among child protective services (CPS) workers and other professionals, and assess the perceptions of safety plans among persons with lived experience. Collectively, this information will be used to identify areas for practice change and inform the development of educational resources and supports to reinforce safety plan best practices.

St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut
They have established a stakeholder group, composed mostly of community-based organizations and community leaders, who will work with leadership of state and municipal agencies, elected officials, medical and other service providers to improve systems and practices to support healthy families and children. This model is unique among the demonstration sites because the lead agency is a community-based organization. They are working to integrate community leaders with decision-making agencies such as CPS, law enforcement, the courts, etc. As part of their sustainability plan, St. Francis Hospital has committed to support the project for 10 years with a focus on establishing a more standardized data collection and analysis system; improving cooperation between community members and agencies responsible for child protection; and, ultimately, significantly decreasing repeated child maltreatment and injury.

Sacramento County, California’s Child Abuse Prevention Council
Based on a 10-year analysis of data, they identified several common risk factors across families, including poverty; parental crime and drug history; sibling child welfare history; and certain child and parental characteristics such as child age, age of mother at birth, child welfare history, and substantiated abuse/neglect history. Based on this data, the Sacramento County Prevention Cabinet has developed a model for a coordinated response using collaborative partnerships and data to inform and implement a strategic plan to eliminate child abuse and neglect deaths and critical injuries in Sacramento County by 2030. Strategies and corresponding actions will focus on building community partnerships through continued data collection and analysis of risk and protective factors; supporting trauma informed systems and practices through the expansion of collection, analysis, and review of data regarding risk and protective factors; promoting community, parent, and youth voice by engaging members of the community with lived experience; embedding equity into all aspects of the implementation plan; and advancing work on community resource education and cross-referrals to ensure strengthening of the referral process.

The Child Safety Forward initiative was launched in October 2019 by the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and will provide $750,000 over three years to each of the five sites. The sites are receiving support from a broad range of technical assistance providers to develop and execute implementation plans to address child maltreatment injuries and fatalities. Implementation plans were developed using the following key elements to inform the approach:

  1. Each site conducted a retrospective review of at least five years of fatality review data to identify children most at risk.
  2. Each site conducted a community needs assessment to identify areas of opportunity for improved services and response.
  3. Each site formed a collaborative body of stakeholders and partners to guide the work.
  4. The sites used a developmental evaluation approach and created a theory of change to illustrate goals and strategies to achieve them.
  5. All sites reviewed all goals through an equity and diversity lens.
  6. The sites ensured the input of individuals with lived experience as well as community voices.
  7. Each site is developing and executing sustainability plans to ensure the effort’s long-term success.

“We know from the work of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities that child abuse is not inevitable,” noted Stacy Phillips, DSW, and a program specialist with the Office of Victims of Crime. “We also know that child protection agencies cannot do this work alone. Through this initiative we hope to examine what works and help build a knowledge base about the impact of a multidisciplinary approach to child and family well-being that engages a broad range of stakeholder working jointly to strengthen families and ensure the well-being of all children.”

About the Within Our Reach Office  
Within Our Reach is an office established within the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities to further the recommendations of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. The goal of Within Our Reach is to equip policymakers, practitioners, and advocates with the tools they need to fundamentally reform child welfare. Based on the commission’s national strategy, desired reform includes a proactive public health approach—a shared family and community responsibility to keep children safe. Within Our Reach is made possible through collaboration with Casey Family Programs, whose mission is to provide, improve, and prevent the need for foster care.

About the Newly Merged Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and Council on Accreditation (COA)
The merged Alliance and COA and resulting new organization will convene and catalyze a dynamic, inclusive, multifaceted network of human/social services organizations that leverages the collective experience of the field and research to spark a current in the sector and drives continuous evolution and improvement. Our goal is to activate the power of the social sector and create a unified, intrepid, just, and purposeful network that propels our field forward so all people can thrive. The new organization will provide a range of offerings and learnings to actively shape the future of the sector through policy, advocacy, knowledge exchange, certification, accreditation, connection, and ongoing iterative and reflective interactions.


Disclaimer: This product was supported by cooperative agreement number 2019-V3-GX-K005, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.