DHS’ reform effort was a collaborative and inclusive
undertaking. At every step, the agency drew upon the collective expertise of a wide range of local and national stakeholders. Key contributors include:
The Child Welfare Review Panel (CWRP): Established by former Mayor John Street and comprised of nine nationally-recognized experts, the CWRP developed a report highlighting the agency’s weaknesses and outlined 37 recommendations for reform. In developing these recommendations, which served as the genesis of the reform effort, the panel consulted with more than 800 individuals including DHS leadership and staff, management and staff at provider agencies, parents, teens aging out of the system, attorneys, judged and community representatives.
The Community Oversight Board (COB): Initially appointed by Mayor Street, and then reestablished by Mayor Michael Nutter upon his election, the COB is an independent, multidisciplinary panel of local and national experts responsible for assessing and monitoring the agency’s progress toward implementing the CWRP recommendations. The 13-member board serves as independent assessors, expert advisors, and community advocates.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter, DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose, DHS leadership and staff: Philadelphia Mayor Nutter has been an unwavering champion of the reform effort. One of his first acts as Mayor was to reestablish the COB. After an extensive national search, he appointed Anne Marie Ambrose to lead a comprehensive and sustained reform of the ailing organization, giving her his full support. Commissioner Ambrose, who has been a courageous leader, was widely welcomed by DHS staff and the community based on her dedication and experience as an advocate for youth in the juvenile justice system, first as an attorney for the Defender Association and later in city and state leadership positions related to improving the lives of at-risk youth. Under Commissioner Ambrose’s leadership, DHS staff at every level of the organization has implemented some of its most significant reforms, including a Safety Model of Practice and a redesign of the agency’s service delivery model.
Foundations: From the start, DHS has received invaluable support in the form of financial resources, professional expertise and technical assistance from Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation focused entirely on foster care and improving the child welfare system. Pew Charitable Trusts, the William Penn Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation have also supported the reform effort and the oversight work of the COB.
In addition to these principal entities, more than 150 people and stakeholder groups throughout the city were actively engaged in developing the redesign of DHS’ service delivery model including representatives from the provider community, Family Court leadership, city officials, academics, advocates, union leaders, system partners (including the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities and the Philadelphia School District as well as the District Attorney’s office), and of course youth and parents.. DHS drew upon the experience and best practices of child welfare agencies throughout the country, including the state of Florida and New York City, which have adopted similar models.