Los Angeles County Family-Centered Services: Using Administrative Data to Understand the Landscape of Community-Based Child Welfare Supports


The Families First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) provides transition funding to all states, including California, that operated under Title IV-E child welfare waivers. In place since 2007, California’s waiver allowed the Los Angeles (LA) County Departments of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Probation considerable flexibility in the ways that they support families. The transition to FFPSA presents an opportunity to rethink the array of services and partnerships needed to continue this work, building on the best of what has been achieved so far and integrating the work of contracted services with additional resources, supports, and opportunities available in local communities.

Optimizing the use of FFPSA funding is critical; as such, planning to that end is already underway. FFPSA funding alone, however, will not be enough to answer the challenges faced by families who come to the attention of the child welfare system child protective services (CPS). Parallel to DCFS and Probation’s FFPSA preparation efforts, DCFS is also working with leaders from a broad range of community stakeholder groups to develop strategies to strengthen workforce development, improve services, and deepen community and cross-sector partnerships. This multi-dimensional strategic plan, Invest LA, will shape the County’s approach to CPS, building public-private and cross-sector partnerships to support children, youth, and families for years to come, deepening LA County’s long-standing commitment to community-based, family-centered services (FCS) by incorporating lessons learned from prior work into the strategy going forward.

The three key programs included in this landscape analysis – Family Preservation (FP), Partnerships for Families (PFF) and Prevention & Aftercare (P&A) – represent a significant investment in community-based services for children and families in neighborhoods throughout the county.

In October 2019, the Children’s Data Network (CDN), with support from First 5 LA, began working with DCFS to assess the landscape of FCS for families involved with LA County’s child welfare system. The report that follows builds on and extends lessons learned through LA’s rich history of public-private partnerships by: 1) presenting the historical context and development of FCS; 2) highlighting findings from previous research; 3) generating new knowledge about the scope and reach of FCS programs through linkage of FCS and statewide child protection records; and 4) demonstrating the potential for using administrative data to analyze long-term service impacts.

Overview of Findings

This landscape analysis describes three important FCS initiatives developed in LA County and supported by DCFS. It highlights the reach of these community-based FCS services and underscores the important role played by these programs in the County’s overall effort to prevent child maltreatment and support families. A review of the literature demonstrates a growing research base on all three FCS initiatives, along with lessons learned from implementing and operating these complex multi-dimensional service programs in a large, diverse, and geographically vast county. Along with findings from this analysis, the findings suggest that the work of the individual agencies and networks contracted with DCFS to support families has been largely successful in strengthening and improving functioning of thousands of families in LA County. Program findings also suggest promising results for FCS programs in preventing CPS entry and decreasing the need for subsequent intervention. 


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