Child Abuse Council
524 15th Street
Moline, IL 61265
Phone: (309) 736-7170 ext. 101
Making Connections that Matter
Rock Island County is located along a bend in the Mississippi River on the border of Iowa with a mix of urban AND rural communities. Rock Island County has had a recent influx of refugees, immigrants, as well as former Chicagoans looking to raise their families in a safe environment that offers many opportunities for improving their lives. In 2013 the estimated population of Rock Island County was 147,258. Approximately 6.4% of the Rock Island County population is under the age of five. Rock Island is proud to be known as the birthplace of John Deere tractors and is known as a manufacturing community of hard working people. The region’s beautiful surroundings and commitment to education, a strong work ethic, art and culture make it a preferred place for families with young children to live and thrive, whether it is new beginnings for families recently arriving or a new generation of hard working families who have been there for years.
Since its inception, Rock Island All Our Kids (AOK) Network prioritized the need to discover important connections that are needed to help families with young children improve their lives. In 2010 the AOK Networks first learned of work taking place out of the Project LAUNCH /AOK Network in Chicago to develop a web-based system linking partner agencies together to provide information for referrals for children and families. This system would provide community partners with a method to make a referral directly to a contact person and give information at the front end to help agencies determine what services were appropriate for the families they were serving. At that time there was the potential for other communities to become involved once the web-based system was further into development. The Rock Island County AOK Network began strategic planning in 2011. The planning included surveys, interviews using the Appreciate Inquiry model, and a number of focus groups and community planning days. Throughout this planning a prominent need vocalized by Network partners was the need to have better information on services available in the community and better processes for getting families from “point A to point B” rather than “blindly sending them on their way”. The possibility of being a part of the work around the Guiding Providers, People, and Parents through Systems (GP3S) database being developing by Project Launch was discussed, but the local Network did not feel they were able to take on a project of this magnitude with the current capacity of the group. However, as this need continued to emerge the Network made the collective decision to incorporate an initiative addressing the need for a coordinated referral system into their strategic plan.
The Network leadership continued to introduce the option of an online referral system and revisited this program again with partners and other community agencies to see how this could be adapted. When the Network decided to commit to this process they worked hard to overcome all the barriers that came along with developing an elaborate system. Throughout this process trust was developed and the Network leadership ensured that the group stayed focused and didn’t get discouraged. As implementation of the plan has unfolded the local community has continued to be adaptive in their learning about what needs to be in place for the project to be successful.
The development of this coordinated referral system has allowed a diverse range of partners across the community to move from a “my clients” mindset to a process of working together to determine how they can more effectively navigate families through a complex system of services. A common vision and framework has been developed across the community and partners being part of the process made the project more informative. Those involved in the project emphasize that this collaborative process increases accountability and connection between service providers. More importantly families are more likely to navigate through a complex system successfully with less effort and risk to be lost in the process.
The ability to support families community-wide has increased as agencies learn more about programs and services, who is eligible to get these services, and the best ways to access them across the community. With local coordination this Network is able to be responsive to community needs, address issues quicker, support partners/agencies to serve families better, and continue to bring new partners in and widen the breadth of services available to families.
The need to make connections is important to families as well as providers. Working on a formalized, convenient, system that tracks how families are getting to services is an important step in assuring that families are stepping out of isolation and making connections that matter.
What is needed to replicate this process?
- Local leadership
- Community buy-in and representatives from the community to develop local approach to coordinated referral system
- Communication with those at state level developing and maintaining system
- Capacity to offer informational meetings for community and training to those who enter into partnership
- Long-term commitment to development of a system that is responsive to the community