Child Welfare Demonstration Project

Allegheny County is one of six counties in Pennsylvania selected to participate in a five-year federal Child Welfare demonstration project. The demonstration project will enable Allegheny County to utilize different approaches to service delivery in an effort to improve outcomes for children, youth and families involved in the child welfare system.

Pennsylvania's Strategy

State's hypothesis-participating counties will develop a case practice model focused on family engagement, assessment and the expanded use of evidence-based practices (EBPs) driven by local needs which will lead to improved safety, permanency and well-being outcomes for children and families involved in the state's child welfare system.

By focusing on these strategies, Pennsylvania projects the counties in the demonstration project will achieve a 30% reduction over five years in each of the following areas

  • congregate care
  • re-entry rates
  • days in care

Pennsylvania's Demonstration Project will include the following core programmatic components:

Family Engagement Strategies
Participating counties will introduce, expand or refine strategies that strengthen the role of family engagement in standard casework practice. In Allegheny County, DHS Conferencing and Teaming is expanding under the demonstration project. Families will also continue to be engaged through the family engagement strategies Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) and High Fidelity Wrap (HFW).

Enhanced Assessments
One of the first steps to achieving well-being is to understand the needs of children and families. Participating counties will introduce or expand the use of standardized well-being, developmental and behavioral assessment tools with participating families. In Allegheny County, CANS is used to help identify need, monitor outcomes and track changes in functioning over time on the child level as well as to drive the purchase of services and allow for more powerful analysis at the systems level to inform decision making.

Evidence-Based/Evidence-Informed Practices (EBPs)
Utilizing robust assessments and tools to identify, monitor and track functioning over time is only one piece of the Allegheny County's strategy to improve child and family well-being and reduce re-entries and the use of congregate care. The quality of care children and families receive is an essential part of our plan to implement change. Allegheny County will accomplish this work through a complementary approach of scaling down ineffective service interventions and scaling up their service array of evidence-based programs.

Participating counties may also elect to use Title IV-E funds to implement or expand a range of other policies, programs, services and supports that improve safety, permanency and well-being outcomes for children and families.

In Allegheny County, these supplemental activities will include, but are not limited to:

  • performance-based contracting
  • aftercare services
  • expanded foster care recruitment and retention programs
  • permanency roundtables

Target Population

Target population will include Title IV-E-eligible and non-eligible children aged birth to 18 years who are

  • in placement, discharged from placement or who are receiving in-home services at the beginning of the demonstration period or
  • at-risk of or enter placement during the term of the waiver demonstration


As part of the state's agreement with the federal Department of Health and Human Services, counties must ensure that Title IV-E eligibility determinations are made for all children who are involved in the demonstration project, throughout the life of the demonstration project, to ensure that eligible children retain their eligibility after the demonstration ends.

Children under the demonstration project who are determined to be eligible under Title IV-E will retain their eligibility for Medicaid, Title IV-E Adoption Assistance, Title IV-E Foster Care, and Title IV-E Guardianship Assistance Program, if applicable.


The state is required to engage a third party to conduct an evaluation of the demonstration program. University of Pittsburgh has been contracted for this work.

The evaluation will consist of a process evaluation, an outcome evaluation and a cost analysis. To the extent possible, the state's analysis of process and outcome findings will be based on case-level data from the state's child welfare information systems, case records and other data sources as appropriate.

Cost Neutrality

The waiver demonstration project must remain cost-neutral to the federal government. States cannot receive more from the federal government than they would have received under Titles IV-B or IV-E of the Act without the waiver.


Implementation of the waiver begins no earlier than October 1, 2012 and no later than July 1, 2013.

The state will submit an Initial Design and Implementation Report within 90 days following acceptance of these Terms and Conditions.

During the development stage, the state must submit quarterly progress reports beginning 90 days after the acceptance of these Terms and Conditions and continuing until implementation. The Initial Design and Implementation Report will serve as the first quarterly report. All subsequent reports are due no later than 30 days after the conclusion of each quarterly period and will include a basic update on the status of each activity or task identified in the Implementation Report and any problems encountered.

Once implementation has begun, the state must submit semi-annual progress reports throughout the project period summarizing project and evaluation activities and accomplishments during the reporting period as well as interim findings from the evaluation, if available.

Advisory Body

The Children's Cabinet is a community advisory group consisting of community members and professional stakeholders who are involved with child-serving systems across Allegheny County.


DHSNews Articles

Read about the Child Welfare Demonstration Project in the following articles:

Available in the DHSNews archive

  • A Conferencing and Teaming Update, February 2014
  • Family Finding Builds Support, January 2014

Available by request to DHS News

  • Evidence-Based Practices Examined to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes, September 2013
  • Performance Based Contracting, August 2013
  • The Child Welfare Demonstration Project, July 2013
  • Quality Service Report Underscores Approach to Child Welfare, June 2013
  • Conferencing and Teaming: Inside the Process, April 2013