Every early childhood community strives for a well-connected, seamless system that provides families the services they need. But oftentimes, referrals end up incomplete and organizations lack the ability to track each outcome. United Way of Utah County is working to eliminate those barriers using a closed loop referral system, a platform that allows a network of cross-sector, community-based organizations to track every referral, interaction, and outcome.
In 2016, United Way of Utah County led the formation of a cross-sector network of 20 early childhood community-based organizations, to improve families’ connections to services in the South Franklin neighborhood of Provo, Utah. After ongoing discussions of the need for improved referrals across different agencies, the network was determined to find an effective way to provide a closed loop referral system. Since nothing was available in Utah at the time, United Way of Utah County worked with Kansas University to implement the Integrated Referral and Intake System (IRIS).
Then, in 2020, their county shifted to enter a statewide pilot run by their predominant health provider, Unite Us, to sustain a closed loop referral between clinics and their surrounding community services. “This has helped us to develop stronger ties to medical partners and share information on the referrals, time frames, and outcomes to increase the quality of multi-sector collaboration,” shared Barbara Leavitt, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Utah County. “Out of the many discussions based on the data provided, we have had richer deep dives into the reasons for families not receiving services,”
As of November 2022, their referral system included 112 Provo County organizations with 135 programs engaged as community partners, providing services such as home visiting, parenting classes, pregnancy services, case management, health screenings, early childhood services, and concrete supports.
Partners in the network are connected through a shared technology platform run by Unite Us, allowing them to send and receive electronic referrals to address the community’s social needs. United Way of Utah County meets with Unite Us monthly to receive a data report to define gaps and barriers in the community. “This data helped us to understand what gaps and barriers are occurring and how we can work more effectively in councils to improve the outcome of families and children,” explained Leavitt. “We have used this data to help us understand where we need services and resources. Our United Way is focused on natural supports as well as system resources and this has enabled us to rethink how the two can work together.”
From January through November of 2022, 948 referrals were recorded in the system for 638 Utah County families. Through the system, they’re able to track the outcomes of all those services and follow up with incomplete referrals. With that data, they can identify service gaps and at-risk populations to better service families.
One of the partners from Utah County Partners for Families and Children shared a story that demonstrates the impact of their system:
“I went on a home visit to a first-time mom who was new to the area. She had just received a full-time job offer, so she told me she needed to find childcare for her baby. She was pretty nervous and overwhelmed. I told her about Care About Childcare, and she was relieved to know there was a resource to help her. I referred her through our closed-loop system to their agency. I went on another visit to her home about two weeks later. The first thing she said to me was, ‘The people from Care About Childcare helped me to find a daycare for my son!’ She told me about the daycare they had helped her find and how excited she was. I was grateful that we had a system that enabled me to create a connection between this mom and the resource she needed.”