CSSP and Ellen Pence of Praxis International, Inc. developed the Institutional Analysis (IA) to uncover problematic policies and practices that define and constrain child welfare systems, with a focus on contributors to racial disparities in child welfare services and outcomes. The IA is a diagnostic process to reveal and address the disconnect between what a child or youth and their family need to be safe, and how institutions are organized to act.
The IA team, led by local and national experts, asks questions from the standpoint of children, youth, parents, and caregivers involved with child welfare systems. The analysis is intended to help child welfare systems, their institutional and community partners, external community groups, and advocacy organizations work toward the common goals of improving safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes. We have also applied the IA to examining the experiences of LGBTQ+ and gender expansive youth in child welfare and youth of color involved with the juvenile justice system.
The IA examines institutional policies and practices and the logic, thinking, and assumptions that support them. By asking how something comes about, rather than who is doing it, the analysis reveals systemic problems and produces recommendations for more permanent and effective change.
While the process of Institutional Analysis (IA) is an evolutionary one and outcomes are often slow to surface, we have seen success in a number of jurisdictions including:
Fairfax County, Virginia. In 2012, a multi-year institutional analysis process explored the disproportionate contact of African American and Hispanic youth with Fairfax, Virginia’s juvenile justice system.
Fresno, California. The IA examined policies, practices, attitudes, and beliefs that contributed to African American children experiencing low reunification rates with their parents and insufficient attention to their developmental needs while in long-term foster care.
Los Angeles, California. The IA explored the experiences of African American children and youth who do not reunify with their parents or find alternate, timely permanency in three county offices (Pomona, Torrance, and Wateridge). The IA identified county wide and office specific policies and practices that contribute to these poor outcomes.
Santa Clara and Fresno, California. In the 2015, IAs in two separate counties examined issues for Latino children, youth and families based on challenges unique to each county. The IAs also examined how these two counties can be more supportive LGBTQ+ and gender expansive youth and ensure that out-of-home placements are safe and affirming.
One Fairfax: A Brief History of a County-Wide Plan to Advance Equity and Opportunity
This report explores how Fairfax County, in Northern Virginia, passed a far-reaching policy known as ‘One Fairfax,’ which required that the Board of Supervisors and School Board must “consider equity in decision-making and in the development and delivery of future policies, programs,
Santa Clara and Fresno County: Final Report
This report describes the methodology used to answer the identified research questions, presents the findings, and provides preliminary recommendations to inform strategic planning in the counties for implementing the getREAL program.
A Quick Guide to Understanding the Institutional Analysis
This brief offers a look into the key elements of Institutional Analysis, its process, and addressing systemic issues that contribute to poor outcomes for families of color.
The Institutional Analysis: Uncovering Pathways to Improving Public Systems and Interventions for Children and Families
This report discusses the systemic disproportionality and disparities leading to racial inequities. It identifies organizational structures, policies, administrative requirements, and job descriptions that contribute to poor outcomes for families of color.
Fresno County Department of Social Services: Confronting Racial Inequities and Disproportionality to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes for Children & Families
This report details Fresno County’s early efforts and the work still underway to address racial inequities and improve outcomes for all children and youth involved in the county's child welfare system.