Transforming Child Welfare: Reflections from the Results Network Convening in Chicago

May 17, 2024

Members of our Results Network cohort gathered in Chicago this week to continue our ongoing journey to find innovative solutions for families that keep them together and change our nation’s child welfare system for the better.

Our United Commitment

With 41 participants from our member organizations as well as additional stakeholders and partners, the two-day session was a testament to our collective commitment to drive change. Guided by the Person Role System approach from the Results Count framework, we are not just dreaming of change, we are actively shaping it. By zooming in on our roles as change agents, we are reshaping systems and moving towards a future where every child has the opportunity to thrive.

During the morning session, we focused on somatic practices to foster resilience. Through activities such as centering and grounding, the introduction to somatic toys, and breathwork, we embraced the journey of personal care, healing, and recognizing the importance of nurturing our own well-being as we advocate for others.

Strategizing for the Future

One of the highlights of the convening was our data walk, where we reviewed the work of each organization, shared insights, and engaged in table conversations. This reflective exercise allowed us to celebrate past achievements and identify areas for growth, all while centering equity and justice in our discussions.

In our final session, we came together to understand and help develop a framing guide that is aimed at simplifying the complexities of our work into plain language. This guide will serve as a powerful tool, enabling us to communicate effectively and inspire others to join our efforts to advance equity in the child welfare space.

Cultivating Genuine Connections

Throughout the convening, we prioritized the cultivation of genuine connections. We know that only together do we as advocates, allies, and change agents have the power to create caring communities that advance health and opportunity for children, youth, and families across the country. We invite you to join us as we continue to be innovative in our pursuit of equity and justice in child welfare.

Renada Johnson is the Senior Director of Children, Youth and Family Initiatives at Lutheran Services in America.

Lutheran Services in America Deepens Commitment to Family Stabilization with $3.5 Million Investment to Expand Supports and Services

May 15, 2024

Unlocking Opportunities: Join us at the Housing Solutions Summit

April 29, 2024

We’re excited to extend an invitation to all stakeholders interested in addressing housing challenges to join us on May 7 at the Housing Solutions Summit in Washington, D.C. This convening marks a crucial step forward in our collective efforts to tackle housing issues impacting children, youth and families across our communities.

At the summit, participants can expect an engaging dialogue that delves into the core reasons behind our commitment to addressing housing challenges. Through insightful discussions and collaborative sessions, we aim to not only highlight the pressing need for affordable housing but also to explore innovative solutions that can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those we serve.

One of the key highlights of the summit will be the release of the Abt Associates white paper, a comprehensive study that sheds light on the intricate dynamics of housing insecurity and offers actionable insights for policymakers, practitioners and advocates alike. This white paper serves as a cornerstone in our ongoing efforts to drive impactful change in the realm of housing and community development.

Furthermore, we’re thrilled to emphasize our partnership with the ELCA, a collaboration that underscores our shared commitment to social justice and community empowerment. Together, we’re leveraging our strengths to address the multifaceted challenges faced by children, youth and families, with a particular focus on ensuring access to safe, stable housing for all.

Join us as we march forward in our mission to create caring communities where every individual has the opportunity to thrive. Together, let’s harness the power of partnership and innovation to advance health and opportunity for all.

Allie Broxton is Director of Health & Housing at Lutheran Services in America.

Match with a Lived Voices Fellow!

April 29, 2024

In March, we were honored to launch our inaugural Lived Voices Fellowship, a new community of people within the Lutheran Services in America or ELCA community who serve in positions of leadership and bring lived expertise. Some fellows have been refugees to the United States. Others have navigated public systems for housing, food assistance and child welfare. Through the fellowship they are healing, expanding their village and growing new skills to affect change. That is where you come in!

We are inviting you to contribute to and learn from one of our 17 amazing fellows by becoming a peer mentor. As a peer mentor, you will be matched with one of the Lived Voices fellows and engage in a powerful series of mutually beneficial conversations to advance your collective leadership.

Peer Mentor Obligation

Peer mentors will engage in three 1-hour conversations with their matched fellow in June, July and September (self-scheduled by fellow and peer mentor). 

  • The conversations will give both fellow and peer mentor the space to explore their respective stories, identify and build collective identity and make an actionable commitment grounded in lived experience and strategy.  
  • A guide will be provided for the conversations, grounded in Professor Marshall Ganz’s public narrative framework of Story of Self, Us and Now 
  • While not required, peer mentors are also encouraged to attend the final fellowship session on Thursday, November 14 from 1 to 4 p.m., where fellows will make a final presentation. 

 Qualifications

Ideal peer mentors will meet the following qualifications:

  • Embrace the Approach: Learn about the Self, Us, Now framework and be open to sharing your personal and professional journey through story, discuss the community you are building and make commitments coming out of the process.  
  • Able to Fulfill the Time Commitment: Be able to fulfill the time commitment of three 1-hour conversations, recognizing the importance of accountability to a fellow. Peer mentors are encouraged to attend the November 14 fellowship session.
  • Bring Diverse Personal and Professional Experiences. We welcome peer mentors from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. While a minimum of 15 years of professional experience is encouraged, we also recognize the value of diverse perspectives and encourage anyone interested in becoming a peer mentor to apply.

How to Apply

To share your interest in serving as a peer mentor, please fill out the following brief application form.

Kent Mitchell is Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Lutheran Services in America.

Funding Opportunities

May 23, 2024

View the latest grant opportunities from the federal government.

FY 2023 Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program

This program provides Capital Advance funding for the development of supportive rental housing for Very-Low-Income persons aged 62 years or older and project rental subsidies in the form of a Project Rental Assistance Contract (PRAC) to maintain ongoing affordability. Program funding totals $115 million, with an award ceiling of $20 million. Closing: June 20, 2024.

DOL Stand Down Grants
Provides funding for events that offer homeless veteran populations a variety of social services designed to help them to reintegrate into their communities, such as housing, healthcare, and employment opportunities.  Closing: Sept. 30, 2024.

USDA Summer Food Service Program
Funding to provide free, nutritious meals and snacks to help children in low-income areas get the nutrition they need during the summer months. Applications accepted on an ongoing basis.

Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP)
The CCP is a short-term disaster relief grant for states, U.S. territories, and federally recognized tribes. CCP grants are awarded after a presidential disaster declaration. CCP funding supports community-based outreach, counseling, and other mental health services to survivors of natural and human-caused disasters. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants
This program helps eligible communities prepare, or recover from, an emergency that threatens the availability of safe, reliable drinking water. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Find more national, regional and federal funding opportunities from our partners at GrantStation Insider and sign up for our weekly GrantStation newsletter.

Taking Action to Advance Housing Solutions

April 30, 2024

To build on the work of our network to advance housing solutions in communities across the country, Lutheran Services in America is supporting the federal expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). Provisions in pending legislation represent what would be the largest single investment in affordable housing in decades.

Earlier this year, the House passed with strong bipartisan support the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 (H.R. 7024), which includes key provisions to expand LIHTC. Action has moved to the Senate, and we are asking you to contact your senators and urge them to pass this legislation to better address our nation’s housing crisis by meeting critical, urgent needs that have been under-resourced.

If passed, this bipartisan legislation will expand and strengthen LIHTC by financing the construction or preservation of an estimated 200,000 additional affordable housing units nationwide, generating more than $34 billion in wages and business income, supporting over 304,000 jobs, and generating almost $12 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue.

We hope you will join us in raising our collective voice on this urgent issue. If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Dobson.

Sarah Dobson is Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Lutheran Services in America.

Results Network: A Journey to Transform Communities by Cultivating Caring Communities

September 28, 2023

Our Results Network cohort, a part of our Results Innovation Lab, is a dynamic nine-month learning collaborative that brings together leaders from across the Lutheran Services in America network to explore and innovate new strategies and approaches that will reshape how we engage children and families, with a specific focus on racial justice.

Thanks to a new partnership between Lutheran Services in America and the ELCA, grassroots faith-based ELCA church-led organizations and congregations have joined our 2023–2024 cohort to help us answer the question: “What will it take to stabilize families in their communities, ensuring families remain intact, and children do not enter out-of-home care?”

The Results Network is designed to accelerate innovative approaches, revamp how we engage families in crisis, and create pathways to keep families together, especially children, youth, and families who are over-represented in the child welfare system.

This proven approach has produced tremendous results in past years, and we believe that this year’s cohort will contribute immensely to our efforts, having already reached over 25,000 children and families in our Lab to date.

Organizations that have joined this transformative journey will have the opportunity to:

  • Access expertise from across the network and national thought leaders.
  • Become part of a learning community through the exchange of ideas and learning, building lasting, supportive relationships within the network.
  • Develop new approaches to achieve results and engage partners in moving the work forward.
  • Challenge the status quo and identify barriers to improving equitable outcomes for children, youth, and families.

Throughout the year, participants will create results-driven action plans through a step-by-step process by delving into key themes, incorporating and amplifying lived expertise, and utilizing plain language to engage a wider audience in addressing disparities. They will also examine and pursue opportunities to shift policies, practices, resources, and power structures all aimed at supporting and sustaining equitable outcomes for children, youth, and families. The goal is for each organization to consistently achieve measurable and impactful advancements by increasing equitable access to supports and strengthening community networks through a racial equity lens, advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion as a social norm.

Stay tuned for more information on this incredible journey of impact and transformation.

Renada Johnson is Senior Director of Children, Youth and Family Initiatives at Lutheran Services in America.

SNF Minimum Staffing Standard Published: Tell CMS How New Mandate will Impact your SNFs and Access to Care

September 11, 2023

On September 1, the Biden Administration officially published for public comment a proposed rule that would mandate minimum staffing levels at skilled nursing facilities. A 60-day comment period began September 6 and will end with all comments due on November 6.

Lutheran Services in America will be submitting comments sharing our concerns about the proposed new requirement and helping you do the same. We are currently analyzing the full rule and what it means for our network, but our initial concerns include the 24/7 RN requirement, only allowing time-limited hardship exemption waivers, and lack of funding for implementing mandated staffing increases.

Since early 2022 when the Administration originally announced their intent to mandate minimum staffing levels, we have heard from many of you that the uniform application of this new requirement, on top of the enduring workforce shortage in direct care, will result in reduced access to long-term care for older adults in rural and underserved communities as providers continue to struggle to fill staffing vacancies. We have worked diligently to ensure that the concerns of our network are heard and incorporated into the new rule, including meetings with key senators, the White House Domestic Policy Council, and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

Our collective voice is powerful, and we look forward to continuing to bring its impact to bear on this rule.

Sarah Dobson is the Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Lutheran Services in America.

The Courage to Come Together

August 30, 2023

Lutheran Services in America is currently seeking grassroots, faith-based organizations and initiatives affiliated with an ELCA church or community to join our 2023–2024 Results Network cohort, which starts September 28. Participation is free. The Results Network is a transformative opportunity for teams to advance racial equity for children and families in a high-support and high-accountability hybrid cohort experience. Participants work in fields as varied as child welfare, housing and economic empowerment, but are united by the goals of preventing or stabilizing families in crisis, strengthening communities and addressing racial disparities. Learn more about this opportunity and how to join.

Five years ago, I hit a wall professionally. I was exhausted by a four-year effort to transform an early childhood organization in Indiana and questioning my ability to lead teams. I did something that felt scary. With a second child on the way, I took a professional role with a lot less pay, but the flexibility to join a virtual cohort of changemakers I had long eyed as an opportunity to reinvigorate and refresh my purpose and my skills in advocacy and organizing.

The cohort, which was university-organized and crossed global boundaries, was a transformative experience that gave me the space to learn and safely practice new skills. One of my closest cohort relationships was with a young person working to create a new political party in Eastern Europe. We explored common challenges and solutions, despite our disparate focus areas. We provided each other candid, but empathetic coaching. I found my skill set growing exponentially, almost day-to-day. When the cohort ended, I used my new skills—and new energy—to grow a campaign to end smoking related death and illness in Indiana to 10,000 advocates.

Professional cohorts are amazing vehicles for change, in part because the act of joining one is motivated by courage. Courage to put yourself into a new and unfamiliar community. Courage to admit you need to grow professionally. Courage to explore what it means to move from the transactional (most of our day-to-day work, often by necessity) to the transformational.

I’m honored that Lutheran Services in America is host to the Results Network—a powerful annual cohort of child and family-serving organizations working toward transformative outcomes rooted in a focus on race equity.

In the past year, 41 Lutheran social ministry leaders across 10 U.S. communities took the courageous act of joining the Results Network and working through professional challenges. The results at the end of the year? Transformative change for over 8,300 children and families!

In coming together, participants in the Results Network—who work in teams of three—make the courageous commitment to:

  • Be results-based and data-driven
  • Bring attention to and act on disparities
  • Use oneself as an instrument of change to move a result
  • Master the skills of adaptive leadership
  • Collaborate with others

When these commitments are made and supported by the cohort’s facilitation and coaching, transformation happens. Here are just a few of the remarkable results from last year’s cohort:

  • Lutheran Social Services of New York witnessed a 13% decrease in the length of stay for Black youth in foster care, demonstrating their commitment to addressing disparities.
  • Gemma Services’ (Pennsylvania) initiative to establish adolescent and father peer-support groups provided vital support to youth and families, empowering them to access resources, navigate systems and feel less isolated.
  • Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois achieved a remarkable milestone with 72% of their foster youth successfully reunified with their families, a 50% improvement in the past year through a renewed dedication to strengthening families and emphasizing reunification rather than adoption or guardianship.
  • Lutheran Social Services of Southern California implemented changes to electronic records and diligent search efforts to engage Black fathers and paternal resources which yielded positive outcomes.

One of the amazing elements of the Results Network cohort is the integration of peer leadership. In the most recent cohort, six diverse peer leaders were engaged to formally share their expertise, coaching and guidance.

The coming year of Results Network—which begins September 28—holds such high promise. Through a partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), we are thrilled to welcome grassroots, faith-based organizations and initiatives affiliated with an ELCA church or community to join, contribute and transform. Their courageous work and presence will deepen and expand the experiences, expertise and diversity of the Results Network, yielding unexplored results. I cannot wait to see what results emerge from this coming together of the Lutheran Services in America and ELCA communities!

If you are a grassroots, faith-based organization or initiative affiliated with an ELCA church or community that is interested in joining this year’s Results Network, please take a moment to learn more about participation and reach out to Renada Johnson, Senior Director of Child, Youth and Family Initiatives (rjohnson@lutheranservices.org).

Onward, together, with courage!

Kent Mitchell is the Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Lutheran Services in America.

Looking at Employee Benefits Through the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lens

August 25, 2023

You work hard to do what’s right — and do right by the broadest set of people.

It can be such a challenge keeping track of all the benefits and creative perks today’s workforce demands! What do employees want most: Flexibility? Better benefits? Robust mental health support? Did you ever think inclusiveness would top the list?

Consider the experience of an employee who is a victim of recent racial trauma, showing up for a video therapy session with a white therapist. Or an employee who needs a flexible schedule to fulfill responsibilities at home like caring for a disabled dependent. Is your organization adequately addressing the needs of an ever-evolving workforce?

The Evolution of Diversity Dialogue

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a hot topic for good reason. As you can imagine, DEI’s roots dig deep in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Over many decades it has come to inspire conversations not only on diversity in race, but also gender and gender identities, life experiences, income levels, religious backgrounds, ages and stages of life, languages, and household family structures.

The May 2020 injustice of George Floyd’s arrest and consequential death, and the innumerable tragedies since then have amplified Americans’ awareness of the injustices around them. With this new awareness, many Americans look to their employers to take more action.

Where DEI and Benefits Collide

DEI intersects with everything that you’ve promised employees to care for their well-being.

So, you’ve successfully built a dynamic, diverse workforce. Benefits packages have been regularly updated with recruiting and retention in mind. But have you conducted a DEI audit lately?

Diversity experts will tell you that looking through the DEI lens more carefully at your employee benefits materials, policies and procedures, facilities, special events, and other employee-centered programs and perks should be a routine, ongoing effort.

Think about the importance of making health coverage, comfortable workspaces, leaves of absence, mental health support, and flexible schedules available to all on an equal level. Sounds straightforward, but it turns out, it can be all too easy to miss the mark for at least one subgroup of employees. The key is making a concerted effort to regularly review DEI efforts and your progress and grow in your knowledge of where gaps exist.

You can’t satisfy every need 100% of the time, but it’s important to start somewhere. Small but intentional changes can go a long way to convey an organization’s sensitivity and commitment to responding to employees’ needs with care. Consider how you can engage with employees to better understand what’s most important to them.

To ramp up inclusivity and equity efforts in the workplace, potential next steps might include:

  • Examining equal opportunity: Do your professional development and educational assistance programs provide equal opportunity to all regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, position, and income level?
  • Meeting accessibility needs: Where virtual engagement is possible or expected, are you meeting the technology needs of all interested employees? For example, telemedicine meets people where they are, day or night. On the topic of remote work and flexibility, have you thought of all of the employee groups that could benefit: disabled, commuters, semi-retired, working parents, and caregivers, to name a few?
  • Acknowledging modern households and couples: Understand that a “traditional family” is a thing of the past. Do you adequately support today’s diverse family structures, which may include employees and their dependents, aging parents, adopted or foster children, and same-sex spouses?

This is just the tip of the iceberg! Sometimes, in a rush to meet the growing needs of one employee population, we miss the mark with another. Dissecting the needs of a multigenerational workforce, the World Economic Forum offers this perspective:

  • Gen Z: Social issues matter, employer values should align with their own; concerned about well-being and mental health; desire dialogue but may prefer digital over face-to-face.
  • Millennials: Early adopters of remote work, appreciate flexibility; in the process of building families, so health insurance, parental leave, childcare, and fertility benefits are top of mind; looking to pay off student loan debt.
  • Gen X: Mid to late career with kids at home or transitioning to empty nesters; the generation most likely to care for dependents and aging parents simultaneously, so affordable health insurance, flexibility, and dependent care assistance are important.
  • Baby Boomers: Retired or nearing retirement, aging, and possibly facing health issues for selves or partner; value traditional benefits and affordability is key.1

Commit to the Cause

Don’t let your organization’s dedication to DEI lapse, no matter what events or distractions lie ahead. The greatest impact comes from ongoing effort. Successful DEI initiatives can set you up for:

  • Increased employee engagement and satisfaction
  • Higher retention, lower turnover
  • A more diverse pool of candidates
  • Better decision-making2

Some tactics you may consider to stay on track:

  • Make sure messaging at every level communicates diversity and inclusiveness as core values, and promotes the benefits of a synergy that comes from integrating people of many backgrounds;
  • Continue investing in diversity training and education for decision makers, HR professionals, and any staff in leadership positions at the facility level;
  • Send out regular reminders about benefits offerings to ensure they’re being used;
  • Host listening sessions with employees who have an ear to the ground and can share real stories from the sidelines about those feeling underrepresented or underserved by benefits;
  • Develop a means for measuring organizational progress on DEI initiatives.

All employees want to be seen.

Remember, to retain your best employees and attract new people, it’s important to remain committed to cultivating a warm, welcoming environment. Be well-intentioned, flexible, and ready for unexpected shifts in workforce demands. Above all, make diversity, inclusion, and equity a driving force at every level of your organization for a richer, more sustainable future.

 

Learn more about Portico Benefit Services.

1Chen, Jacklyn (2022). Here’s How to Tailor Employee Benefits to a Diverse Workforce. World Economic Forum. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/09/employee-benefits-diversity/

2Diversity Equity and Inclusion: Why it Matters. St. Bonaventure University. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://online.sbu.edu/news/why-dei-matters