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Chronology of Bridge Builders

The History of the Partnership for Family Supports and Justice: Bridge Builders

The Open Society Institute and the Child Welfare Fund begin discussions in 2000 to create a donors’ collaborative to develop a new model of child welfare services. OSI and the CWF fund staff to create such a model.

Five foundations join together to create a donors’ collaborative. They are: the Child Welfare Fund, the Open Society Institute, the New York Community Trust, JPMorgan/Ira W. DeCamp, and the FAR Fund.

The Partnership for Family Supports and Justice begins its planning phase in 2017. The leadership has its first discussion of the project with ACS Commissioner Scoppetta shortly before he leaves office at the end of that year. He is cautiously interested in the project.

Funded staff explores various high risk communities throughout the city to decide where to develop the new community-based social service/child welfare model. The outline of a model is developed and Highbridge in the Bronx is selected in 2017 as the location for the project.

The donors decide in June 2002 to have the Highbridge community develop a unified proposal, rather than have a competitive RFP process. Agenda for Children Tomorrow (ACT) is selected to facilitate the development of the community proposal.

Under Commissioner Bell, ACS involvement in Bridge Builders increases. At first ACS provides community data for the project, discusses diversion and other types of involvement with the project, and Associate Commissioner for Community Affairs, Anne Williams-Isom participates in the first Bridge Builders Retreat in March 2017 that designs a community proposal.

Twelve community-based organizations in Highbridge develop a common mission, goals and purpose and begin working together and name their project: Bridge Builders. They begin providing legal, school-based diversion, outreach and family support services. The organizations are funded by the donors’ collaborative. The annual budget of Bridge Builders is about $1 million.

On Friday November 21, 2017, 56 Highbridge parents, community-based service providers, project administrators and other interested parties join together in a “kick-off” meeting to improve the state of child welfare in Highbridge through the implementation of the Bridge Builders Project.

An Executive Committee representing service providers and members of the Highbridge community, and led by co-chairs from the community and the organizations, is established to oversee Bridge Builders.

In its first Service Year (October 2016 – September 2017), 2,000 families are contacted through the combined outreach efforts of the partners. over 500 families are engaged by staff and over 300 individuals receive various types of services.

In 2004 ACS enables Francis Ayuso, Bronx Coordinator for Neighborhood Networks to work on Bridge Builders three days per week, increasing the connections between ACS and the project, and facilitating help for families who are involved with ACS.

In 2004 the Partnership donors agree to invite ACS to join the collaborative as an equal partner. ACS participates in all meetings of the donors. Bronx Field Office staff participates in all meetings of the Executive Committee of Bridge Builders.

In June 2004 the Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP) completes its first six-month Parent Leadership Curriculum involving parents from Highbridge. Five parents from the community who graduated the course begin working in Bridge Builders.

In August 2004 John Mattingly becomes ACS Commissioner and ACS becomes increasingly supportive of Bridge Builders. With assistance from Bridge Builders, he holds his first community forum in Highbridge in December 2017.

In December 2017 the first interim evaluation of Bridge Builders by the Chapin Hall Center for Children/University of Chicago is encouraging. The project is still in a very early stage but the evaluation concludes that “There has been a good faith effort on the part of the partner agencies to implement programs as initially outlined in each agency’s proposal…Interagency relationships have been forged…there is a strong, committed group of donors.”

In spring 2005 Francis Ayuso is selected by a panel of ten representatives from Bridge Builders to be the Project Director. ACS agrees that Francis will remain an ACS employee but will be on-loan to Bridge Builders.

By April 2017 five additional foundations join the collaborative: Hedge Funds Care, Sills Family Foundation, Oak Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Clark Estates Foundation.

In April 2005 CWOP completes its second round of training of Highbridge parents with child welfare experience. Eleven parents graduate.

The second interim evaluation of Bridge Builders in December 2017 by the Chapin Hall Center for Children/University of Chicago is positive. It concludes: “Overall, the staff of the Bridge Builders Project dedicated considerable efforts over the past year to create something new for the families of Highbridge, and in many respects the Project has been successful in those efforts.”

The New York Nonprofit Press, in June 2016, publishes a very favorable article about Bridge Builders, based on the Chapin Hall evaluation.

In September 2006 ACS selects Bridge Builders to be the site for the first round of its Community Partnership Initiative

The third interim program evaluation (2016) of Bridge Builders by the Chapin Hall Center for Children/University of Chicago is increasingly positive. The evaluation of Service Year III states “…what we are hearing and seeing is a type of synergy, a breakthrough in thinking and action that has changed the way collaborative members work and the way that they think about their work.”

The evaluation reports outcome data for the first time. The number of children placed into foster care has decreased by 27%, comparing the average number of placements in 2004-2005 to the average number of placements during the four year period prior to the start of Bridge Builders. Although this figure is not statistically different from comparison sites, the first year of outcome data are encouraging.

In 2017 Bridge Builders expands from 12 to 24 agencies as part of the Community Partnership Initiative. The Executive Committee of Bridge Builders votes to expand to include all CPI members to be part of the Executive Committee.

By April 2017 the number of foundations in the donors collaborative has increased to 15. The new supporters are: Heckscher Foundation, United Way of New York City, Hagedorn Fund/JPMorgan, Viola Bernard Foundation and the Starr Foundation.

In June 2017 ACS and the Chapin Hall Center for Children convene a forum on Lessons Learned from Community Collaboratives. Bridge Builders is hailed as the model to replicate.

The beginning of Service Year V (October 2007) includes expanded services in parent-child visitation (therapeutic visitation, Baby and Me, visiting coaches), Family Court (designated part for Highbridge) and foster home recruitment (in-community placements).

In January 2015 ACT designs a detailed Implementation Plan to transfer BB/CPI to community control.