of Bridge Builders
The History of the Partnership for Family Supports and Justice:
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
January 2015 ACT designs a detailed Implementation Plan to transfer
BB/CPI to community control.