Key Points

· This article describes work of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Casey Strategic Consulting Group (CSCG), a 10-year, multistate initiative that embeds outside experts – both public-system and traditional management consulting – in child and family services systems to improve system performance and outcomes.

· The article describes five types of levers that were influenced in different combinations to promote change in different state systems. We call these “catalytic combinations.”

· In numerous states, including Maine, Louisiana, Virginia, and Indiana, the CSCG initiative produced measurable improvements in key performance areas, including shortening stays in foster care, improving rates of permanent placements for children in foster care, reductions in foster-care recidivism, and improving the percentages of children “aging out” of foster care who leave the system with a strong community/family connection.

· Different states have different strengths and challenges. What worked in one place won’t necessarily work in another. The authors’ postulate, however, that by influencing “levers of change” in combination, one can drive broad improvement in how overall systems operate.

· Turning systems around is a long-range and difficult exercise, and one that is never complete. Influencing catalytic combinations creates sufficient startup results for improvements to continue over time.

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