REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL
This project is in collaboration with WRF, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services and Public Knowledge.
JANUARY 27, 2023
Collaboratively, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF), the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and Public Knowledge (PK) (the sponsor groups) are seeking proposals from community groups in Pulaski County to serve parents, children, and youth who might be investigated and possibly separated through the child welfare system without needed supports.
Funding will be provided to the community groups directly by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and both PK and DCFS will participate in making funding decisions and providing input into the work of the community groups.
In the Fall of 2021, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services, contracted with PK to provide intensive technical support to stabilize Pulaski County and to begin transforming the existing child welfare system from one which admits an increasingly high number of children into foster care, often without needed supportive services, to a system that provides community-based supports to help families remain safely together.
During the past two years, the number of children in foster care in Pulaski County has nearly doubled and the turnover of staff working with families has exceeded 100 percent. In particular, the number of Black children in foster care is double the overall representation of Black children in the general Pulaski County population.
Additionally, services and supports to Spanish-speaking families is a particular need in the Southwest portion of the county. As part of PK’s contract, we are assisting the state and county in re-configuring the “front end” of the child welfare system in Pulaski County, i.e., making reports of child abuse and neglect, responding to those reports, and linking families with appropriate supports and services.
State and federal laws require certain professionals who come into contact with children to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the public child protection agency for investigation (DCFS). Currently, many reports are made where abuse and neglect are not the primary issues but, rather, out of concern for a family and child’s well-being, come into the reporting hotline often because reporters do not know of or have access to other means of helping a family get what it needs.
For example, some reports concern children coming to school dirty or improperly clothed for the weather, older children in the family tending to younger siblings while a parent works, or unclean/cramped living quarters, etc. Parents who have either had direct experience with the child welfare system, and/or are intimately familiar with the needs of families in their communities, have spoken clearly about the effects of poverty on the well-being of children, youth, and families in their communities.
They have identified poverty as a major contributor to child welfare involvement and also for youth finding themselves in challenging situations that threaten their long-term health and wellness. They have identified needs for community groups, particularly those that can directly engage with families and youth, to provide needed supports within the context of families’ culture and backgrounds in preventative ways.
While a family may need assistance, there has not always been willful neglect or abuse of the child when DCFS becomes involved. In many situations, reports to the hotline are not based on actual concerns of actual immediate danger, abuse, or willful neglect, but instead are calls seeking assistance and resources for families in need of basic requirements, such as food and shelter.
This RFP seeks to identify community-based groups who can provide an alternate option and resources for helping families in such circumstances in their own communities (to reduce unqualified reporting to the child abuse and neglect hotline).
Overall, the sponsor groups in this RFP are interested in contracting with up to three community-based entities to do the following:
1. Identify a support or supports within the community that could help to strengthen the ability of families within the community to remain safely together and have their essential needs met, based on input about needs from the community itself;
2. Develop (if not already in place), enhance (if already in place), and/or partner with other groups to make more readily accessible the service or supports needed;
3. Initiate outreach to families within the community to make them aware of the supports available and to facilitate the opportunities for engagement; and
4. Put into place or strengthen advocacy efforts on behalf of vulnerable children and families in support of community-based resources.
Characteristics of Entities to be Funded:
The RFP seeks community-based entities that represent any of the following: faith-based and church-related groups/organizations, school and education-based programs that serve entire families, community and civic-oriented groups, health-care providers, and other interested non-governmental organizations.
Organizations must be nonprofits with 501(c)3 designations or provide a 501(c)3 fiscal agent. Given the overrepresentation of Black children in foster care in Pulaski County, and a growing Latino population, we are seeking groups that are known and trusted by communities of color.
This RFP is prioritizing North Little Rock as one of the areas in need of this support due to its history of being disadvantaged and underserved. Activities to be Carried Out: At a minimum, community groups selected must be prepared to carry out a set of specific activities within the served community, including the following: