Building a True Safety Net: A Case Study of El Dorado County’s Youth and Family Commission
El Dorado County, a small, rural community in northern California, partnered with Bellwether Education Partners over a two-year period to better support children who are experiencing significant barriers to their education due to foster care placement, homelessness, involvement in the juvenile justice system, unmet mental/physical health needs, or other drivers of chronic instability.
Our work focused on addressing agency fragmentation, which describes the siloed structure of government agencies that prevents the data and information sharing necessary to ensure that young people receive comprehensive, streamlined support. The county’s efforts ultimately resulted in the creation of the El Dorado County Commission for Youth and Families, which addresses the lack of centralized communication and data systems so young people in the community can access the services they need.
As an external facilitator, Bellwether pursued a four-pronged approach grounded in human-centered design:
- Engage youth at the outset
- Learn from and engage with a wide range of stakeholders
- Align on a shared definition of the problem
- Allow solutions to develop organically from stakeholders to ensure buy-in
This case study provides background on El Dorado County’s work through a series of interviews with key participants and in-depth analysis of project artifacts and deliverables. Other districts, counties, and states ought to consider El Dorado’s approach as they work to mitigate the effects of agency fragmentation on vulnerable young people.
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