Parent review feedback summary

  • Parent reviewers unanimously recommended the implementation of community codesign, on the condition that parents are directly involved in leading the effort and able to participate without risk of CPS involvement.
  • A healthy sense of skepticism from reviewers shadowed their interest, with one reviewer saying, “they lure you in, make you feel welcome, and then change.” Parents expressed fear of switch and bait tactics and would need to know that they would not be penalized by the system for sharing their struggles and hopes.
  • According to parent reviewers, word of mouth would be the best way community codesign programs gain traction within the community. To get there, prioritizing parents and providing a consistently positive, impactful experience with codesign would then motivate their community to be involved.

What is the intervention?

Rock County Human Services Department (HSD) prepared for months to participate in an 8-week design sprint with local parents held in October 2022. The effort intentionally focused on engaging Black parents from the Rock County town of Beloit where overrepresentation of Black children in the child welfare system is highest.

Elevating the experience of Black parents, the effort prioritized the needs and elevated the experience of Black parents in a reconciliation and design process to build a comprehensive and actionable blueprint for change. The codesign sprint was facilitated by IDEO.org and was developed with full participation of 13 Beloit-based parents and 8 Rock County staff members open to deep listening and ready to share power with parents.

The monthslong codesign preparation process involved: 1) supporting the system leaders’ readiness to create the conditions for collaboration with families, and 2) implementing an engagement process led by the Community Cultivator hired for this initiative to identify, connect with, and onboard a team of parents to participate.

in partnership with nonprofit organization Alia, Rock County staff preparation for codesign included leadership and strategy development, training, and disparity data inquiry. Together they explored staff mindsets related to racial equity goals with a co-designed framework called Dear Leaders: A resource of starting points for leaders in child welfare to bring family voice and power to the system.

Through co-design, an Idea Book was created, with a community-driven vision for keeping families safely together. In it, there are actionable ideas from the perspective of Black families in Beloit that create a beloved community of support. There is now a robust implementation plan bringing the ideas to life.  

What makes it a Bright Spot?

At the first in-person design sprint session, the Human Services Director lead with a powerful apology statement. This punctuated an overall priority of relationship-building between Rock staff and parent codesigners and set a reconciliation process in motion. At the end, parents communicated that a starting point for building trust ongoing was established. This alone was considered a significant outcome. Further, the codesigned ideas turned into a commitment to action in each of the four areas outlined in the Idea Book. Rock County HSD is sharing power and moving toward mutual accountability with its most impacted community members.

What steps can you take?

  • Plan on a long preparation process – don’t rush into codesign. It took months of work including deep self-reflection for Rock County staff to enter a codesign process without doing harm to parents by being defensive or dismissive. Dear Leaders is a good place to start this process.
  • Center the experience of impacted parents throughout an engagement process; you accommodate their needs and culture, not the other way around.


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