Every two years, counties are required by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) to study community needs and evaluate current services using both a quantitative and qualitative approach. This year, WRI is partnering with the Human Services Advisory Councils (HSAC) in Burlington and Salem Counties to assess the strength of current services for children and families and identify local needs.

The Human Services Needs Assessment in Burlington County, which began in December 2019 and continues through August 2020, includes stakeholder interviews, virtual focus groups, and extensive county data analysis to determine the county’s priority needs and service areas, as well as any barriers that may exist for local families in accessing or utilizing services. Tracy Swan, senior project administrator for the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, leads the project and notes that this is the first time that WRI has assisted Burlington County in this project, but points to the success of the county-led juvenile delinquency prevention efforts, for which WRI provides technical support, as the main reason for the new partnership.

The needs assessment is multi-phased and data-driven. Phase one began with a half-day information session with the Burlington County Needs Assessment Team detailing the county’s current profile and analysis of several different sources of health and juvenile delinquency and risk factor data pertinent to health and human service delivery. This information will be compared to the results of the surveys, focus groups, and stakeholder interviews to see how the community’s input on needs and services compares with the quantitative data.

Phase two focuses on community outreach and feedback through a community-wide survey and more than 10 virtual focus groups representing a wide cross-section of the community. Participants will include health and human services providers; public service organizations, such as schools, police, and medical professionals; community leaders and local business owners; as well as those currently or previously served by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Children’s System of Care, or community-based providers, such as HSAC-funded programs. Youth and young adults are also invited to participate. The community survey, which launched electronically in March has captured nearly 400 responses to date. It will remain open until the end of July. The last phase, stakeholder interviews, will be identified by the Burlington County Needs Assessment Team and completed by the end of July. The full report will be completed by the end of August and presented to Burlington County’s Human Services Advisory Council in early fall to help inform New Jersey’s Federal Child and Family Service Plan.

In Salem County, WRI has been working closely with the Inter Agency Council to craft an electronic survey and begin analyzing results, as well as outline key themes from the focus groups and stakeholder interviews. The Council will conduct focus groups and stakeholder interviews, and WRI will assist in preparing the final report later this year.

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