Connecting families with concrete resources that meet basic needs and support economic well-being can lower stress and help parents to create long-term stability for their family. The Colorado Community Response (CCR) program is using this approach to reduce incidents of child neglect and abuse.
Administered by the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) in the Colorado Department of Human Services, the voluntary program is now available in 21 sites, serving 29 counties. The Colorado Lab partnered with OEC to conduct a randomized control trial of the CCR program’s efficacy in reducing child maltreatment. An initial phase of the ongoing randomized control trial explored approaches to strengthen the program both in terms of engaging more families and in keeping program costs low.
At about $2,000, the per-family cost of providing CCR is typically on par with or lower than other prevention programs. However, this number depends substantially on CCR family advocates’ success in engaging families in the program. The latest available data suggests that only 23% of all referrals result in a family enrolling in the program. This low uptake rate is a challenge shared by many prevention programs, especially those that rely solely on referrals from child welfare, as does CCR. Contact information is often incomplete or outdated, and families may be hesitant to engage for a variety of reasons, from the perceived stigma of being a “bad parent” to mistrust of state systems or an incomplete understanding of why the referral is taking place.
The cost analysis recommends expanding referral sources, including allowing self-referrals and additional known and trusted referral sources—such as child care centers and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)—to overcome the enrollment challenge. OEC has already begun implementing this recommendation by allowing CCR provider agencies to identify families that may benefit by participating in the program.
Another cost driver for CCR is variation in how the program is implemented across sites. To address this, the study recommends providing ongoing, foundational support for all CCR sites. State intermediaries—such as Invest in Kids supporting Nurse-Family Partnership, Incredible Years, and Child First; and Parent Possible supporting Parents as Teachers and Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters—effectively train and coach staff, monitor program fidelity, support quality improvement, and help sites address unexpected needs like transitioning to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By expanding eligible referral sources and addressing program outreach and implementation challenges, the benefit-to-cost potential of the CCR program can be fully realized, growing a proven model for enhancing family strengths and reducing child maltreatment.