Integrated Children's Services

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is taking a comprehensive approach to serving children, birth to 21 years of age, through programs that focus on long-term prevention, early intervention and services that support family stability, child safety, community protection and healthy child development. This comprehensive approach began in June of 2004 with the development of the Integrated Children's Services Plan.

Integrated planning calls for all child-serving systems within a county to plan together for one system in which appropriate services can be accessed regardless of what "door" a child may initially enter. This planning process is an integral first step toward building a holistic approach to servicing the individual and family.

Why Integrated Children's Services Matters

By integrating the service coordination and delivery role in each county, children and families do not have to jump through multiple hoops to receive appropriate services. Every year, each county in Pennsylvania submits a children's plan that describes how that county will integrate their children's services. One of the goals of the integrated plan is to take planning efforts in service programs that historically may not have planned together and ensure coordination, consolidation and/or ultimately the integration of program administration and resource allocation for services to children and families.

Integrating children's services includes many areas: child welfare, juvenile justice, permanency planning, early intervention, mental retardation services, behavioral health services, child care and education. Counties are also being asked to seek meaningful coordination and cooperation with services provided by local school districts and Early Intervention programs, physical health care services, Food Stamps, and other public benefits programs that are not directly led by county governments.

The integration framework incorporates the following elements for children and adolescents and their families, in every county, who need public "system" involvement:

  • A continuum of care that provides for the healthy development, safety and well being of the child;
  • A service plan that accesses resources from all appropriate sources to meet the needs of the child and family; and
  • A prevention strategy for children that results in healthy development and stability.

The focus must continue to be on positive outcomes related to integration. Each year cross systems teams review county plans and analyze where each county is currently on the integration continuum.