Empowering Families

State and County Government Agencies Achieve Better Outcomes for Families

In 2018, Third Sector partnered with six state and local government agencies with the goal of demonstrating how government agencies could align Two-Generational social services to outcomes using strategies such as innovative contracts and data sharing agreements. The Empowering Families Initiative provided two years of individualized Technical Assistance (TA) from Third Sector on outcomes-based contracting strategies, while Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) at the University of Pennsylvania provided support in developing integrated data systems.

Through the Empowering Families Initiative, government agencies in Florida, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, and North Carolina collaborated to explore ways to:

  • Create an Outcomes Strategy including stakeholder engagement and strategic planning
  • Improve Procurement and Contract Performance to better achieve outcomes
  • Craft Effective Incentive Structures to support alignment and coordination
Daughter & Father Playing

This cohort of six agencies formed a national learning community through a mix of virtual and in-person convenings where they received group-based TA, shared learnings, and networked with and supported each other. Together the group of peers challenged and learned from each other. And they progressed further in their outcomes journey by working together than they would have if they had gone alone. The strategies and tools they created and implemented are allowing them to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to drive improved outcomes year-after-year, benefiting thousands of children and families across the country.

A summary of each site’s work is available below as well as links to some key resources. For a Compendium of the impact achieved through Empowering Families click here.

Broward County, FL

Advancing Outcome Goals through Agency-Provider Co-Creation

The Children’s Services Council of Broward County (CSC Broward) has made an explicit commitment to addressing structural racism and eliminating racial disparities in program outcomes for the children and families they serve. CSC Broward has operationalized a series of initiatives to tackle disparities, including: program realignment to prioritize individuals and communities with the highest need, structured engagement with program participants and their families, investment in provider collaboration and sharing decision-making power between CSC Broward and its providers. As co-creators and partners, CSC Broward-funded providers now have:

  •     Increased access to service delivery data.
  •     A better understanding of how to use that data to support program success.
  •     Access to regular co-learning opportunities with CSC Broward to co-create program solutions to improve outcomes for all of Broward’s children and their families. 

CSC Broward now has replicable processes and organizational capacity for furthering its commitment to equitable relationships with providers. CSC Broward is using their enhanced engagement and procurement model developed with their Family Strengthening program to learn from and scale to other programs.

Read the full story on how CSC Broward achieved this impact here.


Colorado Improves Family Economic Security with Workforce Pilot Program by Focusing on Outcomes

The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) provides leadership and oversight for Colorado’s 64 counties in the provision of high-quality health and human services that improve the safety, independence, and well-being of the people of Colorado. A key program is Colorado Works Subsidized Training and Employment Program (CW STEP). CW STEP helps connect at-risk populations who are eligible for basic cash assistance from federally-funded Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) with crucial professional work experience. CDHS selected CW STEP program as an opportunity to foster cross-agency collaboration and to become the foundation for their outcomes-oriented contracting strategy.


  • Connected Resources with Outcomes Achieved: CDHS amended the CW STEP provider contracts to explicitly focus on outcomes. These contracts include $4M in annual TANF funding and $100K set aside for bonus payments tied to a set of short- and long-term employment outcomes.
  • Increased Staff Capacity & Skills: CDHS staff felt empowered and indicated that they learned a new skill set that enabled them to develop outcomes-focused contracts.
  • Increased Alignment on Goals & Performance: Extensively engaged all five CW STEP service providers for input and partnership in co-creating outcome goals and performance levels, which created a shared understanding and replicable frameworks for use in future contract negotiations and program adjustments.

Read the full story on how CDHS achieved this impact here.


Equitable Access to Child Care in Connecticut

The Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) administers state and federally-funded child care and early childhood education for more than 30,000 families in the state of Connecticut. The establishment of the OEC in 2013 united staff and funding from five state agencies. While this unification consolidated staffing and funding, a lack of alignment across OEC’s programs persisted. This left many families forced to navigate a burdensome system with different applications and eligibility requirements.

OEC is creating opportunities to engage providers and families for feedback, and using feedback to inform policy changes in OEC’s 2019-2021 Federal Child Care Development Fund Plan. These efforts were possible because of significant early wins including:

  • Increased Staff Capacity and Planning: OEC staff were tasked with rethinking program design, community engagement, and procurement processes.
  • Partnerships to Enable Family Centered Programs: OEC strengthened cross-agency partnership with the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) to increase access to childcare supports for families experiencing homelessness, with Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) to explore increasing access to childcare supports for student-parents, and supported the establishment of family childcare networks.
  • Fostered New Approaches for Engaging Community: OEC deepened collaborative relationships with service provider working groups and community partners in support of its vision of developing a more holistic early care and education field across Connecticut. OEC partnered with Third Sector to facilitate conversations with providers on the impact of short-term policy changes, and these groups continue to meet to inform OEC’s long-term strategic vision.

Read the full story on how OEC achieved this impact here.


Advancing a Whole-family Approach to Economic Well-being and Stability in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Human Rights (Iowa DHR) has helped shape the national landscape on economic self-sufficiency through its Family Development and Self-Sufficiency (FaDSS) program. In 2018, FaDSS services improved the quality of life of over 2,800 families at risk of long-term welfare dependency or family instability by creating opportunities for economic well-being and stability.

Iowa DHR is fundamentally shifting how it ‘partners with’ providers and families to advance whole-family approach to development and self-sufficiency. It began with five FaDSS providers co-designing whole-family enhancements to their programs. This includes:

  • Harmonize program components and expand eligibility requirements to provide critical support to the growing number of TANF disconnected families.
  • Pursue data sharing agreements between agencies and providers to make navigating the system easier for families while enabling providers to develop a system-wide, whole-family view.
  • Enhance the focus on long-term outcomes through redesigned program provider contracts that promote innovation in service delivery. This includes three-year family outcomes achievable by addressing the intersecting needs of parents and children.
  • Test strategies to counter potential adverse effects, such as when a family becomes ineligible for a service because of a marginal increase in their income. This includes leveraging policy flexibility and deploying engagement strategies to extend program engagement and reduce TANF reentry rates.
  • Ongoing engagement with providers and families on policies and programs in order to bring families to the center of decision-making.

Read the full story on how Iowa DHR achieved this impact here.


Commonwealth of Massachusetts Launches Cross-Agency Data Sharing Agreement to Improve Coordination Across State Agencies

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Learn to Earn Initiative (LTE) is a cross-agency, multi-pronged initiative intended to improve coordination of public benefits and education and workforce programs to help unemployed and underemployed individuals and families access and sustain a path to economic mobility. One key aspect of LTE is sharing and analyzing data to identify and better understand the individuals and families currently receiving one or more public benefits and interacting with multiple agencies’ programs. The Commonwealth sought to create intentional and impactful coordination across agencies to promote better services, experiences, and outcomes for individuals and families receiving public assistance. The LTE “Data Team,” supported by Third Sector, aimed to advance this goal by, for the first time, using shared agency data across nine agencies and six public assistance programs to systematically track shared client populations, benefits utilized, and outcomes achieved.

  • Utilized Statewide Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which provides a general legal framework and processes for data-sharing at scale, signed by all nine Executive Branch secretariats and all of the state agencies accountable to them in the fall of 2018. The LTE data team used this framework for the first time, thereby paving the way for future data sharing agreements.
  • Signed Largest Data Use Agreement (DULA) in the State which was the first data sharing project facilitated through the new statewide MOU process. The LTE DULA was signed in May 2019 by 14 agencies - five secretariats and the nine agencies accountable to them.
  • Strengthened Communication and Understanding across 14 state agencies: The LTE Common Client DULA will enable us to learn more about how families currently participate in these programs, and how that participation relates to educational attainment, income, and employment.

Moving forward, the Commonwealth plans to apply these tools and relationships to better understand and improve policy and outcomes for individuals who rely on public benefits throughout the Commonwealth.

Read the full story on how the Commonwealth of Massachusetts achieved this impact here.

North Carolina

Enhancing and Aligning State Programs to Achieve Early Childhood Goals in North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS), Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) and Third Sector collaborated through the Empowering Families Initiative to accelerate the goals of the state’s Early Childhood Action Plan by enhancing and aligning the NC Pre-Kindergarten (NC Pre-K) and the Promoting Healthy Social Behavior in Child Care Centers (HSB) programs to support those goals.

The changes set in motion by this project are driving a fundamental shift in the way service providers deliver and the children and early childhood workforce of North Carolina receive services.

  • Outcomes-Focused Service Delivery: Across the NC Pre-K and HSB programs over $165 million in services are being deployed across 90+ contracts. These contracts aim to support 5,000+ teachers and staff to drive better outcomes, such as improved kindergarten readiness, literary scores, and social and emotional development for 34,000+ children.
  • Continuous Improvement in Service Delivery: DCDEE has strengthened the way it works with the 90+ providers that deliver the NC Pre-K and HSB programs. Both parties will share and receive data to support real-time continuous improvement in service delivery and drive better provider performance. DCDEE will also host provider convenings to review data and to provide a platform to share learnings, successes, and challenges.

Read the full story on how DCDEE achieved this impact here.

Eastern Bank

Santander Bank

The Social Innovation Fund (SIF) was a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service that received funding from 2010 to 2016. Using public and private resources to find and grow community-based nonprofits with evidence of results, SIF intermediaries received funding to award subgrants that focus on overcoming challenges in economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development. Although CNCS made its last SIF intermediary awards in fiscal year 2016, SIF intermediaries will continue to administer their subgrant programs until their federal funding is exhausted.