Since their launch in 1999, AOK Networks have worked to build strong early childhood systems in their communities by establishing and/or enhancing critical system building components. These components include Early Identification, Public Information & Education, Information & Referral, Service Needs & Utilization, Workforce Staffing & Development, and Local & State Policy.
Over the last two decades, these components have informed AOK Network efforts in numerous ways. More recently, a single component has been the focus of the System Building Initiatives across the state. During the last five-year cycle, Early Identification, with an emphasis on gathering developmental screenings data, was the statewide focus.
Currently, all AOK Networks are focusing on Information and Referral. While all AOK Networks are focused on this strategy, each community’s information and referral system is developed based on local needs and opportunities. AOK Networks systematically learn about their community’s current communication and referral practices and engage service providers and local stakeholders in building a more connected and coordinated system to connect families to the appropriate services.
Community Assessment and Planning Process
AOK Networks conduct a system assessment to better understand the current strengths and challenges of local information and referral processes. To get a diverse perspective, community service providers and families are surveyed. AOK Network partners analyze the survey responses to better understand current referral practices. They also lead conversations with specific program clusters, such as Home Visiting, Early Intervention, Preschool and Child Care programs to understand referral workflows. AOK Network partners identify and analyze the efficacy of local referring services and tools such as 211 and the Department of Child and Family’s SPIDER application. AOK Networks host community conversations and interview key stakeholders to ascertain how information is being shared, capacity to provide services, the number of referrals being made, and barriers to accessing quality services for pregnant people and families with young children.
AOK Network partners then make sense of the information and referral information they collected. This includes identifying coordination strengths and detecting current issues. Partners conduct a root cause analysis to further identify and make sense of service coordination issues. AOK Networks initiate system change strategies to improve coordination.
All AOK Networks promote and maintain a referral process using IRIS, a web-based information, referral and intake application developed by the University of Kansas, Center for Public Partnerships and Research. IRIS supports warm handoffs for families, closes the communication loop for referring organizations, and provides a clear data driven picture of partner capacity to continually improve the process over time, and track outcomes.