The Connected Kids Initiative (CKI) is a Twin Cities based 501c3 that was born out of a need to carefully and thoughtfully provide a local community based approach to discuss a brighter future for struggling kids and families in Minnesota. The "Founding Collaborative Team" was made up of staff leadership from: AspireMN, St. David's Center for Children, MNAdopt, Eagle Brook Church, Safe Families for Children MN, YMCA Youth Intervention Services, Anoka County Social Services, UpWorks, and two departments of MN Department of Human Services - Youth Programs & Child Safety and Permanency Division. Together, they launched a non-traditional team (non-profit, government and church), to assess current needs of children and families involved in the child welfare system, as well as families that may be at risk of entering child welfare due to a variety of preventable circumstances.
The team developed a strategic plan to begin addressing those needs and piloted its model in Anoka County. Within eighteen months, CKI saw incredible results as a prevention pathway emerged and more foster families were identified as the nontraditional partners maintained their collaborative relationship. This included a successful first time approval of an Anoka County specific legislative bill with an appropriation of $75,000 launching the pilot off the ground, a University of Minnesota & Bush Foundation Local Government Innovation Award and recognition at the Minnesota Association of Counties. Today, over 17 counties are in various processes of adopting a co-recruitment strategy from the original vision of CKI.
But a major need emerged as CKI brought this collaborative idea to the public. An unexpected and universal community challenge - unresolved conflict and harm. Conflict in homes and as children returned to parents, conflict in the community and conflict across systems. Without addressing the unresolved conflict and current harms done - CKI cannot effectively offer collaborative frameworks. Lisa's years of researching restorative practices showed great potential for everyday families and the entire ecosystem of child welfare. Lisa's board gathered 25 child welfare providers in Sept 2019 to learn Circles and designed the Family Circles kit based off of the expertise of the CKI launch team and partnership with Living Justice Press.