history of the national wraparound initiative
As the History of Wraparound clearly illustrates, wraparound originated as a philosophy and a grassroots movement more so than a specific intervention. This unique nature of wraparound has proven to be a source of both strength and difficulty. Normally, an intervention is designed and tested by a single person or group. In contrast, wraparound practice and supporting policies have evolved through a process of ongoing innovation on the part of families, trainers, and providers around the nation. This process has stimulated a kind of creativity that would never have occurred within a less flexible model. On the other hand, the lack of shared standards or guidelines for wraparound practice has created problems around issues of quality assurance and fidelity.
During the late 1970s and early 80s, wraparound emerged gradually from the efforts of individuals and organizations committed to providing individualized, comprehensive, community-based care for children and their families. While the term wraparound came to be more and more widely used throughout the 1990s, there was still no formal agreement about exactly what wraparound was. Many wraparound programs shared features with one another, but there existed no consensus about what was essential for wraparound. Some programs were able to document notable successes from using wraparound, but it also became apparent that many teams and programs were not operating in a manner that reflected the wraparound principles. Toward the end of the 1990s, it became increasingly clear that without a clear definition of what wraparound was (and wasn’t), any practice could be called “wraparound,” regardless of quality. Furthermore, it would be impossible to establish evidence for wraparound’s effectiveness without a clear definition of the practice.
In true wraparound fashion, a team approach emerged to address these difficulties. In June of 2003, the Research and Training Center on Family Support and Children’s Mental Health hosted a national meeting in Portland, Oregon, and invited over 30 parents, parent advocates, wraparound trainers, practitioners, program administrators, researchers, and systems of care technical assistance providers. This was the first meeting of what became the Advisory Group of a new National Wraparound Initiative. At this initial meeting, the group reaffirmed the need to define a wraparound practice model, discussed potential methods for conducting such work, and described specific products that should result. By the end of the meeting, the group reached a consensus about what is most needed to promote high quality in wraparound:
- Clear definitions of the wraparound philosophy and the wraparound practice model
- Specific strategies on how to achieve high-quality wraparound at the family, team, provider, and system levels
- Minimum standards for wraparound practice and for supporting families, teams, and practitioners
- Implementation and fidelity tools – aligned with the strategies and standards for wraparound – that could inform quality improvement and be used in more rigorous evaluation
- Handbooks for youth, caregivers, practitioners, and team members that explain wraparound and what should be expected during implementation
Since that initial meeting, the collective efforts of the members of the NWI have been successful in meeting many of these needs and making progress toward meeting the others. As described in a recent evaluation of the NWI’s impact, the vast majority of the NWI’s advisors perceive that the NWI has met these initial goals, and that the NWI has had substantial positive impact on wraparound implementation nationally.
The NWI Today
Located under the auspices of two research institutions, the NWI is still interested in promoting research and accountability of the wraparound model. As described in our mission page, however, the NWI is now also focusing on more directly supporting youth, families, and communities through an expanded scope of work that emphasizes four primary functions:
- Supporting community-level planning and implementation through implementation blueprints, self-assessment tools, and technical assistance.
- Promoting professional development of wraparound staff by providing implementation strategies and tools; a framework for staff development; quality assurance for training and coaching; and access to a national technical assistance network.
- Ensuring accountability through external reviews of practice and a web-based system for tracking implementation and monitoring fidelity and outcomes.
- Sustaining a more vibrant and interactive national community of practice by bringing together hundreds of NWI members and dozens of affiliates nationally who provide energy and resources while also benefiting from sharing information and being linked together.
Previously, membership in the NWI was only open to individuals with expertise in wraparound willing to contribute 20 to 40 hours per year to the Initiative’s work. Now, however, the NWI has become a membership organization, open to anyone who is interested enough to pay a small annual fee to support the community of practice. We hope this will make the NWI even more dynamic and accessible. The move to becoming a membership organization does not mean that access to current or future NWI materials will be restricted. Quite the contrary, our hope and expectation is that, in keeping with the principles of wraparound, the more who join together and contribute, the more the NWI will be able to provide to everyone.