Personal Wins!

Co-led team of two service designers, one communications designer, and five ACS staff

Coordinated training modules for partners to explore and practice methods of service design

Conducted design research alongside (newly-trained!) ACS staff

Emerged as de facto process manager, as my favorite thing to do is to think three steps ahead.

Managed a weekly newsletter blast to keep our partners updated on testing insights


Ryan Hansz, Tim Reitzes, Bonnie Tran, Caroline Bauer, Markus Kessler, Daniel Herrera, Demi Canty, Tai Adeoye, Yeashea Braddock


New York City Administration for Children's Services

How might we support families as they transition out of child welfare investigations and move into family support services?


The Division of Prevention at the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) funds 200 programs across 54 providers, which provide a range of supports to over 44,000 children each year, all in an effort to keep children out of foster care and keep families together. Currently, families who are referred to Family Support Services while entangled in a child welfare investigation have very little choice in what services they are matched to. The Service Design Studio partnered with ACS to redesign this transition experience to center on a family’s voice and choice.


This project lead to a proof of concept for a digital referral management system and backend processes to capture and incorporate family service preferences.

ACS is currently piloting informational materials (brochure, family stories, and Types of Supports cards) with investigation staff, Family Team Conference facilitators, and at Prevention community outreach programs.

Surfaced a design ready partner: The Studio set out to find a City agency willing and ready to embed design methods into a project team for 12 months. To do so, our team designed and facilitated an open call application process, receiving 13 proposals. As a part of this process, we held four semi-finalist workshops to stress-test and more deeply refine submitted proposals.

Developed skill-exchange model: We facilitated ‘teaching moments’ throughout the project for each team to learn a new set of skills. Our team took time to breakdown the key attitudes and activities of the service design process. Our ACS partners schooled us on the complexity of the child welfare system and the radical bottom-up strategies they were deploying to support families.

Uncovered the family referral experience: Conducted research with ACS administrative staff, case planners, supervisors, and families. We used our research to make transparent the current 'blackbox' process of matching a family to a Family Support Services provider in their neighborhood.

Defined key choice moments: Once we mapped the matching process, we defined key moments in the process where a choice was made (see star icons above). The goal: define places where choice can or should be up to the family. Key choices families want to make? Choosing a provider, time of day, length of services, the case planner they work with… and on and on!

Elevated family voices: From the beginning, a key goal was to establish processes that ACS could continue to use to engage families in a meaningful way to improve programs. This project demonstrated that engaging with residents and staff is not only possible, but that elevates important issues, makes ideas stronger, and overall energized the agency to help families be the best parents they can be. We delivered on this both in process, but by also creating research artifacts (above) that reinforce these values for staff.

Moved ideas into action: To explore how to increase family voice and choice, we held weekly co-design and testing sprints over a two month period. Throughout this process, we developed and tested over 10 different concepts.

To learn more about what these testing sprints looked like week-to-week you can view our Testing Log at

Created consistent, plain language: When we started this project, family support services were confusing to both staff and families. By using language directly from parents, we were able to explain what services will mean to a family's day to day life. This library of plain language explanations is currently being used to improve materials, trainings and workflows across the system.