Phase 3: Institutionalization

To maintain the benefits of awareness about the risks faced by drug endangered children and implementing the collaborative DEC Approach, National DEC recommends the creation of Local DEC Alliances.  Formalizing the collaborative working relationships developed under the DEC Approach with a DEC Alliance will bring the local practitioners together on a regular basis for ongoing review, assessment, and enhancements of their DEC efforts.  A Local DEC Alliance provides a mechanism for sustaining cross-disciplinary and inter-agency collaboration and facilitates ongoing changes in policies and practices. The collaboration and changes in the ways the various disciplines and agencies perform their work can be spelled out in protocols and MOU’s. 


Continue Core DEC Awareness Training In-Person or Online

This training is intended for all professionals working to help drug endangered children, which aligns with National’s DEC mission of forming multidisciplinary partnerships that take advantage of existing agency personnel, resources, and responsibilities and that coordinate their mutual interests and duties to meet the specific needs of these children. Assisting these children and addressing their needs does not conclude until the child is in a permanent, safe, and positive functioning environment. With the National DEC mission in mind, the Core DEC Training looks at the risks and long-term impact of drug endangered children, overcoming the challenges of aligning the agencies and systems responsible for preventing, intervening, and treating these issues to change the trajectories of the lives of drug endangered children and break multigenerational cycles of abuse and neglect.


A Copy of the Core DEC Training description and objectives can be found here.

National DEC Staff provides Core DEC Awareness Training at training events, conferences, community meetings, and other venues. To learn more about a Train the Trainer session email


For those that are looking to go deeper into various topics, National DEC developed 4 modules of free online training. Learn more about the online training here.

Continue DEC Approach Training

This in-person training is provided by National DEC staff at a community, regional, or state level. It focuses on how to implement the DEC Approach, which is a comprehensive strategy based on a common vision, ongoing collaboration between various disciplines and agencies, and ongoing changes in practice. This DEC Approach has proven to be effective in improving the likelihood of better outcomes for drug endangered children. The training provides insights about how various practitioners—including child welfare professionals, law enforcement officers, court and judicial professionals, prosecutors, probation and parole officers, medical personnel, educators, and treatment providers—are in a position to identify, protect, and serve drug endangered children and their families.


The trainers discuss the identification of risks to drug endangered children and what all disciplines can look for when collecting evidence and information on drug endangered children. The trainers use pictures and videos of real DEC scenarios to assist professionals in understanding what to look for regarding the “life of the child.” The training includes trainer-led discussions and hands-on exercises to demonstrate how implementing collaboration enhances the likelihood of better outcomes for drug endangered children.

A copy of the DEC Approach learning objectives can be found here.

Provide Local DEC Development Training

National DEC’s Local DEC Alliance Development training teaches law enforcement, child welfare, and their professional colleagues and community partners about the benefits of forming local DEC alliances that formalize working relationships between the professionals who are involved with drug endangered children and their families. The training focuses on providing local practitioners with the proven specific steps and techniques to establish a formal drug endangered children alliance.

Through this in-person training, National DEC’s experienced trainers lead discussions and activities with the participants about who should be at the table to help form a local DEC alliance, about the challenges of collaboration and sustaining that collaboration, and about the benefits of changing practices and procedures on an ongoing basis to benefit drug endangered children. The training assists practitioners of various disciplines in discussing as well as developing protocols and memoranda of understanding (MOU) to assist in institutionalizing DEC efforts and responses within each community. The material in this very practical training is based on the experiences of successful local DEC alliances in various jurisdictions across the country, including tribal communities.

A copy of the Local DEC Development learning objectives can be found here.


Provide Train the Trainer Trainings

National DEC has developed a train-the-trainer program to certify trainers to train alliance partners in the Core DEC Awareness and the DEC Approach “Moving from Awareness to Action” training. This program ensures that DEC efforts will be sustained and institutionalized locally as these certified trainers will be able to provide ongoing training to practitioners who have not had these trainings. Contact National DEC staff to schedule a Train the Trainer training in your community at

Institutionalize and Share DEC Promising Practices

As the collaborative DEC Approach is implemented at the local level, you may initiate and implement new and creative ways for drug endangered children to be identified and protected, ways for collaboration to be more effective, or ways to enhance other aspects of the DEC mission. These may be labeled as “promising practices,” and it is important to identify promising practices so that you can share these with other professionals and other disciplines. Identifying and sharing promising DEC practices strengthens DEC efforts locally, and National DEC shares these practices with practitioners across the nation to spread innovative practices for helping drug endangered children. National DEC developed the National DEC Promising Practices Publication to get conversations started.

Implementing the collaborative DEC approach involves having conversations and meetings with fellow practitioners, developing closer working relationships, sharing information, and considering and adopting changes in procedures and practice—all of which can be reflected in protocols and MOUs. DEC protocols and MOUs have been developed and put in place in various jurisdictions across the country:

  • Protocols are commonly described as a set of common guidelines that everyone follows, so everyone is on the same page. Protocols define the procedures and steps for professionals to take as they work together to make a difference in the lives of drug endangered children.

  • Bylaws establish the rules and guidelines for the purpose and work of the DEC alliance.

  • An MOU outlines the agreement between organizations on how they will work together addressing the DEC issue.


These documents help shape and clarify the actions and direction of the DEC alliance by formalizing agreements and helping to institutionalize DEC efforts across all disciplines involved.


Engage political leaders and obtain policy support

The DEC Approach addresses a significant number of key public policy issues that are of interest to elected and senior appointed officials including child maltreatment, child placements, drug activity, substance abuse, human trafficking, community-oriented policing, incarceration rates, drug courts, and educational outcomes. These issues will need political support as well as possible Tribal resolutions and legislation or statute changes It is important to continue to think about how to engage political leaders within your community, tribe, or state as well as at the federal level. Getting support from political leaders will assist in moving DEC efforts forward and may even result in policy or law changes that strengthen the DEC mission.

Example Resolution and Legislation:


Conduct Regular Meetings to Formalize the DEC alliance

It is important to have local DEC alliance meetings on a regular basis. This schedule will assist in building relationships and partnerships, allow for case reviews, allow for training and education opportunities, and assist in sustaining DEC efforts. We recommend having the meetings on the same date and time every month so people can put it on their calendars. For many alliances, having meetings at least every other month works best as it keeps people thinking about DEC and also keeps efforts moving forward.  National DEC has developed meeting rules, meeting agenda, and meeting sign-in sheet samples to assist alliances.

Assess and Enhance Overall DEC Efforts

The DEC Approach is designed to create ongoing collaboration and ongoing change because the practitioners who have the responsibility and authority to serve drug endangered children and families will always face new challenges, new drug trends, new policies and laws, and other changing circumstances. In addition, each case that is dealt with in a collaborative manner will have its own lessons about what worked well and what could have been handled better. For these reasons, it is vitally important for DEC alliances to continuously assess what things are working and what things are not working and how DEC efforts can be enhanced in your community.