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March 2005Vol. 6, No. 2Strategies To Implement a Continuum of Care

Policymakers and researchers have begun to emphasize the importance of developing a continuum of services to reach all the children and families in need of support in the child welfare system. This continuum of care would focus not only on the immediate needs of the families, but long-term services as well.

The benefits and components involved in providing a continuum of care are the subject of a recent Issue Note from the Finance Project, Developing and Supporting a Continuum of Child Welfare Services. The author notes that the benefits of such services include more than just cost savings. By providing a continuum of care to at-risk children and families, States can help prevent child abuse and neglect, shorten foster care placements, and meet Federal child welfare standards.

Comprehensive services in a continuum of care should include:

  • Preventive services
  • Early intervention services
  • Specialized services
  • Postpermanency services

Funding is a large challenge in developing a continuum of care. This Issue Note discusses several approaches that States can take to enable families to obtain the supports they need. These approaches involve not only Federal funding designed for certain child welfare needs, but also other Federal funding sources not explicitly dedicated to child welfare (e.g., substance abuse prevention funds).

Interagency coordination also presents opportunities for child welfare agencies to fill their service gaps and provide a continuum of care. Some strategies States may want to use in coordinating with other agencies include sharing information and tracking systems, developing common intake and assessment forms, and coordinating funding.

This article, which provides examples of States and localities implementing a continuum of care, is available from the Finance Project's Welfare Information Network website at (PDF 163 KB).