• April 2019
  • Vol. 20, No. 3

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Rethinking How We Promote Child and Family Well-Being

Written by Jerry Milner

We are at a crossroads in child welfare. For generations, we have removed children from their families and placed them in foster care as our primary intervention in the hopes that we were doing the right thing. We know, now, that although we may have prevented children from experiencing one kind of harm, in many cases we caused other forms—including loss and trauma—which are considered adverse childhood experiences.

I believe that we can change the way we protect and support children in this country and that the best way to support children is to support their families. 

Right now, we typically respond only after families have lost much of their protective capacity, and children have been harmed. We need to create environments where families get the support they need before harm occurs. This calls for a reconceptualization of the mission and functioning of child welfare systems.

Tweaking what we already have in place won't solve the problems. By working together and pooling our ideas and creative energies, we can change child welfare to create environments where children and families thrive. Child welfare can and should be a support for families, not a substitute for parents, and not a source of trauma and loss. Strengthening the well-being of children and their parents so that we have strong and thriving families is what child welfare should be all about.

The 21st National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, which will be held April 24–26 in Washington, DC, brings together more than 1,400 child welfare staff, child maltreatment prevention partners, parents, and community members from around the country to explore strategies for making this vision for strong and thriving families a reality. Workshops, skills seminars, and poster presentations are just a few of the session formats that will be featured during the 3-day event.

Visit the conference website at https://nccan.acf.hhs.gov/ to learn more.


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