• October 2020
  • Vol. 21, No. 7

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Creating the Child Welfare Systems That Families Need

Although the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) of 2018 paved the way for agencies to provide families with evidence-based services, including mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting training, its focus remains largely on preventing children and youth in at-risk families from entering foster care rather than providing families with what they need to avoid involvement with child welfare altogether.

A report from the Urban Institute discusses responses to a survey taken by child welfare stakeholders, including researchers, caseworkers and others who work in child welfare, and people with lived experience in child welfare, such as birth parents, foster parents, and young adults formerly in foster care. These respondents were asked about how child welfare funding should be spent and what they would prioritize from a list of 12 areas, including policies and practices, recruitment of kinship and foster parents, and cross-system collaboration.

The following were insights into some key patterns, perspectives, and priorities gleaned from the survey responses:

  • Respondents agreed that preventing foster care entry was a high priority for building evidence for primary prevention efforts. Some noted that Family First helps in this effort, but system improvement cannot stop there.
  • Respondents with lived experience placed equal priority on building evidence around preventing child abuse and neglect.
  • Researchers and respondents who work within child welfare agencies prioritized improving the child welfare workforce over preventing child maltreatment.
  • Respondents with lived experience consistently expressed a need for easier access to and greater availability of services and supports they view as fundamental to preventing child maltreatment, such as affordable housing, quality education, well-paying jobs, and treatment for mental health and substance use issues. 

The report also discusses the need for collaboration between child welfare and other sectors that can help increase the capacity of families to care for their children and avoid child welfare involvement.


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