Within Our Reach released a new report today entitled “Transforming Child Welfare Systems to a 21st Century Model that Strengthens and Supports Families and Communities: Innovations from the Field,” authored by Teri Covington, former director of the Within Our Reach office and funded through support from Casey Family Programs (CFP).

Within Our Reach is an office of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities that was established to further the recommendations of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF). In a 2016 report, the commission called for fundamental reforms in the child welfare system including: “A comprehensive public health approach premised on the importance of strong, integrated, and collective responsibility and coordinated action and measurement across agencies and states and within our communities.”

Significant progress has been made in the four years since the commission’s report toward transforming child welfare into 21st century child and family well-being systems that focus on preventing child abuse and neglect and strengthening families. 

Over the past several years, a number of convenings have taken place featuring transformational leaders across the child welfare ecosystem. Organized by CFP, in partnership with the U.S. Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Association for State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), these convenings have helped coalesce leaders around a common vision and an improved understanding of a public health approach to child welfare.

This recently released report provides a framework and description of a prevention-aligned, public health approach to child welfare and provides some examples of innovations states and communities are implementing in their efforts to become a 21st century model of child welfare. Many of these innovations are based on the recommendations of CECANF and the frameworks being developed through the CFP convenings.

Some of the examples of community and state efforts towards a more family-supportive, public health approach to child welfare include: 1) Establishment of a network of Family Resource Centers (FRCs) in San Francisco, CA that provide a community-based resource hub for families needing to access formal and informal supports that promote health and well-being; 2) A Maricopa County, AZ effort to establish the Safe Babies Court Team™ approach first developed by the national organization, Zero to Three, that transforms child welfare into the practice of child “well-being” by using the science of early childhood development; 3) The Housing Opportunities Made to Enhance Stability (HOMES) initiative in Milwaukee, WI, which promotes stable, healthy, and affordable homes that provide a foundation for well-being and prosperity for children, families and communities.

Click here for more information and to access the full report.