Recommendation 1: Put the Child at the Center

  • FINDINGS: “The child welfare system is not about the well-being of the child but it should be” is the overwhelming consensus from the 6,000 with Lived Experience Youth, Caregivers and Frontline Workers.
  • SOLUTION: Put the child at the center of all decisions and services in the same way other person-centric systems like the Healthcare System do. Align child welfare system outcomes and accountability to child well-being.
Recommendation 2: Prevention through Poverty Alleviation

  • FINDINGS: 77.5% of Frontline Workers identified poverty as the reason for a child’s removal from their family.
  • SOLUTION: Intervention far earlier than when child protective services are called today because by things are too toxic. Affordable housing, food stamps, childcare should all be seen as child welfare preventative measures. Foster the family instead of removing he child. Other adults, whether they are trained foster parents or relatives could step in and support a family by providing respite care, parent mentoring and role modeling behaviors.
Recommendation 3: Caregiver Profession

  • FINDINGS: Crisis was the term most often used by 2023 Voice of the Community report participants to describe the availability of families for placements. There are not enough beds for kids resulting in near impossibility of matching child with a family that fits along any important suitability factors.
  • SOLUTION: Caregiving in foster care should be a profession. The qualifications, accreditation, prestige and benefits associated with a profession would both increase the pool of quality candidates and provide the structure, supports, and trainings needed for them to be professionals in raising children. As a profession they could be held to a standard of quality of care.
Recommendation 4: Auto-Enroll in Services

  • FINDINGS: Fewer than 20% of respondents in the 2023 Voice of the Community report find that the child welfare system provides the quality services that are needed during a child’s time in care.
  • SOLUTION: The disconnect is not necessarily that services don’t exits, but that youth and their caregivers and workers don’t know they do. 86% of Youth, and 73% of Caregivers would opt-in to auto-enrollment in services they were eligible for. 83% of Frontline Workers would want this option for their clients.
Recommendation 5: Invest in Workers

  • FINDINGS: Over 5,000 Youth and Cargivers across two years of surveys say the high caseloads of Frontline Workers cause them to be overworked, unable to meet their needs, and ultimately result in workers quitting. 77% of Frontline Workers say trainings were not available when needed or of poor quality.
  • SOLUTION: Reduce caseloads, delegate work that isn’t key to ensuring child well-being (i.e. enrolling youth in services, conducting home safety checks to approve a kinship placement), and focus on helping children and families cope with trauma, providing emotional support and advocating on their behalf. Auto-enrollment in services and professionalizing caregivers would also enable workers to focus on the roles they are uniquely qualified to do.
Recommendation 6: Child Welfare Doesn’t End at Exit

  • FINDINGS: Although family reunification is the child welfare’s system goal, 68% of Youth indicated family reunification was not the most important goal to them, 80% said adoption wasn’t.
  • SOLUTION: Stepdown care should be provided upon exit so that children and their families get a caseworker, services and supports after foster care. Regular visits following a case plan designed around child well-being and family stability should be implemented. The level of support should step-down over time. Reunification should be an output not an outcome. The system should be held accountable for the well-being of a child in reunification or other forms of permanency.
Recommendation 7: Self-Sufficiency Exits are a Choice

  • FINDINGS: The majority of the 3,270 Youth respondents across both survey years said they did not get the independent living services they needed to adequately prepare them to be self-sufficient despite this being what they wanted to achieve regardless of whether they were reunified or exit to other permanency.
  • SOLUTION: Youth need to become independent adults at some time in their lives. Self-sufficiency should be a pathway supported by the child welfare system. Auto-enrollment in services, stepdown care after exit and the system being held accountable for youth achieving self-sufficiency competency vs achieving a certain age should be implemented.