A Child First Model

    After three years of surveys and hearing from over 15,000 members of the foster care community, we have found that the most significant deficits in the current foster care system revolve around the child’s needs not being put first in decision-making. To see real improvement, the system must prioritize the holistic well-being of every child in foster care and be held accountable for meeting this standard. We have summarized 4 recommendations to improve the lives and outcomes of young people in foster care.

Overall Focus: Make Child-Centered Decisions

    The best interests of each unique child should be at the center of all decisions and services. Every decision, from placement type to resources to permanency, should be based on each child's individual needs and wishes versus fitting a child into what the system believes is best or is currently available.

Recommendation 1: Prioritize Child Well-Being

    Child welfare should target child well-being above all other outcomes, placing the child's interests at the forefront of all activities and guiding the interventions and services provided to children and families. 

Recommendation 2: Encourage Normalcy

    Children in foster care deserve to have a childhood and adolescence filled with meaningful experiences, just like their peers who are not in care. It's crucial to create an inclusive and supportive environment that encourages normalcy, rather than restricting and limiting activities due to liability and resource scarcity concerns.

Recommendation 3: Assemble a Supportive Team

    The support every child receives should be broadened by basing all judicial, case management, child safety, educational, and health decisions on an interdisciplinary team approach. This approach ensures that the child's perspective is at the center of the decision-making, and the team is empowered to ensure decisions are fulfilled. Collaboration and shared responsibility are key. 

Recommendation 4: Have Accountability for Outcomes

    Youth should have access to services to promote their self-sufficiency and assist with their transition into adulthood, regardless of their permanency plan. The youth's choice should factor into the decision to exit care, including when the transition occurs and the services they need to achieve self-sufficiency before and after leaving.

Comparing the "As is" Model to the Child First Model

    Explore the evolution of thought and vision within the Child First Model by delving into this comparison chart. Here, you will find distinct viewpoints and approaches toward the child welfare system. This comparison provides a comprehensive overview of the shifts in perspectives, the emergence of new ideas, and the emphasis on prioritizing the well-being of children in foster care. Gain valuable insights into the transition from the current system to the proposed Child First Model, examining the key differences and recommendations outlined in these pivotal chapters.

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