In an earlier post, I proposed that it’s time to question everything we think we know in child welfare. One of the most important questions: How can we truly put families and their children at the center of the work?
I’m not talking about integrating data or redesigning systems (though both are worthy efforts). I’m talking about a radical rethink of the entire child welfare business model—including being decided about the outcomes we commit to achieving. Today, the system spends a lot of resources monitoring whether visits are made on time or caseworkers log their notes properly. Again, those are worthy efforts—but they are measures not “outcomes.”
I believe it’s time to establish a bold goal of slashing the number of children in foster care. And we should track progress against that goal by answering one key question: How many children were we able to keep home safely?
If you’ve worked within child welfare, you know this isn’t how the current machine operates. Today, the whole system is designed to KEEP kids in foster care—and to measure process points related to that goal.
Putting families and their children at the center requires us to upset the proverbial apple cart. It’s the kind of change that won’t be fast or easy. It’s the kind of change that could disrupt longstanding funding streams. For that and many other reasons, it’s the kind of change that could cause a child welfare director to face immense pressures from stakeholders within the agency, from local politicians and from many others who are invested in and incented by the current model of child welfare.
And yet, I believe nothing is more important than taking a bold, brave stance on behalf of the young lives we’re charged with serving and protecting. Is there a magic solution that can get us there in a month or even a year? No, of course not. But I am confident that together, we can start driving radical transformation in child welfare.
Let’s articulate a long-term vision and start acting now. Let’s be candid in asking what it will take to realize this change. How can we support each other in making sure that EVERY move in the field from here on out contributes directly to the outcomes we’re trying to achieve for families and their children?
Let’s stay focused on the results that matter, holding each other accountable when legacy processes, political pressures and other distractions threaten to derail our efforts. After all, we have a moral and professional obligation to achieve meaningful outcomes that benefit our nation’s kids.
In my next post, I’ll explain why the right next step matters—and how to choose yours wisely.
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