Father feeding his young daughters.

Child Welfare

Transforming child welfare to serve everyone equitably

What We Work For

We believe that our nation’s child welfare system must offer quality help to families that allows them to stay together, heal, and thrive.

Unfortunately, despite good intentions, that’s not always happening.

Too many children and youth enter foster care unnecessarily, experience poor outcomes while in care, and exit without permanent family connections. Children and families involved with child welfare systems experience disparate treatment and outcomes. This is especially true for children of color; children and youth identifying as LGBTQ+ or gender expansive; and expectant and parenting young people.

Ultimately, we hope to foster sufficient supports in every community to prevent the need for children and families to enter into the child welfare system. Until that time, we are working towards a nation where all children and youth in foster care are supported to heal and exit care to their families or other permanent families. We work to ensure that child welfare systems—including juvenile justice and homeless agencies—are data-informed; adopt best practices and use research to shape their services; confront inequities and offer an array of culturally relevant and effective services; and are equipped to meet the complex needs of families in humane ways.

That’s why we work to transform the system—so it truly serves the needs of everyone.

How We Do It

We work in partnership with public agencies, private providers, elected officials, parents, judges, advocates, and a broad range of community supporters to develop, test, and promote approaches that help improve child welfare policy and practice—all aimed at child and youth safety, permanency, and well-being.

We provide leadership at the national, state, and community level—acting as advocates and advisors to improve agency effectiveness and accountability.

As court-appointed monitors, we provide external accountability and technical help by tracking a system’s performance against standards of practice and outcomes and we support the efforts of systems to meet the requirements of state and federal law.

We help child welfare agencies and their partners redirect resources to make help available within communities so that families can get assistance where they live, stay safely together, and avoid unnecessary separation through foster care.

We have focused many of our efforts on those families and youth who most often experience the poorest outcomes from child welfare intervention: children, youth, and families of color; older youth; expectant and parenting teens; and LGBTQ children and youth in particular.

In these ways, we work to ensure all children and youth develop to their full potential and can heal and succeed.

Our work in child welfare focuses on changing systems and policies so that all children, youth, and families are safe and thrive.

Through our work we are actively:

Partnering with and providing technical assistance to jurisdictions that are eager to re-think their policies, programming, practice, and agency culture in order to improve outcomes for children, youth, and families.

Fostering equity by helping system leaders develop policies, practices, and tools that illuminate and overturn bias and address structural inequities that overwhelmingly impact children of color, as well as LGBTQ+, gender non-conforming, and expectant and parenting youth.  In this way, systems are beginning to provide equitable support to all children, youth and families.  

Monitoring outcomes and providing technical assistance to systems that are pursuing reform in the context of class action litigation—helping them improve results and meet the requirements of federal and state law.

Disseminating the latest research on adolescent brain development, the effects of trauma, and the power of healing.

Providing resources and recommendations for adopting policies and practices that build youth competencies and that promote protective factors to support healthy child, youth, and family development.

Using data to innovate and build knowledge in the field to improve accountability and outcomes.

Developing policies that reflect what parents need to keep their children safe within their families and that ensure that child welfare and other human service systems are working together to meet the complex needs of families.

Forming and facilitating learning networks which connect our partners through peer-to-peer learning.

Our work has resulted in improved outcomes for children and youth including:

  • Increased rates of family reunification, guardianship and adoption.
  • Decreased use of congregate care.
  • Improved health and education outcomes.

We have also supported improvements in agency performance that include:

  • Qualified workforces with reduced staff caseloads.
  • Case practice models adopted.
  • Staff trained in best practices.
  • Agencies developing strategies for improving services to expectant and parenting and LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Systems using improved data and continuous quality improvement to monitor their progress.