The U.S. child welfare system is, in reality, a network of systems involving dozens of federal, state and local government agencies and hundreds of thousands of caring professionals. Child welfare systems typically receive and investigate reports of possible child abuse and neglect; provide services to families that need assistance in the protection and care of their children; arrange for children to live with kin or with foster families when they are not safe at home; and arrange for reunification, adoption, or other permanent family connections for children leaving foster care.
Since this work affects the safety and long-term wellbeing of children, adults and families, it’s important for the people who lead child welfare agencies to know the positive results they should expect and the best practices to help achieve them.
To this end, years ago the Annie E. Casey Foundation created a group known as the Provider Exchange. The Provider Exchange is a network of exemplar child welfare providers who have negotiated complex change in their own organizations and communities and measurably improved the lives of children, youth and families. The agencies deliver individualized support so child welfare providers can meet their particular programmatic, operational or fiscal challenges and improve the lives of kids and families.
Since 2012, KVC Health Systems has been an active consultant in The Provider Exchange, providing guidance on how to right-size congregate care of children and increase community-based care, such as foster family care. KVC has successfully reduced the use of congregate care because it knows, both through research and personal experience, that children grow best in families. As part of this group, KVC has provided training and/or given technical assistance on this topic to child welfare agencies in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
Now the partnerships within the Provider Exchange are expanding. The group is joining forces with the Building Bridges Initiative, giving child welfare agencies increased access to experts working to reduce out-of-home and congregate care.
Building Bridges focuses on researching best practices in residential care and supports providers focused on getting children out of residential care and back into their home community as soon as safely possible. The initiative also aims to connect community and residentially-based treatment providers with families for comprehensive mental health support. The Building Bridges Initiative provides psychiatric treatment programs across the country with technical assistance to complete the integration of their core principles:
- Cultural and linguistic competence
- Continuous quality improvement
- Youth-guided care
- Family-driven care
- Evidenced-based practices and clinical excellence
These program partnerships have improved outcomes for children and youth in residential care and align with the KVC Health Systems’ goals, current partnerships and initiatives. Find out more about KVC’s Neuroscience Initiative here.