2018 SIGNATURE REPORT
How safety, knowledge and the power of community can transform lives
safe children | strong families | supportive communities
Creating a world where all of our children have the chance to grow and thrive in safe and supportive environments is something that must be done. Creating a world where a child’s ZIP code no longer determines his or her future health and well-being is something that must be done.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
So often in child welfare, we ask critical questions, especially when a tragedy occurs. An estimated 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect in 2016 in this country.1 In each of these cases, questions arise: How did that child die? Who is responsible? Who must be held accountable?
Beyond fatalities, many more children experience maltreatment mostly as a result of neglect, often coming to the attention of child protection agencies, educators, physicians and other adults who play a role in a child’s development. We know that these children will be at a much higher risk of poor health and well-being outcomes later in life.
These facts lead us all to ask some fundamental questions: How can we keep more children safe from harm? And in particular, how can we keep more children safe with their own families? And finally, how can we help communities take the steps necessary to address the conditions that negatively affect children and families?
There are no simple answers to any of these questions. But there is tremendous progress taking place across America that is helping to point the way forward.
The quest for answers has led many leaders to look beyond the familiar approaches that have defined the child welfare system for decades. They are looking to other industries where safety is paramount and adapting principles and approaches that promise to keep children and families safe from harm. They are using new techniques in data analysis that have become commonplace in the private sector to help front-line staff make better decisions about which children are at risk and how we can best intervene to support them and their families. Finally, communities are beginning to ask themselves what information they need to create the opportunities that children and families need to thrive.
As we explore new pathways, the important question for all of us remains: How can we keep moving hope forward for children and families across America?
Until recently, our federal investment in keeping children safe and families stable was primarily focused on a single intervention: foster care. Over time, we have developed a child protection system that focused primarily on responding to maltreatment after the fact, even though there is broad agreement that we also needed to focus on preventing harm by helping to stabilize and support at-risk families. Our investment in children and families wasn’t producing the results we wanted.
That is now changing, thanks to the recent passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018. This landmark legislation creates an unprecedented opportunity to rethink how we can ensure the safety and success of every child and family in America. As elements of the act take effect during the next few years, states and tribes will be able to invest critical resources in new ways to support families before they are in crisis and prevent the need for foster care. It will assist in the development and implementation of promising and evidence-based solutions. As we explore new pathways, the important question for all of us remains: How can we keep moving hope forward for children and families across America?
In this report, you will learn how states are taking action across a broad range of approaches, including using safety science to build safety cultures within their child welfare systems to help improve outcomes for children and families. You’ll learn how data and analytics are informing how to better serve families in crisis. And you’ll learn how local data can inform communities to better support families.
In support of national efforts to improve safety and reduce fatalities related to child maltreatment, Casey Family Programs has held a series of forums since 2011 including experts, policymakers, advocates, researchers, practitioners, and child welfare and public health leaders from across the country. Jurisdictions in most states have participated. A ninth safety forum in 2018 with leaders from across sectors continues this sharing of information, research and experiences to help implement innovative approaches in support of children and families.
It can never, ever be a workforce focus. Although I agree that’s hugely important, always, the child has to be the final constituent here. ... That in the end brings good outcomes for children.
– G R E G M C K A Y , A R I Z O N A D E P A R T M E N T O F C H I L D S A F E T Y D I R E C T O R
Q U E S T I O N 1:
HOW CAN WE KEEP MORE CHILDREN SAFE?
When an air traffic controller is overtaxed, a pilot is fatigued or an airplane crew member is afraid to point out a problem, mistakes can happen with tragic consequences. The same could be said of other high-risk industries. For decades, leaders in aviation, nuclear power and, more recently, health care have worked to implement safety science principles to create a safety culture — one in which the organization itself focuses on and prioritizes safety, and in which any employee, regardless of rank, is empowered to point out a risk without fear of retribution.
And when mistakes do happen, they are analyzed proactively to improve reliability and accountability to prevent the problem at the individual and system levels — not to find whom to blame after a critical incident. Other safety-critical industries have learned that avoiding blame creates opportunities for learning and contributes to improved safety.
Despite best intentions, as humans we are fallible and operate in complex systems. When decisions are made about the safety of children and families, the consequences are profound. They can set a child on a course that will have tremendous impacts for the rest of his or her life.
So it is even more important to build strong systems and adapt tools and approaches from other safety-critical industries to better support crucial decisions about the future health and safety of children and families. This will help us ensure that the best decisions are being made every step of the way, from the community level to specific family cases, to build hope.
So how can we make better decisions? For a growing number of states and local jurisdictions, the use of safety science to build a safety culture around children and families is showing promise. They are embedding this approach into every aspect of the critical work of preventing child abuse and neglect and the lifelong trauma it can cause.
THE ROLE OF SAFETY CULTURE
Building a safety culture takes many forms and touches all members of teams and partnerships. Each participant has a role in moving hope forward for children and families.
What’s the future for this family is the thing you really need to look at.
– M A R C C H E R N A, D I R E C T O R , A L L E G H E N Y C O U N T Y ,
P E N N S Y L V A N I A D E P A R T M E N T O F H U M A N S E R V I C E S
Q U E S T I O N 2:
HOW CAN WE KEEP MORE MORE CHILDREN SAFE WITH THEIR FAMILIES?
A public school. The local housing authority. The county jail. Interacting with any of these public systems generates data.
For instance, a school district would know if a child is missing lots of classes. The criminal justice system would know if someone is a prior offender. A housing authority would know if someone applied for financial assistance. But they wouldn’t necessarily know if each had touched the same family.
How data is used can have tremendous impacts on how we make decisions about preventing abuse and neglect and helping children and families to heal.
PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS IN PITTSBURGH AND NEW YORK CITY
How data is used can have tremendous impacts on decisions about preventing abuse and neglect. In Allegheny County and New York City, leaders have engaged with the community in working to ensure the ethical use of data.
A public health approach promotes the healthy development and well-being of children.It starts with using data to understand the scope and prevalence of maltreatment; seeks to change public attitudes, beliefs and behaviors; and focuses on promoting primary prevention efforts in communities.
Q U E S T I O N 3:
HOW CAN COMMUNITIES CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR FAMILIES TO THRIVE?
While using data, analytics and safety culture can help lead to improvement, ultimately the responsibility for keeping children safe and providing them and their families the opportunity to thrive lies with the broader community. Recognizing this, the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities recommended taking a public health approach to prevent maltreatment.
A public health approach promotes the healthy development and well-being of children. It starts with using data to understand the scope and prevalence of maltreatment; seeks to change public attitudes, beliefs and behaviors; and focuses on promoting primary prevention efforts in communities. Rather than just focusing on treating individuals or targeting interventions after harm is done, a public health model works on a population level to look at, and to shape, effective intervention patterns across the entire community.
But how do you start making progress in a community? It can be helpful to look at the conditions that research tells us indicate a higher risk that children and families are struggling — not just at a city or county level, but down to the ZIP code or neighborhood level. Such data, if it were easily available, could help communities start conversations about how best to align services with needs and ensure more children and their families are getting the help they need.
This is why Casey Family Programs created the Community Opportunity Map, a free interactive mapping and data tool that includes specific measures of well-being associated with safe children and strong families. This research-based framework is composed of select U.S. Census Bureau indicators and is available for any community in the nation to use. It was informed by significant evidence of the community factors correlated with child maltreatment, as well as a healthy community framework developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The tool maps community indicators at geographic levels defined by the user, from the city level down to neighborhoods.
For example, community service providers could choose relevant ZIP codes to see where levels of poverty, single parent households, high housing burdens or unemployment intersect with where they currently serve families. The information could be combined with other non-public data they already have to better pinpoint areas of need. The tool could be used in prevention efforts, community engagement, public policy and advocacy, and allocating resources.
The Community Opportunity Map is designed to be used by community members, policymakers, child welfare leaders and city government officials to ask and begin answering critical questions: Where are families struggling the most to keep children safe, and how can we work with those neighborhoods to improve lives?
USING DATA TO SUPPORT FAMILIES
We must be ready to move quickly in any direction to meet new conditions of a progressive world.
– J I M C A S E Y, F O U N D E R
MOVING HOPE FORWARD
Keeping children safe, within strong families and supportive communities, requires all of us — the public, business, nonprofit, philanthropic and community sectors — to work together to define needs and find solutions. This is our communitywide responsibility.
The progress taking place across America is pointing us in new directions. By learning from other fields about how to create a culture of safety around children and families and by using new analytic tools to assist in making better decisions, we are moving hope forward. Communities are taking these new opportunities to ask important questions about the health and stability of families and what can be done to improve those conditions. And more and more communities are stepping up and, as we see in Alaska, taking direct responsibility for creating the best outcomes possible for their children.
The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 presents fresh opportunities for states and tribes to try innovative approaches that will work best for their families and communities. Casey Family Programs remains as committed as ever to working with children and families, jurisdictions, tribes and other partners so that many more children and families in communities across America will know the promise of hope.
Today is a new day for them, and for us. We sincerely believe that we will look back at this moment in our history as a turning point, a time when we as a nation decided to better invest in the hopes, dreams and futures of children and families who need it the most.
Together, we are moving hope forward.
ABOUT CASEY FAMILY PROGRAMS
Casey Family Programs works in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two territories and with more than a dozen tribal nations to influence long-lasting improvements to the safety and success of children, families and the communities where they live. We learn from and collaborate with communities at local, state, tribal and national levels to nurture the safety and success of every child.
We offer ongoing strategic consultation, technical assistance, data analysis and independent research and evaluation at no cost to child welfare systems, policymakers, courts and tribes across America to support long-lasting improvements that safely reduce the need for foster care. We partner with communities across our nation — communities like Gainesville, Florida, and Johnson County, Kentucky — to enhance partnerships, improve practice and policy, and ensure that these improvements will endure over time.
Through our nine field offices, Casey Family Programs develops and demonstrates effective, practical solutions to safely reduce the need for foster care and improve children’s and families’ well-being. Each year, we offer a range of services to more than 1,400 children, youth, young adults and families, with a particular focus on education, employment and mental health services.
We’ve set a bold goal for this work: to secure a safe, nurturing and permanent family for every young person in our care, whether through reunification with their birth family, adoption or kinship care. A 2016 assessment quantified our progress toward that goal, finding that 99 percent of youth who received our prevention services did not experience repeat abuse or neglect in the six months after their case was closed. In addition, 98 percent of the young adults we served had no incidents of incarceration, and 95 percent of young adults had stable housing while receiving Casey services.
As part of our direct service work, Casey Family Programs partners with tribes and American Indian/Alaska Native communities across the country to support their development of effective and culturally responsive child welfare services. Strong sovereign tribal nations keep children healthy, safe and connected with their families, relatives, tribal communities and cultures. We currently have agreements with 16 tribes that honor tribal sovereignty and support nation-building efforts, help build partnerships with the broader child welfare profession and assist in compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act.
We share what we have learned with state, tribal and county child welfare systems, private providers and community partners — working with them to achieve similar results.
We also support federal, state, tribal and local governments by providing comprehensive, nonpartisan child welfare information and education driven by data and based on evidence of what works best to improve the lives of children and families. We draw on our direct services and consulting work to help align and improve state and federal child welfare policies, allowing communities to focus on preventing abuse and neglect and improving outcomes for children in foster care.
We share what we have learned with public child welfare and tribal child welfare systems, private providers and other community partners across the nation to inform policy. We are committed to supporting federal child welfare policy changes that will provide every state with the ability to invest existing resources in the most effective strategies to safely reduce the need for foster care, strengthen families and improve the safety and success of all children.