Casey Partners with First Focus to Create State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center for Child Welfare

Posted January 4, 2012, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Newsrelease sparclaunched 2012

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion today announced the for­ma­tion of a non­par­ti­san cen­ter to enhance the exist­ing net­work of state child wel­fare pol­i­cy advo­cates work­ing to achieve com­pre­hen­sive reforms for chil­dren and fam­i­lies involved in child wel­fare systems.

The State Pol­i­cy Advo­ca­cy and Reform Cen­ter (SPARC) will engage, build and sup­port a net­work of reform-mind­ed child wel­fare stake­hold­ers. Ini­tial­ly, SPARC will pro­vide inten­sive tech­ni­cal assis­tance, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and coali­tion build­ing efforts in 15 states and will ensure that sup­port is avail­able to advo­cates in every state.

First Focus, a bipar­ti­san advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion work­ing to make chil­dren and fam­i­lies a pri­or­i­ty in pol­i­cy and bud­get dis­cus­sions, was select­ed to coor­di­nate SPARC.

Over the next five years, First Focus and its SPARC part­ners plan to sup­port the work of state advo­cates pur­su­ing child wel­fare reform. The cen­ter will also tar­get assis­tance for big wins” — help­ing a few states gain sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments that could inspire pol­i­cy change on a nation­al scale.

SPARC will sup­port a broad range of pol­i­cy efforts, includ­ing strength­en­ing fam­i­lies to safe­ly pre­vent remov­ing chil­dren from their homes, per­ma­nen­cy for old­er youth, child-focused adop­tive par­ent recruit­ment, post-adop­tion ser­vices, edu­ca­tion­al sta­bil­i­ty for chil­dren in fos­ter care, fund­ing for per­ma­nen­cy efforts, elim­i­nat­ing unnec­es­sary delays in court process­es, improv­ing legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion for chil­dren and fam­i­lies involved in the child wel­fare sys­tem, bet­ter reg­u­la­tion of psy­chotrop­ic med­ica­tions for chil­dren in fos­ter care, reduc­ing insti­tu­tion­al place­ment of chil­dren and cus­tomized ser­vices for immi­grant chil­dren and their families.

SPARC will help states assess their poli­cies and prac­tices and pro­mote the use of evi­dence-based child abuse and neglect pre­ven­tion mod­els, and explore alter­na­tive path­ways to sta­bil­i­ty­with a par­tic­u­lar focus on address­ing the impact of pover­ty on child wel­fare sys­tem involvement.

SPARC will empha­size three core com­po­nents as it sup­ports state child wel­fare advo­ca­cy part­ners: tech­ni­cal assis­tance that deep­ens the part­ners’ knowl­edge of com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gies and child wel­fare poli­cies; net­work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that facil­i­tate peer-to-peer learn­ing and infor­ma­tion-shar­ing among state advo­cates; and evi­dence-based guid­ance on pol­i­cy issues and reform strate­gies that draw on lead­ing child wel­fare expertise.

In this eco­nom­ic cli­mate, state bud­get cuts across the nation are drain­ing resources from pro­grams that pro­vide crit­i­cal ser­vices to vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren who need safe, strong and per­ma­nent fam­i­lies,” said Lisa Hamil­ton, vice pres­i­dent of Exter­nal Affairs at the Casey Foun­da­tion. We have devel­oped SPARC to help advo­cates deliv­er the data and research that pol­i­cy­mak­ers need to make the best pos­si­ble deci­sions so that these chil­dren and their fam­i­lies can enjoy a brighter future.”

As SPARC coor­di­na­tor, First Focus will man­age state part­ner­ships, pro­vide exper­tise on bridg­ing polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences and help to cre­ate and nur­ture inno­v­a­tive pol­i­cy pro­pos­als. SPARC will con­sist of five oth­er non­prof­its to help state advo­cates influ­ence pol­i­cy deci­sions. They are:

  • Child Trends, which will con­tribute to the project’s strate­gic plan­ning activ­i­ties, help­ing to devel­op and imple­ment key ele­ments of the project, rang­ing from state part­ner selec­tion to state part­ner recruit­ment and engagement.
  • Child­Fo­cus, which will help over­see and con­duct state envi­ron­men­tal scans; con­duct out­reach to and main­tain rela­tion­ships with child wel­fare lead­ers; and help iden­ti­fy pri­ma­ry state group­ings for tech­ni­cal sup­port and addi­tion­al assistance. 
  • North Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Adopt­able Chil­dren , which will pro­vide tech­ni­cal assis­tance to states and serve as a resource for state part­ners on state and fed­er­al per­ma­nen­cy and adop­tion policy.
  • Yali Lin­croft, a not­ed pol­i­cy expert who will pro­vide on-site tech­ni­cal assis­tance and con­sul­ta­tion to state part­ners on the inter­sec­tion between immi­gra­tion and child wel­fare policy.

No child should live in fear or want, and First Focus is hon­ored to lead this impor­tant effort to sup­port and ampli­fy the work of state child wel­fare advo­cates,” said Bruce Les­ley, pres­i­dent of First Focus. We can do bet­ter for both kids and tax­pay­ers, and SPARC will uplift inno­v­a­tive ideas, includ­ing rein­vest­ment of mon­ey saved by reduc­ing the num­ber of chil­dren in fos­ter care and insti­tu­tion­al placements.”

For more infor­ma­tion about SPARC, please con­tact Sha­di Housh­yar, vice pres­i­dent, child wel­fare pol­i­cy, at First Focus.

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