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

Posted January 4, 2012
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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