National Partnership to Reinvent Child Welfare Expands

Posted April 22, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Hispanic male sits with son playing video games

Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies, Safer Chil­dren: A Nation­al Com­mit­ment to Well-Being — a first-of-its-kind effort of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, Casey Fam­i­ly Pro­grams, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion and Pre­vent Child Abuse Amer­i­ca — has expand­ed its reach to include child wel­fare juris­dic­tions in 22 states that stretch from coast to coast and a sov­er­eign trib­al nation.

In announc­ing the addi­tion of sites in 16 states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and White Earth Nation, Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies’ nation­al part­ner leads are sig­nal­ing the grow­ing momen­tum to fun­da­men­tal­ly rethink child wel­fare by cre­at­ing the con­di­tions and sup­port sys­tems for strong, thriv­ing fam­i­lies where chil­dren are free from harm and sup­port­ed in their communities.

The 18 new part­ner juris­dic­tions join an ini­tial round of four juris­dic­tions — California/​LA Coun­ty, Col­orado, Nebras­ka and South Car­oli­na — that began work in August 2020.

With the addi­tion of these juris­dic­tions that range from city cen­ters to trib­al com­mu­ni­ties to America’s heart­land, Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies is demon­strat­ing that there is broad sup­port for redesign­ing our country’s approach to ensure child and fam­i­ly well-being,” said San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez, vice pres­i­dent of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Cen­ter for Sys­tems Inno­va­tion. Instead of sep­a­rat­ing chil­dren from fam­i­lies, the focus must be on strength­en­ing fam­i­lies with the kinds of resources that will keep chil­dren safe at home and fam­i­lies stronger together.”

Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies seek to demon­strate that inten­tion­al, coor­di­nat­ed invest­ment in a full con­tin­u­um of pre­ven­tion and robust com­mu­ni­ty-based net­works of sup­port will pro­mote over­all child and fam­i­ly well-being, equi­ty and oth­er pos­i­tive out­comes for chil­dren and fam­i­lies. The part­ners believe it is time to act on what we know: Com­mu­ni­ty and fam­i­ly sup­port helps keep chil­dren safe and well.

Work­ing with com­mu­ni­ties and across the pub­lic, pri­vate, non­prof­it and phil­an­thropic sec­tors, Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies is assist­ing juris­dic­tions in devel­op­ing more just and equi­table sys­tems that ben­e­fit all chil­dren and fam­i­lies and break harm­ful inter­gen­er­a­tional cycles of trau­ma and pover­ty. The effort aims to help select juris­dic­tions move from tra­di­tion­al, reac­tive child pro­tec­tion sys­tems to sys­tems designed to proac­tive­ly sup­port child and fam­i­ly well-being and pre­vent child mal­treat­ment and unnec­es­sary fam­i­ly separation.

The Children’s Bureau is proud to con­tin­ue to build on the exist­ing Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies, Safer Chil­dren part­ner­ship. We unre­served­ly sup­port the empha­sis on pri­ma­ry pre­ven­tion and ele­vat­ing the voic­es of youth and par­ents with lived expe­ri­ences.” said Aysha E. Schom­burg, asso­ciate com­mis­sion­er at U.S. Health and Human Ser­vices’ Children’s Bureau. We know that too often Black, brown and Indige­nous fam­i­lies are over­rep­re­sent­ed in our sys­tems, and the Children’s Bureau will work with our Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies part­ners to take affir­ma­tive steps to address insti­tu­tion­al racism and bias­es that lead to these dras­tic inequities.”

The Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies effort empha­sizes the invalu­able exper­tise of diverse com­mu­ni­ty stake­hold­ers — most impor­tant­ly fam­i­lies who have expe­ri­enced the child wel­fare sys­tem — to help them dis­cern and devel­op the sup­ports, resources, ser­vices and approach­es to meet the unique needs of their fam­i­lies and pro­mote the con­di­tions to help them thrive.

Right now we have an extra­or­di­nary oppor­tu­ni­ty to shift the nar­ra­tive from child wel­fare to child and fam­i­ly well-being,” said Dr. Melis­sa T. Mer­rick, pres­i­dent and CEO of Pre­vent Child Abuse Amer­i­ca. This means mov­ing away from reac­tive, after-the-fact inter­ven­tions and mov­ing toward a proac­tive, holis­tic approach that address­es the spe­cif­ic needs of par­ents and care­givers, pre­vents vio­lence before it occurs and deliv­ers effec­tive and impact­ful com­mu­ni­ty-based resources that strength­en fam­i­lies and keep them together.”

Work will focus on cre­at­ing and enhanc­ing net­works of com­mu­ni­ty-based sup­ports and align­ing gov­ern­ment resources to pro­vide a full pre­ven­tion con­tin­u­um that strength­ens com­mu­ni­ty pro­tec­tive fac­tors and parental pro­tec­tive capac­i­ties and mit­i­gate asso­ci­at­ed risk fac­tors. The mul­ti­year com­mit­ment will pro­vide resources and sup­port from the four part­ners and oth­er rel­e­vant child- and fam­i­ly-serv­ing fed­er­al agen­cies, juris­dic­tions, diverse com­mu­ni­ty stake­hold­ers and the pub­lic, pri­vate, faith-based and phil­an­thropic sec­tors to cre­ate more just, equi­table and humane child and fam­i­ly well-being systems.

The effort is com­posed of three rounds of action:

  • Round One — Select juris­dic­tions will serve as demon­stra­tion sites, col­lab­o­rat­ing with the initiative’s part­ners for inten­sive tech­ni­cal sup­port and resources to help real­ize their goal of cre­at­ing child and fam­i­ly well-being systems.
  • Round Two — The effort will part­ner with juris­dic­tions to focus on pol­i­cy and sys­temic reforms at the state, trib­al or ter­ri­to­r­i­al level.
  • Round Three — The effort will share lessons learned to help inform and inspire oth­er juris­dic­tions in launch­ing their own jour­neys in build­ing child well-being systems.

Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies is root­ed in the recog­ni­tion that all fam­i­lies need help at times. The chal­lenges of the glob­al coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic have under­scored that uni­ver­sal­i­ty. We must seize this moment to sup­port com­mu­ni­ties in devel­op­ing inclu­sive, equi­table and more effec­tive net­works and part­ner­ships that will pre­vent the trau­ma of mal­treat­ment and ensure that all chil­dren and fam­i­lies have the oppor­tu­ni­ties and sup­ports they need to thrive,” said David Sanders, Ph.D., exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for Sys­tems Improve­ment at Casey Fam­i­ly Programs.


  1. Ari­zona
  2. Dis­trict of Columbia
  3. Flori­da
  4. Ida­ho
  5. Indi­ana
  6. Kansas
  7. Ken­tucky
  8. Mary­land
  9. Min­neso­ta
  10. New Hamp­shire
  11. New Jer­sey
  12. New Mex­i­co
  13. New York City
  14. Okla­homa
  15. Ore­gon
  16. Texas
  17. Vir­ginia
  18. White Earth Nation


  1. Col­orado
  2. Los Ange­les County/​California
  3. Nebras­ka
  4. South Car­oli­na

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