It sounds obvious: children belong with their families. Or, for short periods of time when parents can’t cope, with extended family or members of their community. But is it really possible for child-serving agencies to boost the quality and availability of family strengthening services to avoid child removals or placements in group facilities?
Results in communities like Hampton, Virginia, indicate it is. A new Casey success story describes how this small city sharply reduced group placements and foster care by identifying families at risk and developing appropriate, early, customized services to protect against child maltreatment and child removal.
“Hampton has been courageous and spent money differently, with savings from reducing residential placements funneled into prevention and community-based services, vastly increasing the variety of successful, cost-effective interventions over time,” Wanda Roberts, director of the city’s Department of Social Services says.
“By emphasizing prevention and building a smart array of services and supports, more of Hampton’s children are living with their families, safe and thriving, reducing the need for child welfare or juvenile justice group placements,” says Tracey Feild, director of Casey's Child Welfare Strategy Group.
Pointing to Casey’s new Every Kid Needs a Family policy effort, Feild notes that the Hampton success story helps illustrate that communities really can help families care for their children.
“In Hampton, child-serving systems collaborate,” Feild says. “They share funds, set priorities and manage cases together on the same team, bypassing barriers such as competing departmental budgets and service delivery constraint. We frequently bring newer clients to Hampton to see what collaboration looks like in action.”