Thriving Families, Safer Children Embraces a Public Health Approach to System Reform

Posted January 24, 2023, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A family of four — two parents of color each giving a piggy back ride to a young girl of color--simles at the camera.

An arti­cle in the Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal on Child Mal­treat­ment explores the Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies, Safer Chil­dren effort to iden­ti­fy new ways to sup­port par­ents so that fam­i­lies can avoid involve­ment in the child wel­fare system.

Enti­tled Using the Core Com­po­nents of a Pub­lic Health Frame­work to Cre­ate a Child and Fam­i­ly Well-being Sys­tem: Exam­ple from a Nation­al Effort, Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies, Safer Chil­dren, the arti­cle describes Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies’ strate­gies in Col­orado, Nebras­ka, Vir­ginia and Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Los Ange­les County.

Part­ner­ing to Reshape Child Wel­fare Sys­tems With a Pub­lic Health Approach

Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies, Safer Chil­dren is a first-of-its-kind nation­al effort sup­port­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion and oth­er part­ners. It brings togeth­er major pub­lic, pri­vate and phil­an­thropic insti­tu­tions and orga­ni­za­tions in 22 juris­dic­tions to rethink state and local child wel­fare systems.

To that end, the part­ner­ship advances approach­es that cre­at­e the con­di­tions for strong, thriv­ing fam­i­lies where chil­dren are free from harm.

The arti­cle details Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies’ effort to involve fam­i­lies, as well as experts, in iden­ti­fy­ing and devel­op­ing strate­gies and resources that con­tribute to their phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al and eco­nom­ic well-being. Its part­ner sites also seek local and nation­al solu­tions to health inequities in their communities.

What Chal­lenges Come With Chang­ing Child Wel­fare Systems?

Using the Core Com­po­nents notes the urgent need for new approach­es to child and fam­i­ly wel­fare sys­tems and acknowl­edges three prin­ci­pal challenges:

  1. Build­ing sup­port­ive com­mu­ni­ties will require new funds and fund­ing struc­tures to sus­tain the work.
  2. Trans­form­ing child and fam­i­ly wel­fare sys­tems will require bold solu­tions, new ways of oper­at­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tions that have not exist­ed in the past.” Set­ting a long-term vision for Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies, Safer Chil­dren requires a bal­ance of auda­cious opti­mism and laser focus.”
  3. Chang­ing these sys­tems will depend on coop­er­a­tion between sys­tem part­ners and the com­mu­ni­ties they serve, which can be dif­fi­cult to achieve. This work comes with a high degree of uneasi­ness as indi­vid­u­als, sec­tors, orga­ni­za­tions and com­mu­ni­ties learn a new way to engage and part­ner with one another.”

Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies is one such approach. Since August 2020, 21 child wel­fare juris­dic­tions and a sov­er­eign trib­al nation have joined the effort. While meth­ods vary — some sites use inno­v­a­tive learn­ing cir­cles or truth-and-rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process­es to iden­ti­fy mean­ing­ful changes and pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for heal­ing and build­ing trust in com­mu­ni­ties” — they’ve all focused on iden­ti­fy­ing local needs and strength­en­ing resources that keep fam­i­lies togeth­er, the arti­cle says. Their efforts to trans­form child wel­fare through the Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies, Safer Chil­dren move­ment are aligned with the core com­po­nents of a pub­lic health frame­work that can lead to sys­tem transformation.

Learn more about Thriv­ing Fam­i­lies, Safer Children

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