Thriving Families, Safer Children Embraces a Public Health Approach to System Reform
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:
- Building supportive communities will require new funds and funding structures to sustain the work.
- 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.”
- 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.