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Prioritizing Early Childhood to Safely Reduce the Need for Foster Care: A National Scan of Interventions

Casey Family Programs – 2015

This brief reports on the results of a national scan of child welfare interventions targeted to young children from birth to age five and their families. Programs and interventions included in the scan focus on child safety, permanency and well-being, and typically address a major risk factor for child abuse and neglect, such as substance abuse, mental health, and parenting challenges. Of the 66 reviewed programs, 17 specifically dealt with substance abuse, 14 programs provided services across service systems, and 14 programs focused on parenting skills or supports. To gain a deeper understanding of practice elements that contribute to effective programs for young children, six programs were selected for site visits. Findings indicate the following practice strategies contribute to the successful implementation of an intervention: create an environmental context of safety where it is less likely that the family or system can fail; include a structural component that makes it possible for agency staff to engage families through shared experiences and thereby treat them with empathy and respect; ensure high-quality services by supporting front-line staff through clinical supervision, peer support, and manageable caseloads, while investing in training and quality control processes; include intentionally modeled and practiced relationship building; creatively use financing strategies to support program sustainability and evaluation, including funding from federal demonstration or other grants, cross-system collaboration and billing, and private and community foundation partnerships; remain open to diverse sources of leadership; and recognize the importance of embedding diverse cultural and community values in all aspects of programming, including parenting principles and evidence-based interventions. Challenges the programs experienced are discussed and recommendations are made for system improvements. 14 references. (Author abstract modified)