Systems of Care and Child Welfare
Systems of care has been used as a catalyst for changing the way child and family service agencies organize, fund, purchase, and provide services for children, youth, and families with multiple needs. This approach has been applied across the United States in various ways at the macro level (through public policy and system change) and at the micro level (in the way service providers directly interact with children and families in need of assistance). Systems of care is demonstrated through multiagency sharing of resources and responsibilities and full participation of professionals, families and youth, and community stakeholders as active partners in planning, funding, implementing, and evaluating services and system outcomes.
Systems of care enables cross-agency coordination of services for child welfare-involved children, youth, and families regardless of where or how they enter the system. Agencies work strategically, in partnership with families and other formal and informal supports, to address children's unique needs. To do so effectively, systems of care communities:
- Agree on common goals, values, and principles to guide their work
- Develop a shared infrastructure to coordinate efforts toward the common goals of safety, permanency, and well-being
- Within that infrastructure, work to ensure the availability of a high quality array of evidence-based and promising practices and supports designed to support families and protect children from maltreatment, while promoting their well-being and stability in a permanent home
It is important to note that systems of care is not a "program" or "model." Instead, it serves as a framework for guiding processes and activities designed to meet the needs of children and families. States and communities must have the flexibility to implement this service delivery approach in a way that evolves over time as needs and conditions change.
Children's Bureau Demonstration Initiative: Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care
Includes background on the initiative, resources, and descriptions of the grantees.
An Overview of Systems of Care in Child Welfare
National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center for Systems of Care (2009)
Defines systems of care and discusses how the approach might be best applied in public child welfare settings.
Children's Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Information about innovative efforts in child welfare implemented by the States to meet the needs of children, youth, and families. See the "Service Array" topic for several systems of care examples.
Collaboration Between System of Care Communities and the Child Welfare System: Creative Ideas for How to Make it Work (PDF - 495 KB)
Collins & Marshall (2006)
Discusses the benefits that system of care communities can gain by collaborating with the child welfare system, common barriers to successful collaboration, and examples of effective approaches used by seven system of care communities.
Integrating Systems of Care: Improving Quality of Care for the Most Vulnerable Children and Families (PDF - 533 KB)
Child Welfare League of America (2006)
Outlines a detailed plan for systems-culture change across systems and identifies steps to implement this service delivery approach at the national, State, and local level.
Understanding the Common Ground Between Systems of Care and Child Abuse Prevention
FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (2010)
Shares lessons learned about fitting the prevention of child abuse and neglect into existing systems of care and provides recommendations for collaboration