Systems of Care
Series: Bulletins for Professionals|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2008|
Systems of Care and Child Welfare
Although systems of care were originally developed to address the needs of children with serious emotional disturbances, the approach is now being applied to other populations whose needs require services from multiple agencies, including families in the child welfare system. This broader implementation will help more families benefit from the systems of care focus on improving access to and availability of services, reducing service and funding fragmentation, and improving the skills, knowledge, and attitudes of frontline service providers.
The Children's Bureau conducts the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) process as a means to assess State child welfare agencies' performance on seven outcomes and seven systemic factors. Results from these reviews have documented the need for a more comprehensive strategy to support children, youth, and families in the areas of safety, permanency, and well-being. Systems of care shows promise as a means to improve performance in these areas, for example, by helping to prevent placement in out-of-home care, reduce the number of placements, and address the primary health, mental health, and educational needs of children and youth and their families.
Systems of care is now being used to address needs identified by States' CFSRs and improve outcomes for children and families involved with child welfare, including:
- Children, youth, and families at risk of child maltreatment
- Children and youth who have been substantiated for maltreatment but have not been removed from the home
- Children and youth in State custody
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.
Illustration of a Systems of Care Approach
Monte is a 13-year-old boy in the child welfare system. His mother has a history of substance abuse and child neglect. Due to a shoplifting charge, Monte has recently become involved with the juvenile justice system as well.
Thanks to the systems of care approach in his community, local agencies and organizations partner with the family in a coordinated way to keep Monte in his home and help his family access services that address their strengths and needs:
- By arranging to meet Monte and his mother in their home at a time that does not conflict with the family's schedule, agency representatives are able to work in partnership with the family to ensure the goals of their individualized service plan can be met.
- By working with the school system, the care coordinator is able to arrange alternative busing for Monte during his stay in a temporary shelter, allowing him to continue at his current school.
- By working as a liaison with the juvenile justice and dependency court judges, a family advocate ensures Monte's family is able to adhere to multiple agency requirements and expectations.
- With support of flexible funding, Monte is able to attend music lessons, which he identified as an interest, while his mother participates in mandatory substance abuse counseling, reducing the need for childcare.
This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.