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 systems 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 do the following:
- 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.
Can You Tell Us About a Few Agencies That Have Systems of Care?
Casey Family Programs (2018)
Discusses the systems-of-care approach and provides examples of systems of care in child welfare, particularly in States that have State-supervised child welfare systems that are county administered. The examples highlighted include Colorado and Pennsylvania, and descriptions of each State's system of care is provided.
Child Welfare System of Care
Iowa Department of Human Services (2020)
Outlines Iowa's system of care, which is child and family driven and provides cross-system services and supports involving a network of resources for families, youth, and children.
Capacity Building Center for States
Discusses how the Center for States helps child welfare agencies build capacity for cross-system collaboration with other agencies, private providers, Tribes, courts, community organizations, and others. The website provides links to publications, trainings, and additional resources on cross-system collaboration.
Systems of Care for Children and Youth
King County Department of Community and Human Services (2020)
Describes the systems-of-care approach as it relates to children's mental health, education, child welfare, juvenile justice, and other agencies.
System of Care for Children and Youth: Philosophy
Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Describes the system-of-care model as a collaborative philosophy and framework that involves agencies, families, and youth working together for the purpose of improving services and access to care. The website also provides contact information for those wanting to learn more.
What Are Systems of Care?
New York State Success (2016)
Presents the systems-of-care philosophy and outlines the ways in which the approach brings together child welfare, education, health care, juvenile justice, and other agencies to support the success of all child and family-serving efforts.