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.
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.
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