The safety of children and youth is the primary focus of the child welfare system. Child welfare agencies provide services and supports to address safety concerns and reduce the risk of future harm, keeping families together whenever possible.
When a family comes to the attention of child welfare, various assessments of risk, safety, family functioning, and the impact of trauma are conducted. If there are safety concerns, caseworkers recommend services, but the decision about whether they are needed should be made jointly with the family. Caseworkers should involve the family and its support system while considering the many factors needed to achieve a balance between safety and risk.
The use of risk assessment tools can guide decision-making. Enhancing caregiver protective capacity while providing equitable services tailored to the family’s needs can help maximize children's safety.
Families from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds may experience inequitable child welfare outcomes. For example, African American families are more likely to be investigated by child protective services than other families. Additionally, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native families disproportionately experience poverty, which increases their likelihood of being reported to child protective services.
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Child Abuse and Neglect
Child abuse and neglect can have long-term effects on children’s health and development. Learn about definitions, impacts, risk factors, protective factors, and more.
Each State has laws requiring certain people to report child abuse and neglect concerns. Mandated reporters can also become “mandated supporters,” working to connect families to concrete supports and the resources they need.
Poverty and Neglect
Understanding the difference between poverty and neglect is key to increasing equity and assessing and supporting families’ needs. Providing families with concrete supports can build protective factors and decrease the risk of neglect for children.
Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation
Children and youth involved with child welfare are at increased risk of experiencing trafficking and sexual exploitation. Learn about prevention and supports.
Child Welfare Practice to Address Racial Disproportionality and Disparity
Explore factors that contribute to racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparity in the child welfare system. The publication also outlines strategies to assist professionals with addressing these issues and decision-making along the continuum.
The Importance of a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System
Learn about the importance of cultivating a child welfare system that recognizes and responds appropriately to trauma. The brief concludes by highlighting how cross-system collaborations can help to promote trauma-informed child welfare practice.
Separating Poverty From Neglect in Child Welfare
Explore the overlap among families experiencing poverty and those reported to the child welfare system for neglect, the societal context within which poverty and neglect exist, and strategies for preventing and addressing both poverty and neglect.
Two-Generation Approaches to Supporting Family Well-Being
Read about two-generation approaches and why child welfare agencies should use them to improve outcomes for families. Learn how to build parental capacity and protective factors within families, often with the goal of interrupting cycles of poverty.
Differential Response: A Primer for Child Welfare Professionals
Find information on the practice of differential response in responding to child welfare cases, review various approaches to support children and families, and explore recent State implementation efforts that highlight this practice in the field.
Family Engagement: Partnering With Families to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes
Find information on the foundational elements of the family engagement approach, followed by strategies and promising practices for implementing it for frontline caseworkers who directly engage families to promote safety, permanency, and well-being.