Rural child welfare practice presents unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining a child welfare workforce as well as delivering services in rural communities. For example, access to services—such as treatment for substance use, mental health care, and parenting classes—necessary for child welfare practice is often more difficult in rural counties than in urban communities. While new technologies and efforts to expand services in rural areas hold promise, efforts are ongoing to build community, coordinate existing child and family-focused services, and improve rural child protection and family preservation efforts.
Find resources in this section related to working in rural communities and delivering services to rural areas, including State and local examples.
Approaches to Supporting Families Affected by Opioid Use (PDF - 204 KB)
Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (2018)
Provides information on culturally responsive, family-centered approaches to working with families and children affected by opioid use in rural areas.
Building Equitable and Effective Partnerships With Rural and Indigenous Communities
Hinton, Lucas, & Zoubak (2020)
Describes challenges faced by rural and indigenous communities when accessing services and offers recommendations on how to improve services to rural areas.
How Can Child Welfare Systems Support Families in Rural Communities?
Casey Family Programs (2020)
Discusses how to approach the unique characteristics of rural communities and make creative use of both traditional and nontraditional funding streams to ensure the best possible services are being provided to children and families. The article describes challenges faced by rural areas and key strategies for working in rural communities.
National Report Offers Solutions to Overcome the Three Major Obstacles to Rural Mental Health Care
American Psychiatric Association (2021)
Provides strategies to improve the availability, accessibility, and acceptability of mental health and behavioral health care in rural areas.
Resolving Key Barriers to Advancing Mental Health Equity in Rural Communities Using Digital Mental Health Interventions
Graham, Weissman, & Mohr (2021)
Examines how remotely delivered digital health interventions can offer a potential solution to increase mental health care access to rural communities.
Rural Child Welfare Practice
Rural Communities – Access to Services [Webinar]
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Care Technical Assistance Network (2021)
Presents a webinar that helps build States' capacity to provide access to early childhood programs in rural communities. The webinar highlights States' use of data and offers an assessment of strengths and gaps.
Rural Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders Toolkit
Rural Health Information Hub
Discusses promising best practices and resources for implementing substance use prevention and treatment programs in rural communities.
Working Together, We Can Help Children in Rural Communities Thrive
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Explains support available to rural families to help them access affordable mental and behavioral health care, parenting and caregiver support programs, and better neighborhood amenities. Also read Providing Access to Mental Health Services for Children in Rural Areas (PDF - 543 KB).
Rural Health Information Hub
Provides a toolkit to help care coordinators to collaborate with related professionals across the continuum to provide services for children with complex health-care needs.
State and local examples
A Healthy Attitude: Rural Leaders in TN County Organize to Address Well-Being in Appalachia (PDF - 298 KB)
Marema and Bouldin (2020)
Describes efforts in Grundy County, Tennessee to improve health outcomes and strengthen the rural community. Programs implemented include a Safe Babies Court Team working with parents involved in child welfare judicial processes.
Parent Partners Provide Mentoring and Support in Rural Iowa
Profiles the Parent Partners program in Iowa, which pairs rural families who have had a child or children removed from their homes with mentors who have been through similar experiences to guide them through their involvement with the child welfare system.
The Strengths and Challenges of Child Abuse Prevention in Rural Communities [Video]
Strategies TA (2021)
Features presenters from the California Center for Rural Policy at Humboldt State University and the Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council of Humboldt County who describe various approaches toward preventing child abuse and neglect.
Supporting Children and Families Affected by the Opioid Epidemic: Emerging Policy Considerations (PDF - 1,161 KB)
Aron, Benatar, & Peters (2020)
Shares promising approaches from a study involving two Appalachian communities affected by the opioid epidemic. The report examines how the opioid epidemic is affecting children and families, explores how parents and caregivers could be better supported, and provides recommended strategies for service providers to use.
It Takes a Village: Interview With Becky Tripp [Podcast]
University of Minnesota, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (2020)
Shares an interview with Becky Tripp, Child Protection Supervisor in Wilkin County, Minnesota. The discussion focuses on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted rural child welfare practice and rural communities.