Thriving Families Initiative evisions redesigned child welfare

The Children's Bureau at HHS' Administration for Children and Families, Casey Family Programs, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Prevent Child Abuse America  are partnering to launch a nationwide initiative to prove that it is possible to fundamentally rethink how child welfare systems function to prioritize strengthening families and building resiliency, rather than separating families.

This first-of-its-kind partnership — Thriving Families, Safer Children: A National Commitment to Well-being — will work across the public, private and philanthropic sectors to assist jurisdictions in creating more just and equitable systems that benefit all children and families and break harmful intergenerational cycles of trauma and poverty.

“Having invested heavily in elevating the voices of parents and youth with lived experience in child welfare, we now have not only the opportunity but the obligation to act on what they’ve told us they need to stay strong and healthy,” says Jerry Milner, associate commissioner for the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Administration of Children and Families. “Our four organizations are uniquely prepared and driven to do just that, by transforming child welfare into a child and family well-being system.”

The Thriving Families Initiative will help select jurisdictions move from traditional, reactive child protection systems to systems designed to proactively support child and family well-being and prevent child maltreatment and unnecessary family separation.

“Every child deserves a safe, stable and permanent family and all families deserve the opportunities and supports to raise their children safely and successfully in their own homes, communities and cultures,” said William C. Bell, President and CEO of Casey Family Programs. “This important effort will demonstrate how all sectors of a community can work together to reallocate resources into equitable, hope-inspiring services and supports that reduce the need for foster care and improve the well-being of children and families across the nation.”

This multiyear commitment will provide resources and support from the four partners and other relevant child- and family-serving federal agencies, jurisdictions, diverse community stakeholders and the public, private, faith-based and philanthropic sectors to create more just, equitable and humane child and family well-being systems.

The initiative will be composed of three tiers of action:

    Tier One — Select jurisdictions will serve as demonstration sites, collaborating with the initiative’s partners for intensive technical support and resources to help realize their goal of creating child and family well-being systems.
    Tier Two — The initiative will partner with jurisdictions to focus on policy and systemic reforms at the state, tribal or territorial level.
    Tier Three — The initiative will share lessons learned to help inform and inspire other jurisdictions in launching their own journeys in building child well-being systems.

Tier One work will soon begin in California/LA County, Colorado, Nebraska and South Carolina. The initiative is working to identify and invite Tier Two jurisdictions.

The Thriving Families Initiative seeks to demonstrate that intentional, coordinated investment in a full continuum of prevention and robust community-based networks of support will promote overall child and family well-being, equity and other positive outcomes for children and families. It is rooted in the recognition that all families need help sometimes and that seeking help is a sign of strength and resiliency. The challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic have underscored the urgency to create such systems.

“Families are our greatest asset in ensuring that all children are safe and have what they need to thrive and succeed—especially now, during the coronavirus crisis,” said Dr. Melissa T. Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “This extraordinary moment provides an opportunity to shift the narrative from child welfare to child well-being. We must leverage this new way of thinking to develop and deliver effective and impactful community-based resources that assist families in ways which strengthen and help keep them together.”

Thriving Families Initiative will partner with diverse community stakeholders — most importantly families with lived expertise — to help them discern and develop the supports, resources, services and approaches to meet the unique needs of their families and promote the conditions to help them thrive.

Work will focus on creating and enhancing networks of community-based supports and aligning government resources to provide a full prevention continuum that strengthens community protective factors and parental protective capacities and mitigate associated risk factors.

“Now is a time to reimagine how we as a collective of caring and supportive adults — child welfare practitioners, parents, children and older youth, advocates and community partners — can redefine the mission and objectives of child welfare to help ensure all children, Black, Brown and Indigenous families who have been overrepresented in our systems, have the opportunities they need and deserve to thrive,” says Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, vice president of the Center for Systems Innovation at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “This is the moment to urgently build a child and family well-being system that propels families to grow and thrive together on their terms.”