National Movement to Reinvent Child Welfare
Every child deserves a nurturing family.
Every family deserves to live in a safe, supportive community.
Together, we can build momentum to prioritize family well-being in hopes of reducing our over-reliance on foster care and family separation. We can offer better support and resources for children and the adults in their lives – parents, family members, caregivers, and educators – before they come in contact with agencies like child protective services.
Separation must be a last resort.
Let’s fundamentally rethink the child welfare system in Kansas
Every child is filled with tremendous promise – and we have a shared obligation to foster their potential.
Our current system continues to fall short in ensuring all Kansas families experience safe, stable environments for children to thrive.
Over the past decade, there was a 47% rise in the children in foster care in Kansas, with rates of removal among the highest in the nation. More youth during that time were emancipated from foster care compared to national rates. Following national trends, children of color in Kansas made up a disproportionate percentage of children in care – 15% of black children in care compared to 6% of the population.
Kansas must actively maximize every opportunity for a child’s experiences to be positive, nurturing, and safe. We must commit to partner with parents, strengthen families in their homes, and keep children with, not from, their families.
We must invest in communities and systems of care that prioritize keeping Kansas families together.
Kansas is one of 22 states in the Thriving Families, Safer Children movement to rethink child welfare systems. The goal is to come together to re-imagine the multitude of specific ways we can better support Kansas families.
Priorities for Kansas
A Focus on Well-being
Address systemic barriers to well-being that reduce the need for child protective services. Families should not be penalized for lacking basic needs and supports.
Targeted, Local Approaches
Develop networks of community support for prevention of maltreatment. Our local systems of care must respond to families experiencing a life disruption before it becomes a crisis.
Listening and Co-Designing
Integrate parent and youth voice into the design of well-being systems. When families feel connected to others and supported by their community, they build resilience for shaping their future.
Review definitions of neglect and mandatory reporting to ensure that maltreatment is clearly differentiated from issues of poverty. This is critical for eliminating racial disparity, family separation, and the lifelong impact of toxic stress.
Align with public health initiatives that strengthen and support Kansas children and families. Coordination and data sharing ensure families have equitable access to a wide variety of services and concrete supports.
In a system of child well-being…
We recognize the difference between poverty and child maltreatment. We’ll address the concrete needs of more children and families, preventing potential maltreatment before it occurs.
Resources will be available for families experiencing disruption. Communities will reallocate resources into equitable, hope-inspiring services and concrete supports like help with legal representation, obtaining housing, accessing public benefits, and getting the right educational services.
Costs will go down. Preventative services and concrete supports are less costly than our current system.
- Individuals (parents/caregivers/youth) with lived experience of the child welfare or prevention services system
- Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund
- Kansas Department for Children and Families
- Kansas Children’s Service League
- Kansas State Department of Education
- Kansas Department for Health and Environment
- University of Kansas School of Social Welfare
- University of Kansas Center for Public Partnerships & Research
- U.S. Children’s Bureau
- Casey Family Programs
- Annie E. Casey Foundation
- Prevent Child Abuse America
Updates coming soon.
Spread Awareness and Build Support
Re-designing child welfare systems into child well-being systems begins with conversations. Use the prompts and activities in the Conversation Starters guide to engage staff and partners in dialogue about what that system might look like. Examine together the language, patterns of thought, and messaging that keep the current system in place. You can use the conversation starters with middle management, frontline staff, community partners, the public, and legislators to begin to co-create the vision for a system that focuses on strengthening families to prevent child abuse and neglect.
To learn more about the Kansas Thriving Families work contact Meghan Cizek at the University of Kansas Center for Public Partnerships and Research.
Capacity Building Center for States. (2021). Visioning for prevention: The words we choose to use [Video]. Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.