Articles

CB Spotlight on Collaboration in Child Welfare


The Bureau learns so much
from the States and the Tribes that we work with. We learn a lot from our
grantees, from Federal reviews, and also from our
data collections systems, and all of this knowledge helps
to inform our policies. It helps us to make decisions
about discretionary grants that we fund and also
it helps us to determine what types of training
and technical assistance that we deliver
to the States and Tribes. When I think about collaboration
and the work that OCAN does within the Children’s Bureau
and with our partners, our Federal
and non-Federal partners, the phrase that I often use
is that child abuse and neglect is a multi-disciplinary problem. No one person or one agency or
one grant can solve the problem of child abuse and neglect. And, again, we’ve learned this from our research
over the years. We know that there are many
factors that impact families. We know that there are
many disciplines that need to be involved and at our level,
at the Federal level, I think not only are we mandated
by our legislation to, you know, have this collaboration
but we hope that it’s a way to model for the State
and local communities that same spirit of
collaboration. I’m inspired by visiting
in the field and listening to case work staff,
to supervisors, and more importantly to
families–to parents, to kids, to youth–who talk about where
they were and where they are now as a result of their involvement
in child welfare systems. And those outcomes are
good outcomes in many, many instances. No one can do it alone. There is no one agency,
one answer for children and families. They live in a very complicated,
challenging world that touches many different systems
and aspects, and unless you have
the important components that are impacting
their lives involved and improving their lives, we’ll
never have a complete package. We’ll never have the kind
of approach that’s necessary to move kids and families in
the direction they want to go. On a day-to-day basis, we’re
always thinking about ways to collaborate and work
with other agencies to work with States
and communities. Because I think the Children’s
Bureau is really clear that it takes
a multi-system approach, you have to have different
systems coming together to really impact the needs of
children and their families. We’re working with
mental health, with education, with community providers,
prevention providers, substance abuse, and everybody’s
got to work together. Everybody’s got to be playing
in that sandbox well in order for us to be
seeing the outcomes that we’re looking for and those partnerships happening
at all levels of government. Meaningful systems change,
systems reform, improved outcomes
can’t be done in a bubble. They can’t be imposed
upon anybody. It’s something that needs
to be done in partnership or it’s not going to happen
at all, and that spans not only our
work together with our States but then our States’ work
with their Tribal partners, with their court partners,
with their community partners, their advocacy groups, because we can’t “thou shalt”
our way to the outcomes that we’re trying
to see for kids and families. We’re going to have to work
together and hold hands and figure out the best way
to make that happen and where accommodations
need to be made, where more TA needs
to be provided, where more resources are needed, for where more flexibility
is needed, where more cultural
tailoring/adaptation is needed to make sure that the work that
we’re doing is meeting the needs of the communities that
we’re working in. We have a vision of a system
in which educators, mental health providers,
the courts, physicians, social workers sit down at
a table, assess what’s happening in the family and include the
family and sit down with them and have a discussion on what’s
happening in their lives, where are their strengths,
where are their needs, how can we support them so that
they can achieve their goals and function in a way
that they want to and lead the lives that they
want to live. That’s our vision, is to
have a coordinated system in which everyone who has
a part is at the table and comes up with
a collective understanding of how we’re going to support
children and their families.

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