A child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds in America. This is not only abhorrent but expensive. The annual total direct and indirect costs of child maltreatment is $80.3 billion. America’s most vulnerable children are those who have been abused and neglected, removed from their families and placed in foster care—and children of color are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system. While intended to be temporary, children too often linger in foster care for months and years, and while the majority of children leave foster care to a permanent family, too many “age out” of foster care without a permanent family. Children left with no permanent family or connection with a caring adult have no one to turn to for social, emotional or financial support and face numerous barriers as they struggle to become self-sufficient adults.
All children in America should have a safe start in a permanent nurturing family and community with access to services that help strengthen families and avoid crises.
We work to expand prevention and specialized treatment services for children and families to help prevent crises that often lead children to the child welfare system; help ensure quality care for children in foster care and connect these children to caring permanent birth, kin or adoptive families; develop a quality child welfare workforce; and increase accountability. To strengthen families and keep children safe, we must:
- Align Federal Child Welfare Funding to Improve Outcomes for Vulnerable Children: CDF has long been working to better align federal child welfare funding with positive outcomes for vulnerable children and families. Most recently, we’ve focused on implementing the new Family First Prevention Services Act, which incorporates many of our principles for child welfare reform, including enhanced access to prevention and specialized treatment services to help keep children safely with their families and avoid the traumatic experience of entering foster care, and ensuring children who do need foster care are placed in the most family-like setting appropriate to their needs.
- Support Children and Relatives in Kinship Families: Many children are living in “kinship families” and “GrandFamilies”–families where a child is raised by grandparents or other relatives when their parents are unable to do so. Sometimes a child is formally removed from his parents’ care by state and placed with relatives in foster care. In other cases, children live with relatives informally without the involvement of child welfare agencies, or children may be “diverted” to relatives by the courts. We are working to ensure the needs of these kinship families are met so the children are safe, healthy, in loving families and reaching their full potential.
- Promote Educational Stability and Success for Children in Foster Care: Students in foster care face tremendous barriers to academic success and often lag far behind their peers in educational success. Although important progress has been made in removing educational barriers for youth in foster care, there is much more to do. We are working to expand understanding about the educational needs of students in foster care and how best to support them throughout the education continuum, from early childhood through higher education.