A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to head to Washington, DC for the Child Welfare Institute hosted by Voices for America’s Children. The packed day-and-a-half agenda was a chance for state advocates to learn about best practices, get federal updates, and compare notes. In addition to the packets of information, new strategies, and lists of questions that I brought back with me to Nebraska, the Institute also left me with one big idea to mull over: child well-being.
Along with safety and permanency, child well-being is one of three federal goals for kids in our child welfare system. Our entire child welfare system is supposed to be about keeping children safe, putting them in permanent homes, and ensuring their well-being. It all sounds good but it’s very hard to accomplish, especially when you consider how impossible it is to separate these three goals from each other. Safety and permanency are essential to well-being, and without well-being what value does permanency or safety truly have?
If Jimmy is put in foster care to keep him safe, but later ages out without the tools he needs to succeed in life — what has been accomplished? If Susie is adopted by a family that doesn’t meet her needs, has our child welfare system really worked how it’s supposed to?
This week, our Spotlight video will feature youth from Project Everlast, a group of youth in and alumni of the foster care system in Nebraska. Ultimately, it’s the experiences and needs of these youth and others like them that should inform our changes to the child welfare system. System reform isn’t about who delivers services or how to cut costs, it’s about putting child well-being first in every case.