In the last post, we discussed how the state of Connecticut is changing its child welfare system and the focus was on the back end of the system. This time we’ll look at efforts being made to change the front end of the system.
Joette Katz, Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, says that the child welfare system has historically viewed families as the source of the problem rather than part of the solution. The system is risk averse so the default option is often the most drastic one: removal of a child from the home.
Commissioner Katz believes that families must be at the center of the solution so she has implemented the Strengthening Families practice model which has family engagement as its foundation. The model emphasizes support services for families, strength-based case plans that are responsive to the family’s needs and values, and a strategy to preserve the family. Connecticut is using the Eckerd Rapid Safety Feedback tool to identify the highest-risk families and then establish an action plan to mitigate safety risks and prioritize tasks.
Connecticut is a leader in trauma-informed practice and was one of the first to screen children in the child welfare system for trauma. Since 2007 more than 50,000 children have been screened for trauma and over 8,600 professionals, including child welfare workers, have received training. Trauma-focused services for school-age children have been expanding over the past decade. Now the focus is turning to children under age 5, of whom 12,000 were included in reports of child abuse/neglect in 2014.
The federal government is funding a five-year Early Childhood Trauma Collaborative that will train 500 people who work with young children on recognizing signs of trauma and connecting children to services. The funding will also be used to help outpatient clinics offer treatments that have been shown to be effective with young children.
Connecticut provides a robust Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) program to prevent the unnecessary placement of children. A higher percentage of families in the child welfare system receive family preservation services in Connecticut than in other states. The state reports a 92% rate in keeping families together that have received IFPS.
Commissioner Katz says that her goal is to change the culture of child welfare from one of blame to one in which we are all members of a team with the goal of making families stronger and children safer. NFPN heartily endorses that goal as reflected in our logo: Safe Children, Strong Families!
Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director