The Children’s Bureau recently released a series of papers highlighting the importance of a well-being framework for promoting the healthy development of children and youth in the child welfare system. The well-being framework looks at the problem of child abuse from a more comprehensive and holistic viewpoint, promoting evidence-based interventions, training, trauma-informed treatment and prevention efforts to create better overall outcomes for children and their families. This framework also encourages cross-systems collaboration to ensure that children do not slip through the cracks where resources are available to them.

Historically, the child welfare system has emphasized safety and permanency for children and youth in care, and well-being has been more often overlooked. Admittedly, well-being has been hard to define and often difficult to measure. However, there have been efforts underway across the country in recent years to implement core aspects of a child well-being framework in practice, and this paper series highlights one such effort — the Kansas Intensive Permanency Project.

A system that only focuses on safety and permanency cannot help children heal from the corrosive effects of maltreatment or promote long-term healthy development in children and youth. This paper series offers insights into strategies to effectively integrate well-being into child welfare practice. Below are links and brief descriptions of each paper:

The overview, Integrating Safety, Permanency and Well-Being: A view from the Field (Wilson), provides a look at the evolution of the child welfare system from the 1970’s forward.

The first paper, A comprehensive Framework for Nurturing the Well Being of Children and Adolescents (Biglan), provides a framework for considering the domains and indicators of wellbeing.

The second paper, Screening, Assessing, Monitoring Outcomes and Using Evidence-based Practices to Improve Well-Being of Children in Foster Care (Conradi, Landsverk, Wotring), describes a process for delivering trauma screening, functional and clinical assessment, evidence based interventions and the use of progress monitoring in order to better achieve well-being outcomes.

The third paper, A Case Example of the Administration on Children and, Youth and Families’ Well-Being Framework: KIPP (Akin, Bryson, McDonald, and Wilson) presents a case study of the Kansas Intensive Permanency Project and describes how it has implemented many of the core aspects of a well-being framework.

As advocates we know that there are many factors and ways to address the prevalence of child abuse and neglect. In 2013, SPARC held a webinar and released a brief in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Social Policy: Raising the Bar: Child Welfare’s Shift Toward Well-Being, which outlines steps policymakers and advocates can take to improve social, emotional, physical and educational outcomes for children in foster care and highlights research, policy and practice trends across the country. Congress has also made strides in addressing the issue of well-being by holding roundtable discussions and introducing legislation that encourage states to demonstrate positive well-being outcomes for youth in care. We must continue to integrate and prioritize principles from the well-being framework into child welfare policy and practice so more children are able to overcome the obstacles that prevent them from reaching their full potential.