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CWLA Reveals Top 5 Child Welfare Challenges and Opportunities for 2010

List Notes Real Chance to Shrink Foster Care System

For more information, contact
Linda Spears
Phone: 703-412-3165

Washington, DC (January 27, 2010) -- Kicking off the year, the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), the nation's oldest and largest membership-based child welfare organization, announced its top challenges and opportunities for 2010, during its "Children 2010: Leading a New Era" National Conference. CWLA's Top 5 list captures events and trends are shaping the future for foster children this year...and beyond.

"The Top 5 are key issues affecting foster children. Even though the economy continues to take its toll, we do see promising changes in the way our nation treats children and tackles child welfare issues," said CWLA's CEO Chris James-Brown. "As President Obama reports on the State of the Union, we encourage him to continue embracing changes that help children succeed. Smart and sustained investments in children are critical to our nation's future."

Top 5 Child Welfare Challenges and Opportunities
  1. Passing health care reform -- This landmark legislation will strengthen the safety net for vulnerable children and youth and their families. Both House and Senate versions of the legislation will ensure that more children have access to quality health care. Both versions will support innovative home visiting programs. However, the House version has stronger, more concise language that protects the use of therapeutic foster care-which serves children with more severe special needs-under Medicaid. Either version will be a win for America's most vulnerable children.
  2. Holding a White House Conference on Children and Youth -- President Theodore Roosevelt held the first such conference in 1909. For decades, the conference brought together experts and stakeholders, resulting in significant actions that improved child welfare. No such conference has been held since 1970. Today's vulnerable economic times makes reestablishing the White House Conference a priority. Bipartisan bills are moving through Congress right now to authorize the conference.
  3. Shrinking the system -- If the Fostering Connections Act continues to be implemented and funded and if the health care bill becomes law, fundamental changes are possible in how vulnerable children are treated, creating a real opportunity to sizably shrink the foster care system.
  4. Aging out gracefully -- Historically, youth leaving the foster care system due to adulthood were instantly left with few connections and resources, placing them at higher risk for unemployment, health issues, welfare dependency, incarceration, and homelessness. Spurred by greater awareness and the Fostering Connections Act, foster youth who are aging out are starting to receive more attention and resources, ensuring better long-term outcomes for these individuals.
  5. Focusing on disproportionality -- Children of color are significantly overrepresented in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Research indicates poverty as a contributing factor compounded by the fact that those in poverty have greater difficulty accessing important services. The Fostering Connections Act provided funding for more kinship placements and more focus on child welfare training and recruiting, both of which will have a discernable impact on the issue. However, further success will come from putting more focus on preventing children from entering care.
James-Brown shared the list and her insights during CWLA's National Conference-the largest and most significant gathering of its kind. Nearly 800 hundred child welfare professionals and advocates gathered from around the country to discuss pressing issues, to share best practices, learn new ideas, and advocate for vulnerable children, youth and families. The conference featured more than 70 workshops led by industry experts about a myriad of issues affecting children in foster care such as: cost/benefits of the Fostering Connections Act, juvenile justice reform, aging out, transcultural adoption, kinship care, tribal youth abuse, attachment issues, and disproportionality.

A number of experts spoke during the conference including Olivia Golden, senior fellow, Urban Institute, Obama Transition Team member, and author of Reforming Child Welfare, who led a plenary on child advocacy. Dr. Robert Ross, president and CEO, The California Endowment, also keynoted a session, discussing how child welfare is rapidly transforming and the importance of collaboration to the process. Lily Dorman-Colby, a former foster child and Yale Student, shared her experiences with foster care and aging out and how it led her to become a child advocate.

In addition, more than 500 conference attendees participated in Advocacy Day, converging on Capitol Hill to make a case for children in foster care and those who care for them. Participants discussed with their members of Congress: the need for health care reform, the impact of the severe economic times, the importance of implementing and funding the recently passed foster care legislation, the significance of holding a White House Conference, and the need for more child welfare professionals.

A conference highlight was the 90th Celebration Gala, which commemorated CWLA's 90 years of leadership. During the gala, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy received the Child Advocate Legacy Award, recognizing his dedication and lifetime accomplishments that helped millions of children and families.

About CWLA
CWLA is a powerful coalition of hundreds of private and public agencies serving vulnerable children and families since 1920. Through its programs, publications, research, conferences, professional development, and consultation, CWLA speaks with authority and candor about the status and the needs of American children, young people, and families. As the nationally recognized standard-setter for child welfare services, CWLA provides direct support to agencies that serve children and families, improving the quality of the services they provide to more than nine million children every year.

Since 1920, CWLA has been the nation's preeminent membership-based organization dedicated to ensuring that disadvantaged and vulnerable children are protected from harm and have the tools and resources they need to grow into healthy and happy adults. CWLA is the trusted authority for professionals who work with children and the only national organization with public and private member agencies working across all sectors of the children's services field.

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