Raising the Bar for Children, Families, and Communities

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Since the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children in 1909, CWLA has worked to improve the lives of children, youth, and families through a coalition of public and private entities working collaboratively to achieve this goal. Serving as the infrastructure for this work has been the CWLA Standards of Excellence for Child Welfare Services, more commonly known as the "CWLA Program Standards." In 2011, CWLA embarked on a journey to update these standards. It quickly became evident that a new, broader vision of child welfare services needed to be articulated. We also recognized that the Program Standards needed to be tied together to reflect a cohesive, integrated system capable of serving all children, youth, and families. What began as an effort to update the Program Standards resulted in the development of the CWLA National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. This CWLA National Blueprint will inform the updating of the Program Standards.

Through the kind support of the Jessie Ball DuPont Foundation and the Freddie Mac Foundation, CWLA convened a 30-member advisory committee of child welfare- involved stakeholders who agreed that a much broader vision was necessary for moving child welfare into the "next generation." With that, the vision for the CWLA National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare was created: "All children will grow up safely, in loving families and supportive communities, with everything they need to flourish, and with connections to their culture, ethnicity, race and language."

Guided by the Advisory Committee, the CWLA National Blueprint took shape through an interactive process that involved input from more than one-hundred people, including public child welfare agency commissioners and directors; CWLA National Policy and Practice Commissions members; CWLA's Mental Health Advisory Board; accrediting bodies; selected leaders in allied fields; ACF Commissioner and staff; and other cross-systems representatives.

On March 8, 2013, the CWLA Board of Directors approved the document. It will be unveiled at the CWLA National Conference, which will take place from April 14-17, 2013, in Washington, DC.

As highlighted in the introduction to the CWLA National Blueprint, the document is intended to be a catalyst for change: to broaden the thinking of communities, individuals, and groups, including public and private organizations within and outside of the child welfare system, and to help them understand how their roles and responsibilities fit into the overall strategy to improve outcomes for children and youth.

Although the formal child welfare system has a specific role to play as it relates to children who have been or are at risk of abuse and neglect, responsibility for the well-being of children and youth extends well beyond traditional child welfare organizations and services. While achieving the well-being of children and youth begins with their families, everyone--families, communities, providers, and organizations--has a responsibility for ensuring the safety, permanency, and well-being of all children and youth. This is essential for achieving excellence in child welfare.

The CWLA National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare applies to all children and youth, whether or not they receive child welfare services, and whether or not they have been identified as at risk for child abuse or neglect. The document is designed as a foundation upon which families, communities, providers, and other organizations can create the greatest opportunities for all children and youth to succeed and flourish. The emphasis on engaging children, youth, families, and communities, breaking down barriers, and increasing interconnectedness of all involved will compel new ways of communicating and working together.

The CWLA National Blueprint focuses on maximizing the strengths and resilience of children, youth, and their nuclear, biological, extended, foster, and adoptive families, within the context of their communities. By having youth and families be true partners in policymaking, planning, and funding decisions, communities and organizations can ensure that all children and youth are provided with the best opportunities for safe, healthy, nurturing environments for learning, growing, and becoming productive, healthy, fulfilled adults.

CWLA will develop readiness assessment and implementation tools to assist with the implementation of the CWLA National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. Additionally, our advocacy efforts will focus on encouraging other systems, parents, and communities toward helping achieve the vision. Children, youth, and families deserve no less.

For further information, please contact Julie Collins, Director of Standards for Practice Excellence, at jcollins@cwla.org or (202)-688-4155.

To comment on this article, e-mail voice@cwla.org.

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