Leadership Lens

Christine James-Brown

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The articles in this issue of Children's Voice highlight how child welfare organizations are doing more with fewer resources, often leveraging the resources available in other systems and in communities.

In the article "State of the States," we see the creativity required for states to deal with budget shortfalls while minimizing any negative impact on children and families. In "Keeping the Faith," we are reminded of the creative thinking required for child welfare organizations to mobilize the resources that the faith community can contribute to meet the needs of children and families.

Increasingly, we understand the importance of addressing the well-being of the children and families we serve. Focusing on their well-being necessarily means that we have to reach out to others, including the health, youth development, employment and education systems--and to community-based organizations, mentoring groups, and faith based organizations, who all can help ensure that children and families have the services and supports that they need. The resources and expertise found in these systems are critically important to the children and families we serve.

Too often, child welfare finds that it is isolated from other systems and from the communities in which children and families live. Fear; lack of trust and respect; differences in policies, practices, and philosophies; finance and funding barriers; and the tendency for everyone to want to protect their own limited resources have made it difficult for child welfare to work with other systems and for other systems to work with child welfare.

It is important to note that at different points in history and in different communities across the country, there are successful examples of child welfare working in partnership with other service systems and with communities. The faith-based community, in particular, is not new to child welfare. Long before the existence of a formal child welfare system, the earliest services for children who were abused and neglected were often provided by religiously based organizations; throughout our history, these organizations have helped with recruitment of foster and adoptive homes; today, churches and faith-based organizations are providing a range of services including child care, after-school programs, and mentoring for children. In addition, there are many communities in which a close working relationship exists between the faith community, child welfare, and other child and family systems. The challenge is to make sure that we break down the barriers to forming long-term sustainable and standardized approaches for child welfare, both across systems and within the community.

While the child welfare system is working to adjust to reductions in its traditional funding sources, it must at the same time find ways to direct its limited time to developing and maintaining partnerships and strategic alliances with other child and family serving systems and the community.

It is likely that as these partnerships are formed, we and our partners will have an opportunity to build knowledge about the challenges faced and solutions needed to more effectively service children and families. In so doing, we will gain, in our partners, new child welfare advocates and a stronger voice for improved outcomes for children and families touched by child welfare.

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