Leadership Lens

Christine James-Brown

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As many of you know--and as you will learn more about in this issue of Children's Voice--2010 marks the 90th anniversary of CWLA's founding. We will spend some time this year acknowledging the important things that have been accomplished during the past nine decades, but our major focus will be on reinventing ourselves for the future.

Despite the progress that has been made in addressing the needs of vulnerable children and families, there is still so much more to do. On page 30 of this issue you will read about the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. CWLA took an active role in the passage of this act, and we have continued to focus on supporting its implementation. Over the past several months we participated in sessions across the country designed to obtain input from key stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities they are experiencing in implementing the Fostering Connections Act. I have attended several of these meetings and I am even more convinced that this important new legislation will change child welfare in positive ways, despite the additional challenges of implementation created by the economic crisis. Increased collaboration between public and private child welfare organizations; increased coordination with other systems, especially juvenile justice, health, and education; and increased focus on workforce training and development are just a few areas in which the Fostering Connections Act may have a very positive impact. I remain optimistic about the opportunities created by Fostering Connections, especially as the Department of Health and Human Services considers new guidance that will broaden eligibility for programs like kinship guardianship. More than anything else, we need to continue this sense of urgency, focus, and spirit of cooperation to address the needs of abused and neglected children.

Meghan Williams's article on page 10, "What Early Education Can Teach Child Welfare," discusses lessons learned from early childhood education. It is critical that child welfare continues and enhances its commitment to partnering with parents and communities, finding skilled workers, and measuring outcomes. Early childhood services have transformed from being viewed as the domain of the family to being accepted as a disciplined and respected system in less than 20 years, due to a commitment to outcomes, parent engagement, and workforce development. Engaging and educating parents through training programs like PRIDE (see our new column, "Working with PRIDE," on page 17) allows them to play a key role in the development of children and also creates a dedicated group of child welfare advocates and supporters. Understanding, articulating, and promoting a focus on what works not only will lead to better services but will also provide the ammunition that our supporters and advocates need to obtain the financial and other support necessary for an improved child welfare service system.

At CWLA, we are accelerating our efforts to transform the way we do our work in order to support a focus on improving outcomes. In my view, the fact that we have been in existence for 90 years is a call for change in and of itself. We welcome you to join us in our efforts by letting us know what you are doing in your own communities.*

*To share how you are focusing on outcomes in your own work, e-mail voice@cwla.org.
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