STANDARDS OF EXCELLENCE: 70 years of playing a unique national role in shaping quality child welfare practice

When a reporter from a state that has had a string of recent child abuse tragedies asks, “How many cases can a worker be responsible for without jeopardizing safety?”…

Or when an agency executive, looking to diversify her agency’s services, asks, “What are the core components of an intercountry adoption program? What standards should I follow in designing the program and recruiting and training staff?”…

Or when a state foster care manager, updating his agency’s manual for foster care workers, asks, “What is the current thinking on how soon and how often children should have contact with their parents after entering foster care?”…

…CWLA Standards might be their most valuable resource!


For 70 years, CWLA’s Standards have played a unique national role in shaping quality child welfare practice. They have been a foundation tool for improving the national child welfare system, guiding policymakers, practitioners, advocates, and the broader public. The Standards are widely accepted as the foundation for sound U.S. child welfare practice, providing goals for the continuing improvement of services to children and their families.

CWLA develops new standards and regularly revises existing standards through a rigorous, inclusive process that challenges child welfare agency representatives and a diverse group of national experts to address both persistent and emerging issues, debate current controversies and concerns, review research findings, and develop a shared vision that reflects the best current theory and practice. The products of this process promote nationwide consistency and standardization of practice. They also serve as a resource for people in other fields who are concerned with the care and protection of children – legislators, judges, attorneys, educators, health and mental health professionals, law enforcement personnel, opinion shapers in the media, child advocates, and the general public.

CWLA standards of excellence, and the commitment to quality they represent, are particularly important in an environment where agencies face limited resources and escalating challenges. While the news features tragic stories of missing children and families stressed to the breaking point, agencies can point to the Standards as an example of how things should be done. They can focus on embracing and integrating the best practices described in the Standards. Agencies and other advocates for children and youth can also use the Standards to provide the basis for accreditation and licensing systems nationwide, promoting continuous quality improvement and demonstrating accountability to the public.

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