The Children’s Bureau

childrensBureauThe social work profession has long identified child welfare as a core field of practice, as seen by the focus of the earliest social work agencies on “child and family welfare.” Indeed, passionate and visionary social workers launched the Children’s Bureau in 1912 to address the most critical issues affecting children and families. The Children’s Bureau has a century long history linked to the profession and looks forward to setting the stage as a leader for the next century of serving children and families.

Current Children’s Bureau programs are designed to promote the safety, permanency, and well-being of all children—including those in foster care, available for adoption, recently adopted, abused, neglected, dependent, disabled, or homeless—and to prevent the neglect, abuse, and exploitation of children. These key goals of child welfare practice—and the organizational and workforce conditions needed to achieve them—are addressed in a new book, The Children’s Bureau: Shaping a Century of Child Welfare Practices, Programs, and Policies, edited by Katharine Briar-Lawson, Mary McCarthy, and Nancy Dickinson. The book focuses attention on the Children’s Bureau’s commitment to building and using evidence-informed and culturally relevant practice.

The Children’s Bureau details the legacies and highlights the ways that the Children’s Bureau has influenced modern-day child welfare practices. As a centennial marker in honor of the Children’s Bureau, this book also charts future agendas and innovations that may guide more effective practice, programming, and policies. Finally, this book will serve as a testimonial to the durability of the Children’s Bureau, the changing nature of the challenges addressed, and the ongoing leadership role of social work.

The authors represent social work leaders in the field in child welfare policy, practice, and research. The book builds on NASW’s legacy and support for reprofessionalization, research, and publications on child welfare and families in poverty. The chapters address the historical antecedents for a practice, program, or policy issue; the role of the Children’s Bureau; and wherever possible, evidence-informed principles, if not blueprints, to guide future practice, programs, and policy. In addition, as appropriate, each chapter addresses the role of social work and implications for future educational and professional social work reforms. The National Association of Social Workers and sister organizations such as the Council on Social Work Education, the Child Welfare League of America, and the Alliance for Children and Families offer visionary briefs charting future commitments and agendas for the 21st century.

With a stellar list of authors, The Children’s Bureau the following chapters:

  • Lessons Learned and the Way Forward
  • Family-Driven and Community-Based Systems of Care
  • Addressing Poverty as a Child Welfare Strategy
  • Family-Centered Practice
  • Nothing about Us, Without Us: Meaningful Youth and Family Engagement in Child Welfare
  • Ensuring a Successful Transition to Adulthood for Foster Youths
  • Paradigm Shifts in Child Protection: From Investigation to Family Support
  • Prevention of Child Maltreatment Fatalities
  • Trauma-Informed Child Welfare Practice
  • Serving Families with Co-occurring Challenges
  • Social Work Traineeship Programs
  • Social Work Education in Tribal and Urban Indian Child Welfare Settings
  • Workforce and Leadership Development
  • Knowledge Management and Leadership Development in Child Welfare
  • University-Agency Partnerships to Advance Child Welfare
  • Envisioning the Future: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities
  • Child Welfare for the 21st Century: Organizational and Practice Imperatives

Alma J. Carten (PhD, ACSW, LCSW) from the New York University Silver School of Social Work writes:

This centennial book brings together a national roster of child welfare experts from academia and practice to document the significant contributions of the Children’s Bureau to U.S. policy development for children and families. Highlighting foster care developments, chapters illuminate for the reader the complexities of the system as it evolved from a tradition of ‘rescue and punishment,’ deeply seeped in racial inequities, to current efforts of advancing progressive policies that aim to correct systemic inequities, promote empirically based approaches that recognize the significance of culture in services planning, and affirm that the well-being of children is inextricably linked to the well-being of families and communities. The book makes an important contribution to the child welfare literature by documenting how far we have come as a nation in addressing the needs of dependent children and is an invaluable reference volume and supplementary child welfare textbook.

As we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Children’s Bureau, this book is a welcome addition to literature on child welfare. By delineating some of the legacies and illustrating the ways that the work of the Children’s Bureau has influenced modern-day child welfare practices, The Children’s Bureau is a thought-provoking resource for practice and program improvements. Readers will be inspired by the passionate commitment and a legacy of leadership of those serving in child welfare and will think carefully about new priorities and directions that will guide child welfare work into the next century of service.

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