Discussion series addresses child welfare system

Apr 22, 2013

By Rena Malai, News staff

The University of North Carolina School of Social Work at Chapel Hill, in partnership with the Children’s Home Society of America, created a three-part discussion series to examine problems in the child welfare system.

Joan Levy Zlotnik

The third and final part of the series, called “The Wicked Problems of Child Welfare and their Incomplete Solutions,” was hosted at the NASW national office in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 21 and 22.

The three parts were:

• “Innovation and Flexibility: How Can Title IV-E Waiver Authority Best Be Used to Create Effective and Sustainable Child Welfare Systems?”

• “Agency-University-Public Partnerships in Child Welfare: Maximizing Private and Public Return on Investment”

• Beyond Safety and Permanence: Is Well-Being a Manageable Child Welfare Outcome?”

The sessions brought together child welfare administrators, researchers, philanthropists and policymakers as well as state, local and national experts in the field of child welfare.

The groups convened at each two-day session of the series to discuss, brainstorm and collaborate on ways to build a sustainable child welfare system across the U.S. and in the individual states.

“I believe that this forum has opened up the possibility of great outcomes in child welfare because we have engaged discussion,” said social worker Nancy Ronquillo, president and CEO of Children’s Home + Aid in Chicago. “It focuses on big questions and big challenges. How do we improve child well-being? And how does one measure well-being? Therein lies the ‘wickedness.’”

Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of the NASW Social Work Policy Institute, gave a presentation on promoting child and family well-being, looking at how we can learn from past policy efforts and stressing the importance of sustainability.

“Promoting the well-being of children in the child welfare system was discussed throughout the presentation and the Wicked Problems conference at NASW,” Zlotnik said.

Nancy Ronquillo

A highlight of the conference was the discussion of the flexibility for innovation that can come about because of Title IV-E waivers and how that can be continued after the waivers end, Zlotnik said. According to the Children’s Bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services received the opportunity to grant up to 10 Title IV-E waiver demonstration projects each year under the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which was signed into law in September 2011.

The recipients of the waiver projects, which will be funded during fiscal years 2012-14, are not granted access to more money but are allowed a flexible use of existing federal funds. The idea of the projects is that the flexible funding will allow for better outcomes of children and their families in the child welfare system while keeping costs neutral for the federal government.

Projects under the title IV-E waivers have been approved in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

The Wicked Problems conference met over the course of the last year and a half, with the first and second parts of the series taking place at UNC and in Chicago.

“I hope this (series) has served to put fire in the belly to dramatically improve lives,” Ronquillo said. “This is a group of leaders that can drive us in the right direction.”

For more information, visit the UNC website at ssw.unc.edu/contact/8836

From the April 2013 NASW News.

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