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Child Welfare

Child Trends conducts research, analyzes data, and evaluates programs in virtually every area in the child welfare field. Our areas of expertise include prevention of maltreatment, child protection, court oversight, foster care, kinship care, adoption, and youth leaving care. We work closely with practitioners and policymakers who rely on our research and advice to make positive change in child welfare systems.

Child Trends recently completed a comprehensive evaluation of the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids initiative, a program developed to promote adoption of children from foster care. In addition, our child welfare team is evaluating family finding programs across the country. We also conduct biennial state surveys examining the funding streams that support child welfare services.

Featured Projects

Featured Publications

Family Finding Evaluations: A Summary of Recent Findings

Jan 2015 | Sharon Vandivere; Karin Malm

One factor that may facilitate a successful reunification of children in foster care with their parents—or failing that, provide an alternate route to permanency through adoption or guardianship—is children’s connections with extended family. However, because foster care frequently disrupts social connections, practitioners may need to take extra steps to help children maintain or re-establish these connections. The Family Finding model provides child welfare practitioners with intensive search and engagement techniques to identify family members and other adults close to a child in foster care, and to involve these adults in developing and carrying out a plan for the emotional and legal permanency of the child. This report reviews the results from 13 evaluations of Family Finding that have been released over the past two years.

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Federal, State, and Local Spending to Address Child Abuse and Neglect in SFY 2012

Sep 2014 | Kerry DeVooght; Megan Fletcher; Hope Cooper

This report summarizes key findings from a national survey of states’ child welfare expenditures. The survey of 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico found that child welfare agency expenditures from federal, state, and local sources decreased by eight percent between state fiscal years 2010 and 2012—representing the first decrease in spending that has been found since the survey began in 1996. In addition, federal spending on child welfare declined, and was found to be at its lowest level since the state fiscal year 1998 survey. Please note: Some states have revised their data since this report was initially published. Please contact staff@childtrends.org for information about these revisions.

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Voices from the Field: Stakeholder Perspectives on Family Finding

Feb 2014 | Elizabeth Jordan; Sarah Catherine Williams

The Family Finding model provides child welfare practitioners with intensive search and engagement techniques to identify family members and other adults close to a child in foster care, and to involve these adults in developing and carrying out a plan for the emotional and legal permanency of the child. This brief describes the importance of establishing such permanent connections for children and youth, along with the challenges in forming and building lasting connections, from the perspectives of judges, guardians ad litem, and family finding specialists who regularly interact with children and youth in foster care. It also incorporates the ideas and input of national Family Finding experts.

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Changing the Course for Infants and Toddlers: A Survey of State Child Welfare Policies and Initiatives

Sep 2013 | Elizabeth Jordan; Jackyn Szrom; Hope Cooper; Kerry DeVooght

The Survey of State Child Welfare Agency Initiatives for Maltreated Infants and Toddlers, conducted from September 2012 to March 2013, asked state child welfare agency representatives to respond to questions regarding the policies and practices that guide their work in addressing the needs of infants and toddlers who have been maltreated. This report by ZERO TO THREE and Child Trends reviews key findings from the survey, and implications for policy and practice. The report includes an index of state policies and practices.

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