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Building a 21st Century Road Map to Child Welfare Transformation – Knowledge Scan Results

Alisa Santucci, Christine Tappan, Brooke Abrams, Justin Stein, Katie Long, Ciara Collins and Nathan Greenstein, Abt Global


June 22, 2022

A new report, funded by Casey Family Programs, provides a roadmap for action for a child and family well-being system focused on children from prenatal to age 3 to support and advance the Thriving Families Safer Children Initiative.

This report describes Abt’s innovative approach (Accelerated Automated Search) to using automated tools to search for literature and data, combined with the voices of lived experience and subject matter experts, to generate wisdom about what is known about creating a PN-3 child and family well-being system. The roadmap can be leveraged by researchers, policyamkers, and key stakeholders to understand the current research landscape in systems and structures that promote child and family well-being.

Background: In FY2020, child protection agencies received 3.9 million referrals for child maltreatment involving 7.1 million children—more than 19,000 children every day. While African American children make up 14 percent of the child population in the U.S., they account for 20 percent of those entering the child welfare system. We know the child welfare system is steeped in inequities linked to race and poverty that play a role in removing children from their homes.

There’s a growing recognition that our nation’s child welfare system was designed as a reactive, not proactive, system: it typically responds after child maltreatment and other adverse childhood experiences have occurred, with the primary intervention being removal from the home.

Data from both the front end and deep within the child welfare system highlight the essential need to focus early childhood efforts on proactive systems change and community conditions. Tools like Accelerated Automated Search expedite our ability to get highly-targeted knowledge into the hands of the stakeholders to efficiently improve outcomes of interest.