Improving Child Welfare

An estimated one in 17 Americans will spend at least one day in foster care. Many of those children end up separated from relatives, in group homes, or in poorly matched foster homes in part because the foster family licensing process (including for relatives) is cumbersome and often takes more than 200 days. Most recruitment relies on billboards and word of mouth instead of data. And the sense of urgency to safely place a child on a moment’s notice means initial placements are often not family members or based on the child’s specific needs. This system is especially problematic for kin families, as children can languish for months living with strangers or in group homes while waiting for adults who already know and love them to be approved as placements.


To address these crises, the state of Rhode Island recently transformed practices within its foster care licensing and approval system leading to increased efficiencies, such as reducing the time it takes for foster families to become licensed.  Additional states have committed to adapting the lessons learned in the coming months and by scaling this practice to additional states, this project has the ability to markedly improve the states’ processes, reducing the time it takes for foster families to be vetted and matched with children, and impacting the lives of thousands of foster children and serve as a national model.

Several states have been experimenting with creative practices that lead to tangible improvements and efficiencies in their support of foster children and families. The Digital Service Collaborative, in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, brought together 15 states and counties that are at the cutting edge of this work, placing them in collaboration with New America’s Public Interest Technology team, Foster America, technologists, and other key stakeholders in the space to create an actionable playbook. The playbook documents practices that can be quickly operationalized to improve processes, including reducing the time it takes for foster families to be vetted and matched with children. The ultimate goal of this playbook is to create positive solutions for problems impacting the thousands of children in foster care. 


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