Onward: Things to be Optimistic About for the Future of Child Welfare

May 23, 2024 at 10:21 AM |
Posted by:
Christi Carmouze
Christi Carmouze

I've been thinking and getting excited for the connecting dots in the transformation space. There's so much room for improvement, it can be daunting and hard to know where to begin. However, what I’ve been seeing and hearing is promising towards the goal of keeping families safely together.

There is reason to be optimistic about child welfare transformation locally and nationwide.

There is increasing agreement on the factors that impact children and families. Many are turning their focus from the weights families struggle beneath, to building sustainable interwoven bridges that not only keep families afloat but able to build upon.

Expanding the conversation well beyond trauma competent, and beyond siloed trauma-informed practices to the landscapes that families and children live within and the landscape that services operate within. Using language that is intentional in emphasizing the capacity for resilience, solution-focused, preventative, and public health approaches for example. The increasingly holistic view shifts from pathologizing the parent to a strength-based view of parents and the family, with greater attention placed on the long-term benefits of seeing the family within its greater context.

Here are a few concepts that, although not new, have been coming across my screen as a part of narrative change work and are gaining traction in the public discussion. I have categorized by factors, mindset, and resources:

Factors & Conditions

  • Prevention - practices and policies that reduce the overload on families.
  • Concrete supports, even as some states lose ground for families.
  • Strengthening kinship care policies and supports.
  • Narrowing the child protective response, by defining and gaining agreement on the definition of safety risk.
  • Moving from "mandated reporter" to "mandated supporters", to "community supporting" to just "supporting".
  • Climate change that exacerbates existing health outcomes already impacted by access to medical care and racial disparities and the role of child and family-serving agencies.


  • Childhood adversity as a solvable problem.
  • Shifting Child Welfare to Family Well-being, or Child and Family Well-being Department among others, not just in name but through policy, practice, and resource allocation.
  • Co-designing with families and those with lived experience, while respecting their process.
  • Seeing children and families through a public health lens of safety, well-being, and health for the overall community.
  • A parent in a supportive community, is better positioned with internal and external resources to be a supportive parent.
  • Child well-being in the context within their family and in their community, not from.
  • Increased historical context setting on the origins of mandated reporting, ongoing disparities for under-resourced families and families of color. The long-term impact of the system on individual children, and families generationally, and the harm of unacknowledged implicit bias.
  • Organizations holding space to support the learning, questioning, and reflecting required to transform or change the system.


  • The importance of families having consistent concrete supports, including child allowance, housing, food, and childcare assistance.
  • Services provided by members of the community including persons with lived experience.

This is a great time to grapple with the trends in the field, and I hope this overview invites further analysis. What promising concepts are part of your work’s landscape? What strategies is your organization adopting to be a part of the thriving future of families and children? How much further upstream can we imagine to ensure children remain safely with their families?