Child welfare leaders are getting behind an initiative that they say would accelerate a major national shift toward building a child safety system that prioritizes keeping families from falling into the foster care system because of severe maltreatment while at the same time improving the safety of children at risk of maltreatment.
The idea for the proposed National Partnership for Child Safety emerges from data-driven recommendations by the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. With support from 26 state, county, tribal child and family-serving agencies, the partnership will work with the Justice Department-funded Child Safety Forward as well as Thriving Families-Safer Children.
Safety science provides a way for child protection agencies to understand the complex nature of their work and the factors that influence decision-making. The framework also provides a safe and supportive environment for professionals to process, share and learn from critical incidents to prevent future tragedies.
The idea is to grow child welfare agencies’ ability to share and act on data to identify and protect children at risk of maltreatment or death. Members of the collaborative plan to build a standardized platform on which critical incidents can be posted, reviewed, analyzed and acted upon across jurisdictions.
With federal policies shifting to a more proactive, preventive approach to child welfare, the collaborative wants to promote collective responsibility and strengthen the accountability of systems and individuals. With technical assistance from the University of Kentucky, the partnership would apply the principles of safety science to child welfare systems.
This partnership’s strategy resembles the thinking behind quality improvement programs in safety-critical industries such as nuclear power plants and surgical hospitals and would be expanded over time to include additional child welfare entities across the U.S.
“Better data and data sharing across jurisdictions are critical steps to developing approaches to address children who are most at risk,” said Chip Spinning, executive director of Franklin County Children’s Services in Ohio and executive committee co-chair of the National Partnership for Child Safety. “Working together, we can build the knowledge base of evidence-based practices that can reduce harm and prevent fatalities, before they occur.”