Traditional child protection philosophies
In the past, many child welfare agencies, especially large ones, were seen as “rescue” agents—or worse, “baby snatchers”—known more for removing children from family settings that were seen as unsafe than for services to help families stabilize and stay together.
This was a traditional philosophy driven by high caseloads, the urgency of safety and federal funding streams that offered support only when children were placed.
All children deserve safe, permanent, nurturing families
Child welfare leaders across the country are delivering a different message now. The bottom line is a basic one: Children should not grow up in a foster care system. All children deserve safe, permanent and nurturing families.
More support for families and communities
To be sure, safety and protection of children remain paramount concerns of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and other agencies. But their approach is shifting from relying primarily on out-of-home care to providing support for families and children in their own homes with community-based services specifically tailored to each family’s needs.
Flexibility in spending
To help support this new direction, California applied for and received a five-year waiver from federal government spending restrictions. The waiver, a capped allocation of federal and state funds with a 2 percent increase each year, was approved in March 2006.
It did not provide new money, but the two counties that chose to participate—Los Angeles and Alameda—have freedom in how they spend the money.
Positive results, lessons learned
Throughout 2008, despite a growing state and national economic crisis, DCFS continued to safely reduce the number of children in temporary out-of-home care. By the end of January 2009, there were 16,429 children in care, down from 18,304 when the waiver was formally inaugurated in July 2007.
This report tells some of the stories of the strategies used in Los Angeles between 2008 and 2009. It is one in a series of reports that will chronicle the story of the Title IV-E waiver and practice change in Los Angeles County.