2019 SIGNATURE REPORT
ON THE PATHWAY
safe children | strong families | supportive communities
At Casey Family Programs, we believe that each one of us has a role to play in building Communities of Hope, where children and families get the support they need, in the ways that work best for them. We have been on this pathway of hope since 1966.
The path is not a simple one and it reflects the ever-changing landscape affecting the safety and success of children and families in every part of our vast and diverse country. It also reflects the evolution of the work in communities across America as they learn new information, as they understand different perspectives and as they forge new partnerships with all sectors of society.
As we move closer to 2020, our goal to safely reduce the need for foster care by 50 percent is more urgent than ever. Children and families across the country continue to struggle with a host of challenges, including the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic.
We recognize that the year 2020 is not the endpoint of our journey, but a milestone on the pathway of hope. Our destination this year, next year and for the years ahead remains building Communities of Hope.
Another hopeful new milestone is the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018. This historically important act provides fresh opportunities for states and tribes to incorporate prevention services in their work with families to safely reduce the need for foster care.
When Jim Casey created this foundation more than a half century ago, he wanted it to operate in perpetuity. I believe he did that because he understood that the pathway to Communities of Hope for children and families would not be a simple one and he intended for us to be there every step of the way.
So the question we need to ask ourselves on this journey is this: How far can we go to improve the lives of children and families? The answer is that working together we will continue on until supportive communities and families nurture the safety, success and hope of every child.
Thank you for choosing to walk with us on this pathway of hope.
David C. Mills
Chair, Board of Trustees
At the base of every aspiration in our lives — every vision, every dream and every goal — is hope. Every search for a solution is driven by hope. Just as every effort to lead, to inspire, to innovate and to motivate — they're all driven by hope. Hope and the human capacity to change.
Since 2006, Casey Family Programs has been driven by a vision of hope for children and families across America that we call 2020: Building Communities of Hope. The guiding light of our work reflects a simple but powerful set of beliefs that we believe all Americans share.
- We believe that every child deserves a safe, supportive and permanent family.
- We believe that every family should have the support of a strong and caring community.
- We believe that every community can create hope and opportunities for its children and families.
- And we believe that everyone has a role to play in building Communities of Hope.
Based on those shared beliefs we have sought to influence a safe reduction in the need for foster care and to improve outcomes for children and families who experience the child welfare system, especially in regard to education, employment and mental health.
And we recognized that if we as a nation were to achieve these goals, we would need to invest our resources differently, and we would need to invite leaders from all five sectors of society — the public sector, businesses, philanthropy, nonprofit and, most importantly, communities themselves — to the table to imagine a better, more hopeful world for children and families.
We have seen tremendous progress thanks to leadership from all sectors at all levels. These steps forward have come despite challenges including the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the continuing opioid epidemic. Indeed, we see fewer children living in foster care while more and more communities are developing innovative approaches that can improve outcomes for children and families.
This year, we will reach a historic milestone on our pathway of hope. Beginning in October, many states will begin to implement the most important piece of federal child welfare legislation in more than half a century. The Family First Prevention Services Act has the potential to help leaders in states and tribes begin investing more effectively in what we know works best to support the safety and success of children and families.
More than any other piece of federal legislation, the Family First Act has the potential to help leaders transform today’s child welfare system into a child and family well-being system.
Under the legislation, significant federal funding will be available to help states and tribes provide effective, evidence-based services to families to prevent child abuse and neglect that might otherwise lead to foster care. Communities will be able to provide more support to extended family members who are taking care of children in need, helping to keep critical connections to community and culture. And fewer children will spend extended time living in institutional settings, returning home sooner to family surroundings.
Why are we so optimistic that we are on the right pathway of hope for children and families? Because we can see examples of communities that are leading the way.
In this report, you’ll learn about communities and individuals who are lighting the pathway of hope for children and families, making it easier to see a way forward for their futures. They also serve as guiding beacons for those searching for solutions to improve the lives of their residents.
You will hear hope in the stories of mothers, fathers and extended family members who have overcome great challenges to not only help their children to thrive, but who have gone above and beyond to help others on the same journey. You will also visit communities as distinct as the thriving tech metropolis of San Francisco and a neighborhood in a historic manufacturing city in Maryland that have forged similar paths and approaches to keeping their children safe by strengthening families through community supports.
Each story is an example of leadership that can shine a light for others to follow. And in each case, they provide examples of the kinds of investments in prevention and resilience that Family First can better support.
Our nation’s pathway of hope is leading us in the right direction, but we still have a long road ahead. As long as access to equity, opportunity and possibility rise and fall based on the ZIP code that you live in, we still have work to do.
As we approach a new decade, we have an opportunity to set a course for hope in our communities. Instead of faltering on a dimly lit road, we are called to be lights for those who can’t yet see the promise of tomorrow.
As you read this report, I ask you to keep one question in mind. How will you be that light?
William C. Bell, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Keeping families out of crisis
Across America, conversations are growing about how to ensure the safety and success of children and families. They turn on this key question: What would the child welfare system look like if we could better support families before they are in crisis, before children are separated?
Today the child welfare system in America is entering a watershed period. With greater knowledge about what works best to keep children safe, strengthen families and address the lifelong impact of trauma, leaders in government, business, nonprofits, philanthropy and communities are thinking, planning and acting in ways that can help transform our approach to child protection into a true system of child and family well-being.
From San Francisco to Hagerstown, Maryland, communities across America are on the pathway of hope for children and families.
At Casey Family Programs, we are focused on supporting public and tribal child welfare systems’ efforts to safely reduce the need for foster care. By working directly with more than 1,000 children and families, we seek to demonstrate and spread practices that can help more children have the safe, stable and permanent family they deserve. And we work to promote reinvestment of resources at the federal, tribal, state and local level into building stronger, more supportive communities and child- and family-serving systems.
This year marks an important step forward in the country’s collective effort to better invest our resources in preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect. Beginning in October, states and American Indian tribes will be able to take advantage of significant new federal funding under the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First).
Before Family First, the vast majority of federal child welfare funds were available only after a child had experienced significant abuse or neglect and was placed in foster care. This landmark law, passed in 2018, will help child welfare systems move toward better support for struggling families before a child is removed. It allows states and tribes to access new federal child welfare funds to support evidence-based mental health treatment, drug addiction treatment and in-home parenting programs. The law provides significant new resources to work with families to keep children safe.
However, realizing the full potential of Family First will require the vision and commitment of local leaders across the nation to begin shifting long-held models for responding to abuse and neglect and embracing new approaches that can build on the strength of all sectors in a community.
STRONG STEPS IN BUILDING COMMUNITIES OF HOPE
Building hope in San Francisco
San Francisco’s Family Resource Center Initiative provides parents with a range of support services, including child care, counseling, parent education, mentoring, case management and other activities that strengthen families and improve child well-being. The multisector effort brings together government, community, nonprofits, business and philanthropy to share resources and use data to track their progress.
Each of the city’s 26 resource centers offers a different level of service based on its community’s needs. Some provide basic support services, while others provide more intensive or comprehensive services, including evidence-based parenting classes, hands-on interaction with children, and referrals to other resources with case management support.
They focus on prevention and collaborating among agencies, using data to help them decide where a resource center should go to focus on early intervention, helping families before they enter the child welfare system.
The family resource centers are a critical part of the city’s strategy to keep more children safe from harm and with their families. The results have been impressive. Since 2008, the city has safely reduced the rate of children in foster care by 52 percent. Perhaps even more promising, the substantiated rate of child abuse has dropped by 60 percent.
San Francisco’s efforts demonstrate the importance of local leaders in forging a new vision for how to support children and families.
Family First allows states and tribes, tribal organizations or tribal consortiums that operate programs under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act the option to use new open-ended Title IV-E funds to provide evidence-based prevention services and programs for up to 12 months for children at imminent risk of entering foster care, any parenting or pregnant youth in foster care, and the parents — biological or adoptive — as well as kinship caregivers of these children.
For Katie Albright, CEO of San Francisco’s Safe and Sound, investing in helping families to care for children safely provides an incredible return. She notes that child abuse costs the Bay Area an estimated $2 billion in a single year.
Explore resources about the Family First Prevention Services Act
Over the past 25 years, a growing body of health and social science research has demonstrated the tremendous impact that child abuse and neglect, and associated trauma, have on the future well-being of children and their families. Studies show that children who age out of foster care are at much higher risk of experiencing homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and other poor outcomes. One of the largest studies of child abuse and neglect and impacts later in life found that as instances of maltreatment, or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), increase, so does the risk for a host of poor health and well-being outcomes as adults. Similarly, brain science has shown how exposure to ongoing “toxic” stress can rewire developing minds, leading to health and behavioral challenges.
Yet our child welfare system’s basic approach to child protection has remained rooted mostly in a “child-rescue” mentality that removes children from families after significant abuse or neglect has taken place. The gap between what we know we should do for children and families and how we actually respond to abuse and neglect remains large.
Understanding the impact of trauma is fundamental to working with the more than 1,000 families that Casey Family Programs serves directly each year.
The goal of our trauma- and healing-informed approach is to develop and demonstrate effective, equitable and practical solutions to safely reduce the need for foster care, improve well-being, and secure safe and lifelong families for every single youth in our care.
The impact of this effort reaches beyond those families, as our team works to demonstrate and spread best practices and engage with state, tribal and county child welfare systems, private providers and community partners. Our hope is that the knowledge we share and the work we demonstrate will impact child welfare systems so that more families remain intact or, if children have been removed from their parents, they remain with their extended families and are reunified safely and quickly or achieve permanency through guardianship or adoption. We envision a system in which no youth ages out of foster care.
For many communities, a pathway of hope begins by looking at the health and well-being of families at a neighborhood level.
That is why Casey Family Programs developed the Community Opportunity Map. The map is an easy-to-use interactive tool that highlights the aspects of communities that are associated with safe children and strong families. This interactive, research-based framework is composed of select U.S. Census Bureau indicators and is available for any community in the nation to use. It was informed by significant evidence of the community factors correlated with child maltreatment and a healthy community framework developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The tool maps community indicators at geographic levels defined by the user, from the state level down to neighborhoods.
A better way in Bester
Hagerstown is a historic manufacturing and transportation center in Maryland whose nickname, Hub City, reflects its status as a meeting point for rails and roads that connect Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia in the heart of the Great Appalachian Valley. Like many communities in America, the city of nearly 40,000 some 75 miles west of Baltimore is struggling mightily with opioids, compounding decades of manufacturing job losses and other factors that can impact the health and stability of families.
People in the city’s Bester neighborhood were looking for better ways to support families and safely reduce the high rate of children being removed from their families due to abuse or neglect. Business as usual wasn’t the answer. Instead, they chose a different pathway of hope.
From 1883 to 1927, San Mar Family and Community Services was an orphanage in Bester. The orphanage moved about 10 miles away in 1927, increasing services over time and opening a group home providing clinical care. But in 2013, CEO Keith Fanjoy attended a conference with child welfare leaders who had changed their approach. They spoke about strengthening family bonds and working with communities to identify and help at-risk families before they were in crisis.
So he proposed a radical shift in San Mar’s model: moving toward prevention instead of solely reacting after a crisis had already occurred.
The organization used data to pinpoint where the greatest needs were, and that pointed them back to Bester, where they were 90 years prior. That’s now home to the Bester Community of Hope, which brings together community partners, local businesses, government, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations to support children and families in the Bester Elementary School neighborhood.
STORIES OF HOPE
Hope comes in many faces and places. These parents, family members and advocates work to help others on their journey.
From her porch in New Iberia in rural Louisiana, Raven Sigure watches her children chase each other around the yard, playing in the warm sun. That the mother of five could enjoy this simple scene is a remarkable achievement. Her children had been removed from her care due to parental neglect, the result of Raven's 15-year struggle with drug addiction.
The story could have ended there. But it didn’t. Today, Raven works for the very system that removed her children, serving as one of the state’s first “parent partners.” The program pairs parent mentors who have successfully navigated the child welfare system with parents whose children have been removed and placed in foster care.
When a child is abused or dies, blame often falls on the child protection agency. Why wasn’t more done to protect the child? Yet child protection agencies are just one part of a child welfare system. A government agency alone can’t prevent the estimated 1,500 deaths of children each year due to abuse and neglect. Nor can it singlehandedly impact the flow of children being removed from their families and entering foster care — more than a quarter-million in 2017.
The ongoing opioid addiction crisis continues to challenge families, contributing to the recent increase of children in foster care and those living with relatives. In fact, an estimated 2.6 million children are being raised by grandparents or other extended family and close friends because parents aren’t able to take care of their children.
Michigan grandmother Jan Wagner, a 2019 Casey Excellence for Children Award winner, took in her grandson because of her daughter's addiction problems and eventually adopted her grandson. She uses her experience to help others and believes that if kinship caregivers are given the help and resources they need, they can provide their children with the future they deserve.
Family First provides new resources to support extended families like the Wagners, who provide safety, stability and love for a child and keep critical connections to shared cultures and communities.
Casey Family Programs partners with tribes and American Indian/Alaska Native communities to support their development of effective and culturally responsive child welfare services. Our Indian Child Welfare Program works on national and tribal initiatives that strengthen tribal nations’ capacity to keep children healthy, safe and connected with their families, communities and cultures.
Stephanie Benally understands the need for this connection. A 2019 Casey Excellence for Children Award winner, she serves as the Native American Specialist for Utah Foster Care and works to educate state child welfare workers, judges, attorneys and guardians ad litem on the importance of placing Native American children with kinship caregivers to ensure they have a connection to their families and culture. This is in keeping with the Indian Child Welfare Act.
On The Pathway of Hope:
2019 Signature Report
PDF: 4.4 MB
Order a print copy
Email us to order your free copy of
On The Pathway of Hope: 2019 Signature Report