The current child welfare system is rooted in investigation as a response to children who already may have experienced abuse or neglect. In this construct, safety is defined as keeping children safe from further maltreatment after they experience harm. However, brain science and research show that intervening after a serious trauma has occurred is much less effective than preventing the initial trauma altogether. By addressing the needs of families before there is a crisis, children can avoid the trauma of abuse or neglect and potential placement into foster care.
A 21st century child welfare system invests in population-based prevention strategies for families that are most at risk of becoming involved with child welfare. These strategies would increase the protective factors of parents, including building social networks, increasing knowledge of child development, and offering concrete supports in times of need.