Prioritizing Early Childhood to Safely Reduce the Need for Foster Care: A National Scan of Interventions

The research and practice brief, Prioritizing Early Childhood to Safely Reduce the Need for Foster Care: A National Scan of Interventions, is a companion brief to Casey Family Programs’ October 2013 research and practice publication, Making the Case for Early Childhood Intervention in Child Welfare, which underscores the importance of intervening early when families with young children come to the attention of child welfare systems. This brief provides a more in-depth exploration of programs and highlights the practice elements that contribute to effective programs for parents and their young children involved with child welfare systems based on a national scan and six site visits.

The physical and emotional vulnerability of young children, the vital importance of nurturing caregiving for positive child development and the reality that almost half of entries into out-of home-care are children under age six are a few main reasons why this age group needs to be a public policy priority.

The brief describes the essential service elements needed to create a comprehensive child welfare system focused on the safety, well-being and developmental needs of young children:

  • Focus on child-caregiver relationship.
  • Address substance abuse.
  • Coordinate early childhood systems of care.
  • Support court-driven collaborations.
  • Provide therapeutic/mental health services.

The findings from the site visits suggest promising avenues for how the difficult challenges of serving families with young children in child welfare can be effectively addressed. The brief concludes with recommendations for system improvements focused on four areas:

  • Create bridge services for systems and families.
  • Adjust policies, funding and the service array to match the severity and complexity of issues.
  • Advocate for and fund services that address families’ needs created by their socio-economic status and environment.
  • Invest in evaluation.


Report cover
Full Report