Child Welfare

The Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC) has worked with staff supporting the House and Senate Foster Youth Congressional Caucuses, as well as staff working for Committees that handle key legislation pertaining to child welfare. Through those interactions, we have responded by:

  • Commenting on the evidence standards for the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)

  • Summarizing research related to congregate care, a controversial aspect of FFPSA

  • Reviewing research on aging out of foster care as it relates to the Chaffee Act

  • Reviewing research on LGBTQ foster youth as it relates to why data are needed to better serve this population



Supporting Child Care

  • Well-staffed, trained, and funded child care resources, referral agencies, and quality rating systems

  • Sustainable financing

  • Deliberate and thoughtful hiring

  • Equity

  • Trainings and technical assistance 

  • Income eligibility for subsidies and tax credits

Kids Blowing Bubbles

COVID-19 disproportionately affects youth in or at risk of entering the foster care system. They traditionally have fewer resources and social support, and are at higher risk for abuse than their peers.



Preventing Child Maltreatment through Coordinated, Community-Based Strategies

  • Child maltreatment is both highly prevalent and costly.

  • Prevention will result in significant cost-savings by both stopping maltreatment before it happens AND providing targeted services once children are referred to CPS.

  • Prevention efforts work best when there is a coordinated, community level response to identify and deliver preventive services.

  • Current efforts have demonstrated limited impact and are not widely disseminated.

  • CAPTA has the potential to improve prevention efforts by increasing community capacity for coordinating services and systems, investing in rigorously evaluated demonstration projects, and fostering innovation.

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Plans of Safe Care


Over the last decade, the number of infants affected by prenatal substance exposure, withdrawal symptoms or alcohol use has significantly increased with the opioid crisis. Plans of Safe Care, implemented by states under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), address the needs, safety and well-being of substance-exposed infants and their families/caregivers.

  • How effective are Plans of Safe Care?

  • In what ways can Plans of Safe Care be implemented effectively versus ineffectively?

  • What forms of technical assistance are needed for states to more successful implementation?

  • Current efforts have demonstrated limited impact and are not widely disseminated.

  • CAPTA has the potential to improve prevention efforts by increasing community capacity for coordinating services and systems, investing in rigorously evaluated demonstration projects, and fostering innovation.



The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was introduced in 2016 and passed in early 2018. The focus of FFPSA is to prevent children from entering foster care by bolstering programs and services for children and families (e.g., mental health services/treatment and parent programs). FFPSA was primarily created to increase the amount of resources the government could spend on services with the goal of preventing foster care placement. FFPSA touched on other aspects of child welfare as well, such as placing limitations on congregate care funding and creating a clearinghouse of approved evidence-based programs and services.

Congregate Care 


  • One component of FFPSA was reducing states’ use of congregate care, which includes placements where children live in institutional settings (e.g., structured environments under the care of staff). In light of this, Congressional offices sought to better understand this type of placement. The RPC contacted researchers to compile information on this matter.

  • Congregate care programs are often more expensive and associated with poorer child outcomes than other types of placement. For instance, placement in just one group home increases the risk of delinquency by 2.5 times. 

  • Although placement in congregate care should not be the first option, it is sometimes necessary for the well-being and safety of children. Congregate care arrangements that closely mirror a family-like environment may be better for children than typical institutional settings.

  • For more detailed information about congregate care, refer to this webpage by the Casey Family Programs.


Request for public comment on evidence standards from the Administration for Children and Families

  • Staff working in the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees have been instrumental in supporting the roll out of FFPSA. The RPC was encouraged by staff to engage researchers in commenting on the guidelines set forth about evidence standards for determining program eligibility under FFPSA.

  • The standards in FFPSA were intended to reinforce the use of programs that have rigorous evidence demonstrating efficacy. Researchers' comments were intended to offer guidance on the parameters that determine which intervention studies would qualify for review.

  • We gathered input from researchers and research organizations on evidence-based practices and prevention services.

    • 24 researchers across several professional organizations signed on to a written response to the Administration for Children and Families, with even more contributing to the development of the response. In addition, 12 organizations also signed on.

  • The response included suggestions for the Administration to consider and addressed questions the Administration had about Clearinghouse inclusion criteria for programs and services.

A key organizational partner in this work includes the

Child Maltreatment Solutions Network

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Family First Prevention Services Act

Modernizing CFS Information Systems
  • Governments at all levels possess comprehensive information systems on citizen services that often exist in silos.

  • Significant issues and inefficiencies arise from fractured information systems.

  • Current efforts at federal, state & local levels.

  • Barriers and potential solutions.

    • Legal ambiguity​

    • Data use agreements

    • Lack of common child identifiers

    • Usability by front-line staff

    • CCWIS compliance ambiguity



Aging Out of Foster Care


The John. H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (Chafee) provides funding to programs, such as independent living programs and education/workplace training programs, that support youth transitioning (“aging”) out of foster care. Researchers involved with the RPC compiled research on aging out of foster care in response to House Foster Youth Caucus priorities on this topic.

What does “aging out” of foster care mean?

  • Youth who are either not adopted or placed back into the care of their parents by their 18th birthday age out of foster care and are emancipated, meaning that the government is no longer responsible for their guardianship.

What are the outcomes of aging out of foster care?

  • Youth who age out of foster care are more likely to have difficulty securing employment, procuring independent housing, and paying rent and utilities when they do find housing.

  • Outcomes of youth who age out of foster care could be improved through independent living services, as well as education and employment services. However, to date, many standard transitioning services (e.g., classroom-style trainings) have not demonstrated intended impacts.

  • Programs covered by Chafee should utilize research-informed practices and be evaluated for achieving intended goals. More work is needed to develop and test theory-driven and developmentally appropriate interventions serving this population.

  • For additional information about youth who have aged out of foster care, refer to this report by Courtney, Dwoesky, Lee, and Raap (2010).



Child Welfare in Tribal Communities

  • State of Child Welfare

    • Indian Child Welfare Act

    • AI/AN children are still disproportionately represented in the welfare system

  • How can Child Welfare be improved?

  • Challenges in Research

  • How to Improve Research Relations

  • Key Takeaways and Helpful Resources



  • The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) proposed modifications to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), including the addition of data elements regarding LGBTQ youth. The RPC was asked to summarize research regarding how such data could be valuable for improving services for this subsect of foster youth.

  • Researchers involved with the RPC summarized evidence on LBGTQ youth and provided recommendations for collecting data on this population, which is integral for learning more about their specific needs, challenges, and experiences.

  • Little systematic data on LGBTQ children and their unique needs is currently collected even though this group is over-represented in child welfare.

  • LGBTQ youth in the foster care system have unique needs that should be taken into consideration. Many LGBTQ youth involved in the child welfare system are forced from their homes because of their identity, are more likely to face discrimination within the system, and have an increased need for acceptance and emotional support.

  • LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system are:

    • At higher risk for experiencing homelessness, substance use, and mental and physical health problems, as well as disparities in education and employment.

    • More likely to attempt and complete suicide, live in group homes, have a higher number of home placements, and be hospitalized.

  • When staff working with LGBTQ youth are aware of their clients’ identity, services can be tailored to meet their unique needs and staff can follow best practices of placing individuals in housing according to their gender identity.



Character of Education and Career & Technical Education

  • Character of Education programs allow children and young adults to develop into well- rounded, empathetic individuals.

  • Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have shown to help students prepare for college and careers after graduation.

  • Character Education Programs

  • Career & Technical Programs