I am a mother of two high energy boys. Since day one, I’ve been bombarded with advice and commentary about the right way to raise, feed, discipline, educate and even love my kids. We live in a society where there is constant public scrutiny about what we as parents are doing right or wrong. But at the end of the day, the smiles on my boys’ faces let me know that they feel loved and cared for.
Working in child welfare, though, reminds me that this is not the case for all children. And I often ask, why not? Shouldn’t all kids have the chance to just be kids—to experience stability, security and know they are loved and cared for? Don’t we all have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable citizens? The sad truth is that there are 4 million reports of child abuse or neglect every year in this country,[i] and an average of 5 children die each day from this abuse or neglect.[ii] Another 430,000 children live in foster care.[iii]
And what are the outcomes for those in foster care? Although there are many dedicated people who provide shelter and care for kids in foster care, their efforts are not always enough to curb the negative outcomes that many of these children face. More often than not, our children in foster care will never find a permanent home and will age out of the system, when they are 7 times more likely to become addicted to drugs and 5 times more likely to experience PTSD.[iv] And 43 percent will end up homeless by the age of 21.[v] I can’t help but think, we can and must do better!
With all the social and technological advances available today, isn’t there a better way to harness this power to enable our foster parents, caseworkers and, most importantly, children and families? We can’t stand by and continue to let children be robbed not only of their childhoods but also their opportunity for a stable future. There is great, untapped potential for profound innovation to realize accelerated outcomes for children and families. We need to ask ourselves what kind of system could increase permanency? What kind of tools and processes would empower children and families as well as enable caseworkers to accelerate outcomes? The famed children’s book author Dr. Seuss put it best: “Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.”
So, go ahead and wonder … what would the ideal look like? I imagine less children in group homes, an increase in adoptions and more high school or post-secondary schooling for youth that age out of the system. I imagine child and family centric processes. I imagine fundamentally new ways of delivering child welfare services grounded in data-driven insights providing a holistic family view. And finally, I imagine opportunities like those in the State of Kentucky, where children aging out of foster care can choose to remain in the system until age 21 providing independent living programs, housing, employment services and educational benefits.
If we try, think how far we can go toward really changing lives. Tell me how you think we can put the knowledge and ingenuity we possess into practice?
To find out how Accenture can help you reimagine your child welfare systems and accelerate outcomes, visit us at www.accenture.com/outcomes or contact me directly.
[i] Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. 2015. “Child Maltreatment 2015.” Available from http://americanspcc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2015-Child-Maltreatment.pdf.
[ii] Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. April 2017. “Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities 2015: Statistics and Interventions.” Available from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/fatality.pdf. Other data sources include https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport23.pdf; https://www.childwelfare.gov/; https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/statistics/can/stat-fatalities/#National; and http://americanspcc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2015-Child-Maltreatment.pdf.
[iii] Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. 2014. “Child Welfare Outcomes 2010-2014: Report to Congress.” Available from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cwo10_14.pdf.
[iv] National Foster Youth Institute. 2017. “51 Useful Aging Out of Foster Care Statistics.” Available from https://www.nfyi.org/51-useful-aging-out-of-foster-care-statistics-social-race-media/.
[v] Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. November 2016. “Highlights from the NYTD Survey.” Data Brief #5. Available from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/nytd_data_brief_5.pdf.