To Improve Child Welfare, Let Social Workers do Social Work

March is National Social Work month, and there will be a lot of talk about the importance of social workers. But for all of the praise heaped on the profession, there sure seems to be

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Marie K. Cohen
About Marie K. Cohen 68 Articles
Marie K. Cohen (MPA, MSW) is a child advocate, researcher, and policy analyst. She worked as social worker in the District of Columbia's child welfare system for five years. She is a member of the Citizen's Review Committee for the DC Child and Family Services Agency and the DC Child Fatality Review Commission and a mentor to a foster youth. Follow her blog at, on Facebook at Fostering Reform or on Twitter@fosteringreform.

1 Comment

  1. I think the missing ingredient is the community’s responsibility to meet the needs of its members. Child Welfare should only be a cog in the wheel of support a family receives – to monitor the case and foster placement, report to the court, and perhaps create a central hub for information – not to man the entire effort. Child Welfare and foster care are designed and implemented to be temporary and by statute are fairly time-limited (ASFA sets some pretty firm limits); the families we work with will remain in our communities long after Child Welfare is gone, so solutions should be based in the long-term – something our community supports must (and should) bear the burden of in order for our families in need to be successful.

    It would be immensely encouraging to begin conversations regarding how our communities can support our families, not what Child Welfare, acting alone, has done to fail them. Virtually anyone with exposure to the Child Welfare system knows its many limitations; the possibility of our communities supporting our families in a long-term, culturally appropriate manner is far greater than a single agency, acting in virtual isolation, to do so.

    Perhaps offer the possibility of Collective Impact – disburse the responsibility and accountability for supporting families experiencing distress to our communities and allow Child Welfare to assess and monitor the safety of its children, as the system was designed. Child Welfare isn’t a solution to our families experience of distress, it is a time-limited response to mitigate the results of that distress.

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