Integrating Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being for Children and Families in Child Welfare

The Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) stated, in its project summary for 2012: “Historically, Federal policies have impelled child welfare systems to focus disproportionately on ensuring safety and permanency for the children they serve, with less emphasis on the promotion well-being.”

Since the creation of the public child welfare system, child welfare professionals have worked to balance child safety and permanence, striving to keep children with their birth parents whenever possible. But are these efforts in the best interests of the child? Is safety really the best the system can offer maltreated children? ACYF Commissioner Bryan Samuels raised this and other questions with a memo in which he made the following statement:

“The research is clear that the experience of abuse and neglect leaves a particular traumatic fingerprint on the development of children that cannot be ignored if the child welfare system is to meaningfully improve the life trajectories of maltreated children, not merely keep them safe from harm.”

Researchers in fields ranging from child psychology to public health to education and social work have been compiling evidence since the 1960s that captures the numerous ways trauma impacts children who find themselves in the child welfare system. Trauma is frequently left unaddressed in foster youth, and according to studies unresolved childhood trauma often manifests later in life as substance abuse, obesity, homelessness and other negative outcomes, even when a child was technically kept safe from harm.

The report also breaks down each of the grants made with ACYF discretionary funds in 2012, which totaled $46.6 million, and identified a long list of programs and models that ACYF views as effective and evidence-based.

Click here to read the report.

-Christie Renick

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at