Advocacy in a Dynamic Child Welfare System
The Legal Intelligencer April 24th, 2016
Written by Tracey Thomasey
Since 2012, the Philadelphia child welfare system has been transitioning to a new model of service delivery using Community Umbrella Agencies (CUA) to work with families through an Improving Outcomes for Children (IOC) initiative. IOC has moved responsibility for foster care and in-home family services to 10 CUAs that are based in local communities so that families and providers can build familiarity with each other.
The initiative was launched with the first two CUAs opening in 2012 in North Philadelphia neighborhoods where child welfare caseloads have been the highest and most challenging. As of fall 2014, all 10 CUAs were fully operational, so that all new cases and most of the existing cases are now being serviced by CUA workers.
As with any significant system reform, the shift to community-based agencies has had challenges, including a high turnover rate among CUA workers, difficulty sharing information between entities, as well as monetary and social service resources that are inadequate to meet the needs of a growing child welfare system. We must ask ourselves: In a dynamic child welfare system, how do advocates assist children, families and the system in reaching their individual and collective potentials?