Arkansas

Goal: Arkansas will safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 20 percent by 2012.

"Care, Commit, Connect: Together for Arkansas's Children and Families"

Arkansas' overall goal is to safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 20 by 2012.

The major strategies that Arkansas has developed and is implementing to achieve this goal include:

  • Develop, implement and evaluate a new practice model to ensure the most appropriate services are provided to children and families in a consistent manner that leads to positive outcomes
  • Establish of a system for effective communication, professional development, and organizational change to build a child welfare system that keeps children safe and strengthens families
  • Create of an Arkansas Service Array to provide appropriate and accessible community-based services to children and families based on their identified needs

Since beginning the Policy Academy in 2008, Arkansas has increased the number of completed adoptions from 427 to 635 in 2009. Arkansas continues to work on implementation of the strategies to achieve safe reduction. In the past seven months, the average number of caseloads in Arkansas has decreased from 38 to 31. When recently hired staff complete training and are able to carry cases, Arkansas anticipates that the average caseload for the state will drop to 27.

Florida

Goal: Florida will safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 50 percent by 2012.

In 2007, Gov. Charlie Crist and former Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary, Bob Butterworth, declared a goal of safely reducing the number of children in foster care by 50 percent by 2012. As of February 2010, the state has seen a37 percent reduction in their foster care population without an increase in child safety issues.

Florida is focused on six key approaches to safe reduction:

  • Increased flexibility in funding through the federal Title IV-E waiver to expand the service array for prevention and in-home services
  • Increased emphasis on permanency achievement focusing on reunification and/or placement with relatives
  • Emphasis on timely adoption when reunification cannot be achieved safely
  • Meaningful engagement of youth in all levels of child welfare and reliance on the youth "voice" for solution building
  • Collaboration with "critics" to ensure continuous improvement
  • Routine use of data to identify gaps and technology to support caseworkers in the field.

Gov. Crist has been a champion for child welfare system improvement. During his tenure, the Office of Adoption and Child Protection and Children and Youth Cabinet within the Executive Office of the Governor was established. Current DCF Secretary George Sheldon has also focused communication efforts on safe reduction throughout the state and recently recorded a video message (located at http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/initiatives/fostercare/) to express these priorities to the child welfare workforce.

Child welfare leaders in Florida have made five major commitments to support the state's safe reduction goal; transparency, innovation, leadership, technology and data. The combination of these five core commitments has led the state to achieve a great deal of success.

Ohio

Goal: Ohio will safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 25 percent in 2012 and 50 percent in 2020.

Ohio's overall goal is to safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 25 percent in 2012 and 50 percent in 2020. Since 2008, Ohio has reached a 10 percent reduction in the number of children in foster care.

To achieve the broad reduction goal, the state has set the following objectives:

  • Align state and local leaders to ensure that every child in Ohio has a safe and permanent family
  • Reinvest funds from the reduction of substitute care into effective prevention efforts within the community
  • Develop accurate and timely data at the state and local level to inform policy/practice decisions and gauge effectiveness of program/project outcomes
  • Eliminate disproportional representation and disparity within the child welfare system

Ohio's safe reduction efforts are also a part of the state collaboration with the Supreme Court of Ohio and Ohio's Summit on Children. Gov. Ted Strickland and Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer convened the Ohio Summit on Children in May 2008 with the goal of enhancing safety and well-being and establishing safe, permanent home environments for Ohio's children. A follow up Summit was held November 13, 2009. In 2008, 79 county teams (out of Ohio's 88 counties) participated; 70 counties participated in the 2009 Summit. The county teams consisted of juvenile court judges, directors of children's services agencies, county commissioners, school districts, behavioral health agencies, and substance abuse treatment agencies, public and private organizations and Family and Children First Councils. County teams developed their own plans to enhance safety and well-being for children within their county.

Oregon

Goal: Oregon will safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 26 percent by 2010.

Oregon has exceeded the initial goal of a 20 percent overall safe reduction of children in foster care from 2005. The state has a new goal of safely reducing the number of children in foster care by an additional 6 percent in 2010. Oregon also set several sub-goals towards safe reduction including:

  • Increase placements of children with relatives by 50 percent
  • Reduce the number of children entering care by 10 percent
  • Increase foster care exits by 20 percent
  • Reduce the unequal treatment for Native American and African American children in Oregon's foster care system
  • Maintain or reduce current child abuse/neglect recurrence rate of 7.5 percent

Oregon has a unique partnership between Casey Family Programs, the Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Commission on Children and Families to safely reduce foster care. Although goals are set statewide, eight counties have been selected to receive additional technical assistance and support to implement community based approaches to safely reducing foster care. The eight counties have developed action oriented work plans to address each of the five goals.

Many statewide activities are taking place simultaneously to support safe reduction in Oregon including:

  • Implementation of a strategic plan for the Department of Human Services which prioritizes safely reducing the number of children in foster care.
  • Integration of the Governor's Equity Task Force in the safe reduction efforts. The Task Force has met several times to address disproportionality and disparity for children of color in Oregon. The Task Force will provide recommendations to the Governor Kulongoski by October, 2010.
  • Engagement of the nine confederated Tribes in Oregon in the plans to safely reduce the number of children in foster care.
  • Involvement of communities at the local, county and statewide level. The state has engaged a professional communications consultant to help communicate the safe foster care reduction message to the public and stakeholders among the eight pilot counties initiating this work.
  • Statewide Family Finding training featuring Kevin Campbell, a national expert in reconnecting families. More than 120 representatives from state, local and community partners attended training in 2009. Several county teams are developing local Family Finding/Reconnecting Family programs as a strategy of increasing relative foster care placements by 50 percent.

Pennsylvania

Goal: Pennsylvania will safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 15-20 percent by 2010.

Pennsylvania's overall goal is to safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 15 percent-20 percent by January 1, 2012. The Pennsylvania Leadership Team is working with 16 counties directly to develop county specific reduction plans that can then be modeled throughout the Commonwealth. Each team is led by a state member and meets with each county on a monthly basis for case reviews and systemic discussions to reduce the barriers to permanency. In addition, state leadership meets on a quarterly basis with all 16 counties to network and share best practices. Semi-annually, counties bring their integrated NGA policy academy teams to an all day meeting.

The sub goals in Pennsylvania include increasing safety, reducing unnecessary reliance on out of home care, increasing the timely meeting of permanency and reducing re-entries into the system.

The strategies to meet these goals are:

  • Increase the use of strategic and standardized decision-making processes
  • Engage families as partners, searching and engaging all natural systems for the families
  • Emphasize fathers and paternal relatives, creating alternative in-home services
  • Partner with the local and state courts

Between November 2008 and December 2009 Pennsylvania safely reduced the number of children in out-of-home care by 13 percent.

South Carolina

Goal: South Carolina will safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 20 percent by 2012.

South Carolina set an overall goal to safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 20 percent by 2012. South Carolina child welfare has worked with partners and stakeholders in system transformation to help the children and families of South Carolina by investing in ways to safely prevent or delay out-of-home placement.

The major components of South Carolina's plan include:

  • Collaboration with service providers and stakeholders to embark on the journey of system transformation to assure that it meets South Carolina-specific needs and enhances the overall goals of improved outcomes for children.
  • Engagement of families in identification of strengths and weaknesses, access to specific services from qualified professionals, and supporting the community to provide for their residents.
  • Partnership with the South Carolina Association of Children's Homes and Family Services to develop policies that provide quality services to children through the delivery of a new service array as group home placements decrease.
  • Implementation of the Families First Program that engages families to support one another while ensuring that children are safe.
  • Partnership between the Department of Social Services and the Department of Drug and Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services to transform the way children and families receive services for Alcohol and other Drug Abuse issues.

South Carolina has successfully and safely reduced the number of children in foster care by 5 percent since 2008 based on implementation of these components.