The Alliance for Early Success recently formed a new community of practice with a dual focus on early childhood and child welfare issues. Purposeful attention on these cross-cutting issues is important given that young children are most vulnerable for child maltreatment, particularly children under 3, and enter foster care at higher rates than older children.
The implications of child maltreatment on child development are well-documented and include short and long-term impacts on physical, social, emotional and cognitive growth. Further, there is urgency in the need to address racial and ethnic inequities that have persisted far too long in both systems and disadvantage young children and their families, particularly Black and Native America families. The trauma and negative effects associated with family separation when a child enters foster care are largely preventable if we can build equitable policies and practices.
The Aligning EC and CW Community of Practice, which is in a pilot stage, brings together a select number of Alliance Allies to learn about the complexities of child welfare and share best thinking on effective approaches to meeting the unique needs of young children in child welfare systems.
“During the early years in life, positive and negative experiences alike can significantly influence a child’s social, emotional, and physical health. Sadly, very young children are at highest risk of maltreatment,” says Rachael Miller, policy director at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and member of the EC and CW CoP. “For too long, policy approaches to preventing child abuse and neglect have been too siloed. But we know that the factors underlying child maltreatment are complex and span multiple domains of life. To succeed in wide-scale prevention, we need to coordinated efforts focused on shared outcomes of child and family well-being. Aligning early childhood and child welfare policy approaches, we can build a strong foundation for strengthening families and preventing child abuse and neglect before it occurs.”
Advocates who participate in the Aligning EC and CW Community of Practice will examine multiple intersection points of child welfare and early childhood policy and practice, including
- Child care for young children in foster care as well as for families with young children who are receiving in-home child welfare services;
- Home visiting and related in-home parent support for families involved with child welfare and for pregnant or parenting teens in foster care; and
- The provision of early intervention services for young children involved in child welfare for whom referral to Part C early intervention is required.
Advocates meet every other month for facilitated peer dialogue; periodically guest speakers will join to share their expertise. There are plans for an online information center where CoP participants can post questions and share events of interest, news articles, reports, and important policy or legislative developments.
While the community of practice is still in the pilot phase, the Alliance expects to extend invitations to more of its state allies later in the year.