Editor's Message - Promoting Well-Being for Foster Children and Youth

Judge Dean LewisJudges' Page Editor Judge J. Dean Lewis (retired)
Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Directors
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

 


"Child well-being" is a concept that officially became integrated into child welfare and dependency court practice upon passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) and subsequent Health and Human Services Children's Bureau implementation of Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs). ASFA set three goals for foster children:

  • Safety
  • Permanency
  • Well-Being

Within the category of child and family well-being, the CFSR reviews of state child welfare cases examine child outcomes based upon the following requirements: first, that families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children's needs; second, that children receive appropriate services to meet their educational needs; and third, that children receive adequate services to meet their physical and mental health needs.

Prior to the passage of ASFA, courts were responsible for making a legal finding that reasonable efforts had been made to prevent a child's removal and to reunify. Additionally, courts were to ensure that there was compliance with a court review hearing schedule and permanency timelines. Advocates for children complained that child safety was not a priority; that reasonable-efforts services were focused on the needs of the parents, with few services offered to the child; that hearings and timelines were not child-centered; and that many children spent years in "foster care drift" and never achieved permanency. Prior to passage of ASFA, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) developed "best practices" for child welfare cases. These "best practices" recommended that courts utilize early assessment of the reasonable efforts service needs of both the child and parents; that courts front-end load rehabilitative services to meet those needs; and that hearing schedules and case review procedures recognize the child's developmental need for timely permanency. NCJFCJ also fostered the concept of judicial leadership in convening the court, child-serving agencies and the community to ensure development of services and programs to meet the needs of the foster child and court-involved families.

In ASFA, the term "child well-being" was not specifically defined but the "best practices" promoted by NCJFCJ gave extensive guidance to courts and child welfare agencies. For many communities, judicial leadership, implementation of NCJFCJ "best practices" and the collaboration of the court, child-serving agencies and community members such as CASA volunteers brought together the critical resources that promote child well-being and successful outcomes for foster children and youth.

Children who have sustained the trauma of abuse and/or neglect often have extensive health and mental health needs, developmental and social integration delays, as well as educational challenges. In this issue of The Judges' Page, articles focus on the term "child well-being" and its multifaceted aspects. It is our hope that these articles will inspire courts, child-serving agencies and communities to develop new insight and expand their commitment to promote and enhance the well-being of each and every foster child and youth.

Return to main page with list of articles.

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