The Child and Family Services Reviews and Child Well-Being

Nina Williams-MbengueNina Williams-Mbengue, Program Director, Children and Families Program, National Conference of State Legislatures

Summary: In this second article, the author explains the challenges states have faced and strategies they have pursued to improve outcomes on the child well-being reviews. (See her previous article in this issue, "The Legislative Role in Child Well-Being.")

According to an initial analysis of the most recent round of federal Child and Family Services Reviews (congressionally authorized reviews of child welfare system performance in the areas of child safety, permanency and well-being), one area of challenge for states has been that of child and family well-being.[1] States have been particularly challenged with Well-Being Outcome 1: “Families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children’s needs.”

Specific items related to Well-Being Outcome 1 are:

  • “Needs—and services of child, parents, foster parents,” measures state performance in accurately assessing the needs of children, parents and foster parents (both at the child’s entry into foster care and ongoing) to identify needed services. It also examines whether states then provide the identified services.
  • “Child and family involvement in case planning,” measures state performance in ongoing involvement of parents and children, whenever appropriate, in the case planning process.
  • “Caseworker visits with parents,” measures state efforts to ensure that the frequency and quality of visits between caseworkers and mothers and fathers are sufficient to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of children and promote achievement of case goals.

The two main factors that were associated with Well-Being Outcome 1 were difficulty providing services to children who remain at home and difficulty in engaging fathers in case planning and services.

In those jurisdictions that performed well on this particular indicator, key strategies included:

  • Accurate assessment of parent and child needs and provision of services to meet those needs
  • Service planning and coordination
  • Family team decision making
  • Child and family involvement in case planning
  • Availability of an array of services
  • Worker responsiveness to the needs of children and families
  • Engaging non-custodial and incarcerated parents

Author biography:

Nina Williams-Mbengue coordinates NCSL’s work on child welfare, which is currently focused on helping state lawmakers in their work to develop policy related to children and families involved in public child welfare and foster care systems. Williams-Mbengue has been a member of the Child Welfare Project for 17 years where she provides a range of informational services to state legislatures through educational session development, publications, research and testimony on issues related to child welfare.

Williams-Mbengue has authored and co-authored numerous NCSL publications. Before joining NCSL, she worked in the Children's Division of the American Humane Association, where she provided technical and research assistance on child maltreatment issues to child welfare professionals, researchers and the general public.


[1] State Progress Toward Child Welfare Improvement Findings from Fiscal Years 2007 and 2008 of the Child and Family Service Reviews, Denver: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2010

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