5 Strategies for Improving Child Well-being

Vol 33 No 1

As well-being becomes a central focus in child welfare practice, deciding where to invest resources and time can be a challenge. Barbara Langford, director of the Youth Transition Funders Group, Foster Care Workgroup, offered these tips at a recent webcast.

1. Invest in improving, expanding, and sustaining well-being practices. 

  • Develop assessment tools that help caseworkers assess and measure progress related to social, emotional and physical well-being.

  • Create practice models that incorporate social, emotional and physical well-being.

  • Ensure a focus on vulnerable subpopulations.

  • Provide training  on promoting well-being for caregivers and people who work with youth.

2. Invest in policy and advocacy.

  • Support policies that encourage the most family-like placement settings.

  • Encourage states to extend IV-E eligibility for youth in foster care beyond age 18.

  • Ensure well-being is an important component of a youth’s transition planning.

  • Ensure access to Medicaid for youth up to age 26, including mental and physical health supports.

3. Invest in community supports and opportunities.

  • Ensure access to healthy opportunities to build a youth’s passions and physical health. 

  • Remove system barriers to participation.

  • Support caregivers in ensuring youths’ participation in activities that promote well-being (sports teams, afterschool clubs).

  • Support spirituality among youth, an often overlooked area in child welfare. 

4. Invest in cross-systems collaboration. 

  • Ensure well-being issues are included in broader youth initiatives. 

  • Support leadership, planning structures, and data systems at the state and local level. 

  • Develop partnerships with other youth-serving systems that play a role supporting a youth’s well-being: courts, workforce and education, mental health and wellness, physical health, transportation and housing.

5. Invest in research, demonstration, and evaluation.

  • Expand capacity to measure well-being. 

  • Clarify what information is needed (e.g., types of therapies that work best for older youth, characteristics of placement settings and caregivers that work well with older youth).
  • Design new interventions that focus on social, emotional, and physical well-being. 

  • Expand the evidence base of promising programs.

Why Focus on Well-Being?

Youth in foster care have lower levels of well-being than their peers. This stems from their experiences before entering care and while in care. If a youth is not able to manage their social and emotional challenges, it makes it hard to: 

  • connect in the community
  • develop and sustain relationships
  • succeed in school
  • find and keep a job

*Presentation by Barbara Langford at the American Youth Policy Forum webcast, “Social, Emotional and Physical Well-Being for Youth in Transition from the Foster Care System,” December 18, 2014.