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.