Keeping families strong and able to care for their children is essential. When high-quality support systems are in place, children can flourish. We can and must begin to disrupt disparities in the child welfare system that are caused by and perpetuate systemic racism.
Currently, families of color, particularly Black and Native American families, are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system. This, in turn, means that children of color are disproportionately impacted by the trauma and stress caused by involvement in the child welfare system and the maltreatment that led to it. Childhood trauma can lead to long-term adverse health and mental health outcomes.
Tested, evidence-based strategies to protect children from abuse and neglect and reduce the need for child welfare involvement—preventive services and supports that focus on strengthening families—are becoming more prevalent. They include helping parents build their parenting skills, giving parents strategies to support their young children’s development, supporting mental health issues, and addressing substance abuse. Importantly, these strategies support families with their unique needs and build trusting and respectful relationships with parents.
In San Francisco, there is a strong and effective network of partners already implementing these strategies, working in partnership with families to address their needs. First 5 San Francisco serves and strengthens families through evidence-based programming such as Triple P Positive Parenting Education Program and the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework, alongside other culturally relevant programs like Abriendo Puertas. We work closely with our network of Family Resource Centers to implement programs, providing wrap-around support to families at risk of involvement in the child welfare and foster care system.
The state of California can invest further to strengthen families, protect children from abuse and neglect, and prevent entry into the foster care system. We strongly support the CWDA and Children Now state budget request to invest $50 million in 2021-22 and $100 million ongoing in these efforts. This proposal will enable California to draw down an additional $50-$100 million annually in federal dollars, thanks to the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 (FFPSA). This law provides states with the opportunity to invest federal funding into direct services to strengthen families and prevent entry into foster care.
Taking advantage of federal matching funding to deliver evidence-based and culturally relevant services, including in-home parenting skills, mental health, and substance abuse to parents and pregnant and parenting foster youth, is an opportunity worth pursuing. Additional funding would enable counties to partner with organizations like ours to serve and strengthen our most vulnerable families, reduce race-based disparities, and improve outcomes for children of color.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added stress to families living in poverty and to communities of color. State and federal dollars are needed to help families emerge from the crisis heard and resilient. California must appropriately fund prevention services for our most vulnerable populations and take advantage of the federal dollars available under FFPSA to achieve even more.