States can improve supports for infants and toddlers who are in or at risk of entering foster care

Source: Megan Fischer, Kristina Rosinsky, Elizabeth Jordan, Maggie Haas, Deborah Seok, Child Trends, February 2020

From the summary:
To understand what policies and services are already in place for infants and toddlers in care and at risk of entering care, as well as where the child welfare field can leverage the opportunities provided by the Family First Act, Child Trends fielded the 2019 Survey of Child Welfare Agency Policies and Practices for Infants and Toddlers in, or who are Candidates for, Foster Care. The survey, supported by ZERO TO THREE (ZTT) and the Health and Human Services Administration (HRSA), aimed to understand the current array of policies and practices intended to serve this population, and how this array may have shifted since the initial fielding of the survey in 2013. The goal of the survey and report were to identify and share innovations in policy and practice and highlight key challenges that child welfare agencies face in meeting the needs of very young children who have experienced maltreatment. By collecting and sharing such information, we hope to support agencies in strengthening their approaches to serving this population.

With the Family First Act, states have a new opportunity to use federal funds to support children who are at risk of entering foster care (also known as candidates for foster care) and their families. Healthy early development requires stable, nurturing relationships with caregivers (Center on the Developing Child, 2007). For young children who are safe and supported, staying with their families rather than entering foster care is particularly beneficial.

Although the 2019 survey was fielded early in the implementation of the Family First Act, its findings show where states have existing strengths and infrastructure to provide prevention services to families with infants and toddlers. Findings also shed light on where states need to increase their capacity to provide a robust array of services for infants and toddlers who are candidates for foster care, as well as their families.