Child welfare advocates are uniquely positioned to influence debates that directly impact the safety and well-being of America’s children. First Focus is proud to coordinate SPARC, a project designed to help state child welfare advocates make an even bigger impact, and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.

The Opportunity

SPARC One Pager

State advocates are innovating right now. They’re developing new solutions that strengthen families, so abuse and neglect never happen and to safely prevent removing children from their homes. They’re building new decision-making models, so state child welfare agencies can make better choices about whether, when, and how to take custody of a child affected by abuse or neglect. They’re improving the care kids get in state custody, by emphasizing placements with grandparents or other relatives, improving foster care, and reducing institutional placements. And they’re helping children find permanent homes – through a return to stronger and more stable birth families, adoption, or other solutions that provide long-term family support required for a successful transition into adulthood.

But state advocates are often so busy fighting for kids in their own states that they sometimes don’t have the bandwidth to share successes and challenges with leaders in other states, let alone on the national stage. As a result, child welfare varies dramatically from state to state, and even the most effective advocates often feel like they’re all alone.

The SPARC Approach

The Child Welfare SPARC will strengthen the connections among state advocates, and we’ll begin by listening. We’ll learn about their priorities, the challenges they face, and the successes they want to share. That listening process will help SPARC to offer a comprehensive menu of supports, when and how state advocates need them.

And SPARC will look across state lines, to uplift success stories that can serve as models for replication and emerging challenges that demand an urgent response. Progress on child welfare won’t come through Washington-knows-best, magic-bullet solutions. That’s why SPARC is about bringing state advocates together with each other and with national partners, to take promising ideas across the finish line, cultivate the next generation of reforms, and share best practices with advocates nationwide.

More Advocacy Impact, Better Lives for Children

If we’re successful, advocates will be better connected and better coordinated, promising ideas will be easier to find and adapt, child welfare priorities will compete more effectively for the attention of policymakers. And ultimately, that means national and state advocates will be better able to deliver public policy reforms that protect the safety and well-being of America’s children.

To learn more, contact Shadi Houshyar.

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