The Child Wellbeing Sector Holds Moral Responsibility to Question the Status Quo

Upbring
4 min readJul 7, 2023

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Challenging Policies, Processes, and Procedures Pave the Way for Progress

by Michael Loo, President & CEO at Upbring

Nearly seven years ago, after over a century since its establishment, Upbring took a bold step towards unlearning (so to speak) what it had referenced as best practices for child wellbeing. The primary objective was to make significant and meaningful differences in the lives of the children we serve at Upbring and to Break the Cycle of Child Abuse. This commitment initiated a comprehensive effort to reexamine whether we were truly making a difference, by questioning the models, processes, procedures, and policies the child welfare sector relied upon.

Through rigorous research, data analysis, and measurement, Upbring successfully debunked several child welfare myths. Most recently, we shared our exploration on the topic of permanency, and examination of current child data, program metrics, and system economics. These endeavors allowed the Upbring team to construct a sustainable foundation of knowledge, facilitating the development of truly informed, sustainable, and effective child wellbeing solutions.

Partnership and Collaboration are Essential Drivers for Change in the Child Wellbeing Sector

Just as the age-old adage proclaims that it takes a village to raise a child, the entire child wellbeing sector must unite and strive towards implementing meaningful changes based on these new paradigms. We invite all stakeholders involved in assisting, improving, or supporting affected children to collaborate in our pursuit of further findings and insights. Together, we can transform a sector deeply rooted in ineffective and inefficient child welfare practices into one that embraces progressive, empirically-based solutions, addressing the root causes of child abuse and neglect. Although it may appear to be a daunting task, it is an indispensable endeavor to ensure that child wellbeing systems are appropriately framed with the right outcomes at the forefront.

Building Public Understanding and Managing Expectations

This challenge of change is further compounded by the sensitivities and emotions surrounding child welfare in the public domain. Daily news articles shed light on the lives and adversity facing at-risk children, perpetuating misconceptions about the true causes of child abuse and neglect. These public discussions create pressure for those responsible for aiding at-risk children, while also providing a platform for other political agendas. It is crucial for the child wellbeing ecosystem to align its understanding and commitments, ensuring that policy, root causes, needs, and action intersect for the benefit of children, their families, and communities.

Dispelling Child Welfare Myths through Research, not Reaction

The unfortunate truth is that many well-intentioned and experienced organizations continue to provide services to children solely based on and following mandated governmental processes. These processes, historically driven by instructions and guidelines, have been built up over the years, resembling a giant rubber band ball. The ongoing efforts to shape service delivery and make incremental improvements are primarily driven by various action groups and public systems.

However, it is time for systemic and process changes to be rooted in comprehensive research and evidence-based practices, rather than merely reactionary measures. The public expects child welfare and educational organizations to enhance the lives of at-risk children. To effect real change, we need to peel back the layers of the rubber band ball. The child wellbeing sector must transcend political and public pressures and forge meaningful partnerships that empower at-risk children as they transition into adulthood.

The Urgent Need to Deliver on Systemic Promises

Child welfare services also are intended to embrace a “systems of care” perspective that federal child welfare oversight has recommended for adoption by state and local agencies (Children’s Bureau, 2012). Systems of care, drawn from wraparound services in the children’s mental health field, is a service delivery approach intended to build partnerships for creating an integrated process that can meet families’ multiple needs.

The child wellbeing sector must honor its commitment to its “systems of care” promises, ensuring that children receive the holistic support and care necessary for leading healthy and productive lives. Currently, the sector falls short of fulfilling this promise, ultimately to the detriment of children across the state.

Forging a Meaningful Path Forward

As organizations and subject matter experts in the child wellbeing sector, we hear the responsibility of aligning our approaches with robust research and evidence-based practices. Furthermore, we must align our collective experiences, expertise, and efforts for the greater good of at-risk children and the communities they reside in.

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Upbring

A Texas-based nonprofit, with over 140 years of service, dedicated to breaking the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities.