The welfare of children has been a concern of Americans for centuries. That concern manifested itself in the 20th century as a large bureaucracy of administrative agencies who knew better than parents and families what was best for children. But child welfare reform is taking place now in the 21st century.
While traditional child welfare work involved mostly agency action, Crystal Foster has worked with the Annie E. Casey Foundation on her research for the Child Advocacy Practicum last spring, developing an understanding of how children can be best protected. See her presentation here.
The 21st century ideas about child welfare maintain child safety as the primary concern. A major federal law in favor of that trend was the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA), promoting the adoption of children into forever families from foster care. Child Welfare Agencies now use a family-centered, rather than an agency-centered, focus for children. The focus ensures the safety and protection of children while preserving and supporting families.
This focus brings a team of players together to help determine the least traumatic situation to promote a child's best interests. That means that caseworkers, family members, the child, friends, relatives, neighbors, teachers, clergy and counselors all work together toward the solution. It also means that families are a resource, and anytime a child can be cared for by kin and relatives, that is preferred.