Improving placement quality and outcomes for children in foster care was one of the themes at the 2019 Child Maltreatment Solutions Network Conference, “The Future of Foster Care: New Science to Address Old Problems," held recently at Penn State’s University Park campus.
Placement quality refers to how well foster-care children adjust when put in out-of-home care. The conference attendees examined placement methods that help children succeed when undergoing these changes.
The two-day event featured keynote speakers that specifically touched on the innovative and evidence-based research that can help respective stakeholders achieve desired outcomes, such as academic success and mental wellness, when putting these foster-care children into new homes.
Diana English, CEO of Child Welfare Consultation Services, highlighted the resources available that can further educate those working in the foster care system on how to better outcomes for foster children. English pointed to the results of the 2015 Federal Cohort Study of Congregate Care to provide an example of research that can affect the placement of foster-care children.
“The study revealed specific trends seen in children who were placed in out-of-home care, which can help caregivers of these children know what to expect and how to tailor to the needs of different children for more successful placements,” said English.
Rohanna Buchanan, researcher from the Oregon Social Learning Center, introduced two successful and evidence-based programs, Keeping Foster and Kin Parents Supported and Trained (KEEP) and Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO), to model different ways of achieving better placements.
“These programs have been proven to get children into a permanent home sooner with improvements in delinquency, mental health, substance use, and social and academic outcomes through the use of individualized treatments and interventions,” Buchanan said.
Peter Pecora, professor of social work at the University of Washington School of Social Work, focused his talk on safety, permanence and wellbeing as key outcomes when placing foster-care children in homes. Defining these three factors underlined the framework for improving placement quality and outcomes in the foster care system.
Additional themes of the conference included health care integration, technology innovations, mental health care, and academic outcomes. A total of 15 speakers from across the country represented different companies, advocacy centers, nonprofit organizations, health-care facilities, and academic institutions. The discussion and awareness raised by the event is a stepping-stone for positive impacts on Pennsylvania’s foster-care system and children.
“We wanted this conference to go beyond detailing all the problems and to instead think about how foster care can provide the safe, supportive, and stable environment that children need to thrive,” said Sarah Font, co-chair of this year’s conference and associate director of the Solutions Network. “We invited speakers to specifically focus on the core issues of quality workforce and leadership, adequate data for evaluation, an array of quality placement options, and support for children's academic, mental, and physical well-being.”
The conference concluded with a panel discussion led by Britany Binkowski, director of New Allies Youth Villages; Tim Decker, founder/CEO of Social Innovation Partners, LLC.; David Mattern, director of Continuous Quality Improvement with the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families; and Rena Mohamed, director of Outcomes Improvement for Maryland’s Social Services Administration.
Since its launch in 2012, The Child Maltreatment Solutions Network conferences have established a concrete frontier of understanding child maltreatment through advanced research. Other conference sponsors include Penn State’s Department of Public Health Sciences; The Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center; Social Science Research Institute; The Child Study Center; University Libraries; Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education; Biobehavioral Health; College of Nursing; The Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness; Institute for CyberScience; and the College of Information Sciences and Technology.