On September 14 the Hillsides’ leadership staff gathered for a presentation on trends in child welfare presented by Beth Skidmore, a nationally recognized consultant in child welfare and a long-time colleague and friend of mine from the east coast. She identified the following as significant trends impacting our practice: permanency planning, utilization of time delineated evidence-based treatment, cost-effective models and family friendly/oriented approaches.
For many, her message was not new, but rather reinforced what we have already been experiencing in Los Angeles. Over the past several years, the one issue that has dominated child welfare is the need to provide permanency for vulnerable children and their families. Studies show that the one decisive factor for the success of children in the foster care system is the presence of an adult, a parent or parent-like figure, who serves as an anchor throughout the significant stages of development leading to adulthood. This is so obvious to many of us, but so difficult to establish for a child with learning challenges, behavioral issues and often a fractured family.
It is within this context that Los Angeles County and others throughout the country have structured services to be time delineated, utilizing evidence-based practices to stabilize vulnerable children and begin the process of developing a permanent plan that engages families as the ultimate resource and best placement for most children.
The impact of this trend on Hillsides is significant and perhaps historic. There have been significant shifts in how we provide for the children we serve throughout our history. We have evolved from being a place offering custodial care for orphaned children to being a treatment center providing a therapeutic community that offers a nurturing place where children can be safe and secure. Today, we are called upon not so much to be an alternative to their communities of origin and their families, but rather to become a resource for families and communities as they address the challenges of caring for their most vulnerable children.
As a result, we expect the length of stay and treatment to be reduced, the utilization of researched-based practice to dominate our treatment, increased engagement of families, and a greater utilization of our capacity to accompany and support children in their communities while being ever sensitive to the cost of providing care.
In spite of what may be indeed a different treatment approach, our mission remains the same: to provide vulnerable children and their families what they need most–a supportive community offering resources that will help them achieve great dreams and hopes for a full, happy and successful life.
Stay tuned for updates on our progress on becoming a more effective organization in restoring hope to vulnerable children and their families.