The Child Welfare: Wicked Problems/Wicked Innovations Institute held a Capitol Hill briefing in November to present the Wicked Problems concept to a congressional audience, and to remind policymakers to keep the issue in mind when drafting policies concerning child welfare.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Children’s Home Society of America partnered to create the Wicked Problems/Wicked Innovations series. It consisted of three two-day symposiums that were held in different locations over the course of a year and a half.
NASW hosted the third symposium at the national office in March. The Children’s Home Society of America chose NASW to host the third briefing, because social work practitioners are seen as key players in tackling the issues surrounding child welfare and in developing child welfare policy.
During the Capitol Hill briefing, speakers presented findings — or eight “grand challenges” — from the three Wicked Problems symposiums.
The panel of speakers included Dave Bundy, president and CEO of the Children’s Home Society of Florida; Amy Herbst, vice president of child welfare at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin; Karin Malm, director for child welfare and a senior research scientist at Child Trends; Sharon Osborne, board chairwoman of Children’s Home Society of America and president and CEO of Children’s Home Society of Washington; and Mark Testa, a Spears-Turner Distinguished Professor at the School of Social Work at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Testa developed the eight grand challenges and presented them at the briefing. The challenges are a culmination of topics he noticed being discussed consistently at all three of the Wicked Problems symposiums. The challenges include:
- Reversing the adverse effects of child maltreatment on brain development
- Harnessing the natural motivations of parents and kinship caregivers
- Synthesizing research evidence on the effects of out-of-home care
- Sustaining family continuity after legal permanence
- Strengthening the voice of youth in the child welfare system
- Linking child well-being measures to administrative data on child safety and family permanence
- Attracting private investments and using performance contracts to improve child and family services
- Preparing the future workforce for child welfare’s wicked problems and grand challenges.
“The briefing provided a great illustration of how we can join resources together and really advance the importance of child well-being,” Testa said.
Herbst said the briefing is a good next step in terms of developing policies that benefit children and families in need.
“The members of CHSA stand ready to partner and help set the direction forward in a way that can really be a game-changer (for children and families),” she said.
The focus now is on the challenges and opportunities that are present while working to improve child welfare, Osborne said, and it’s important to get people from different areas involved.