Briefing focuses on children at risk

US Capitol DomeNASW co-hosted a Capitol Hill briefing with the Congressional Social Work Caucus in October to discuss the challenges of helping children in the child welfare system.

Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of the NASW Social Work Policy Institute, moderated the briefing, titled “Children at Risk: Optimizing Health in an Era of Reform.”

Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns (photo, below right), D-N.Y., who created the Social Work Caucus last year, gave the welcome remarks.

“This is a very important session,” said Towns, who is also a social worker. “Children are 25 percent of our total population, but they are 100 percent our future.”

The speakers were Janet Schneiderman, research associate professor at the USC School of Social Work; Sarah Zlotnik, senior strategist at PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Bryan Samuels, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The speakers discussed the importance of addressing the emotional, behavioral, psychological and physical health needs of children in the child welfare system to improve their outcomes.

Samuels said while it is necessary to transition children out of the system, the trauma they may face from their experiences often are not sufficiently addressed.

“My goal (in this briefing) is to give an alternative understanding to the challenges in child welfare,” Samuels said. “I’m out every day to try to get people to take a step back and look at the approaches that will take us to a better outcome when it comes to children’s access to health care.”

Levy Zlotnik said recommendations to Congress from the briefing include encouraging health care and child welfare systems to collaborate to ensure that children and youth in foster care have greater access to high-quality health and behavioral health care, and ensuring a more qualified interdisciplinary workforce when it comes to dealing with children accessing health care through the child welfare system.

“This briefing is an example of how cross-system and cross-disciplinary knowledge is essential,” she said.

Ed TownsSpeakers also mentioned that as the Affordable Care Act progresses, social workers are advised to keep up with changes in health care to ensure that children within the child welfare system and their parents are getting additional benefits they may be entitled to, and that they have appropriate access to health care and treatment.

The Social Work Policy Institute, USC School of Social Work and PolicyLab held a think tank symposium in November 2011 to explore these issues and to set an agenda to improve children’s health outcomes.

The University of Southern California School of Social Work co-hosted the Hill briefing, which was also co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Child Abuse Coalition, National Foster Care Coalition, Society for Research in Child Development and Friends of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Towns created the Social Work Caucus in the 111th Congress. NASW supports the caucus’ goals in educating legislators on important issues in the social work profession through Capitol Hill briefings and events. The caucus represents and supports the interests of more than 650,000 social workers across the U.S. and is a congressionally approved bipartisan group.