In partnership with the USC School of Social Work and the PolicyLab of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Social Work Policy Institute of the National Association of Social Workers Foundation has issued a new report highlighting critical reforms needed to improve the health of children in the child welfare system.
Children at Risk: Optimizing Health in an Era of Reform summarizes major findings from a symposium hosted in November that brought together key stakeholders from government, child welfare agencies, service providers and universities to explore ways to improve health outcomes in child welfare.
Participants tackled issues that ranged from the impact of recent health care reform efforts to high rates of psychotropic medication prescribed to children in foster care. The report outlines a handful of recommendations largely focused on improving systems of communication and promoting access to health services and continuity of care.
Janet Schneiderman, research associate professor at the School of Social Work who served as academic chair of the symposium, said participants stressed the need for improved coordination between various institutions involved in foster care and child welfare.
“Certainly there is a lack of communication between the pediatric health care system, the mental health system and the child welfare system,” she said. “We want to encourage legislators and policy makers to recognize the health problems and needs of this population.”
Symposium attendees also highlighted the need to ensure that families, communities and those who grew up in the foster care system are included in the process of developing new health care interventions and approaches in child welfare.
In addition to conducting a review of existing research on topics related to health outcomes in the child welfare system, Schneiderman worked with Megan Finno, a doctoral student at the School of Social Work, to compile a list of resources related to child welfare that was included in the report.
Schneiderman said the national symposium grew out of conversations between Joan Zlotnik, director of the Social Work Policy Institute, and Marilyn Flynn, dean of the School of Social Work.