Skip to main content

Wicked Problems Institute to address child welfare challenges

Numerous challenges currently face the child welfare field. But thanks to the determined efforts of a UNC School of Social Work professor, organizations from across the country will be working together to forge solutions.

Because of their complexity, the field has deemed certain challenges “wicked problems.” The term wicked has been coined within the policy arena to describe a tricky problem that defies ordinary solution.

A group of about 60 participants, representing a broad spectrum of foundations, associations, agencies, consultants and educators in the child welfare field, are meeting in a series of roundtables called “Wicked Problems of Child Welfare and their Incomplete Solutions” — the Wicked Problems Institute for short.

The effort is being organized by Mark Testa, Spears-Turner Distinguished Professor, and Dean Jack Richman of the UNC School of Social Work; and the executive board of the Children’s Home Society of America, a nationwide network of voluntary child welfare agencies. The event is being supported, in part, by the UNC School of Social Work’s Jordan Institute for Families.

The three goals of Wicked Problems Institute are to build shared understanding of the wicked problems of child welfare, solidify shared commitment to test promising solutions, and work with public and private child welfare agencies to implement proven solutions.

A series of three roundtables are being held:

  • February 2012 in Chapel Hill: Innovation and Flexibility: How Can Title IV-E Waiver Authority Best Be Used to Create Cost-Effective and Sustainable Child Welfare Systems?
  • October 2012 in Chicago: Does Privatization of Child Welfare Services Yield a Better Return on the Public Investment Dollar?
  • February 2013 in Washington, D.C.: Beyond Safety and Permanence: Is Well-Being a “Manageable” Child Welfare Outcome?

Nine states will be represented at the Feb. 22-23 meeting at the UNC School of Social Work: Delaware, Illinois, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Washington and West Virginia.

In conjunction with the institute, a lecture is being held that is open to the campus community and the public. “Using Evidence on Cost-Effectiveness to Guide Social Policy and Spending,” featuring two prominent guest speakers, is Wed., Feb. 22 at 3:30.