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Testa presents at Capitol Hill briefing on child welfare

Spears-Turner Distinguished Professor Mark Testa was among the speakers at a Capitol Hill briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 5 in Washington, D.C., to address the “wicked problems” of child welfare, its challenges, and evidence-based solutions.

The briefing was hosted by the UNC School of School Work and Children’s Home Society of America (CHSA)—a national association of some of the oldest child-serving agencies in the nation. The purpose was to inform Congressional staff about how national experts have come together to address the wicked problems and grand challenges of child welfare. It was held in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, Congressional Meeting Room.

In addition to Testa, the speakers were Amy Herbst, vice president, Child Welfare for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin; Dave Bundy, president/CEO, Children’s Home Society of Florida; and Karin Malm, director of child welfare research at Child Trends.

Over the past two years, social work leaders, child welfare administrators, researchers, philanthropists, and policymakers have gathered to debate the major problems of child welfare and how best to address these challenges, including how to reverse the traumatic effects of maltreatment and neglect on child well-being and how to overcome the barriers that prevent children from returning home or finding safe and permanent homes with alternative caregivers.

For Testa, who helped spearhead these discussions, the briefing was the culmination of the series of meetings the School co-sponsored with CHSA called the Wicked Problems Institute. At the Congressional briefing, CHSA board chair, Sharon Osborne, announced the launch of the child welfare, practice-based research network comprised of local universities and CHSA member-agency partnerships. The purpose of the collaboration is to help educate communities about the well-being of the nation’s children who come to the attention of child protective services. The partnerships will develop and evaluate promising solutions that will help set a new direction for building innovative, evidence-based and sustainable child welfare programs across the country. The focus will be on those vulnerable children most affected by problems of persistent poverty, domestic violence, parental substance abuse, and loss of stable family life.

This scholarly endeavor will serve as the foundation for building a national public education campaign to reform federal child welfare financing policies. One specific goal for that campaign is to urge U.S. lawmakers to expand the opportunity for more states to experiment with innovative ways of using federal dollars to protect children from abuse and neglect, provide them with stable homes, and improve their overall social, mental and physical well-being.

The next meeting of the Wicked Problems Institute is scheduled for March 27-28, 2014, in Washington, D.C., and will focus on “Meeting the Grand Challenges of Child Welfare.” Participants will explore how to work together to overcome the grand challenges we face as a nation and reform child welfare policy to promote evidence-based practice and improve child well-being.