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School co-hosts 8th annual Wicked Problems institute in Chicago

More than 150 social work leaders, child welfare administrators, researchers, and philanthropists, gathered in Chicago in October for the 8th Wicked Problems of Child Welfare Institute.

Co-sponsored by the Children’s Home Society of America (CHSA) and the UNC School of Social Work’s Jordan Institute for Families, this year’s institute focused on the new Family First Prevention Services Act and discussed the future possibilities of child welfare in the United States in the wake of the passage of this landmark national legislation.

Keynote speaker Jill Duerr Berrick, Ph.D., from the University of California Berkeley School of Social Welfare presented on the “impossible imperative,” which explored the competing demands and values that exist in child welfare policy and practice.
Presenters from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Casey Family Programs led the group through discussions of the new federal law, which frees up Title IV-E entitlement dollars to prevent children from entering or re-entering foster care.

In a panel discussion on cross system prevention services, UNC School of Social Work research professor Kirsten Kainz presented her work with the Get Ready Guilford initiative. Distinguished Professor Mark Testa and senior research scientist Allison Metz with UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute also presented a model for public and private child welfare, university, and philanthropic partnerships. Selena Childs, clinical associate professor and director of strategic initiatives with the Jordan Institute, helped organize this year’s meeting.

The pinnacle of the event involved the launch of the National CHSA Child Welfare Learning Lab. Supported by the UNC School of Social Work and other schools of social work, the lab is expected to focus on opportunities to generate evidence about effective child welfare practices that meet the criteria of the new federal family first law. The lab also aims to generate knowledge about other effective child welfare services, expanding the pool of interventions that are supported or well-supported by evidence.

For more information about the Child Welfare Learning Lab, please contact Selena Childs,