Learning from California’s Foster Care Revolution

Published: 13 Jun 2017

Author: Emily Warren
Learning from California’s Foster Care Revolution

In January 2017, Emily Warren travelled to California to work with the senior leadership team of the state social services department. California was embarking on a historic and radical reform programme for looked after children, known as the ‘Foster Care Revolution’.

The purpose of Emily’s Fellowship was to look at best practice in early years care, and so the reforms in California provided her with the perfect opportunity to observe, to learn and to be part of an exciting and challenging reform agenda.

Outcomes for looked after children in Wales lag considerably behind other children. Despite investment, policy reform and political commitment, there is still a lot to do. Emily is a member of an Advisory Group set up by the First Minister of Wales to develop a new direction for the Welsh care system. Her Fellowship experiences in California will enable her to bring new ideas to the table.

Foster care has undergone huge changes in California. Through the Continuum of Care Reforms (CCR), California is now a world leader in adopting an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) informed approach, working collaboratively across sectors. They are rebooting recruitment and training for foster carers, and developing new integrated models of working across health, child welfare and probation. To do this, under the banner of CCR, they are developing a common model of practice for professionals, have developed new systems of funding and governance, and have invested in the creation of new services such as Short Term Residential Therapeutic Placements, which can provide respite and support to prevent placement breakdown. All of this is very relevant to Wales and there is a wealth of learning in terms of legislation, policy and practice, which Emily will be an advocate for.

The support for Emily’s Fellowship in Wales has been incredible. She was featured as a guest blogger during her travels in California for Welsh Government’s Leadership Academi website, and she will be working as an expert advisor to the Chairman of the Ministers group to ensure the findings from her report are shared. A parliamentary reception is planned so that her American colleagues can address their welsh counterparts. Emily has also already met with senior officials in Welsh government, and the Chair of the National Assembly Children’s Committee, Lynne Neagle AM.

The international experience she has gained of service reform and transformation in one of the most challenging areas of public policy, will be invaluable in her new role in one of Wales’ largest health boards, leading work to remodel services, and ensure they are sustainable and fit for the wellbeing of future generations in Wales.