Policy Resource

States Can Improve Supports for Infants and Toddlers Who Are In or At Risk Of Entering Foster Care

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A Survey of State Child Welfare Policies and Initiatives

To understand the policies and services already in place for infants and toddlers in care and at risk of entering care, as well as where the child welfare field can leverage opportunities, Child Trends fielded the 2019 Survey of Child Welfare Agency Policies and Practices for Infants and Toddlers in, or who are Candidates for, Foster Care. The survey, supported by ZERO TO THREE and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), aimed to understand the current array of policies and practices intended to serve this population, and how this array may have shifted since the initial fielding of the survey in 2013. Both surveys were developed from a collaboration between Child Trends and ZERO TO THREE to illuminate how the urgent, unique needs of young children in the child welfare system are being addressed through current policies and practices.

The goal of the survey and report were to identify and share innovations and highlight key challenges that child welfare agencies face in meeting the needs of very young children who have experienced maltreatment. By collecting and sharing such information, we hope to support agencies in strengthening their approaches to serving this population.

Three overarching themes emerged from the survey:

  • State policies and practices for maltreated infants and toddlers and their families have not changed significantly since the 2013 survey was administered.
  • Despite areas of strength, fewer states have implemented policies or practices to support candidates for foster care as compared to children in care.
  • State child welfare policies and practices could better address the unique developmental needs of infants and toddlers.

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