CWLA – prevention of child maltreatment is the responsibility of entire communities

by Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following, our interview with Donna Petras working at CWLA, an American welfare organization for children and families in the USA. The focus is on abused and neglected children and on the struggle against mistreatment of children in the family.  
 How do you get in touch with families and individuals that could benefit from your help?
The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is a powerful coalition of hundreds of private and public agencies serving vulnerable children and families since 1920. Our expertise, leadership and innovation on policies, programs, and practices help improve lives of millions of children across the United States. Our impact is felt worldwide.
Our vision is that every child will grow up in a safe, loving, and stable family.
CWLA leads and engages its network of public and private agencies and partners to advance policies, best practices and collaborative strategies that result in better outcomes for children, youth and families that are vulnerable. Our focus is children and youth who may have experienced abuse, neglect, family disruption, or a range of other factors that jeopardize their safety, permanence, or well-being. CWLA also focuses on the families, caregivers, and the communities that care for and support these children.
CWLA works in the following five core areas:
For 70 years, CWLA has established Standards of Excellence for child welfare practice. These Standards have played a unique national role in shaping quality child welfare practice. They have been a foundation tool for improving the national child welfare system, guiding policymakers, practitioners, advocates, and the broader public. The Standards are widely accepted as the foundation for sound U.S. child welfare practice, providing goals for the continuing improvement of services to children and their families.
CWLA works to improve public policies for children, youths, and families through our Advocacy Center. Located in Washington, DC near Capitol Hill, our advocacy staff mobilize and lead efforts to enact public policies in the best interests of children, youths and families.
CWLA provides consultation to public and private agencies serving children and families to help them implement evidence-informed/based best policies, programs, and practices to achieve positive outcomes for children and families.
CWLA develops and disseminates evidence-informed/based models of practice to transfer knowledge developed through research to policies, programs, and practices with children and families. CWLA provides competency-based training for social workers and agencies on a wide array of topics essential for excellent services to children and families.
CWLA publishes Children’s Voice magazine, Child Welfare Journal, National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare, and hundreds of books. Under the imprint CWLA Press, we produce the most respected publications in the areas of adoption, foster care, residential treatment, child welfare curricula, cultural competence, pregnancy and parenting, independent living, and permanency, as well as children’s books. We also make available the world-renowned PRIDE Model of Practice for the Development and Support of Foster and Adoptive Families.
What are the current number related to families in need of drug treatment and what are the trends of the last years? 
In the United States approximately 70% of the families referred to child protective services are substance use involved. This is the most prominent issue related to child maltreatment in the USA. Recently, we have seen an increase in opioid addiction and overdose deaths among young people.  
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an office of the US Government (, the 2015 survey found “the percentage of people identified as needing substance use treatment was highest among young adults aged 18 to 25 and was lowest among adolescents aged 12 to 17. In 2015, approximately 1.3 million adolescents (5.1 percent of this age group), 5.4 million young adults (15.5 percent of this age group), and 15.0 million adults aged 26 or older (7.2 percent of this age group) needed substance use treatment in the past year (Figure 1). Stated another way, about 1 in 20 adolescents, 1 in 6 young adults, and 1 in 14 adults aged 26 or older were classified to be in need of substance use treatment in the past year.”
Why did you decide to focus some of your initiative on Indian child welfare and LGBTQ youngsters?
Our work focuses on children and youth who may have experienced abuse, neglect, family disruption, or a range of other factors that jeopardize their safety, permanence, or well-being. 
We work to identify and provide evidence-based/informed approaches to help children and families that are vulnerable. Responding to the needs of American Indian children and families requires approaches that are responsive to their unique cultures. We work with Indian Tribes to assure we provide culturally sensitive and responsive policies, programs, and practices. 
LGBTQ youth and families are a more recently recognized population with vulnerabilities to maltreatment. We work with LGBTQ youth and families to assure child welfare policies, programs, and practices are sensitive and responsive to their unique needs. 
According to your experience, what are the most effective ways to prevent maltreatment in vulnerable families?
CWLA recently published the Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. This document provides standards of excellence for child welfare services and sets forth values and practice principles essential for excellence in child maltreatment prevention and intervention. You can obtain a copy of the Blueprint on the CWLA website, 
Our experience has found that prevention of child maltreatment is the responsibility of entire communities, not just child protection and child welfare agencies. Strategies to prevent maltreatment are most effective when the parents of children are included in their development and implementation. Inclusion of parent leaders in the development and implementation of child maltreatment prevention strategies improves their effectiveness by increasing the likelihood that the design of strategies will be responsive to the unique circumstances of families.
Do you cooperate with any authority or public institution? If yes, how?
We work cooperatively, and collaboratively with governmental agencies at the national, state, and local levels in a variety of ways. We provide public entities information to inform and advocate for policies that are helpful to children and families. We work collaboratively to develop evidence-informed/based programs to benefit children and families and provide consultation to public agencies to support implementation of best practices and programs. We also work with public agencies to disseminate information to the child welfare field through conferences and other convenings and publications.