Research-Based Solutions

Six Winning Policy Goals

CHAMPS promotes policies that encourage and support quality foster parenting so more children will be safe and healthy, experience greater academic success, build healthy relationships, and leave foster care to join permanent families. The playbook showcases research-based policy recommendations and examples that aim to inform and inspire ongoing state and tribal efforts to improve the lives of children in foster care. These playbook is organized around the CHAMPS six priority policy goals.

The six policy goals include:

  • Support relationships between birth and foster families
  • Implement data-driven recruitment and retention practices
  • Engage foster parents in decision making
  • Provide timely access to trusted, dedicated staff and peer support to foster parents
  • Prioritize placements with family members and other family connections
  • Ensure timely access to physical and mental health services

A downloadable PDF version of the CHAMPS policy playbook features recommendations for policy approaches, examples of existing policies and programs, and supporting research.

Visit our online Policy Playbook

Children Need Amazing Parents

Foundational principles  

The CHAMPS policy playbook draws on powerful insight from child and adolescent development research that underscores the importance of family in child well-being.  CHAMPS also leverages the knowledge base generated by system reform efforts such as the Quality Parenting Initiative as well as lessons learned from the experience of public and private agencies that have been innovating and developing solutions. Importantly, the CHAMPS policy goals align with what foster parents and youth say is needed to help children in foster care heal and thrive.

Foundational principles that underpin the policies in the playbook include:

  1. All children need and do best in families. When a child needs foster care, quality foster parenting must be a priority.
  2. Foster parents are one of the primary interventions for ensuring the safety and well-being of children in foster care. Quality foster parenting helps children be safe and healthy, experience greater academic success and have more stable lives.
  3. Foster parents help children and families heal and play a central role in creating permanent families. In addition to caring for children, foster parents provide support and mentorship to birth parents, help nurture the parent-child bond, and support other family connections. This is a vital role because half of children who enter foster care return home.
  4. Strengthening foster families often leads to strong and stable adoptive families. Half of the children adopted from foster care are adopted by their foster parents.
  5. Establishing and prioritizing effective approaches to recruiting, retaining, and supporting foster parents yields better outcomes for children in foster care and can be cost effective.
  6. Foster parenting has been overlooked as a solution to achieving better results for the safety, permanency and well-being of children and youth.

See here for the policy playbook.

See Supporting Research

A National Priority

Why Focus on Foster Parenting?

One of the most powerful ways we can help children in foster care is to ensure they have supportive foster parents to help them heal from trauma, grow and thrive. They offer children what they need most: a safe family to care for them until they can return home or, when that’s not possible, be placed in another permanent family.

Despite their significant role in the lives of children, prior policy reform efforts have largely overlooked the pivotal role of foster parents. Yet, we know from innovation in the field that reforms focused on family-based care and quality foster parenting can catalyze systemic child welfare reforms and drive better outcomes for children. For example, communities that have undertaken the Quality Parenting Initiative show improvements in stability, sibling connectedness, and permanent families for children and youth in foster care.

A number of factors point to why focusing on quality foster parenting is an urgent matter and merits policy makers’ attention.

  • Increasing foster care caseloads. News reports are filled with stories about the increasing numbers of children entering foster care. In many communities, the rise is due to the opioid crisis. In fact, this is the fifth consecutive year where the numbers of children in foster care has increased, with 442,995 children in care in fiscal year 2017.
  • Foster parent shortages. Many child welfare agencies are struggling with foster parent shortages, which can lead to children sleeping in hotel rooms or child welfare offices. Contributing to this shortage is the high turnover rate among foster parents, estimated to be between 30-50 percent annually nationwide. Foster parents often cite inadequate support and preparation as a primary reason for quitting.
  • New expectations . Implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act seeks to curtail the inappropriate use of congregate care for children and places a new emphasis on the importance of family foster care. The current policy landscape offers a variety of opportunities to strengthen foster parenting policies.
  • Innovation has generated promising approaches. We know more now than ever before from a deepening body of research about the vital importance of caring adults in the healthy development of children, especially children who have been traumatized by abuse or neglect

See our PowerPoint

A Shared Mission

Who’s Involved in CHAMPS?

CHAMPS is led by a coalition of organizations committed to creating brighter futures for children in foster care.

CHAMPS brings together research, policy expertise, and influential stakeholders that work collectively to encourage and support policy change efforts. This includes:

  • A national steering committee that serves as the leadership hub of the campaign and is comprised of eight organizations representing key stakeholder groups such as youth, families, service providers, and faith-based partners
  • A national research partner, the Brookings Institution, contributes its research expertise and services as the campaign’s primary convener, hosting round tables and other events to engage leaders in campaign activities
  • A child welfare leaders’ advisory group that advises CHAMPS and helps spread the word about solutions for strengthening foster parenting policies and programs
  • A state legislative advisory group, comprised of state legislators – many of whom have personal experience as foster parents – who serve as advisors to CHAMPS and champion reform reform efforts in their states and nationally
  • A network of state-based organizations that mobilize and direct state advocacy campaign activities, including public awareness and policy advocacy to spur improvements
  • A network of philanthropic partners that support the state and national campaign, serve as advisors and engage in campaign activities.
  • Staff and consultants serve as support staff to the steering committee and other campaign partners and coordinate all aspects of the campaign’s policy and communication activities.

For a list of campaign partners, see this handout.

See the CHAMPS Partners Page

What's New on the Policy Landscape

The Family First Prevention Services Act

On February 9, 2018, Congress enacted the Family First Prevention Services Act –  or Family First for short. This new law brings historic, sweeping policy changes that hold great promise for strengthening families, including birth, kin, foster and adoptive families 

Family First reforms federal child welfare policy to emphasize the importance of keeping children safety with their families when they are at-risk of entering foster care. Family First also emphasizes the the importance of family-based care for children who do enter foster care.

Together, Family First and CHAMPS offer important new opportunities to significantly improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system.

CHAMPS has gathered a number of important resources related to Family First and makes those available in our resource database. This includes a one-page overview highlighting ten ways that CHAMPS and Family First promote better outcomes for children. It also includes a one-page fact sheet on CHAMPS and Family First.

Other resources on Family First are available in the resource database.

Resource Database

Get Involved

We invite you to get involved in CHAMPS and be part of building bright futures for kids in foster care.

Sign the Pledge

Sign the pledge to show your support for today’s amazing foster parents and the importance of quality foster parenting.