Children at Risk: Optimizing Health in an Era of Reform

Oct 23, 2012
Children at Risk: Optimizing Health in an Era of Reform

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation’s Social Work Policy Institute and the University of Southern California School of Social Work hosted a briefing Friday, October 19, 2012 in conjunction with the Congressional Social Work Caucus (CSWC) on Children at Risk: Optimizing Health in an Era of Reform in the Rayburn House Office Building in the nation’s capital.  Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, chair of the CSWC gave opening remarks citing his personal commitment to children’s issues.

            The briefing was moderated by Dr. Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of the Social Work Policy Institute who explained that the congressional briefing was based on information presented during a November 2011 symposium on a report released by the Institute entitled: Children at Risk: Optimizing Health in an Era of Reform.  Co-sponsors of the event were the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Foster Care Coalition, the National Child Abuse Coalition, the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Friends of the National Institute of the Child Health and Human Development.

            The panelists were Bryan Samuels, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF); Dr. Janet Schneiderman, Research Associate Professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work; and Sarah Zlotnik, Senior Strategist at PolicyLab, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

            Dr. Schneiderman presented findings from the National Survey on Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) a national representative longitudinal data set mandated by Congress as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (P.L. 104-193) that focused on health problems experienced by children in child welfare systems.  She concluded that children’s developmental health and mental health are impacted by child welfare system experiences whether they are placed in foster care or remain with their families.

            Ms. Zlotnik described efforts at PolicyLab to link research findings to policies that impact children in child welfare systems.  She presented information from a national study of Medicaid data from 2002 to 2007 examining the use of pediatric psychotropic medication and pointed to legislation like the Fostering Connections Act of 2008 and provisions in the Affordable Care Act as examples of legislation informed by research findings.

            Commissioner Samuels focused on efforts by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families to move child welfare system from a focus solely on the protection of children to one that will address the long-term effects of trauma among at-risk children.  He pointed out that while it is necessary to move and place children, their traumatic experiences follow them and are often not sufficiently addressed.

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From left: Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns, chair, CSWC; Dr. Janet Schneiderman, associate professor, USC School of Social Work; Bryan Samuels, commissioner, HHS Administration on Children, Youth and Families; Dr. Joan Levy Zlotnik, director, Social Work Policy Institute; and Sarah Zlotnik, senior strategist, PolicyLab, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.