The Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) works to ensure children of all ages have a safe and stable home every day. DCFS is responsible for child abuse prevention, protection, foster care, and adoption programs. We believe that it is important to respectfully engage families and youth and use community-based services and supports to assist parents in successfully caring for their children. When working with families, we focus on the safety, permanency and well-being for all children.
Our office is divided into five focus areas:
- Mental Health Services – Families in the child welfare system—children, their parents, and caregivers— often have been exposed to harmful circumstances or traumatic events while growing up. These adverse childhood experiences may include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; caregiver neglect, substance use, addiction, or mental health issues; domestic violence; or parental incarceration. Left unaddressed, the trauma from these experiences can affect nearly every aspect of a child or parent’s life. DCFS and its partners work to address these issues by providing a wide range of mental and behavioral health services to help children and families heal.
- Specialized Programs – DCFS is grounded in policies, practices, and programs designed to enhance child welfare system capacity and improve outcomes for children and families. Specialized programs have been developed to support those efforts, including the following units within DCFS: Policy, Professional Development, Planning, Transitional Youth Services, Foster Care Education, and Family Assessment. Together, staff in these units assist with the development, implementation, and evaluation of statewide child welfare programs supported by continuous quality improvement processes.
- Prevention and Reunification – Prevention programs and services focus on the overall health and well-being of both children and families and are designed to promote resiliency and parent capacity, all with the goal of preventing child maltreatment. Preventing circumstances and problems from escalating is important. Research shows that child maltreatment is associated with adverse health and mental health outcomes in children and families, and those negative effects can last a lifetime. However, safety is always our primary concern, and sometimes, children must be temporarily removed from the home to ensure their safety while we work with the family. Returning children to their original homes through reunification, as soon as it is safe to do so, is our first priority when a child enters foster care.
- Placement Supports and Community Outreach – Finding and maintaining the right placement for children when they enter foster care is critically important. We believe that children need to be in a family setting from the time they first come into our care. We work alongside our partners and placement providers to ensure that children are in the best place for their needs and that those placements are well-supported and stable.
- Community Services – It is important for families to have access in their own communities to the services and supports they need to become stronger and more stable both in the short-term and long-term. This begins with connecting with and forming a relationship with Division staff in their home county and area. To help, DCFS has divided the state into 10 service areas, grouped geographically by county, to take advantage of existing community resources and to help identify and address any gaps in available services for children and families. Local offices and staff can be found in all 75 of Arkansas’s counties.