The Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) works to ensure safety and permanency for children and youth of all ages and to strengthen families. The division, which is comprised of more than a thousand employees across 10 service areas throughout the state, works alongside national and local partners to respectfully engage children and youth, families, and communities to prevent and protect them from child abuse and neglect, provide safety and stability through foster care, and permanency through reunification, adoption, and other services.
Prevention & Protection
DCFS believes the best way to protect children and youth from abuse is to prevent it from happening. To do that, DCFS offers comprehensive prevention programs and services which focus on the overall health and well-being of both children and families and are designed to promote resilience and parent capacity while also preventing child maltreatment.
DCFS uses both federal and state funding provided by the Children’s Bureau Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) grant and the Arkansas Children’s Trust fund to fund programs and services throughout the state like the Baby and Me Program, enhancing schools that implement the Community School Model and supporting families in need.
While prevention is a goal of DCFS, families in the child welfare system are often already experiencing abuse, neglect, or other harmful circumstances by the time they are referred to DCFS. The division works to provide protection to children and youth in these circumstances through timely and thorough investigations and providing services to strengthen the entire family in the home. When necessary, the division temporarily removes children from their homes and places them in foster care to offer them the safety and stability they need to thrive.
Safety & Stability
Typically, children who enter foster care are placed in traditional home settings with families and sometimes even relatives who have volunteered to partner with the agency to provide the safety and stability the child needs while the agency works with their parents to strengthen the family unit and create an environment that is safe for the children to return to. The current average number of children in foster care is 4,300 with an average of just under 1,700 foster homes to support those children.
On occasion, some children require a different type of care, and DCFS works with community 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.
For families whose children are in foster care, DCFS strives to help these families achieve permanency. Permanency varies by case and can happen several ways. It can come in the form of reunification, when children who have been removed from their biological families and temporarily placed in foster care safely reunite with their families; adoption, and transitional youth services, where youth continue to receive DCFS support o to help them transition into young adulthood until they reach 18 and exit foster care, or, if they choose to participate in the Extended Foster Care Program, until the age of 21.