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Working group presents recommendations to improve foster care system in Arkansas


LITTLE ROCK – A working group established under an Executive Order from Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has made a series of recommendations aimed at protecting vulnerable children, supporting foster families, and improving the foster care system, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and Every Child Arkansas announced today.

Gov. Sanders tasked DHS with bringing together Every Child Arkansas, Department of Public Safety, Department of Education, and expert stakeholders to develop the plan. 

Subcommittees came back with 11 recommendations for improving outcomes for Arkansas children and families. 

“This strategic plan takes a holistic approach to services as they currently exist, and applies new and innovative strategies to make a big difference much earlier for our children and families who need support,” said DHS Secretary Kristi Putnam. “Ultimately, this will mean better outcomes for vulnerable children in our state. I am grateful to Gov. Sanders for initiating this important effort, thankful for those who worked together to develop these ideas, and excited to implement these new plans going forward.” 

Announced in February in tandem with Gov. Sanders’ Executive Order, Every Child Arkansas is a network of more than two dozen organizations who are working together to recruit and support foster families.

“Every Child Arkansas is laser focused on ensuring that we have more than enough families to provide an ideal placement for all children in foster care,” said Phillip Goad, Ph.D., chair of the Every Child Arkansas Executive Leadership Council. “We believe this strategic plan will help Arkansas make measured and meaningful improvements to the system as a whole, which will in turn bolster the available supports and services for children and families across this state. We are proud to play a role in developing this fresh and forward-thinking approach.”  

“The Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is incredibly grateful for the support we received from our partners, our fellow stakeholders, and other state agencies to develop these recommendations,” said DCFS Director Tiffany Wright. “We cannot do this work alone, and it is inspiring to see so many colleagues and partners come together under the common goal of improving the lives of the children we serve in communities across the state.”  

A full list of the recommendations is included below, and a more detailed report is available on both the DHS website and the Every Child Arkansas website. 

Recommendation 1: Create a community resource model that provides virtual and in-person prevention support that uses a relationship-based approach to connect families and professionals to services and supports.

Recommendation 2: Reduce family barriers to accessing existing public assistance programs.

Recommendation 3: Continue development and expansion of models that have a strong evidence-base for primary prevention and reducing poor outcomes, such as maltreatment.

Recommendation 4: Make crisis response services and associated support services more accessible for families or youth in crisis.

Recommendation 5: Create a cross-agency coordination team to support key stakeholder groups in development and implementation of high-quality trauma-informed care training for staff. Examples of stakeholders include, but are not limited to, child welfare, law enforcement, public safety, court system, and education.

Recommendation 6: Strengthen the DCFS workforce.

Recommendation 7: Expand team-based approaches to collaboratively support families through court proceedings and associated case plans.

Recommendation 8: Implement ongoing, community-specific training for all parties involved in the child welfare system to include DCFS staff, CASA, attorneys, judges, CACD, MDT, law enforcement, and other agencies responding to neglect and abuse that addresses the difference between safety and risk and the implications of each.

Recommendation 9: Continue to expand the use of private license agency foster homes and partner with Every Child Arkansas to implement a targeted marketing campaign for recruiting foster parents.

Recommendation 10: Create and communicate a clear plan regarding access to information about the case for foster parents and strengthen overall support to foster homes to improve retention.

Recommendation 11: Redesign the training model and requirements for foster parents and DCFS staff.

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