Innovative strategies are working to address the hard-to-solve problems facing Washington state’s children and families.

Share story

Research, development and innovation are often associated with the technology sector, but less frequently with the field of child and family services.

In 2019, that perception is changing as some bold nonprofits are taking the risk to stand at the forefront and transform the services, systems and policies that impact the everyday lives of Washington state’s and the nation’s children and their families.

“The sector has not always been known for creating and exploring new and exciting ways to work with children and families,” says Sharon Osborne, former president/CEO of Children’s Home Society of Washington, known nationally for breaking ground on innovative models within the sector. “This has changed significantly in the last 30 years where there has been increasing public and philanthropic investment into cutting-edge strategies that have meaningful impact.”

When Washington state’s foster care system launched in 1937, the focus was to address the security and safety for children, intervening with families after a crisis already occurred and sometimes resulting in children being removed from the home and placed in foster care.

Innovative nonprofits have listened to families over the decades and heard an increasing desire and need to provide what are known as prevention services, such as early learning, parent support groups, parenting classes and play and learn groups, where support is provided to families before challenges arise.

The desire to change services and systems took a significant leap forward in the late 1980s when 24 federal Families First grants were awarded to the top child and family providers in the country, including Children’s Home Society of Washington, as part of a five-year national research initiative pioneering a new model of child development and family support.

The model would permanently transform the sector – the creation of multigenerational, holistic and community-based services that included early learning centers and home visiting focused on parents with children birth to age 5.

Once again, the field of child and family services is going through another significant revolution with the passage in early 2018 of the Families First Prevention Services Act, the greatest child welfare reform legislation in the past 25 years. The goal is to increase public resources to reach families holistically and prevent problems before becoming critical, reducing the number of children in the foster care system.

“We are at a pivotal moment in time to determine what we can truly do for children and families across the country,” says Dave Newell, who was named the new president/CEO of Children’s Home Society of Washington in May 2019. “Now is the time to invest in innovative strategies that create lasting change for society.”

Children’s Home Society of Washington helps create a solid foundation for today’s children that will lead to prosperity for all of us in the future.