Despite many well-intentioned efforts to create, revise, reform, and establish an effective child welfare system in the United States, the system continues to fail to ensure the safety and well-being of maltreated children. Out of Harm's Way explores the following four critical aspects of the system and presents a specific change in each that would lead to lasting improvements.
- Deciding who is the client. Child welfare
systems attempt to balance the needs of the child and those of the
parents, often failing both. Clearly answering this question is the
most important, yet unaddressed, issue facing the child welfare
- Decisions. The key task for a caseworker is not
to provide services but to make decisions regarding child abuse and
neglect, case goals, and placement; however, practitioners have
only the crudest tools at their disposal when making what are
literally life and death decisions.
- The Perverse Incentive. Billions of dollars are
spent each year to place and maintain children in out-of-home care.
Foster care is meant to be short-term, yet the existing federal
funding serves as a perverse incentive to keep children in
- Aging out. More than 20,000 youth age out of the
foster care system each year, and yet what the system calls
"emancipation" could more accurately be viewed as child neglect.
After having spent months, years, or longer moving from placement
to placement, aging-out youth are suddenly thrust into
homelessness, unemployment, welfare, and oppressive
The chapters in this book offer a blueprint for reform that eschews
the tired cycle of a tragedy followed by outrage and calls for more
money, staff, training, and lawsuits that provide, at best,
fleeting relief as a new complacency slowly sets in until the cycle
repeats. If we want, instead, to try something else, the changes
that Gelles outlines in this book are affordable, scalable, and