While safety and permanency are integral to a child’s well-being, they are not enough. The well-being goal addresses the physical health and behavioral, emotional, and social functioning of children and youth who have experienced maltreatment, trauma, and/or exposure to violence.
Generally, when looking at well-being, child welfare practice is concerned with addressing the following questions:
- Did the child protective services agency do a thorough assessment of the needs of the child, family, and foster family, and provide the services necessary to ensure the child’s well-being?
- Did the agency make sure that the child’s physical, educational, and mental health needs were met?
- Were the child and the family actively involved in developing the case plan?
- Did the caseworker meet often enough with the child, parents, and foster family to ensure that the child was safe and that everyone was focused on the case plan's outcomes, goals, and tasks?
Good casework practice in achieving positive well-being outcomes includes thorough and ongoing assessment of children and their caregivers to determine their needs and then meet those needs through written case plans and service provision. Because physical and behavioral health needs and functioning involve more than the affected child, it is important to engage all pertinent parties, such as educators, healthcare providers, and therapists. Regular and attentive caseworker visits are also important to monitor a child’s functioning. The goal is not merely to have the child survive his or her time in child welfare, but to thrive as best as he or she can.
Well-being is often harder to quantify than safety or permanency. To assist agencies, the Children’s Bureau has developed a pair of guides identifying well-being instruments for early childhood and middle childhood/adolescence.