Thank you for the opportunity to write about CWLA. I first learned of CWLA when I was a public child welfare worker many years ago. Its publications and advocacy inspired me to one day, grow enough professionally so I could work directly with them. Over the years, I have been fortunate to enjoy that privilege in a variety of capacities - as a consultant, as a staff member and, for the past decade, as a social work professor whose school of social work is a member. Twenty years ago I served as CWLA's staff director for its National Commission on Family Foster Care, and now I am honored to serve on a new National Commission for Public Policy. Every decade, since its birth in 1920, CWLA has made significant contributions to improve services and supports for at-risk children and families. CWLA helped create the National Foster Parent Association. It has led the way to pass landmark legislation; its publications, such as the juried journal Child Welfare, and its legislative alerts are valuable to the field, and to professors like me who teach child welfare and social policy advocacy courses. For the past 20 years, CWLA has provided the field with a model of practice to recruit, assess, select, prepare and support foster and adoptive parents with its PRIDE program. PRIDE is now being used in over 30 states and in 20 countries. It is inspiring to see colleagues in other states and countries using the same excellent practice skills to support foster and adoptive parents of children who have special if not extraordinary needs. This summer, CWLA will be rolling out a new model of practice, an evidence-informed curriculum to teach child welfare workers and their supervisors how to collaborate with and support kinship caregivers (relatives caring for their younger family members.) CWLA also is working with its members and other partners across the country to upgrade standards for practice, commensurate with CWLA's original mission. We are in a "perfect storm" right now, when economic downturns and other societal changes create the need for preventions and interventions for fragile children and families, but resources don't keep pace. Who is charting the course to inspire public will and political interest to keep children protected and nurtured, families strong, and other at-risk and oppressed populations served? What about help for GLBTQ youth, or young people transitioning from foster care to safe, responsible community living? What about undocumented children in the child welfare system? Who is advocating for a child welfare workforce that can do the right thing and do things right – the first time, on time, every time? Actually, CWLA is only a brand. But the brand reflects the collective passion and fortitude of all of us as tireless advocates. CWLA's current members, staff, and board need the support of more individuals, agencies, and organizations to band together under the rubric of three critically important words: for the children.
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CWLA is the oldest child advocacy organization in the country. It has a proud tradition of mobilizing voices for children on local, state, and national levels, representing private, nonprofit, public, faith-based, agencies and organizations, as well as schools of social work and other newer advocacy organizations. CWLA offers an opportunity for diverse groups of individuals, agencies, and other groups to advance the continuing essential agenda to make at risk infants, children, youth, and families the centerpiece of U.S. public social policy. Whether through its publications, conferences, member network, or contact with staff, the name "CWLA" is synomous with putting children first.