Child Welfare Initiative

Investing in Better Futures

MFF has a track record of working with organizations that are interconnected in the child welfare space. As we learn about challenges within the system, two things are clear. First, the child welfare system needs transformational change. Second, foundations like MFF can play a role as a convener for bringing leaders to the table to find community-driven solutions.

As of 2021, MFF is actively working with thought leaders, policy experts, child welfare organizations and those with lived experience in the system to join us in honest conversations about child welfare. 

This page will be a reflection of our work where you can find our latest partnerships, research and news.

The Colorado Implementation Science Unit (CISU)

The CISU is a first-of-its-kind implementation and science team created by a partnership between MFF, Casey Family Programs, Think of Us, Colorado Action Lab, Mile High United Way and the Colorado Department of Human Services. The CISU team works with small, local nonprofits to build data capacity, understanding and fidelity to elevate their work for the state’s child welfare clearinghouse. The team helps increase federal funding for prevention, improve access to evidence-based child welfare programs and prioritize programs designed by and for BIPOC, rural, tribal and underserved communities.

The Child Welfare Executive Accelerator

The Child Welfare Executive Accelerator is designed to empower frontline staff to solve the problems facing children and families through design thinking, executive training and research support. It was created and is operated in partnership with MindSpark. The first accelerator launched in North Dakota in 2022, where we trained 33 total leaders, including 21 in the education field and 12 in the social services sector. The accelerator helped bridge the gap between educators and caseworkers; together, they identified a need for new cross-sector resources such as an interdisciplinary psychological care team and a community resource map. Growing demand for the accelerator illustrates the need it fulfills. We will work with organizations in Indiana and Washington, D.C. in 2023, with more opportunities in the works.

Interested in an Executive Accelerator for your child welfare agency or nonprofit organization? Contact Elisabeth.Wilson@thinkmff.org for more information.

Discover the power of the Child Welfare Executive Accelerator

PASSED: Higher Education Support for Foster Youth (Colorado Senate Bill 22-008)

With support from Mile High United Way, Metropolitan State University of Denver and the MSU Epic Scholars Program, Senate Bill 22-008 passed to provide free tuition and require high schools, the Department of Higher Education, and colleges and universities to help students navigate the admissions process. About 4,500 students are eligible for the scholarship each year.

IN PROGRESS: Increasing Higher Education Support Nationally for Homeless and Foster Youth

Championed by MFF partner Think of Us are two bills aimed at improving higher education access for homeless and foster youth. The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, which has been introduced to the Senate, asks colleges and universities to improve outreach to and resources for students experiencing homelessness or in foster care. The Fostering Success in Higher Education Act, which has been introduced to the House, would invest $150M per year to improve college access, retention and completion rates for at-risk young people.

Understanding the child welfare landscape

Every year, over 7 million children are investigated for child abuse or neglect.

However, the rules, policies and procedures of how these investigations occur vary by state, county and local jurisdiction. There is no singular place that allows our communities to understand how the United States handles the number of children in foster care, the type of administration in each state and whether the state or private entities are serving the children and families in care.

Transparency and open communication are essential to driving positive change in the child welfare system. 

As we invest in the child welfare space and work to improve the lives of children and families, we recognize the importance of providing a clear interpretation of the complex workings of child welfare in the United States. As we continue to learn and grow in this space, we will share research, resources and trusted organizations here. Our goal is to provide as much helpful information to as many people as possible.

Child Welfare Interactive Map

This map shows the percent of children in foster care by total children in child welfare by state, the administration type that each state runs their agency with and if the state has privatized any part of child welfare. Hover over each state to explore.


  • Percent of Victims in Foster Care was reported from the 2019 Child Maltreatment Report located publicly: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/report/child-maltreatment-2019  
    • Citation: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2021). Child Maltreatment 2019. Available from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/research-data-technology/ statistics-research/child-maltreatment.  
  • Percent of Victims in Foster Care is the percentage of state victims from Federal Fiscal year 2019 [October 1, 2018 to September 30th 2019 ] that entered foster care in Federal Fiscal Year 2019 after receiving their initial FFY 2019 report. Table 6-4.
    • Table 6–4 Children Who Received Foster Care Postresponse Services and Who Had a Removal Date on or After the Report Date, 2019 
      • The numbers of victims and nonvictims are a duplicate count.
      • A child is counted each time that a CPS response is completed and services are provided. 
      • Only the children who are removed from their home on or after the report date are counted. 
      • States are excluded from this analysis if fewer than 2.0 percent of victims received foster care services. 
      • States were excluded from this analysis if more than 35.0 percent of victims with foster care services or more than 35.0 percent of nonvictims with foster care services did not have a removal date.
  • Privatized Foster Care was recorded by using multiple documents and websites.
    • 2011 Alliance for Children and Families (map). Link here: https://leg.mt.gov/content/Committees/Interim/2017-2018/Children-Family/Meetings/Mar-2018/march2018-ncsl-cps-privatization-report.pdf 
    • Dunnigan, A. (2018). Does Privatization Matter? An Exploration of Foster Care Permanency Outcomes. Washington University in St. Louis Dissertation.
    • Each state agencies’ website, policies, and local news organizations were then checked for updated information and changes.
    • The definition of privatized foster care for the purpose of this map is “contracting out of the case management function, with the result that contractors make the day to day case management decisions” (McCullough and Lee, 2007).
  • Administration Type of Each State agency was collected from Administration of Children and Families link: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/services/]. All state agencies’ websites were then used to verify the report. This report was accurate as of 2017. In addition to this base report all state agencies’ websites were checked for changes in information.
    • Citation Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2018). State vs. county administration of child welfare services. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
    • State definition = The child welfare agency is state administered
    • County definition = The child welfare agency is administered by each county
    • Hybrid = The child welfare agency is split in which a few counties are state administered and a few counties are county administered 

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