LSA Policy Priorities: Children, Youth, and Families

General | Child WelfareEducation | Juvenile Justice | Healthcare and Behavioral Treatment

More than 100 LSA members serve children, youth and families (CYF) in 33 states across the country. Many are the largest provider of CYF services in their state, and may also be the sole CYF provider in their community.  To meet the diverse and unique needs of the children, youth, families they are called to serve, LSA members offer a range of services in a variety of settings and across the continuum of care, including foster care, adoption, health care, behavioral treatment services, early childhood development, elementary and secondary education, counseling and support services, and programs for homeless and transition-age youth.  

Our Approach: Solutions and Systems-based Policy

As trusted faith-based providers serving the most vulnerable children and families in communities across the country, LSA members are both acutely aware of the need for meaningful policy and program change, and well-positioned to identify and advance solutions.  Based on consultation with our members, we have identified two key principles for policymakers to consider embedding in efforts to effect change:  Alignment and Prevention.  Additionally, we have developed programmatic and policy priorities around four focus areas: Child Welfare, Health Care and Behavioral Treatment, Education, and Juvenile Justice.

LSA is committed to improving outcomes for children, youth, families, and communities.  We will work with our members, policymakers, stakeholders, and other national partners to  advocate for our practitioner-informed programmatic and solutions-based policy goals.  Contact LSA’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Lindsey Copeland, to learn more about LSA's CYF advocacy efforts and how you can get involved.


We believe the solutions to improving well-being and outcomes for children, youth, and families must be embedded and applied across the Child Welfare, Health Care and Behavioral Treatment Services, Education, and Juvenile Justice systems.  Meaningful change will require an holistic approach to maximizing alignment within and across systems, programs, services, and outcomes; as well as the availability and prioritization of preventive and early intervention services that effectively address the needs of both children and their families.   Accordingly, LSA’s solutions-based CYF policy goals focus on Alignment and Prevention.


LSA supports an integrated, child and family centric, holistic approach to maximizing system, program, and service alignment. This includes improved communication, information, and data sharing across and within the child welfare, mental health, health care, education, and juvenile justice systems at the federal, state, local, and provider levels; as well as efforts to align program funding with child well-being and services with the needs of children and their families.  


LSA supports a preventive model that strengthens families, promotes child well-being, and safely reduces the need for protective interventions.  This includes efforts to provide appropriate, integrated services designed to prevent initial out-of-home placements when a child or family first becomes involved with the child welfare system, as well as those to prevent reentry into foster care or other residential options. When needed, protective interventions should address the unique needs of both children and their families and prioritize child safety, stability, and permanence. 


LSA members are dedicated to helping all children and youth have safe, stable, loving families and homes, as well as the opportunity to thrive in the community.  This includes access to critical services and supports from birth to adulthood, such as high quality early learning, development, elementary, and secondary education programs; affordable, age-appropriate health care and behavioral treatment services that meet the needs of children and their families; and community-based programs that help transition-age, homeless, and other developing young adults live healthy and resilient lives. Accordingly, LSA’s CYF programmatic policy goals focus on these four systems: Child Welfare, Health Care and Behavioral Treatment, Education, and Juvenile Justice.

Child Welfare

Our Vision: At all stages of development, children and youth should have safe, stable, loving families and homes, as well as the opportunity to thrive in the community.  

What We Believe: LSA believes families should be preserved, when it is in the best interest of the child, and that services should wrap around and sustain children and their families in the community.  We will work to ensure quality care for homeless youth, as well as children in foster care and other residential options; promote appropriate, timely, safe, and permanent placements for children and youth; embed trauma-informed practices into the system; and adequately prepare homeless youth and those aging out of foster care for independence. 

What We Support: Within Child Welfare, LSA has specific policy and advocacy goals related to Safety and Well-Being; Child Welfare Finance Reform; Supports for At-Risk, Transition Age, and Homeless Youth; Quality Care Across Settings; and Strong Families and Communities.  Learn more about the legislative, administrative, and regulatory actions we support. 

Health Care and Behavioral Treatment

Our Vision: All children should have timely access to affordable, child-specific health care, nutrition, and treatment services. 

What We Believe: LSA believes the delivery of preventive, trauma-informed, therapeutic interventions to children and their families at the earliest identification of need is critical, as is increasing the array of behavioral health services that can be safely provided in home and school settings.  Additionally, service and provider availability should be consistent across settings, wrapping around children and youth who must at least temporarily live outside their homes.

What We Support: Within Health Care and Behavioral Treatment, LSA has specific policy and advocacy goals related to Access to Care and Nutrition.  Learn more about the legislative, administrative, and regulatory actions we support.  


Our Vision: Education services should wrap around children and families from birth to adulthood, equipping them with the resources they need move out of poverty, achieve financial stability, and thrive.  

What We Believe: LSA believes access to high-quality early childhood education and development programs is key to a child’s long-term success. We will work to improve access to these programs, and others necessary to ensure that every child has the opportunity to be prepared for post-secondary education, the workforce, and 21st century citizenship.  This includes efforts to improve educational stability for homeless youth and students in foster care, and creating opportunities for families through adult education, home visiting, and two-generation programming.

What We Support: Within Education, LSA has specific policy and advocacy goals related to Early Childhood Development and Learning, as well as Elementary and Secondary Education. Learn more about the legislative, administrative, and regulatory actions we support.

Juvenile Justice 

Our Vision: Developing young adults should have access to services that help prevent initial contact with the criminal justice system, and those they need to successfully transition from system supervision to a crime-free, productive, and healthy life in the community.

What We Believe: LSA believes effective programs should be in place to help young people at every point of their involvement in the system, including those focused on reducing truancy, recidivism, and preventing homelessness for youth exiting the system. Youth intervention and transition programs should promote resiliency.

What We Support: Within Juvenile Justice policy, LSA has specific policy and advocacy goals related to Preventive Services and Youth Incarceration and Reentry. Learn more about the legislative, administrative, and regulatory actions we support.  


LSA’s Public Policy office works to ensure the voices of our members are heard at the federal level, in part by seeking policy change that aligns with our member-informed priorities.  Contact LSA’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Lindsey Copeland, to learn more about LSA policy and advocacy.


In addition to the LSA network, we are pleased to partner with a variety of national organizations and coalitions on areas of shared consensus.  In part, this includes our involvement with the Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition, chaired by the Children’s Defense Fund; the National Collaboration for Youth, chaired by the National Human Services Assembly; and the United Way’s Public Policy and Advocacy Coalition on Human Trafficking.  LSA is also an active member of Generations United’s Policy Committee, the National Foster Care Coalition, and the National Child Abuse Coalition. Along with these formal partnerships, LSA works closely with an array of leading national advocacy groups to pursue change that will positively affect the children, youth, families, and communities LSA members serve.


The LSA CYF Public Policy Agenda was created in partnership with LSA CYF practitioners. Thank you to the 29 LSA members who completed our CYF policy survey.  Special thanks to Betty Oldenkamp, Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota; Susie Schatz, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota; Dr. Sherone Smith-Sanchez, Lutheran Social Services of New York; Carol Roberts, Lutheran Social Services of Northern California; Knox Kimberly, Upbring; Chris Card, Lutheran Services Florida; Anne Silea, Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Missouri; Lutheran Services of Georgia; Julie Swanson, Lutheran Family Services of Virginia; and Drew Genszler, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry for your time and expertise in helping us shape LSA’s CYF policy goals.  We look forward to working together to advance our collective vision.