Child Welfare Fellows Program


kids playing in classroom


NCSL’s Child Welfare Fellows program is back following a three-year hiatus with a new focus on upstream prevention of child maltreatment. The program is designed to provide educational support and technical assistance to legislators and legislative staff with a discernible interest in child welfare who are in a position to influence policy in their state. The program is ideal for those who chair, serve on or staff relevant policy or budget/appropriations committees.

The program provides legislators and legislative staff a rare opportunity to focus intensively on prevention of child maltreatment in the context of state child welfare systems. Fellows engage in thoughtful policy discussions, learn from nationally recognized experts, connect with their peers from other states and receive technical assistance from NCSL.

Thanks to the Pritzker Children’s Initiative and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCSL can offer this experience at no cost to members.


The Child Welfare Fellows Program aims to help participants expand their knowledge of the nature of child maltreatment in the United States, distinguish between historical child protection models and upstream prevention strategies, and identify actions they can take as lawmakers and leaders in their states.

Program Elements

Program participants will have the opportunity to: 

  • Build knowledge alongside other legislators and staff about new research and policy.
  • Be part of a peer-learning environment that promotes the exchange of ideas and solutions related to child welfare.
  • Learn from leading researchers and policy experts.
  • Develop an individual legislative action plan.
  • Request technical assistance from NCSL.

Program Structure

The program consists of two multi-day, in-person meetings and two webinars. The curriculum exposes fellows to emerging and evidence-based strategies to prevent child maltreatment, major federal policies and examples of state legislative activity. The nation’s leading researchers and policy experts serve as faculty and are available to help legislators identify policy solutions for their state. The small group structure allows for ample time to talk with experts and their peers.

In addition, NCSL offers technical assistance to fellows in the form of background research, testimony, bill drafting consultation and other means of support. This support is intended to help fellows fulfill their individual action plans.

Selection Process

Step 1: (Jan. – April)

NCSL asks legislative leadership offices in each state to nominate members for the program. Leaders nominate up to three legislators they believe would benefit from and contribute to the program. Legislative staff can apply to the program with permission from their supervisor.

Step 2: (Feb. – April)

NCSL invites all nominees to apply for the program.

Step 3: (May)

NCSL staff review applications and select about 25 fellows based on the content of their applications. Additional consideration is given to ensure the cohort is diverse in party affiliation, geography, race, ethnicity and gender. NCSL often receives more applications than available program spaces.

Step 4: (May)

NCSL notifies all applicants of the final status of their application. Those not selected are eligible to apply in future years. Those admitted receive a confirmation letter inviting them to participate in the program. They are asked to accept or decline the invitation by a deadline. At this time, applicants must commit to participating in two in-person meetings and two webinars.

Step 5: (June – September)

In-person and online activities generally take place in June, July, August and September. Fellows who do not fully participate will be removed from the cohort roster and will be eligible to apply again in future years.

Step 6: (Ongoing)

Program alumni receive invitations to participate in webinars and other events.

Additional Resources

2018-2019 Child Welfare Fellows

2022 Child Welfare Fellows