Child Welfare Fellows Program



Photo of a child playing with blocks.NCSL is pleased to announce a year-long Child Welfare Fellows program designed to support legislators and legislative staff who are experienced or emerging leaders in child welfare policy. The program is made possible by support from the Ballmer Group.

State lawmakers have become increasingly concerned about the recent increase both in child maltreatment rates and foster care caseloads. They have long recognized that child welfare is a critical state responsibility and includes protecting children from abuse and neglect, and ensuring that children have safe, stable and permanent living situations. State legislators understand their critical role in funding, structuring and overseeing child welfare systems and enact more than 300 child welfare bills every year. 

Lawmakers seek to address these important issues while facing legislative turnover, changing committee assignments, jurisdiction over multiple policy areas and increasing demands on their time and attention. NCSL's Child Welfare Fellows program will provide legislators and legislative staff a rare opportunity to focus intensively on child welfare issues, engage in thoughtful policy discussions, learn from their peers across the nation, connect with national experts, and receive in-depth assistance from NCSL.


The Child Welfare Fellows Program is designed to support legislators and legislative staff who are experienced or emerging leaders in child welfare. The program is geared towards those who are chairing or serving on legislative human services, children and families, and/or human services budget/appropriations committees, and who want to expand their knowledge and learn from other legislators and research and policy experts across the country.

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 fostering the exchange of ideas and solutions related to child welfare.
  • Meet, connect and learn from other legislative leaders.
  • Identify action steps as part of a practical child welfare individual action plan for immediate use in their states.
  • Speak with and learn from leading researchers and policy experts.

Program Structure

The Child Welfare Fellows Program will consist of two in-person meetings and at least two webinars. Each meeting will take place over 1½ days consisting of approximately five to seven sessions on various topics. The meetings, which will be in a small group format, will provide legislators with in-depth information on policies, financing and program innovation across the country. The nation’s leading researchers and policy experts are invited as faculty and work with legislators to identify policy solutions. The small group allows for ample time to talk with experts and their peers.

In addition, NCSL will provide technical assistance to the fellows in the form of background research, testimony, bill drafting ideas or other policy support, through existing publications, multi-media and online materials. This support is designed to help each participant complete the goals of their individual action plans.

Selection Process

Step 1:

NCSL will send out a Child Welfare Fellows program description and nomination form to the legislative leadership office in each state. Leaders nominate up to three legislators they believe would benefit from and add to the Child Welfare Fellows program.

Step 2:

All nominees are then sent a Child Welfare Fellows application that includes an explanation of the fellows program and a section with questions about the applicant. Applications are due by a specific date, which is always noted on the application itself.

Step 3:

NCSL staff review all submitted applications. Fellows are selected based on their application responses with attention given to regional and party participation. (NCSL typically receives many more applications than we can accept into the program).

Step 4:

Selected fellows receive a confirmation letter inviting them to participate in the program. Selected fellows are asked to respond to the invitation in a specific time frame and either accept or decline the invitation to participate. Selected fellows are asked to commit to attending the two in-person meetings and two webinar presentations. It is important that selected fellows that accept the invitation to participate can attend both in-person meetings and webinars.

Step 5:

Attend meetings and participate as a Child Welfare Fellow.

Step 6:

At the close of each year Child Welfare Fellows will become alumni of the program who will receive invitations to participate in content specific webinars and other timely pieces of information from NCSL staff.

Note: NCSL’s inaugural Child Welfare Fellows program is made possible by our sponsor, the Ballmer Group. Since this program is grant funded, class size is limited and applicants must complete each of the above noted steps.

Additional Resources

Learn about Class One of the Child Welfare Fellows (2018-2019)

Child Welfare Champions Corner