US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at strengthening child-welfare programs across the country.
It comes as child-protection agencies across the US struggle with effects related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar hailed the order as a step toward "bold reforms".
The goals are ambitious - curtailing child maltreatment, strengthening adoption programs and encouraging support for at-risk families so fewer children need to be separated from their homes and placed in foster care.
An advocate for at-risk children and families, University of Michigan law professor Vivek Sankaran, said it was difficult to give an immediate verdict as to whether the proposals are significant or "a lot of fluff with little substance".
Sankaran said he found some basis for optimism in the performance of senior HHS official Jerry Milner, "who is desperately trying to change things" since his appointment three years ago to oversee much of the department's child welfare work.
The executive order envisions three basic areas of reform: creating "robust partnerships" between state agencies and public, private, faith-based and community organisations; improving resources provided to caregivers and those in care and improving federal oversight over key statutory child welfare requirements.
According to HHS, there are about 430,000 children in the US foster care system, including nearly 124,000 who are eligible for adoption.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused an array of problem for child-protection agencies across the US.
Some family court proceedings have been disrupted, at times delaying a child's exit from foster care to return home.
Many biological parents have been denied normally routine in-person visits with children placed in foster care and some agencies say it has become harder than ever to recruit new foster parents.
Australian Associated Press