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May 2020Vol. 21, No. 4Children's Bureau Releases Information Memorandum on Foster Care as a Support to Families

The Children's Bureau, within the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released an Information Memorandum (IM) (ACYF-CB-IM-20-06) intended for state, tribal, and territorial agencies as well as state and tribal court improvement programs that provides information on best practices, resources, and recommendations for using foster care as a support to families, with the ultimate goal of safe and timely reunification. 

The following are best practices guidelines that can help to facilitate the use of foster care as a support to families:

  • Create a culture of viewing and utilizing foster care as a support for entire families.
  • Ensure exhaustive family search efforts occur at the onset of child welfare involvement so that children can be placed with relatives or kin.
  • Recruit and train resource families that are committed to serving as a support to families with children in foster care.
  • Support relationships between parents and resource families.
  • Develop written family time and shared parenting agreements as part of the reunification plan.
  • Utilize resource families as post reunification supports.
  • Prioritize retention of resource families.
  • Celebrate successes to support ongoing engagement.

In addition, the IM highlights the importance of supportive partnerships between birth and resource parents. Agencies are encouraged to cultivate relationships between birth and resource parents to help dispel the fear some parents have that resource parents are trying to "replace" them, mitigate the trauma of separation, help children see adults working together with their best interests in mind, and ensure that parents maintain a meaningful presence in their child's life. These partnerships can also help parents view resource parents as examples of effective and safe parenting.

Also included in the IM are resources and innovations from public, private, and faith-based communities that can serve as examples of how to support families throughout their child welfare and foster care involvement in the way they create opportunities for parents and resource families to partner together to enhance protective factors, maintain and strengthen parent-child bonds, and expedite reunification.