Children's Bureau ExpressFebruary 2009 | Vol. 10, No. 1

Table of Contents
 

Spotlight on Partnerships and Collaboration
Learn more about what States and agencies are doing to establish partnerships and collaborations with other agencies, the courts, the education system, and other groups to support better outcomes for children and families.

  • Family Organizations Promote Systems Change in Child Welfare
  • Sharing Data Between the Court and Child Welfare Systems
  • Connecting to Improve Education for Children in Foster Care
  • Partnering to Provide Housing for Children and Youth
  • Improving Mental Health Outcomes for Abused and Neglected Infants
  • Interagency Collaboration Improves Child Welfare Services

News From the Children's Bureau
This month's CBX brings news about a number of Children's Bureau initiatives, including the AdoptUsKids photolisting successes, the release of the Court Performance Toolkit, launch of the Implementation Centers, and many new resources available through the T&TA Network.

  • From the Associate Commissioner's Office
  • AdoptUsKids Website Adoptions Exceed 10,000
  • New Toolkit Measures Court Performance in Child Welfare
  • Implementation Centers Offer New Services to States and Tribes
  • Parent Education for Migrant Families
  • Updates From the T&TA Network
  • NSCAW Research on Child Welfare Populations
  • New! On the Children's Bureau Site

Child Welfare Research
CBX reports on two research studies of different child welfare populations: siblings in foster care and former foster youth in community colleges.

  • Siblings Placed Together Reunify Faster
  • Community Colleges Reach Out to Foster Youth

Strategies and Tools for Practice
Read about a unique State program that uses paralegals to help workers, find out about a new application for Family Group Conferencing, and catch up on the latest uses of technology in child welfare.

  • Paralegals Promote Permanency
  • Family Group Conferencing With Immigrant Families
  • Using Technology to Improve Child Welfare

Resources

  • Opportunities for Former Foster Youth
  • New Resources on Citizens Review Panels Website
  • Guidance on Child Visitation With Caseworkers and Families
  • Grants for Mentoring Programs
  • Website Update for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome
  • Sharing Family Strengths Activity Booklet

Training and Conferences

  • Families in Society Offers CE Courses
  • Conferences

Spotlight on Partnerships and Collaboration

Family Organizations Promote Systems Change in Child Welfare

Family organizations are demonstrating that families can be effective partners in child welfare systems change. The Kansas Family Advisory Network (KFAN) is an organization that exemplifies this kind of partnership. Established as part of the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration project for the State of Kansas, KFAN's mission is to impact and influence child welfare policy and practice by creating collaborative relationships in the community.

KFAN is composed of family partners, family partner groups (organizations in which at least 51 percent of the members are family partners), and community partners and agencies. The goals of KFAN are to establish, engage, educate, support, and sustain family involvement in child welfare and promote collaboration and partnerships among birth parents and other caregivers including, but not limited to, foster resource parents, adoptive parents, relatives, child welfare services, social service practitioners, law enforcement, court services, policymakers, and society at large. This broad collaboration helps service providers view families as partners in the process of child welfare systems change. As Ruth Heitsman, President of KFAN puts it, "This whole view of 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' is a concept that has to be overcome when you're talking about relative care."

Ms. Heitsman explains that she and Angela Braxton, Vice President of KFAN, knew that it was critical for the family partners to join together throughout the State and become an organization that would be sustainable after the systems of care grant ended. "As long as we kept working in our own little world, our own circle, that would never happen," explained Ms. Heitsman.

Formerly the Kansas Family Advisory Council, which began in 2005, the current KFAN entity received its State of Kansas Articles of Incorporation in 2007. In November 2008, KFAN obtained 501(c)(3) status, making it the first nonprofit group of its kind in Kansas. This important accomplishment underscores the importance of KFAN's work and the involvement of families in child welfare systems.

KFAN's many accomplishments in just a short time include:

KFAN's current activities focus on advancing the systems of care principles of family and youth involvement, community-based services, individualized strengths-based care, interagency collaboration, cultural competency, and accountability. Additionally, KFAN is developing and distributing literature, developing and supporting existing and new Family Advisory Councils in Kansas, and serving as family representatives to policy development groups.

Ms. Heitsman stresses the difference that KFAN is making in the field of family involvement in child welfare. "We have to realize it's not about the past, it's about the future. It's about what we can change to help kids in the future and families in the future, not changing what has already happened."

For more information, please visit the project website:

www.kfan.org

Many thanks to Ruth Heitsman, President of KFAN, and Angela Braxton, Vice President of KFAN, who provided information for this article.

Related Item

To read more about the nine systems of care grantees, see "Interagency Collaboration Improves Child Welfare Services" in this issue of CBX.

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Spotlight on Partnerships and Collaboration
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2516


Sharing Data Between the Court and Child Welfare Systems

Progress toward developing effective data sharing between the courts and child welfare agencies and the benefits of data sharing are explored in a new report released by the New York State Unified Court System, Division of Court Operations. In the report, Building Bridges: The Case for Data Sharing Between the Court and Child Welfare Systems, authors Paul Drezelo and Amelia Lepore discuss the need for interagency collaboration in the development of information systems that can communicate directly with one another. Potential benefits of data sharing include:

The report provides examples of specific projects in New York that illustrate these benefits, as well as some of the challenges that agencies and courts have addressed. A New York Court Improvement Project is described that will compile and disseminate county-by-county data indicators to provide benchmarks for child safety, timeliness of permanency, child well-being, and due process.

Building Bridges: The Case for Data Sharing Between the Court and Child Welfare Systems is available online:

www.courts.state.ny.us/ip/cwcip/Publications/BuildingBridges-TheCaseForDataShare.pdf (602 KB)

Related Item

The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funded the Strengthening Abuse and Neglect Courts Act (SANCA) pilot projects to demonstrate the benefits of enhancing State court systems' capacity to implement automated data collection and case-tracking systems and to use such systems to evaluate court performance. To read about the SANCA projects, go to:

www.ncsconline.org/WC/Publications/KIS_FamJusSANCAProject.pdf

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Spotlight on Partnerships and Collaboration
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2517


Connecting to Improve Education for Children in Foster Care

A California collaboration among representatives of the child welfare and public education fields as well as former foster youth, policymakers, legal system representatives, researchers, health-care providers, and advocates has produced a report identifying ways to reverse systemic failings in education that create an achievement gap for foster care students. The report includes recommendations and implementation strategies to connect agencies, groups, or individuals that might not otherwise come together to help the State's 74,000 children and youth in foster care.

The Stuart Foundation convened the California Education Collaborative for Children in Foster Care (the Collaborative) specifically to identify and address ways that the child welfare, education, and court systems could partner to improve educational outcomes for foster care students. To facilitate their research and planning, members of the Collaborative formed workgroups that focused on three areas of need: school readiness, school success, and data sharing across agencies and systems.

The resulting report, compiled over several years, draws from a number of products, projects, and events conducted by the Collaborative, including:

The report's recommendations reflect the workgroup structure of the Collaborative.

A final section of the report offers implementation strategies for introducing many of these systemic changes in a time of financial constraints.

Ready to Succeed: Changing Systems to Give California’s Foster Children the Opportunities They Deserve to Be Ready for and Succeed in School is available on The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning website:

www.cftl.org/documents/2008/FCfullreport.pdf (1,935 KB)

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Spotlight on Partnerships and Collaboration
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2518


Partnering to Provide Housing for Children and Youth

Information and resources that support partnerships between child welfare and public housing agencies are the focus of a new website launched by the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW). NCHCW is working to support collaborations at the local, regional, and State levels in order to better assist families when the primary barrier to reunification with their children in foster care is the lack of affordable, safe, decent, and permanent housing. The Center is also working with agencies that serve foster youth to help youth who are aging out of foster care develop plans for achieving housing stability.

NCHCW supports these partnerships on three levels:

Resources on the site include links to legislation and policy, a model of partnership between child welfare and affordable housing agencies, training materials, and a bibliography of research reports.

www.nchcw.org

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Spotlight on Partnerships and Collaboration
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2519


Improving Mental Health Outcomes for Abused and Neglected Infants

Child welfare specialists recognize that infants and toddlers placed in out-of-home care often have special mental health needs resulting from the trauma of abuse and neglect. A new publication provides guidance for collaboration among the professionals—judges, court personnel, child welfare professionals, and infant mental health specialists—who have responsibility for ensuring the well-being of maltreated children under age 3 and their families.

In the publication Courts, Child Welfare and Infant Mental Health: Improving Outcomes for Abused/Neglected Infants and Toddlers, authors Betty Tableman and Nichole Paradis draw upon models of court-community partnerships developed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, and ZERO TO THREE to provide guidelines for how judges working with child welfare, community mental health, and other community partners can put in place a "Maltreated Infants Court" to take into account the social and emotional needs of the infant/toddler within the judicial process.

The model provides particular focus on the specialized role of the infant mental health specialist who has responsibility for assessing the parent and infant/toddler and their interactions. In concert with other involved professionals, the infant mental health specialist makes recommendations to provide a comprehensive intervention (including parenting education) with the infant/toddler and the parent together, where appropriate.

The publication includes a sample court report, a list of resources, and recommendations for training and supervision for mental health specialists taking on this specialized role.

Courts, Child Welfare and Infant Mental Health: Improving Outcomes for Abused/Neglected Infants and Toddlers was published by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health. Ordering information is available on the association's website:

www.mi-aimh.org

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Spotlight on Partnerships and Collaboration
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2520


Interagency Collaboration Improves Child Welfare Services

A new issue brief describes the benefits of interagency collaboration in the context of a system of care approach designed to deliver better services for children and families. "Interagency Collaboration" is the third report in the series A Closer Look, which summarizes findings from nine grant communities funded through the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care initiative.

According to the issue brief, child welfare administrators have long recognized the need for a broad, coordinated effort by public and private agencies and organizations to strengthen and support families involved in the child welfare system. The first round of the Child and Family Services Reviews confirmed this need, pointing out service gaps and areas where interagency collaboration could support better outcomes for children and families.

Based on the experiences of the nine grantee communities engaged in the systems of care initiative, the issue brief identifies several essential elements of interagency collaboration:

In addition, the brief cites the following challenges in developing effective interagency collaboration: limited funding resources, time constraints, and staff turnover. The report offers examples of effective strategies that communities use to face these challenges (for example, gathering all relevant partner agencies to create a common plan, reducing duplication and gaps in services). Examples from the grantees illustrate how these strategies have been put into action. These solutions have implications for administrators and stakeholders seeking to implement new policies that expand the collaborative relationships developed within their system of care.

The series is produced by the National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center for Systems of Care. The complete issue brief is available to download for free on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/acloserlook/interagency/interagency.pdf (3,024 KB)

Related Item

To read about one of the specific systems of care grantees, see "Family Organizations Promote Systems Change in Child Welfare" in this issue of CBX.

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Spotlight on Partnerships and Collaboration
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2521


News From the Children's Bureau

From the Associate Commissioner's Office

The change in Administration brings with it leadership changes here at the Children's Bureau. As we await the appointment of the new Associate Commissioner, Joe Bock has been named as the Acting Associate Commissioner. I have been the Deputy Associate Commissioner since 2002 and have been with the Children's Bureau for over 12 years.

With every Administration and leadership change, the Children's Bureau's mission has never changed. We remain committed to working with States and Tribes to implement and improve services to vulnerable children and families. In my role as Acting Associate Commissioner, the Children's Bureau staff and I will continue to work toward our mission of achieving safety, permanency, and well-being of children through partnerships with States, Tribes, and communities. As in the past, we hope that you find this month’s edition of Children's Bureau Express informative.

Sincerely,

Joe Bock
Acting Associate Commissioner

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2508


AdoptUsKids Website Adoptions Exceed 10,000

AdoptUsKids began the new year with an exciting announcement: More than 10,000 children in foster care photolisted on the AdoptUsKids website have been placed for adoption. Launched in 2002, the photolisting allows families considering adoption to learn more about specific children in foster care. Since that time, more than 20,000 prospective families from across the country have registered on the website to begin the adoption process, and more than 24,000 children's pictures and mini-biographies have been posted on the website.

Data on the 10,000-adoptions milestone include promising information about those children who may have faced additional barriers to permanency. For instance, more than 60 percent of the children were at least 10 years old, 47 percent were African American, and 20 percent were siblings adopted together.

The photolisting website is just part of a comprehensive campaign to publicize the benefits and joys of adoption from foster care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau and the Ad Council introduced a series of public service announcements (PSAs) in 2004 to increase public awareness about children in foster care and their need for loving, permanent homes. The PSA tagline, "You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent," has appeared in numerous print, television, and radio ads, making the point that children need loving families—not perfection. For the past 2 years, the ads have focused on the adoption of teenagers, adding the phrase, "There are thousands of teens in foster care who would love to put up with you."

The PSAs and photolisting website are all part of the Children's Bureau's mission to raise public awareness about the 496,000 children in foster care, especially the 130,000 awaiting adoption, many of whom are older children and teens. Currently, there are more than 4,000 children's photos and biographies on the AdoptUsKids website.

For more information:

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2509


New Toolkit Measures Court Performance in Child Welfare

The Children's Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) have collaborated to produce the Toolkit for Court Performance Measures in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases to help dependency courts institute a system of performance measurement. The Toolkit provides practical, comprehensive guidance on how to undertake performance measurement to improve child and family outcomes of safety, permanence, and well-being and move toward more efficient and effective dependency court operations. Three leading court reform organizations—the American Bar Association, the National Center for State Courts, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges—provided technical support, and 12 pilot sites in which the Toolkit was tested also provided critical feedback and input. The Toolkit is designed to help courts:

The Toolkit includes five components:

This publication series may be ordered in its entirety or as individual publications. Visit the OJJDP website to download or order any of the Toolkit components:

www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/publications/courttoolkit.html

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2510


Implementation Centers Offer New Services to States and Tribes

The Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) Network is expanding to include a number of new organizations that will provide additional information, training, technical assistance, research, and consultation to support States and Tribes in their efforts to improve their child welfare systems. Five of these new organizations are regional Implementation Centers (ICs) that will facilitate peer-to-peer networking across State and Tribal child welfare systems, host regional forums, and support systems change projects. The goal is to help States and Tribes follow through with long-term systems change that will result in improved outcomes for children and families.

During this fiscal year, each IC will hold at least one regional forum to let States and Tribes know about the IC resources and upcoming activities, increase knowledge about systems change, and formalize peer-to-peer relationships across geographic areas within the region. Later, each IC will enter into mutually binding agreements with several States and/or Tribes within its area to develop and implement long-term plans for sustainable child welfare systems change. These projects may focus on systems change in areas such as organizational culture, administration, or direct practice with children and families. The projects will be guided by a systems of care framework and principles from the Child and Family Services Reviews. During its 5-year cooperative agreement, each IC will offer intensive technical assistance, also drawing on the resources of the Children's Bureau and its full T&TA Network.

States and Tribes can request information about upcoming IC activities:

Future issues of CBX will highlight other new members of the T&TA Network.

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2511


Parent Education for Migrant Families

Migrant and seasonal agricultural workers and their families often face poverty and acculturation difficulties that can result in negative health, education, and juvenile justice outcomes for their children. In an effort to reduce family conflict and improve parent-child relationships, the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (YVFWC) provides Spanish-language parenting classes to low-income migrant families in Washington State. The classes help parents develop nonpunitive discipline skills, deal with the stressors of acculturation, improve family communication, and understand U.S. child abuse and neglect laws.

YVFWC uses the "Los Niños Bien Educados" curriculum, a program developed by the Center for the Improvement of Child Caring in southern California. "Los Niños" is not a translation of an existing program, but rather was developed specifically to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking immigrant families in the western United States. The curriculum builds on the cultural strengths and traditions of these families. Three-hour classes are offered twice a week for 6 weeks at a local community center, with 20 to 25 parents enrolled in each session. Two certified instructors teach the curriculum using interactive class discussions and role-play activities; they encourage parents to practice skills at home with their children and report back on their experiences. Instructors also refer parents to community services whenever possible to help families meet their basic needs. The services the program provides and the social support network the classes create among attendees have proven to be beneficial to otherwise isolated rural families.

Staff identify several strategies that contribute to the program's overall success:

Recent evaluations suggest the program has been successful in many areas. In a 2-year period, more than 75 percent of migrant parents attended at least 8 of 12 classes. A large majority of parents reported positive outcomes in the following areas: improved family communication, elimination of punitive discipline techniques, improved access to support services, and increased satisfaction with their child's behavior. In addition, more than 65 percent of children whose parents enrolled in the program showed measurable behavioral improvements.

The program is currently undergoing a retrospective analysis dating back to its creation in 1993. Staff plan to continue improving evaluation efforts with the long-term goal of classifying their curriculum as an evidence-based practice for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

For more information, contact:
Lisa Campbell-John
Community Health Services, Program Operations
PO Box 190
518 W. 1st Avenue
Toppenish, WA 98948
509.457.6540
lisac@yvfwc.org

The Spanish Language Parenting Education Program is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CA1731, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Grants to Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Migrant Programs for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Programs. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.

Related Item

Read reports from other Children's Bureau site visits by going to the Site Visit Report Discretionary Grant webpage on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:
http://www.childwelfare.gov/management/funding/funding_sources/

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2512


Updates From the T&TA Network

The Children's Bureau T&TA Network members continue to produce exciting resources to help States and Tribes improve outcomes for children and families in their child welfare systems. Some of the latest products are highlighted here:

 

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2513


NSCAW Research on Child Welfare Populations

The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) released four new research briefs analyzing outcomes for different populations involved with child welfare. The briefs focus on infants, adolescents, and caregivers of young children. Each draws from the longitudinal data collected by NSCAW to study the safety, permanency, well-being, and receipt of services by children, youth, and families who have been investigated for maltreatment by child protective services.

From Early Involvement With Child Welfare Services to School Entry: Wave 5 Follow-Up of Infants in the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (No. 10) examines outcomes for 962 children ages 5 to 6 who were younger than 1 year when they first came into contact with the child welfare system. The study found that most of the children were in good physical health and demonstrated typical social and cognitive skills. In addition, 77 percent were living at home either with biological parents or kin; however, many of the children's caregivers did not access the services they needed to address issues arising from domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health problems, placing children at greater risk for repeat maltreatment.

Adolescents Involved With Child Welfare: A Transition to Adulthood (No. 11) focuses on the needs of 620 young adults ages 18 to 21 who were involved in investigations of maltreatment when they were 12 to 15 years old. The study found that these young adults fared similar to their peers in several ways, including social support, living arrangements, contact with biological families, and employment. However, many fared worse in other areas, including poor health and obesity, lower academic achievement, domestic violence, mental health, and poverty. In addition, very few reported having received services. The brief suggests that more support services would help them transition successfully to adulthood.

Depression Among Caregivers of Young Children Reported for Child Maltreatment (No. 13) explores the rates of depression among 1,244 mothers of children younger than 5 years old who were reported to the child welfare system. At any given time, 37 percent of these caregivers had experienced symptoms of depression in the previous 12 months. In addition, more than 46 percent experienced at least one major depressive episode at some point, a rate that is almost triple the national estimate. The brief considers the child welfare system's role in addressing caregivers' mental health needs to reduce the risk of maltreatment.

Need for Adoption Among Infants Investigated for Child Maltreatment and Adoption Status 5 to 6 Years Later (No. 14) examines the characteristics of and length of time to adoption for 962 children ages 5 to 6 who were younger than 1 year when they first came into contact with the child welfare system. The study found that 61 percent of eligible infants were adopted. However, many infants in the study experienced multiple placements, with 39 percent still awaiting a permanent placement. The brief also discusses racial/ethnic minorities, children with special needs, developmental problems of adopted children, and the characteristics of birth and adoptive families.

All four research briefs can be found on the NSCAW website:

www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/nscaw

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2514


New! On the Children's Bureau Site

The Children's Bureau website carries information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, Federal reporting, and much more. The "New on Site" section includes grant announcements, policy announcements, agency information, and recently released publications.

Recent additions to the site include:

Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new!

www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2515


Child Welfare Research

Siblings Placed Together Reunify Faster

While the child welfare field has long recognized that most children in foster care fare better when placed with siblings, a recent study published in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services shows that siblings placed together in foster care actually reunify faster than siblings placed apart. Researchers Vicky N. Albert and William C. King studied 602 children in foster care in Nevada who had at least one sibling in long-term foster care. The study differentiated among the 401 siblings placed completely together, the 99 placed apart, and the 102 placed "partially together" (i.e., some of the siblings in a family were placed together but at least one was placed separately). Researchers also compared relative and nonrelative placements and how these affected reunification patterns.

The findings confirmed that siblings placed together were more likely to reunify than siblings placed in different foster homes. This trend increased over time, especially after the first year. In addition, results suggest that prior to the eighth month and after the twelfth month in care, siblings placed together with relatives returned home faster than those placed completely apart. The rate of reunification for siblings placed partially together most resembled that of siblings placed completely together.

Implications for practice, including the need to recruit, train, and reimburse foster families willing to foster sibling groups, are discussed.

"Survival Analyses of the Dynamics of Sibling Experiences in Foster Care" was published in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, Vol. 89(4), and is available online:

www.familiesinsociety.org/ShowDOIAbstract.asp?docid=3819

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2522


Community Colleges Reach Out to Foster Youth

Community colleges can provide a wide range of educational opportunities to former foster youth because of their affordability and accessibility. These 2-year colleges can help underprepared students ready themselves for a 4-year institution or provide the technical skills needed for rapid career entry. Even with these advantages, many former foster youth face barriers in attending community college. A recent report from the Research & Planning Group for California Community Colleges explores how community colleges can best provide educational opportunities to current and former foster youth.

Researchers surveyed former foster youth attending community colleges and conducted a series of interviews and site visits at 12 community colleges throughout California. Results revealed some of the challenges that youth and colleges face:

Citing successful approaches to serving current and emancipated foster youth, the report makes recommendations to improve personal and educational outcomes for students. These include:

The report, Serving Former Foster Youth in California Community Colleges: Successes, Challenges, and Recommendations, was written by Darla M. Cooper, Pamela Mery, and Elisa Rassen and includes a discussion of methodology, a glossary, and survey results. It is available for download on the Research & Planning Group website:

www.rpgroup.org/documents/FosterYouthReport.pdf (361 KB)

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2523


Strategies and Tools for Practice

Paralegals Promote Permanency

Pennsylvania has initiated a unique program that frees up time for both caseworkers and attorneys in child welfare agencies, focuses new resources on finding relatives for children in foster care, and, most importantly, expedites permanency for many children. How do they do it? The State's Legal Services Initiative (LSI) Program allows counties to place a trained paralegal within their child welfare agency to support caseworkers and attorneys in addressing legal barriers to permanency.

Pennsylvania's Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN), through the prime contractors Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries and Family Design Resources, are responsible for hiring and training the paralegals, but counties play a critical role in the final selection of a paralegal who will best fit their team. Once in place, paralegals handle between 50 and 100 cases at a time, taking their direction from their LSI coordinator, county solicitor, and agency liaison.

One of the great benefits of this system is the variety of tasks that paralegals can perform. While they can't give legal advice or perform traditional casework duties, they can take care of much of the administrative paperwork that accompanies child welfare cases. For instance, paralegals can:

Since the launch of the program in 2002, counties with LSI paralegals in their child welfare division have seen significant improvements in the time required to achieve permanency for children. Recent statistics from the project show that the time between a child's goal change and TPR has been reduced an average of 35 percent, and delays between TPR and finalization have been reduced an average of 30 percent. Attorneys feel better prepared for court because of the paralegals' work, and caseworkers have more time to spend with their clients because they are freed from a great deal of paperwork.

LSI paralegals are currently placed in 15 counties throughout Pennsylvania, and 4 more counties may join the program before the end of the fiscal year (FY). Natalie Witt-Washine, an attorney and director of the program, notes that the success of the current program has led to a potential greater expansion through a State contract for FY 2009-2010.

One of the resources that has grown out of the program is the LSI Diligent Search Packet, designed to help paralegals, agency workers, and others find missing relatives for children in foster care. As part of a recent redesign, the new 2008 Diligent Search Packet now includes sections on international searches and the Indian Child Welfare Act, as well as enhanced information about online searching and resources. The packet can be downloaded for free:
www.diakon-swan.org/lsi/DiligentSearchPacket.pdf (882 KB)

For more information on Pennsylvania's paralegal program for child welfare agencies, visit the website at www.diakon-swan.org or contact Natalie Witt-Washine at nwitt@diakon-swan.org.

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2524


Family Group Conferencing With Immigrant Families

Family Group Conferencing (FGC) can be an important tool for engaging the extended family members of an immigrant child involved with the child welfare system. In FGC, the caseworker brings together a broad group of family members to create a plan for the child's safety, permanency, and well-being. FGC is based on the principle that a child's extended family and community offer significant resources for the child, and their collaboration with the agency may result in the best outcome for the child. A recent issue brief from the American Humane Association outlines the benefits of FGC in cases in which families straddle international borders.

In this issue brief, authors Michelle Howard and Lara Bruce note that FGC can be effective in engaging far-flung family members and encouraging permanent connections when certain key components are in place:

The issue brief includes a case study of a 15-year-old boy who was transported across the Mexican border into the United States at age 10 and separated from his Mexican family for 5 years. An FGC coordinator was able to work with health and human services agencies, the Immigration and Naturalization Services, and California's International Liaison Office to locate the family and arrange FGC to help formulate the best plan for the youth.

The issue brief, Using Family Group Conferencing to Assist Immigrant Children and Families in the Child Welfare System, is available online:

http://www.f2f.ca.gov/res/pdf/UsingFamilyGroupConferencing.pdf (199 KB)

Also, the American Humane Association has a webpage of resources on child welfare and immigration:

http://www.americanhumane.org/children/programs/child-welfare-migration

 

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2525


Using Technology to Improve Child Welfare

The technology blitz of the past decade offers many new possibilities to child welfare professionals in a variety of areas, including day-to-day practice with families, tracking and evaluating data, training, and collaboration. A recent issue of the journal Child Maltreatment focuses exclusively on how technology can be used in child maltreatment prevention, intervention, and research. The 11 articles examine technologies from cell phones to the Internet to telemedicine.

Several articles focus on the use of simple technologies to promote child abuse prevention and help parents refrain from dysfunctional parenting practices:

Free article abstracts and full-text articles (for purchase) from this special issue of Child Maltreatment, Volume 13(4), are available on the Sage Publications website:

http://cmx.sagepub.com/content/vol13/issue4

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2526


Resources

Opportunities for Former Foster Youth

Older foster youth and former youth may be eligible for the following two opportunities:

Scholarships

The Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) is now accepting applications for scholarships for the 2009-2010 academic year. Scholarships are available to eligible former foster youth who are pursuing postsecondary education. To qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:

For more information, visit the OFA website:
http://orphan.org/index.php?id=30


Summer Internships

The FosterClub is recruiting current and former foster youth (ages 18 to 24) for its summer leadership and internship program, FosterClub All Stars. Youth will be selected to spend the summer traveling, making presentations, and helping other children and youth in foster care. Applications are due March 1, 2009.

For more information, visit the FosterClub website:
http://allstars.fosterclub.com

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2527


New Resources on Citizens Review Panels Website

The University of Kentucky (UK) College of Social Work maintains the National Citizens Review Panels website, which contains resources from each State's Citizens Review Panel (CRP), including annual reports, training materials, and other useful information. CRPs consist of citizen volunteers who conduct federally mandated evaluations of each State's child protective services agency.

New to the website is the National Citizens Review Panel Directory, which provides a brief description of and contact information for each State's CRP. The presentation, Overview of Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act Citizen Review Panels, also is available for users to download. Finally, visitors to the website may view the results from two UK College of Social Work surveys of CRP members and program coordinators.

For more information, visit the National Citizens Review Panels website:

www.uky.edu/SocialWork/crp

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2528


Guidance on Child Visitation With Caseworkers and Families

Child Visits With Caseworkers

Findings from the first round of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) showing a relationship between positive outcomes for children in foster care and regular visits from a caseworker have prompted States to improve practice in the area of caseworker visits. A new publication, Visiting Children in Foster Care: Messages From the Practice Field, provides detailed guidance on how to conduct these visits.

Based on a review of the literature, protocols from other States, and input from practitioners in the field, the article provides age-appropriate guidelines for practice, including:

The article was published in the Summer 2008 issue of Practice Notes, a newsletter published by the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. It can be found on the university website:

http://cehd.umn.edu/SSW/cascw/attributes/PDF/practicenotes/PracticeNote-21.pdf (441 KB)

Child Visits With Family Members

The Court Improvement Training Academy (CITA) in Washington State has developed some resources related to providing visitation for children with their families while in out-of-home care. In a video presentation, Best Practices in Dependency: Planned, Purposeful, and Progressive Visitation, Rose Wentz, a consultant for the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning, discusses how to have safe and successful visits. She covers the Federal legal definition of visits, best practice standards, the connections a child needs while in care, and a four-step decision-making process for developing a visitation plan to meet a child's needs and enable parents to improve parenting skills.

In the publication An Overview of Washington State Child Welfare Law Relating to Visitation, CITA Director Tim Jaasko-Fisher provides an overview of case and statutory law in Washington State related to visitation in juvenile dependency cases. This resource can be used to locate legal authority related to various issues that may arise when considering visitation plans.

CITA is a project of the University of Washington School of Law. It is funded by the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts with money provided through a Federal Court Improvement Program training grant. The visitation resources can be found on the CITA website:

www.uwcita.org/CITAv1008/trainingmaterials/visitation.html

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2529


Grants for Mentoring Programs

The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has announced funding opportunities for initiatives that will assist in the development and maturity of community programs offering mentoring services to high-risk populations of youth who are underserved due to location, shortage of mentors, physical or mental challenges, or other situations. National organizations, including community- or faith-based organizations, are eligible. The deadline for application is February 25. To find out more about eligibility requirements and to access the application, visit the OJJDP site:

http://www.ojjdp.gov

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2534


Website Update for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) recently updated its website to provide more comprehensive information on SBS for parents and professionals. SBS is the leading cause of death from abusive head trauma. Common triggers are frustration or stress when a child is crying, and perpetrators in these cases are most often parents or caregivers.

The National Center on SBS provides resources to professionals who work with SBS cases and offers training and prevention programs for parents. The Center's Period of PURPLE Crying® program is the first evidence-based SBS prevention program. This online training is designed to educate parents about the crying patterns that infants experience and the need to use coping techniques to avoid frustration. The program also educates parents about the dangers and sometimes fatal consequences of shaking a child.

To learn more about the National Shaken Baby Syndrome Center, visit the updated website:

www.dontshake.org

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2530


Sharing Family Strengths Activity Booklet

The Sharing Family Strengths activity booklet is now available from Family & Children's Service (FCS), a nonprofit organization in Minnesota that provides skills training in parenting, anger management, and conflict resolution. Based on FCS's Minnesota Family Strength Project, this booklet was created as a learning tool for families.

After interviewing more than 2,000 families, it was determined that strong families possess the following: communication, health, time together, spirituality, support, respect, unity, cultural traditions, and an extended sense of family. This booklet explores each family strength and provides activities such as a word search and creating a family tree and family crest. Families also can use the booklet to help them identify their own strengths.

For more information on FCS or to download or order a free copy of the Sharing Family Strengths activity booklet, visit:

www.everyfamilymatters.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={D87F43FF-2EBD-4F73-A798-6E8729E5010A}

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2531


Training and Conferences

Families in Society Offers CE Courses

CE4Alliance.com is an online continuing education (CE) program provided by Families in Society and its publisher, the Alliance for Children and Families. The website offers 144 courses within 21 categories relating to child welfare; family preservation; casework practice with child, teenage, or older adult clients; adoption and foster care; and more. Courses are accredited with many national and State organizations. Titles include:

Social workers, professional therapists, counselors, and other health professionals can earn CE credits at this site. Exams and scoring are provided online. Visit the CE4Alliance website for more information and to register for courses:

www.ce4alliance.com

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2532


Conferences

Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through May 2009 include:

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

Further details about national and regional adoption and child welfare conferences can be found through the Conference Calendar Search feature on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

http://www.childwelfare.gov/calendar/index.cfm

Issue Date: February 2009
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=102&articleid=2533



Articles in Children's Bureau Express are presented for informational purposes only; their inclusion does not represent an endorsement by the Children's Bureau or Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Children's Bureau Express does not disclose, give, sell, or transfer any personal information, including email addresses, unless required for law enforcement by statute.


Contact us at cb_express@childwelfare.gov.

Return to the Children's Bureau Website.