Children's Bureau ExpressDec 2009/Jan 2010 | Vol. 10, No. 10

Table of Contents
 

Spotlight on Youth Involvement
This month, CBX spotlights Youth Involvement, linking you to reports on how youth in foster care or formerly in care are participating in their own permanency planning and contributing their ideas about ways to improve the child welfare system.

  • Youth Contribute to Study on Youth Permanency Experiences
  • Promoting Youth Involvement in a System of Care
  • Resource Center for Positive Youth Development and Leadership
  • Encouraging Youth Involvement in Dependency Hearings
  • The Emancipated Youth Connections Project
  • Supporting Youth Transitioning to College
  • Youth Leaders Speak Out About Foster Care and Permanency
  • Youth Voice Toolbox: Empowering Youth with Purpose
  • Voices From the 2008 National Convening on Youth Permanence

News From the Children's Bureau
CBX brings you news about reports on children's violence exposure and on disaster preparedness, a process for linking birth and foster parents, and the latest from the Training & Technical Assistance Network.

  • Survey Reveals Extent of Violence in Children's Lives
  • Report Identifies Shortcomings in Disaster Preparedness
  • "Bridging the Gap" Between Birth and Foster Parents
  • Updates From the T&TA Network
  • New! On the Children's Bureau Site

Child Welfare Research
Research from the child welfare field includes the latest evidence-based research on prevention, suggestions for adoption terminology, data on international child maltreatment and prevention, and foster care drift.

  • The Future of Children Focuses on Prevention
  • Recasting "Adoption Displacement"
  • UNICEF Releases International Data on Maltreatment
  • Barriers to Permanency After TPR

Strategies and Tools for Practice
Find tools and examples of new programs and processes, including use of therapy animals, ways for courts and Tribes to work together, how cities can help transitioning youth, and the best use of the APPLA goal.

  • Using Therapy Animals to Help Child Maltreatment Victims
  • Reforming Court Systems to Improve Outcomes for Indian Children
  • Cities Can Improve Outcomes for Youth Transitioning to Adulthood
  • Making APPLA Work for Youth

Resources

  • Fostering Connections Resource Center
  • Federal Spending on Children's Programs
  • Summer Internship Opportunity for College Youth
  • National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth

Training and Conferences

  • QIC for Fatherhood Provides Training for Lawyers
  • Conferences

Spotlight on Youth Involvement

Youth Contribute to Study on Youth Permanency Experiences

Youth who age out of foster care are in the best position to comment on the needs of this population. A recent study on youth aging out of care, Developing Permanent, Supportive Connections While in Care: Foster Youth's Perspectives, sought to maximize youth involvement in this research. As part of the study, a Youth Advisory Board of four former foster youth developed research questions, oversaw the data collection, and assisted with reviewing and editing the final report. The study itself sought information from 27 youth about the child welfare services for permanency they had received while in care. Information was gathered through interviews and focus groups, and data were collected about the processes, services, and support the youth received for developing relationships with adults. Most youth reported that they had not received support from their child welfare workers about making connections to family or other adults while they were in foster care.

Main themes from the findings included the following:

The study recommends actions that child welfare agencies can take, including the following:

Developing Permanent, Supportive Connections While in Care: Foster Youth's Perspectives, by Sonja T. Lenz-Rashid, is available on the Child & Family Policy Institute of California website:

www.cfpic.org/pdfs/Permanency-Report-Lenz-Rashid092009.pdf (545 KB)

 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Spotlight on Youth Involvement
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2761


Promoting Youth Involvement in a System of Care

Transitioning to adulthood is particularly difficult for youth who have had contact with the child welfare system. The Dauphin County, PA, Systems of Care (SOC) initiative, funded by the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration project, has helped Dauphin County Human Services focus on preparing older youth to take control of their own futures by introducing them to services available around the community.  

Helen Spence, SOC Community Outreach Coordinator in Dauphin County, took on the role of bringing the community members into a partnership with Dauphin County Human Services. In 2006, the SOC Faith-Based subcommittee, various school districts, police departments, and other organizations and agencies in Dauphin County came together to provide information and funds for troubled youth, and this collaboration created the 8-week New Beginnings Summer Enrichment Program. The Summer Enrichment Program provides structured activities around academic enrichment, life skills, drug education, sex education, self-esteem building, job readiness training, and conflict resolution. The program began with one site and 60-75 participating youth. By 2009, nine sites across Dauphin County participated, serving over 300 youth.  Additionally, a youth group has formed that meets on a year-round weekly basis to identify their own strengths and discuss relevant issues. Many of the program participants use their experiences to help other youth learn how to sustain themselves and connect with services and supports within their area. "It's a continuum of support for them in their own communities," says Ms. Spence.
 
The Summer Enrichment Program has yielded positive results. Ninety-four percent of youth in the 2008 Summer Enrichment Program reported they stayed out of trouble in their community over the summer, ninety percent indicated they learned things that helped them stay out of trouble while attending the program, and eighty-eight percent reported they learned skills that will help them stay out of trouble in the future.

"The success of involving youth in Dauphin County is dependent on many factors. Programs such as this need committed, consistent adult leaders," remarks Randie Yeager-Marker, Operations Manager and Community Liaison, Dauphin County Human Services. "When youth see the same people coming out on a consistent basis, it becomes more real to them that these adult leaders care," she adds.  

To ensure the continued commitment of the youth, there must be a purpose or issue for them to talk about and solve, emphasizes Andrea Richardson, SOC Project Director. Youth who have an issue to solve that directly affects them will be motivated to stay involved. In addition, Ms. Richardson maintains that "engaging youth and providing them with leadership skills and opportunities will ensure that they will continue to work for community change . . . By doing this you are making changes to their world and their life path."

Fortunately, the Summer Enrichment Program and the important work being done around youth involvement in Dauphin County continue even after the grant funding ended in September 2009. The network of subcommittees formed under the SOC grant developed into a nonprofit organization, New Beginnings Youth & Adult Services (NBYAS). The mission of NBYAS is to provide a synergy of collaborated and integrated services, supports, and resources that will empower youth and adults to be successful in their homes, schools, and communities.  

For more information, contact Helen Spence, System of Care Community Outreach Coordinator (hspence@dauphinc.org), or Andrea Richardson, System of Care Project Director (anr63@pitt.edu).    

Thank you to the following people who provided information for this article: Andrea Richardson, SOC Project Director; Helen Spence, SOC Community Outreach Coordinator; Jennifer Zajac, University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, SOC Local Evaluator; and Randie Yeager-Marker, Operations Manager and Community Liaison, Dauphin County Human Services.

 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Spotlight on Youth Involvement
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2762


Resource Center for Positive Youth Development and Leadership

The National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth (NCFY) has developed informational and training materials on positive youth development and youth leadership that are now available on the NCFY website. Positive youth development refers to the prevention of risky behavior and support of youth involvement in healthy, useful activities that give youth the opportunity to build skills and leadership.

The NCFY webpage on Positive Youth Development and Youth Leadership (www.ncfy.com/publications/pyd.htm) features materials for youth and for adults involved with youth development, including:

Another NCFY webpage (www.ncfy.com/podcast/index.htm) features archived podcasts in which NCFY staff interviewed youth dealing with such challenges as living on the streets, teen pregnancy and parenthood, and natural disasters. Other podcasts showcase positive solutions to these challenges, including mentoring, a summer program for at-risk youth, and youth leadership programs.

The Exchange is NCFY's online newsletter (www.ncfy.com/publications/exchange/index.htm); it features articles on youth homelessness and news from the youth services field. Recent issues have focused on youth homelessness in today's economy and overrepresented groups among homeless youth.

NCFY is a clearinghouse of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Family and Youth Services Bureau. NCFY publications are free of charge. 


 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Spotlight on Youth Involvement
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2763


Encouraging Youth Involvement in Dependency Hearings

The voices of young people in foster care are rarely heard in the courtroom, where adults make critical decisions about the youths' lives. A recent article, "Where Are All the Children? Increasing Youth Participation in Dependency Proceedings," argues that youth participation in juvenile court hearings greatly benefits children and courts. By being present in court, children and youth can offer valuable insights into their lives and gain a better understanding of the judicial system. In turn, judges are able to make more informed decisions leading to better outcomes for foster youth and their families. 

While data on youth participation in court are difficult to obtain, Home At Last's (2006) Foster Youth Participation in Court's national survey revealed that less than 15 percent of respondents attended their own court hearings. The author notes that if these data are representative, systemic changes are needed to increase youth participation and make children feel welcome in court.

The article provides examples of successful policies that have been implemented by local jurisdictions as well as suggestions for agencies, leaders, and advocates to increase youth participation in court. Recommendations include:

The article, "Where Are All the Children?  Increasing Youth Participation in Dependency Proceedings," by Erik S. Pitchal, was published in the UC Davis Journal of Juvenile Law & Policy, Vol. 12, Winter 2008, and can be downloaded without charge from the Social Science Research Network:

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1092668

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Spotlight on Youth Involvement
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2764


The Emancipated Youth Connections Project

The California Permanency for Youth Project (CPYP) works with California counties to ensure that youth leave foster care with some kind of permanent connection with a caring adult. The CPYP emphasizes the importance of (1) involving youth in their own permanency planning and (2) using technology to help youth find family connections.

A recent publication from CPYP outlines a unique project in which 20 adults (ages 17-39) who had exited foster care with no permanent connections were provided with services to help them make those connections. The Emancipated Youth Connections Project Final Report/Toolkit describes the 18-month project. Data collected from 19 of the former foster youth show that, at the end of the project, 139 permanent connections had been made with kin and 42 permanent connections had been made with friends or others outside the family. In addition, the participants had learned more about their family histories, met more family members, and experienced greater self-esteem as a result of the process.

The Emancipated Youth Connections Project Final Report/Toolkit describes the 15-step program model developed to serve these former foster youth. Beginning with Step 1—Establishing a Relationship, the program model works through the process of helping a young person identify and make contact with kin or other important people in his or her life. The last few steps involve planning for closure, closing the case, and looking at lessons learned. The program model is designed to help youth make permanent connections, preferably before leaving foster care.

The Toolkit also includes a chapter on lessons learned from the project and recommendations. Youth involvement in the planning and implementation is emphasized. A further chapter addresses building the program model and looks at administrative issues, funding, training, assessment, and implementation. Finally, the Toolkit also includes participants' stories from the project, and appendices provide backup materials, including assessment instruments.

The Emancipated Youth Connections Project Final Report/Toolkit is available on the CPYP website:

www.cpyp.org/Files/EYCP-ReportToolkit.pdf (3,020 KB)
 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Spotlight on Youth Involvement
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2765


Supporting Youth Transitioning to College

Youth emerging from foster care face special challenges in attending college, including making the transition to college life, applying for financial aid, and finding housing during breaks. A new research brief published by the Advisory Board Company offers recommendations for building a support structure for foster youth in college and outlines essential support services that  youth need. Researchers spoke to contacts at five large public academic institutions, one mid-sized private university, the California State University system, and Casey Family Programs to determine how key support services for youth coming from foster care are structured, what resources are available to help these youth transition to university life, and how universities help them address challenges.

Key observations from the study include the following:

Building a Campus Support Network for Students Emerging From Foster Care, by Keely Bielat and Jennifer Yarrish, is available on the Casey Family Programs website:

www.casey.org/Resources/Publications/pdf/BuildingCampusSupport.pdf (267 KB)

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Spotlight on Youth Involvement
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2766


Youth Leaders Speak Out About Foster Care and Permanency

The 2008 Destination Future: National Youth Leadership Development Conference brought together youth leaders in foster care or formerly in care from around the country to discuss their experiences in foster care and their hopes for the future. The August 2008 conference also gave these young people an opportunity to express their desire for change and recommend improvements to the foster care system. A report from the conference provides a snapshot of these youths' experiences. The conference was sponsored by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Youth Development (NRCYD) and supported by the Children's Bureau.

The 94 youth and 74 adults in attendance were divided among eight groups, each with a focus topic for discussion:

The conference slogan "Nothing about us without us" reflects the desires of foster youth to take an active role in the decisions that affect their lives and develop ways to influence programs and policies. This theme was raised in all of the small-group discussions.

The conference report includes recommendations that came out of the small-group discussions. Appendices include information about training opportunities promoting youth/adult partnerships, detailed comments and suggestions provided by current and former foster youth during the second round of the Child and Family Services Reviews, and background information about NYTD.
 
The full report of the conference, Destination Future: National Youth Leadership Conference Report, by Jacqueline Smollar, is available online:

www.nrcys.ou.edu/yd/resources/publications/pdfs/df08rep_w.pdf (PDF 1.11MB)

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Spotlight on Youth Involvement
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2767


Youth Voice Toolbox: Empowering Youth with Purpose

Engaging young people can build a strong sense of community, a commitment to civic action, and a passion for active learning. The Youth Voice Toolbox produced by the FreeChild Project provides tools to help engage youth, particularly historically disengaged youth populations. The Toolbox includes a series of more than 20 one- and two-page publications designed to provide guidance (e.g., definitions, assumptions), information (e.g., on diversity, roles), and actions (e.g., assessing youth voice, forming partnerships) for promoting the youth voice and youth involvement. The Toolbox offers advice on how to do more than making youth heard; the goal is to actually empower youth with purpose.
 
Some of the suggestions from the Youth Voice Toolbox are common-sense principles for involving youth in meaningful ways: 

To learn more about the FreeChild Project and the Youth Voice Toolbox, visit:

www.freechild.org/YouthVoice

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Spotlight on Youth Involvement
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2768


Voices From the 2008 National Convening on Youth Permanence

More than 30 youth and alumni from foster care attending the 2008 National Convening on Youth Permanence participated in an impromptu session facilitated by the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Family to Family Youth Engagement Team. The team was invited to meet with these young people and expand the discussion of their ideas and experiences around permanence.

Participants shared their experiences and provided recommendations about improving the foster care system. What concerned these young people the most were issues of trust; they felt unable to trust the concept and the process of permanency planning. Most youth also reported that they had not been included in the process of identifying permanent connections for themselves.

Youth recommended the following important steps in developing a trusting partnership:

To read the full Recommendations of Youth and Young Adults From the 2008 National Convening on Youth Permanence, visit:
 
www.youthpermanence.org/_pdf/materials/mat_2008/recommendations-of-youth.pdf (487 KB)

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Spotlight on Youth Involvement
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2769


News From the Children's Bureau

Survey Reveals Extent of Violence in Children's Lives

The results of the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NSCEV) indicate that more than 60 percent of children were directly or indirectly exposed to violence within the past year. The survey results, released in October by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), are based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 4,549 children and adolescents aged 17 and younger or the younger children's caregivers. The NSCEV was conducted during the first half of 2008, and its results are the subject of a Juvenile Justice Bulletin.

Respondents were asked about violence exposure within the previous year and over the child or adolescent's lifetime. Screening questions asked about 48 types of victimization in the categories of conventional crime, child maltreatment, peer and sibling victimization, sexual victimization, indirect exposure, school violence, and Internet violence. Some of the highlights in the final report include the following:

The authors of the study discuss the implications for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners. Information is also included on the Safe Start Initiative created by DOJ's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The Juvenile Justice Bulletin: National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence was written by David Finkelhor, Heather Turner, Richard Ormrod, Sherry Hamby, and Kristen Kracke and is available for free download:

www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/227744.pdf (882 KB)

Another NSCEV report, with more statistics and a full text of the questionnaire and victimization definitions, appears in the November issue of Pediatrics and is also available for free download:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/124/5/1411

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2784


Report Identifies Shortcomings in Disaster Preparedness

A new report presents preliminary findings from a comprehensive study assessing the needs of children when preparing for, responding to, and recovering from major disasters and emergencies. The report, National Commission on Children and Disasters Interim Report, identifies several shortcomings in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

The study finds that among so many competing concerns, children are given less attention than necessary when disaster plans are written and exercised, equipment and supplies are purchased, and disaster response and recovery efforts are activated. In fact, State and local emergency managers are required by Federal law to meet the needs of pets in their disaster plans but not the needs of children.

This report provides specific recommendations addressing the following issues:

The National Commission on Children and Disasters was created by Congress in 2007 as a bipartisan group consisting of 10 members appointed by the President and congressional leaders. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families provides financial and administrative support to the Commission.

The report is available for download:

www.childrenanddisasters.acf.hhs.gov
 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2758


"Bridging the Gap" Between Birth and Foster Parents

The following is part of a series of occasional articles on programs that come to the attention of the National CFSR Team during their reviews.

Children in foster care have a more positive experience if their birth parents and foster parents work together to ensure that the children feel loved and comfortable in their out-of-home placement. That's the principle behind Northern Virginia's Bridging the Gap practice, which connects birth parents with foster parents when children enter foster care.

"Bridging the Gap is a practice, not a program," explains Claudia McDowell, the Program Manager for Fairfax County's Foster Care & Adoption Program, which is part of Bridging the Gap's Northern Virginia Initiative. It begins with an icebreaker meeting between the birth and foster parents within the first few days of a child's placement. The caseworker arranges and facilitates the meeting and continues to remain involved at every step. Subsequent communication depends on each family and set of circumstances. Birth and foster parents may continue to communicate through notes in a diaper bag, phone calls, visits, or, in some cases, joint family dinners or events. The relationship that develops is unique to each family but can provide benefits to both the children and the two sets of parents. Children are generally more comfortable and secure when they know their foster and birth parents are sharing information, birth parents know more about the family taking care of their children, and foster parents learn about the children's family and background.

While promoting relationships between birth and foster parents had been practiced informally in Fairfax County by some caseworkers and parents for a number of years, the county decided to move toward formalizing the practice in 2005. This decision eventually led to a unique collaboration among 10 private and 4 public agencies in Northern Virginia working together on Bridging the Gap. A steering committee of representatives from these agencies oversaw the implementation. The group received special consultation and training from Denise Goodman at the National Resource Center (NRC) for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning*. She helped the group define timelines and develop training materials and protocols for caseworkers and foster parents. Bridging the Gap had its formal kickoff in 2008 and is currently in an evaluation phase.

The evaluation involves examining feedback from both sets of parents and the social worker as provided immediately after the icebreaker meeting and 6 months later. While some foster parents have been initially concerned about safety issues and some social workers have been a bit skeptical of the benefits of such meetings, the data so far show overwhelming support for Bridging the Gap. The agencies involved continue to implement the process for the majority of families and expect to eventually conduct evaluations of Bridging the Gap's impact on permanency outcomes.

The NRC for Permanency and Family Connections website (http://www.nrcpfc.org/teleconferences/03-19-09.html) carries information about Bridging the Gap,  including:

For more information, contact Claudia McDowell, LCSW, Program Manager, Foster Care & Adoption, Fairfax County, VA, at Claudia.McDowell@fairfaxcounty.gov

*Now known as the National Resource Center (NRC) for Permanency and Family Connections

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2757


Updates From the T&TA Network

The Children's Bureau's Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) Network continues to produce resources that can help States and Tribes in their work with children and families. Some recent resources are listed below:

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2759


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: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2760


Child Welfare Research

The Future of Children Focuses on Prevention

The Fall 2009 issue of The Future of Children presents some of the latest available research on evidence-based policies and programs designed to prevent child maltreatment. Contributors examine how insights into risk factors for maltreatment can help target prevention efforts. Articles assess the effectiveness of communitywide interventions, parenting programs, home visiting, drug and alcohol treatment, and educational programs on sexual abuse for preventing maltreatment. Articles include the following:

This issue of the journal focuses on prevention as the key to reducing child maltreatment and its long-term costs—in adverse effects on children's health and development and in the expensive social and legal services required to rectify those effects.

The Future of Children is available for free download:

www.futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=71 

 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2770


Recasting "Adoption Displacement"

The term "adoption displacement" has become increasingly accepted as a way to refer to the situation of adopted children who return to foster care or group care. In a recent article in the Journal of Child Welfare, authors Trudy Festinger and Penelope Maza suggest that the negative connotations associated with this term may affect the expectations of professionals involved and unfairly label the children in this situation.

In its place, Festinger and Maza suggest use of the term "postadoption placement," which is less value laden. This term better reflects research findings that show that most of the children who enter foster care after adoption eventually return to their adoptive homes after a period of placement.

Using fiscal year 2005 data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) administered by the Children's Bureau, the authors analyzed data on children in State child welfare systems who had ever been adopted. Compared to children in the child welfare system who had never been adopted, those who had been adopted were more likely to be older (often in their teens), more likely to enter care because of behavior problems, and more likely to be placed in group settings. When the previously adopted children exited foster care, the majority returned to their adoptive homes. For those whose adoptions had dissolved, most were again adopted.

These statistics indicate that for those adopted children who enter foster care, the foster care placement is just temporary until they return home or to another permanent placement. Therefore, "postadoption placement" better describes their circumstances and avoids the negative connotations of "adoption displacement."

Festinger and Maza's article appeared in the Journal of Child Welfare, Vol. 3(3) from July 2009 and is available for purchase on the publisher's website:

www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a914508665

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2772


UNICEF Releases International Data on Maltreatment

A worldwide report on global efforts to protect children was recently released by UNICEF. Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection represents an extensive effort to provide comprehensive estimates on the nature and extent of the violations of children's rights while proposing clear recommendations for preventive actions.

Guided by the provisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF adopted a new protection strategy that builds on an international framework for child protection and the recommendations of the United Nations' Secretary-General's Study on Violence Against Children. The strategy centers on the following areas of child protection:

Based on the results of survey data compiled by UNICEF and its partners, this report pulls together international data for the first time on a number of international key indicators. Some of these indicators include:

While the data show that there has been some progress in some areas of the world in raising the age of child marriage and in reducing female genital mutilation, there is still much to be done. The report concludes with a call to action to build a protective environment for children around the world.

Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection is available on the UNICEF website: 

www.unicef.org/media/files/Progress_for_Children-No.8_HiRes_EN_USLetter_08132009.pdf  (2.34 MB)
 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2771


Barriers to Permanency After TPR

While termination of parental rights (TPR) can be a barrier to permanency for children who cannot return to their birth families, there are many other barriers that may delay or prevent permanency even after TPR has been achieved. A recent article published in Research on Social Work Practice examined barriers to adoption of children after TPR. The authors of "Vulnerability to Foster Care Drift After the Termination of Parental Rights" reviewed the cases of 640 children and conducted indepth research on 145 cases. Data were gathered in multiple categories, including current placement, permanency goals, history of goal changes, reasons for changes, history of residential treatment, and other related areas.

The authors found that a number of variables were associated with delayed adoption or no adoption. Younger females and those of Hispanic origin were more likely to be adopted than older children and male children. The strongest association was found between time out of the home and age. Every year in foster care equaled an 80 percent reduction in likelihood of adoption.

Emotional and behavior problems also affected adoption: Of the children not adopted during the study, 92 percent had recorded emotional or behavioral problems. Agency factors also played a role: Children whose social workers changed were 44 percent less likely to be adopted. Those placed before TPR were adopted in a little over half the time of those who were not placed at TPR.

The authors suggest that it is important for case managers to be aware of the time that passes after TPR. They need to work to ease foster parents' concerns toward adopting their foster children, and they themselves must be careful about transferring cases too quickly.

"Vulnerability to Foster Care Drift After the Termination of Parental Rights," by Gretta Cushing and Sarah B. Greenblatt, was published in Research on Social Work Practice, Vol. 19(6), and is available for purchase online from the publisher:

http://rsw.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/19/6/694

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2773


Strategies and Tools for Practice

Using Therapy Animals to Help Child Maltreatment Victims

American Humane, an organization dedicated to protecting children and animals, has developed a program aimed at providing registered therapy animals to children in need. The Therapy Animals Supporting Kids (TASK) Program encourages child welfare and other professionals to use therapy animals while working with children who have been abused, neglected, or have witnessed violence. Program creators suggest that this type of therapy can be used with traumatized children who often find it difficult to speak about their experiences, as the animals can help these individuals open up during the healing process.

Allie Phillips and Diana McQuarrie have developed an implementation guide, American Humane TASK Program Manual, which has two main goals: (1) to address the practical issues involved with setting up an animal-assisted therapy program and safely working with therapy animals and (2) to outline the legal implications of using therapy animals effectively in work with children. The manual describes the proper handling of therapy animals when working with children who have suffered maltreatment, emphasizing that this specialized field requires extensive training. It also provides guidance for agencies on finding an appropriate handler-animal therapy team to join an agency's treatment team.

The manual identifies six situations in which incorporating therapy animals may be appropriate:

Other sections of the manual describe a short case study of the use of a therapy animal (dog) with a young girl who had been a victim of sexual abuse. It also provides examples of several child advocacy centers and one prosecutor's office that routinely use therapy animals to help children who have been victims of abuse.

Find out more about TASK on the American Humane website:

www.americanhumane.org/human-animal-bond/programs/therapy-animals-supporting-kids

Access the TASK guidebook on the American Humane website:

http://www.americanhumane.org/assets/pdfs/interaction/hab-task-manualpdf.pdf (1,105 KB)

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2774


Reforming Court Systems to Improve Outcomes for Indian Children

A new briefing paper examines efforts to implement recommendations made by the Pew Commission to improve State court processes as they apply to State and Tribal courts that hear cases involving American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children.

Court Reform and American Indian/Alaska Native Children: Increasing Protections and Improving Outcomes explores State and Tribal court involvement in Indian child welfare matters, State Court Improvement Program grants, challenges and promising practices gleaned from Tribal-State collaborations around court improvement, and opportunities for progressing court systems for the betterment of AI/AN children. Intrinsic to this analysis is the recognition that AI/AN children have a unique political status as citizens of sovereign nations, and these nations are inherently best equipped to identify, understand, and respond to the children's needs.

The Pew Commission's report, Fostering the Future: Safety, Permanence and Well-Being for Children in Foster Care, which was released in 2004, provided many recommendations for strengthening and supporting the nation's dependency courts. This briefing paper gives a preliminary analysis of what has been accomplished since the release of the Pew Commission's recommendations. Separate sections discuss some of the identified challenges and promising practices from Tribal-State collaborations in four areas of court improvement: data collection, training and collaboration, improving legal representation, and court operation.

The briefing paper concludes with a discussion of supplemental recommendations that build upon those of the Pew Commission and add application possibilities specific to the needs of AI/AN children. The briefing paper was written by Ashley Horne, Timothy Travis, Nancy B. Miller, and David Simmons and published by the Permanency Planning for Children Department of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), in collaboration with the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Court Reform and American Indian/Alaska Native Children: Increasing Protections and Improving Outcomes is available for download on the NCJFCJ website:

www.ncjfcj.org/images/stories/dept/ppcd/pdf/nicwabulletinweb.pdf (871 KB)

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2775


Cities Can Improve Outcomes for Youth Transitioning to Adulthood

Older youth transitioning from foster care to independent living face a number of challenges, including the risk of becoming homeless, dropping out of school, being unemployed and depending on public assistance, having children at a young age, or engaging in criminal activities. Although city governments do not manage the foster care system, city leaders are becoming aware of the impact that youth who are aging out of foster care have on their communities and what can be done to support them.

The Municipal Action Guide on Supporting Foster Youth Transitions to Adulthood from the National League of Cities offers strategies and steps that city leaders can adopt to address the needs of transitioning foster youth and to improve communities. Recommendations include:

The guide also includes examples of cities' strategies in the areas of housing assistance, employment services, and educational transitions. Philadelphia's Achieving Independence Center is described as an example of one city's way to provide multiple services for transitioning youth in one building.

The Municipal Action Guide on Supporting Foster Youth Transitions to Adulthood, by Carlos Becerra and Andrew Moore, is available on the National League of Cities website:

www.nlc.org/ASSETS/6548970283A04EAC8EA64FDC003202FB/IYEF_Foster_Youth_MAG_8-09.pdf (756 KB)
 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2777


Making APPLA Work for Youth

For many youth in out-of-home care, the court may determine at a permanency hearing that there is a compelling reason that reunification, adoption, guardianship, and relative placement are not in the child's best interests. If the court makes such a finding, it may order another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) as the permanency goal for the child. A publication from the Iowa Department of Human Services, Permanency for Children: Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement: Practice Bulletin, focuses on promoting practices that can make APPLA as a permanency goal truly permanent for children and not just a synonym for long-term foster care.

Generally, APPLA is viewed as an appropriate permanency goal only for some older youth, age 16 or older. For children for whom this goal is being considered, it is expected that the youth will participate in the team meeting that establishes the permanency plan. In addition, the planned permanent living arrangement must:

Examples of permanent living arrangements include the following:

The bulletin provides practical guidance for structuring placements that will give youth permanent and stable places to call home until they reach adulthood. It stresses that lifelong connections should be in place and stable long before a youth transitions out of foster care. In addition, skill development for young adulthood needs to be finalized so the child has the best chance for success.

Resources provided by the bulletin include a permanency checklist, examples of cases when it is inappropriate to use APPLA as a permanency goal, and recommendations from youth for improving practice.

The publication is one of a series of child welfare bulletins and is available on the Iowa Department of Human Services website:

www.dhs.iowa.gov/docs/0109%20PB.pdf (368 KB)

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2776


Resources

Fostering Connections Resource Center

The Fostering Connections Resource Center was established in October 2009 by a number of nonprofit organizations in response to the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The Resource Center provides information, training, and tools to States and Tribes to aid in the implementation of the Fostering Connections law. The Resource Center provides:

Issue-specific information also is available on the following topics:

The Resource Center is managed by Child Trends and The Finance Project with funding support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Duke Endowment, Eckerd Family Foundation, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, Sierra Health Foundation, Stuart Foundation, and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation.

For more information on the Fostering Connections Resource Center or to sign up for email updates, visit:

www.fosteringconnections.org
 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2779


Federal Spending on Children's Programs

Children's Budget 2009, a report from First Focus, provides information about more than 180 children's programs funded by the Federal Government. The report shows that while Federal spending on children increased by about 9.2 percent between 2005 and 2009, overall Federal spending increased at a greater rate, resulting in children's programs receiving a smaller portion of the Federal budget. Key findings include:

The report breaks down Federal spending on programs in child welfare, education, health, housing, and more and includes an analysis of the $144 billion made available to children's programs through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), a $787 billion package to stimulate the economy.

Children's Budget 2009 is available on the First Focus website:

www.firstfocus.net/Download/CB2009.pdf (12.21 MB)

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2778


Summer Internship Opportunity for College Youth

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute's (CCAI) Foster Youth Internship Program is a competitive internship for young adults who were in foster care at the time of their 18th birthday or who were adopted after their 14th birthday from foster care. The 2010 program will place 16 academically successful college students in the Washington, DC, offices of members of Congress where they will receive experience in the operations of a congressional office, as well as professional training.

Applicants must be enrolled in college and have completed four semesters by May 29, 2010. Applications are due January 4, 2010. For more information and an online application, visit the CCAI website:

www.ccainstitute.org/how-we-do-it/apply-on-line-foster-youth-internship
 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2781


National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth (NCSBY) provides training and technical assistance for professionals working with children with sexual behavior problems and adolescent sex offenders. The NCSBY website offers information for treatment providers, the latest on sex offender registration laws, frequently asked questions about children with behavior problems and adolescent sex offenders, and useful links to related organizations. 

NCSBY publications, available for free download, include:

Visit the website for more information:

www.ncsby.org/index.htm
 

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2780


Training and Conferences

QIC for Fatherhood Provides Training for Lawyers

The National Quality Improvement Center (QIC) on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System offers a curriculum designed to provide guidance to lawyers on how to navigate issues affecting fathers and their children involved in child welfare proceedings. It provides practical strategies to parents' attorneys who represent nonresident fathers who are often not the perpetrators of abuse or neglect.

Instructor guides, PowerPoint slides, handouts, and posttest instruments with answer keys are available for each of the following lessons:

The American Bar Association also provides some free technical assistance to trainers as they adapt and use this curriculum. More information on the curriculum, available free on CD, and other resources are on the QIC website: 

www.fatherhoodqic.org/curriculum.shtml

Issue Date: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2782


Conferences

Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through April 2010 include:

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

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: Dec 2009/Jan 2010
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=112&articleid=2783



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