Children's Bureau ExpressMay 2018 | Vol. 19, No. 4

Table of Contents
 

Spotlight on National Foster Care Month
We feature a message from Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau; an evaluation of 30 Days to Family, an intervention that focuses on finding kinship caregivers for children in need of out-of-home placement; a look at the unique relationship between kinship and foster families and birth families; and more articles featuring youth in foster care.

  • Foster Care Can Be a Service to Families
  • 30 Days to Family Theory of Change Evaluation Report
  • The Relationship Between Foster Families and Birth Families
  • Individual Strengths and Kinship Involvement Moderate Behavioral Risks
  • Perspectives of Youth in Foster Care: My Life Model

News From the Children's Bureau
We highlight an initiative that responds to the increasing number of infants with prenatal exposure to opioids, a brief about using research to optimize supports and services for low-income parents and children, and a listing of the latest updates to the Children's Bureau website.

  • Progress Report on the Substance-Exposed Infant Initiative
  • Using Research to Support Programs Promoting Parental Economic Security and Child Well-Being
  • CB Website Updates

Child Welfare Research
Read about integrated student supports and how they can improve academic outcomes and well-being for children in low-income families as well as strategies for families, caregivers, providers, and communities that help overcome adverse childhood experiences.

  • Review of School Wraparound Services Suggests Effectiveness in Improving Student Outcomes
  • Study Assesses Adverse Childhood Experiences and Strategies to Overcome Them

Strategies and Tools for Practice
This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other resources that provide either evidence-based strategies or other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.

  • Evidence-Based Practices, Strategies for Preventing Child Abuse-Related Fatalities and Injuries
  • Strategies to Promote Research Use in Child Welfare
  • Deeper Problem Exploration: Understanding Agency Needs to Get to Solutions

Resources
This section of CBX provides a quick list of interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials that can be used in the field or with families.

  • Keeping Kids Safe in Cyber Space
  • Tips for Parents: Managing Big Stressors With Little Ones in the House

Training and Conferences

  • Developmentally Informed Training for Working With At-Risk Children
  • Conferences

Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

Foster Care Can Be a Service to Families

Written by Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner at the Children's Bureau.

I invite all child welfare professionals, the media, and the general public to take some time to think about foster care differently. For most people in the United States, foster care has become synonymous with replacement parents and replacement families. Foster care has come to be known as a fix, possibly the fix—for bad parenting, a substitute for parents who do not adequately love or care for their children. I submit it can and should be something much different, and more. In fact, we know that, by far, most parents genuinely love and want to see their children grow up healthy, safe, and nurtured. We also know that many parents, for whatever reason, may not be positioned to fulfill that desire.

Federal law tells us that foster care is intended to be temporary and that we must make reasonable efforts to prevent removal from the home, that removal is only warranted where it is contrary to the welfare of a child, and that reunification is the most preferred permanency goal. Data tell us that most children enter care as a result of neglect and that substance use, metal health, and domestic violence are key contributors to family vulnerability. 

The presence of these vulnerabilities does not mean that a parent loves their child any less. Such challenges may, however, lead to periods of time where it is unsafe for a child to remain in the same home with the parent absent a safety plan, or that respite care or even foster care is necessary for a spell. Where time apart is necessary, why not use that time as a meaningful opportunity to address the underlying causes of the vulnerabilities and wrap services around the entire family? Why not use foster care as a service to the parent, rather than a substitute? Wouldn't this be far more consistent with the letter and spirit of the law? Wouldn't this be far more aligned with what we know about trauma and the effects of family separation?

Let's talk about what it would look like to offer foster care as a service to families. To begin, it would look like recruiting foster parents who clearly understand that their role is to support and mentor birth parents; this would need to be a bedrock principle and expectation. It would look like making every effort to locate and support foster/resource families in the very communities where vulnerable children and families live so that parents may remain in close contact with their children and that children and youth are not removed from their school, friends, and all that is familiar. 

It would look like resource/foster parents building relationships of trust with birth parents over time and helping to teach, model, and reinforce positive parenting. It would look like foster/resource parents helping enhance protective factors and making every effort to keep birth parents involved in their children's daily lives—from helping with school work to visiting the resource home for meals, holidays, and daily routines. It would look like healthy relationships and connections that help mitigate trauma and promote parent, child, and family well-being.

Most children and youth who enter foster care ultimately return home, albeit often after far too much time. Where removal is necessary, let's return children and youth home healthier, more safely, and sooner to parents who have been well served and treated with respect and care. Let's work together to make foster care a service for families.
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Foster Care Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5130


30 Days to Family Theory of Change Evaluation Report

In March 2011, the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition launched 30 Days to Family, an intense, short-term intervention that centers on two main elements: family finding and family support. Family finding involves immediate and intensive searches for and engagement with family members, and family support entails assessment of the child and family's needs and identification of community resources, as well as removing barriers to kinship placement.

The technical report 30 Days to Family Theory of Change Testing Comprehensive Report describes an evaluation of the intervention, which consisted of the following four substudies:

The evaluation's key findings include the following:

The 30 Days to Family program has shown promising outcomes for children entering foster care, and this report underscores the benefits they receive from being in the care of relatives, spending less time in foster care, and achieving timely permanent placements.

30 Days to Family Theory of Change Testing Comprehensive Report is available at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anne_Atkinson2/publication/318990679_30_Days_to_FamilyR_Theory_of_Change_Testing_Comprehensive_Report/links/598a37df0f7e9b9d44c9c6cc/30-Days-to-FamilyR-Theory-of-Change-Testing-Comprehensive-Report.pdf (3,820 KB).
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Foster Care Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5114


The Relationship Between Foster Families and Birth Families

A good relationship between foster and birth families is important to the overall well-being and sense of emotional security of children in foster care. A recent article in Child & Family Social Work highlights a study that looks at these relationships in terms of how the two families "got along" in the child welfare placement context and the factors affecting the nature and quality of these relationships.

Data presented in this article came from semistructured interviews conducted with 30 foster families and 15 kinship foster families. An analysis of the interview responses revealed that the following were all important in determining how the families got along in this joint family space :

The article presents the following findings:

The article also includes implications for practice that suggest providing more information about available services to kinship foster families that is more in line with the context of these familial relationships; conducting well-supervised visits that include both foster and birth families and that can be used to facilitate useful exchanges and discussions about the children; and promoting a relationship between families that revolves around tolerance, empathy, and mutual respect.

"The Relationship Between Foster Care Families and Birth Families in a Child Welfare Context: The Determining Factors," by D. Chateauneuf, D. Turcotte, and S. Drapeau (Child & Family Social Work, 23), is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cfs.12385/full.
 

 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Foster Care Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5115


Individual Strengths and Kinship Involvement Moderate Behavioral Risks

Youth involved in child welfare are more prone to risk behaviors (e.g., delinquency, thoughts of suicide, anger) than their noninvolved peers as a result of trauma experiences and the disruption brought on by having to leave their families. Although research has shown that individual strengths, such as optimism and being able to cope in difficult situations, protect against risk behaviors, there has been little focus on kinship involvement (i.e., extended family support) as a social strength that can reduce the effects and consequences of childhood trauma. The article, "Foster Care Children's Kinship Involvement and Behavioral Risks: A Longitudinal Study," discusses a study that looked into individual strengths and kinship involvement as moderators between trauma experiences and risk behaviors.

The study participants included 336 youth, aged 3–13, who entered the Illinois child welfare system between 2011 and 2014. Data for the study were collected as part of the Recruitment and Kin Connections Project, which worked in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to expand upon traditional child welfare practices by identifying and engaging relatives, fictive kin, and community supports for youth entering care. The study period for each child began with the temporary custody hearing and continued through the first 40 days of the child's entry into care.

Findings include the following:

The study suggests that child welfare professionals should focus on both individual strengths and kinship supports to protect against trauma and the disruptions associated with being involved in child welfare.

"Foster Care Children's Kinship Involvement and Behavioral Risks: A Longitudinal Study," by Gayle L. Blakely, Scott C. Leon, Anne K. Fuller, and Grace Jhe Bai (Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26), is available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10826-017-0746-0.
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Foster Care Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5116


Perspectives of Youth in Foster Care: My Life Model

A recent article in Child and Youth Services Reviews evaluates the My Life self-determination enhancement model, which offers youth-directed, experienced-based coaching to youth on how to apply self-determination skills to achieve transition goals. The model also includes peer-mentoring workshops that provide opportunities for learning and networking as well as enjoyment.

The article highlights a qualitative study in which 10 youth, aged 16–18, completed the My Life intervention and then participated in a two-part interview. The first part of the interview involved just the interviewer and the youth and focused on gathering information from the youth about his or her experiences participating in the My Life intervention. During the second part of the interview, the youth was joined by his or her My Life coach to discuss the youth's experiences with the peer-mentoring portion of the program.

The study yielded the following findings:

"Perspectives of Youth in Foster Care on Essential Ingredients for Promoting Self-Determination and Successful Transition to Adult Life: My Life Model," by Laurie E. Powers, et al. (Children and Youth Services Review, 86), is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190740917309441.
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Foster Care Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5117


News From the Children's Bureau

Progress Report on the Substance-Exposed Infant Initiative

Opioid addiction has increased significantly over the past several years among individuals of all ages and backgrounds. As this rate has increased, rates of use also increased among pregnant women, which has led to states reporting significant increases in neonatal abstinence syndrome and infants experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Children's Bureau released a report that details the efforts of a special initiative begun by the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW)—the Substance-Exposed Infant (SEI) Initiative. This initiative built on NCSACW's technical assistance experience and worked to help six states respond to the increasing numbers of infants with prenatal exposure to opioids and the support these affected infants, families, and caregivers need during the critical period during infancy. They did this by focusing on increasing collaboration among child welfare professionals, mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers, public health and medical communities, home visiting and early intervention systems, and other stakeholders.

This report highlights five states that were included in the initiative: Connecticut, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Virginia. These states received an additional 6 months of technical assistance to continue their work after the initial SEI period. The report focuses on the lessons learned, challenges and barriers, and state strategies. It also highlights progress made toward improving the safety, health, permanency, and well-being of infants affected by prenatal substance exposure and the recovery of pregnant and parenting women and their families. Findings include the following:

This report, Substance Exposed Infants: A Report on Progress in Practice and Policy Development in States Participating in A Program of In-Depth Technical Assistance, is available at https://ncsacw.samhsa.gov/files/IDTA_Executive_Summary.pdf (426 KB).
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5118


Using Research to Support Programs Promoting Parental Economic Security and Child Well-Being

The Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation, which is within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released a brief that describes an approach to research and evaluation that can help promote programs for parental economic security and child well-being. The brief is designed to inform program leaders and staff about using research to optimize and assess supports and services for low-income parents and children. These two-generation programs seek to promote better child outcomes by helping parents achieve economic security through employment and education assistance.

Included in the brief are a description of research and evaluation approaches to help create more successful and coordinated services for children and families. It also explores how to build a foundation for data-informed program improvement and how research and program partners can spur program development. The brief recommends creating a logic model to determine program services and project potential outcomes. Further, the brief advises that once a logic model is defined, program leaders and staff need to develop a way to measure services and outcomes by analyzing administrative data, participant information and feedback, service quality, and external data. Program leaders can then use the data to adjust their services accordingly.

The brief also includes examples of how stakeholders can compare data with the logic model and adjust program operations, adjust the logic model itself, and/or use program data to assess service approaches for better outcomes. It also touches on the research and evaluation capacity of three programs that coordinate services for families and children: Next Generation Kids, College Access and Success, and CareerAdvance.

The brief explains how partnering with organizations that support peer networking has been particularly helpful. It points, for example, to the U.S. Department of Labor's Strengthening Working Families initiative. The Department of Labor initiative supports peer sharing through moderated discussions where experts respond to questions posed by grantees or peer participation in facilitated conference calls on issues such as participant recruitment or child care resources.

Using Research and Evaluation to Support Programs That Promote Economic Security and Children's Well-Being is available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/evaluability_assessment_brief_2018_04_b508.pdf (541 KB).
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5119


CB Website Updates

The Children's Bureau website hosts information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, federal reporting, and much more.

Recent additions to the site include the following:


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

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5127


Child Welfare Research

Review of School Wraparound Services Suggests Effectiveness in Improving Student Outcomes

According to a recent Child Trends report, integrated student support (ISS) initiatives show promise in improving academic outcomes for children by providing them with basic supports, such as food assistance, tutoring, medical care, or housing. ISSs are school-based initiatives in districts serving a large population of low-income families. These initiatives are also known as community schools and wraparound supports for vulnerable students and their families. ISSs rely on five essential elements to support service delivery: community partnerships, coordinated student support, integration in the school setting, needs assessments, and data tracking.

This report is based on a synthesis of findings from evaluations, child development research, implementation reports, school principal interviews, and cost-benefit analyses.

The report has several findings, including the following:

Making the Grade: A Progress Report and Next Steps for Integrated Student Supports is available at https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/ISS-FULL-Report_FINAL-FINAL-12_5_v3.pdf (2,020 KB).
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5120


Study Assesses Adverse Childhood Experiences and Strategies to Overcome Them

A recent Child & Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative study looks at the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among children in the United States and strategies for families, caregivers, providers, and communities to help overcome them. The findings are based on data from the 2016 National Survey of Children's Health.

ACEs are negative childhood experiences that can cause social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physical health problems across a lifespan and include the following:


In 2016, nearly half of all U.S. children had experienced at least one of nine ACEs assessed in the study, and over 20 percent had experienced two or more. Key findings of the study include the following:

The study emphasizes that ACEs go beyond harming children and families to affecting entire communities and points to three factors that support the need for a population-wide, multisystem approach to ACEs in the United States:

Despite the harmful impacts of ACEs, the study notes that resilience and supportive family relationships are protective and healing factors that can help children thrive in the face of adversity. On a broad scale, the study calls for stronger communities and neighborhoods and points to the important role of service providers, policy makers, and community leaders. It also looks to health-care providers, early childhood professionals, teachers, and home visitors to help teach the skills and tools that are essential for a healthy family environment.

A National and Across-State Profile on Adverse Childhood Experiences Among U.S. Children and Possibilities to Heal and Thrive is available at http://www.cahmi.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/aces_brief_final.pdf (1,480 KB).
 

 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5121


Strategies and Tools for Practice

Evidence-Based Practices, Strategies for Preventing Child Abuse-Related Fatalities and Injuries

A recent report from Upbring summarizes evidence-based interventions for preventing child fatalities and severe injuries from child abuse. The report points to areas that yield potential for reducing child abuse-related injury and death, including the following:


The report also recommends that federal agencies, state agencies, and foundations collaborate with other stakeholders to look at prevention measures for families at high risk of maltreatment. The report explains that this may entail collaborating with other sectors where primary prevention is a major priority, such as the public health field.

The report, Evidence-Based and Promising Interventions for Preventing Child Fatalities and Severe Child Injuries Related to Child Maltreatment, is available at https://www.upbring.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Evidence_based_and_Promising_042617.pdf (1,600 KB).
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5122


Strategies to Promote Research Use in Child Welfare

Research is integral in ensuring that the services children and families receive from child welfare agencies are effective in achieving positive outcomes.  It can be difficult for agencies to sift through all the research material they may receive, whether it is generated internally or externally, and, therefore, agency leaders may be unable to meaningfully utilize that information in policy development or program design.

Casey Family Programs created a report that lists potential research utilization strategies across several domains to help researchers and organizations develop approaches to improve and inform their policy, program, and practice decisions. For each strategy, the report provides a detailed definition, an example of use within the child welfare field, the impact of the strategy, and key factors to consider.

Strategies include the following:

Strategies to Promote Research Use in Child Welfare, is available at https://www.casey.org/media/strategies-promote-research.pdf (673 KB).
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5123


Deeper Problem Exploration: Understanding Agency Needs to Get to Solutions

Written by the Children's Bureau's Capacity Building Center for States.

Child welfare agencies continually undertake efforts to implement new programs and practices to produce better outcomes for children, youth, and families. Effectively implementing new approaches and achieving sustainable change can be challenging. Applying a structured approach to implementation increases the likelihood that the overall change process, and any specific interventions, will succeed.  

Solutions are most effective when they address the true cause(s) of a "problem." A problem can be anything that needs to change to meet agency priorities. Deeper problem exploration occurs when an agency, in partnership with its stakeholders, systematically reviews key data and information to gain a clear understanding of an identified problem and why it is happening. Meaningful stakeholder engagement helps build a more comprehensive understanding of the identified problem and creates commitment to the full process of implementing and sustaining change. If the agency does not fully understand the underlying causes of the problem it is seeking to address, it may risk implementing the wrong solution, and the problem could remain or become worse. 

Once an agency has identified a problem it needs to address, one of its first steps is to develop a data plan to exploe the problem more deeply. The data plan guides how the team leading the change process gathers and examines existing and new data and information in a comprehensive and efficient way. A single source rarely tells the whole story, so when possible, the team should rely on multiple sources for quantitative and qualitative information. Analyzing and interpreting data involves looking at patterns, trends, and relationships. This helps verify the problem, describe under what circumstances the problem occurs, and identify who is affected.

Before moving into solutions, the team often needs additional information and analysis to identify contributing factors and determine underlying root causes of the problem. Factors are considered root causes when they appear to be the true sources of the problem. Root cause analysis (RCA) is a data-driven approach to determine why a problem occurs and identify opportunities to prevent or reduce it. Social service agencies are increasingly using RCA techniques that are common in other fields. Once the team has validated the root causes and explored the agency's capacity to address them, the agency is in a strong position to select and focus on one (or a few) cause(s) as part of its change initiative.

Deeper problem exploration serves as a powerful tool for understanding complex problems within child welfare systems and identifying solutions that can contribute to better outcomes. 

The following resources provide more information on deeper problem exploration using RCA:

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5129


Resources

Keeping Kids Safe in Cyber Space

With the proliferation of technology available today, it can be challenging for parents to decide which forms of technology are appropriate for their kids and teens. It can also be difficult to find a balance between being protective (e.g., monitoring their child's internet use) and letting them use online tools to stay connected and socialize with their friends. SafeHome and the Safety, Health, and Consumer Council created a webpage—Keeping Kids Safe in Cyberspace—that highlights several tips for parents to keep their child or teen safe in the digital age.

Some of the tips include the following:

Each tip section highlights what a parent should know and gives actionable steps they can take to make sure their child stays safe while they enjoy online activities. This resource also lists additional cyber safety resources for people of all ages.

This resource is available at https://www.safehome.org/resources/kid-safety-digital-age/.
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5124


Tips for Parents: Managing Big Stressors With Little Ones in the House

Parenting a young child is an emotional time, filled with myriad joys and challenges. The way that parents react to their child's behavior has a strong impact on how that child develops skills for coping with their emotions. The article Managing Your Own Emotions: The Key to Positive, Effective Parenting explains why having appropriate skills at managing emotions and reactions to young children's actions is vital. 

The article provides a sample scenario where it walks parents through a stressful situation in which their child is acting out. The scenario highlights the following steps on how to tune into their and their child's feelings and turn it into a learning experience where the child can practice working on his or her coping skills:

Parents can benefit from this straightforward article. It can help them work toward managing their feelings while helping their child better understand his or her own feelings, and it can assist children in developing the coping skills they will need as they grow up, go to school, and develop relationships.

This resource is available at https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/338-managing-your-own-emotions-the-key-to-positive-effective-parenting.
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5125


Training and Conferences

Developmentally Informed Training for Working With At-Risk Children

The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) is a developmentally informed, biologically respectful approach to working with at-risk children. Training on this model is now available through the Child Trauma Academy. 

NMT is not a specific technique or intervention; it is an evidence-based practice approach to clinical problem solving that looks at a child's history and current functioning. It integrates principles of neurodevelopment and traumatology to work with children and families. This approach has three components: training/capacity building, assessment, and recommendations for selecting and sequencing of activities that match the needs and strengths of the child.

Three types of training are available:

More information and links to the different types are training is available at http://childtrauma.org/nmt-model/?utm_source=August+2017+Newsletter&utm_campaign=August+2017&utm_medium=email.
 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5126


Conferences

Upcoming conferences and events on child welfare and adoption include the following:

May

June

July

 

Issue Date: May 2018
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=196&articleid=5128



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