Children's Bureau ExpressNovember 2018 | Vol. 19, No. 9

Table of Contents
 

Spotlight on National Adoption Month
This month's issue of CBX features the National Adoption Month 2018 initiative. Read a message from Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, that highlights the importance of adoption as well as finding ways to keep families together through primary prevention to reduce the need for adoption. The issue also includes other adoption resources for professionals working to help children and youth find safe, nurturing, and permanent homes.

  • A Message of Thanks and a Call to Reduce the Need for Adoption
  • The Impact of Age in Postpermanency Discontinuity
  • Preparing Adoptive Parents
  • Training for Adoption Competency
  • Creating Effective Public Child Narratives for Children Waiting to Be Adopted

News From the Children's Bureau
Read about the importance of implementing programs designed to serve both children and their parents and caregivers, federal efforts to prevent and respond to youth homelessness and human trafficking, a list of discretionary grants, and the latest additions to the Children's Bureau website.

  • Programs Designed to Help Families Achieve Economic Security and Promote Well-Being
  • Report to Congress Details Federal Efforts to Respond to Runaway Youth and Homelessness
  • Discretionary Grants Forecast
  • CB Website Updates

Child Welfare Research
We highlight the behavioral health trends of U.S. high school students as well as the effects of parental depression on parenting ability.

  • CDC Report Looks at Past Decade of Trends for Risky Youth Health Behaviors
  • Effects on Toddler Self-Regulation in Child Welfare Services-Involved Families

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.

  • Principles Aimed at Improving Outcomes for Children and Families
  • Building Teams for Effective and Sustainable Change

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.

  • New Tool Designed to Help Youth Self-Assess for Well-Being, Address Concerns
  • Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet

Training and Conferences

  • Openness in Adoption Training
  • Conferences

Spotlight on National Adoption Month

A Message of Thanks and a Call to Reduce the Need for Adoption

Written by Jerry Milner.

A successful adoption is a wonderful thing that should be celebrated. During this adoption month, I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to all the committed professionals that work hard every day to help find children and youth that cannot be returned home a safe and loving forever family.  I know how hard the work is because I used to do it, first as an adoption case worker and later as an adoption supervisor. Although it has been many years, I often find myself reflecting on my time working on adoptions. After the smiles for the joyful times I remember the challenges. Recruitment was an ongoing struggle, there were simply not enough available families, and it was especially difficult to find families that were willing to open their homes to older youth. These challenges remain.

When I think about my time as an adoption worker I also recall time spent reading case files to learn as much as I could about the child or youth to help find a family that would best meet the child's needs. I also remember hoping to come across record of an overlooked relative, or a relative that perhaps was unable to be a resource for the child at some earlier point, but could now step up and fill the gap. Unfortunately, I do not recall that situation occurring. What I do recall in reading case files is the feeling that there were missed opportunities to help struggling parents, too few or the wrong kinds of resources to help hold families together, and children who moved from placement to placement. I remember reading about a lot of suffering, often prolonged.

As a field we did not know as much about the trauma of family separation. We were overly focused on physical safety to the detriment of social and emotional well-being, and as we still do now, we too often confused poverty for neglect. I find myself asking a lot of what ifs about certain adoption cases. What if we were able to help the family sooner or in different ways? Could the need for adoption have been avoided in the first place?  Knowing what we do now, I am incredibly optimistic that we can reach a point of practice where there is less cause for concern that we have not done enough.

Although this may be an unusual adoption month message, I firmly believe that doing better begins with working to reduce the need for adoption in the first place. A robust national focus on primary prevention will help us strengthen families and keep them together, lessening the need for adoption. Where birth parents and children cannot remain together, a clear national priority on kinship care, relative placement, and guardianship can help reduce the need even further. Where placement with a relative is not possible, a national commitment to community-based foster care would also help mitigate trauma, by keeping children in their communities, schools, and connected to all that is familiar.

Even where adoption is necessary, where safe and appropriate, we can also take steps to keep birth parents involved in their children's lives post adoption as additional caring adults. We must operate with the principle that when it comes to family and support—there is never too much. Even a parent that is unable to be involved in a child's life for some period of time can become an invaluable resource and support. For our older youth, some of whom have spent unacceptably long periods of time in care, we know the draw of family remains strong.  We should honor that every way we can and continue to do all we can to repair, support, or build the relationships that all youth and young adults need to be successful adults.

So, let's celebrate, but at the same time let's also do everything we can to lessen the need for adoption.

To learn more about National Adoption Month, visit the National Adoption Month 2018 website at

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/?utm_source=CBX&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=nam18

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Adoption Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5236


The Impact of Age in Postpermanency Discontinuity

Research shows that 1 to 10 percent of adopted children between age 18 and 24 months and close to 15 percent of children between age 10 years and the age of majority end up returning to state custody (i.e., experience postpermanency discontinuity). A recent article in the Journal of Adolescent and Family Health aimed to identify reasons why the rate of postpermanency discontinuity rises as children reach adolescence.

According to the study, there are several factors that may be related to postpermanecy discontinuity, including the information (or lack thereof) given to adoptive parents about the child prior to adoption, supports available to the family, the adoptive parent's expectations of his or her relationship with the child, the adoptive parent's satisfaction with the relationship, the adoptive parent's connection to religion or faith, and whether there are other children in the home. To gather data, researchers used a sample of 20 adoptive families receiving postadoption services who adopted a total of 45 children through the public child welfare system. A total of 30 children in the study were age 12 and younger, and 15 children were age 13 and older. Parents were of varied ages.

Focus groups were conducted with parents and child welfare staff. Participants answered questions on general demographic information (e.g., name, age, race), and:

In general, the families were divided into those whose adoptions were going well and those who were facing significant challenges.

Data analysis showed that the primary explanation for the increase in discontinuity as the child gets older is due to whether the family was internally protected or externally influenced. Internally protected families were able to take control of their situations and make decisions in the best interests of the family as well as protect their families from outside influences. Externally influenced families reported an inability to limit the influence of outside forces that affected their children's adoption experiences, such as involvement with school and law enforcement as a result of children's behavioral issues, which seemed to increase as the child got older. 

The article also includes implications for practice, including the need to prioritize ongoing support for adoptive parents that will help them manage external issues that could affect continuity.

"The Evolution of Challenges for Adoptive Families: The Impact of Age as a Framework for Differentiation," by Nancy Rolock, Joan M. Blakey, Megan Wahl, and Amy Devine (Journal of Adolescent and Family Health, 9), is available at https://scholar.utc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1059&context=jafh (PDF - 411 KB).

 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Adoption Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5219


Preparing Adoptive Parents

Adopting a child is a lifelong experience that often involves challenging, complex, and evolving relationships between children, their birth families, and their adoptive parents. Preparing adoptive parents is key to ensuring not only the well-being of the adopted child but of the adoptive family as a whole. Adoption: Preparing Adoptive Parents is a brief intended for child welfare workers that discusses topics such as what preparing adoptive parents entails, desired outcomes of preparation, why preparing adoptive parents is important, social workers' responsibilities in preparing adoptive parents, and more.

According to the brief, preparing adoptive parents is a two-part process consisting of (1) educating prospective adoptive parents about the adoption process and the issues involved in adoption and (2) providing child-specific information, training, and support to help prospective parents successfully parent.

When preparing adoptive parents, professionals should keep the following goals in mind:

To prepare adoptive parents, child welfare workers and other social workers should be aware of their agency's policies, procedures, and practices regarding preparing parents; assess the parent's learning style and barriers to learning; implement a plan for delivery of information; prepare child-specific information; and communicate any concerns regarding the adoptive parents' readiness to adopt with supervisors so that any concerns can be addressed accordingly.

The brief also includes adoption facts and statistics and a list of red flags child welfare workers should be aware of, such as looking out for postadoption depression among adoptive parents.

Adoption: Preparing Adoptive Parents is available at https://www.ebscohost.com/assets-sample-content/SWRC-Preparing-Adoptive-Parents-Sample-Content.pdf (144 KB).
 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Adoption Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5220


Training for Adoption Competency

Children awaiting adoption, as well as children who have been adopted, have an increased risk for mental health issues and often need mental health services. Mental health professionals, however, often lack enough adoption-competency training, leaving a void in support services for adoptive families with children with mental health problems.

An article in the Journal of Contemporary Social Services evaluates the Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) program, an advanced training program for licensed mental health professionals that was produced by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.). The TAC training consists of 12 modules focusing on topics such as clinical issues in planning; clinical issues in working with birth and adoptive families; preparing for and supporting adoption; trauma and brain neurobiology; and integrating adoption competencies into practice. In addition, the TAC program includes six monthly clinical case consultation sessions facilitated by expert clinicians and designed to help integrate the training components into practice; a trainer credentialing and support process; a weeklong in-person orientation; ongoing supportive technical assistance; and an ongoing multicomponent evaluation examining training delivery, effectiveness, and outcomes.

For the purpose of the study, researchers evaluated the following aspects of TAC using data collected from 900 TAC participants:

Based on the evaluation, researchers found that TAC fully incorporated the aspects of competency-based learning and was delivered with fidelity at each training site included in the evaluation. Further, TAC was shown to improve adoption competency among health-care professionals and allowed them to view their practice through an "adoption lens."

Upon completion of the training, participants are invited to be listed on the C.A.S.E. website so families and others who refer adoptive families for mental health services can easily find adoption-competent clinicians.

"Training for Adoption Competency: Building a Community of Adoption-Competent Clinicians," by Anne J. Atkinson and Debbie B. Riley (Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 98), is available at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1606/1044-3894.2017.98.23.
 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Adoption Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5221


Creating Effective Public Child Narratives for Children Waiting to Be Adopted

In the past, the adoption field has used public profiles such as photolistings, Wednesday's Child features, and Heart Galleries as a means to connect children waiting for safe, permanent homes with prospective parents. Although major technological advances, such as the Internet, have happened in the years since these public profiles were first launched, little has changed about how the adoption field portrays children who need families.  

AdoptUSKids released a guide intended to help adoption professionals create compelling public child narratives, including what information to include and what not to include, what information can be shared through private narratives, and how to best present that information to ensure the best outcomes for children waiting to be adopted.

The guide provides a new framework for portraying children who need families that prioritizes children's safety, dignity, and privacy and uses strengths-based narratives with positive, descriptive information and up-to-date, appealing photos. It also acknowledges that information sharing happens on a continuum: only positive information is provided to the public, more general information about diagnoses and challenges is only provided to prospective parents who have participated in a home study, and more specific information is provided to prospective parents seriously considering placement.

Creating Effective Narratives for Children Waiting to Be Adopted is available at https://www.adoptuskids.org/_assets/files/AUSK/Publications/AUSK_CreatingEffectiveNarratives_Booklet_final-web-508.pdf (1,041 KB).
 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Spotlight on National Adoption Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5222


News From the Children's Bureau

Programs Designed to Help Families Achieve Economic Security and Promote Well-Being

Policymakers and program leaders are seeking innovative approaches for dual-generation or two-generation programs. These programs serve both parents and children and can help move them toward economic security and promote child and family well-being. Overall, there has been a lack of rigorous evaluation of these programs. Mathematica Policy Research and Northwestern University conducted a project to identify common features of 52 dual-generation programs. The project, which was conducted for the Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, studied the following six questions:

Researchers found programs for inclusion by reviewing lists of federal grantees from funding streams that support both family economic security and children's development and well-being, websites of foundations that fund programs with an integrated approach, membership lists of groups that support dual-generation programs and policies, and lists of programs identified through other Mathematica projects.

Results showed that most of the programs began by focusing on one generation and added services for the other later. They were mostly locally operated and have diverse funding sources, and many were still developing and refining their services and program models. Researchers can use these data to help identify the most promising qualities and strategies of these types of programs.

This brief, Features of Programs Designed to Help Families Achieve Economic Security and Promote Child Well-being, can be found at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/ib_environment_scan_v11_b508.pdf (800 KB).
  

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5223


Report to Congress Details Federal Efforts to Respond to Runaway Youth and Homelessness

Federal efforts to prevent and respond to youth homelessness and provide services to victims of human trafficking are outlined in a recent Report to Congress from the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 1974 authorizes the following programs to provide shelter and guidance for runaway, missing, homeless, and exploited youth:

In each of fiscal years (FY) 2014 and FY 2015, Congress appropriated $114 million for these programs, which provide financial, emotional, and social resources through a network of support services. In FY 2014, these funds provided emergency shelter services to more than 30,000 young people and helped make contact with over 450,000 youth on the street. They also funded a national phone hotline, the National Runaway Safeline, as well as FYSB's coordinating, training, and research activities to prevent and respond to youth homelessness.

The following are findings and initiatives outlined in the Report to Congress:

Report to Congress on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 includes detailed demographic data and real-life stories of the youth served by these programs.

The report is available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/fysb/fy_2014_and_2015_rhy_report_to_congress.pdf (2,200 KB).
 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5224


Discretionary Grants Forecast

The following forecasts for discretionary grants were approved and published to Grants.gov.

 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5237


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: November 2018
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5234


Child Welfare Research

CDC Report Looks at Past Decade of Trends for Risky Youth Health Behaviors

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report assesses behavioral health trends of high school students across the country that pose serious risks to their health and well-being.

The report provides data from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, routinely undertaken by CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health. The report breaks down data from the past decade by gender, by race, and for sexual minority youth. The survey focuses on the health behaviors and experiences in priority areas for CDC (i.e., those that contribute to sexually transmitted infections, unintended teen pregnancies, and adolescent morbidity)—sexual behavior, substance use, violence victimization, and mental health and suicide.

The following are examples of finding from the report:

Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data Summary & Trends Report 2007–2017 is available at https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/trendsreport.pdf (1,670 KB).
 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5225


Effects on Toddler Self-Regulation in Child Welfare Services-Involved Families

Parents involved with child welfare for possible abuse or neglect of their children often have a history of adverse childhood experiences as well as high rates of depression and other characteristics that may affect their parenting abilities. A recent article in Infant Mental Health Journal focuses on parental depression and its effects on their parenting abilities as well as their children's ability to develop self-regulation, which includes the ability to focus attention; control emotions; and manage thinking, behavior, and feelings.

Researchers used a sample of 247 child welfare-involved families from the Supporting Parents Program. Participating families had toddlers between the ages of 10 and 24 months between January 2011 and January 2014 and were monitored by one of six collaborating child protective services offices within the prior 2 weeks.

The study examined the combined and mediated effects of parental adverse childhood experiences and depressive symptoms on parenting quality at three time points (T1, T2, and T3) during a 6-month period. During T1, toddlers and their parents were assessed during 2-hour home visits. Visits consisted of an interview; videotaped parent-child interactions, including a teaching task; free play; and a brief separation. T2, which occurred after an average of 3.83 months, was the first follow-up assessment. T3, which occurred after an average of 3.2 months after T2, was the third follow-up visit. 

Findings from the study include the following:

"Parental Childhood Adversity, Depressive Symptoms, and Parenting Quality: Effects on Toddler Self-Regulation in Child Welfare Services-Involved Families," by Susan J. Spieker, Monica L. Oxford, Charles B. Fleming, and Mary Jane Lohr (Infant Mental Health Journal, 39), is available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5812360/pdf/nihms941100.pdf (765 KB).
 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5226


Strategies and Tools for Practice

Principles Aimed at Improving Outcomes for Children and Families

The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University released a brief that highlights three principles that can guide decision-makers in choosing among policy alternatives, designing new approaches, and shifting existing practice in ways that will help lead to better outcomes for children and their families.

The following are the three principles:

The brief also provides suggestions on how these principles can be applied, such as using them to assess current policies and operations, evaluate proposed changes in policy or system operations, or to assist in developing new policies or program strategies to ensure healthy brain development in young children and to support the well-being of families.

3 Principles to Improve Outcomes for Children and Families is available at https://46y5eh11fhgw3ve3ytpwxt9r-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/HCDC_3PrinciplesPolicyPractice.pdf (408 KB).
 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5227


Building Teams for Effective and Sustainable Change

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

Organizational and systemic change rarely results from a single person acting alone. Addressing complex child welfare issues requires the collective efforts of individuals with diverse skills, roles, and perspectives, including the following:

How can an agency engage these groups to build a team that works effectively to support change and improve performance? The Center for States' brief, Change and Implementation in Practice: Teaming, can help answer that question. The brief provides agencies with teaming support to develop their Child and Family Services Plans (CFSPs), Program Improvement Plans (PIPs), prevention strategies, or other strategic improvement initiatives.

How Teaming Can Help Facilitate Positive Change

Putting together the team that will implement practice improvements in a child welfare system is a crucial early step in achieving successful change. Working in teams throughout the process can help in the following ways:

What Makes a Team Effective

To successfully support a change process at an agency, implementation teams should consider the following at the start of the teaming process.

Taking the time to create a strong and diverse implementation team provides a solid foundation for the overall work of achieving meaningful change. For more information about teaming and other change and implementation topics, visit the Change and Implementation in Practice web page on the Center for States website.

 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5230


Resources

New Tool Designed to Help Youth Self-Assess for Well-Being, Address Concerns

A new tool may help child welfare-involved youth gauge their individual well-being and develop an action plan for areas they would like to strengthen.

The Well-Being Indicator Tool for Youth (WIT-Y) was designed by the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota to help youth aged 15–21 explore different aspects of their well-being. WIT-Y is for youth who are either currently or formerly involved with child welfare and consists of three components:

In the event that a youth self-reports that he or she is in crisis in any of the eight domains, they will see text on their screen that will alert them of resources that can help.

More information on the WIT-Y is available at https://cascw.umn.edu/portfolio-items/well-being-indicator-tool-for-youth-wit-y/.
 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5231


Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet

Technology is rapidly changing, and children and youth are getting internet-capable devices (such as tablets and smartphones) earlier and earlier. VPN Mentor has created The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet to help parents navigate online through eight areas:

In each section, the guide walks parents through each technology area, defining what it is and common benefits and concerns. It also offers sample rules and precautions parents can take as well as resources and tools to help parents keep their children safe online, such as links to tracking apps and ad blockers. The guide emphasizes establishing open communications with children as the best way to keep them safe on the internet.

The guide is available at https://www.vpnmentor.com/blog/the-ultimate-parent-guide-for-child-internet/.

 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5232


Training and Conferences

Openness in Adoption Training

Openness in adoption has many unique rewards and challenges for all members of the adoption triad. From providing the adoptees with a deeper understanding of where they come from to facilitating additional support and encouragement between both the birth and adoptive parents, there are several benefits to open adoption. There are also challenges that can arise.

The Donaldson Adoption Institute created a free, online curriculum, titled Openness in Adoption: What a Concept!, for individuals and couples who are seeking to adopt, have adopted, or have relinquished a child to adoption. This three-part curriculum is a mix of audio and video clips, questions, and exercises that users can complete at their own pace.

With an accompanying user guide that provides definitions, summaries of main points, and additional resources, this resource takes users through exploring, experiencing, and living openness in adoption. Each of the three sections is expected to take around 2 hours. Professionals who want to use this curriculum to train clients should contact the Donaldson Adoption Institute for a comprehensive trainer's guide.

The training also features an hour-long documentary, "Understanding Open Adoption," which highlights perspectives from adoption professionals and families who are experiencing open adoption.

The Openness in Adoption: What a Concept! curriculum and user guide are available at https://www.adoptioninstitute.org/openness/?mc_cid=ed2274b605&mc_eid=11c69c7a21.
 

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5233


Conferences

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

November

December

January

Issue Date: November 2018
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=201&articleid=5235



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