Children's Bureau ExpressFebruary 2021 | Vol. 22, No. 2

Table of Contents
 

Spotlight on Strengthening the Protective Capacities of Families
This edition of CBX highlights the importance of strengthening and supporting families to prevent child maltreatment. We feature spotlight articles on resources, programs, and services that aim to help families persevere and thrive during challenging times and beyond.

  • Keeping Families Strong and Together: Prevention Strategies in Child Welfare
  • Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families
  • New Strengthening Families Resources for Parents and Providers in Response to COVID-19
  • Better Together Helps to Strengthen Vulnerable Families

News From the Children's Bureau
We highlight a new primer from Child Welfare Information Gateway that discusses differential response and how child welfare professionals can implement this strategy to help families who have come into contact with the child welfare system. Also included is a brief list of updates from the Children's Bureau website.

  • New Primer From Child Welfare Information Gateway Focuses on Differential Response
  • CB Website Updates

Child Welfare Research
We feature a recent report from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation on the availability of early interventions and special education services for children in care and a report from Prevent Child Abuse Texas on the rates of child maltreatment during the pandemic.

  • Children in Out-of-Home Care Are Less Likely to Receive Early Intervention or Special Education Services
  • Research Shows Correlations Between COVID-19 Stressors and Maltreatment

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.

  • Trauma-Informed Strategies for Supporting Child Welfare-Involved Children and Youth During COVID-19
  • Motivational Interviewing Can Be Used in Child Protection
  • Using Data to Strengthen Protective Capacities

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.

  • Questions to Ask When Accepting a Foster Placement
  • Guide for Parents on Preventing Child Sex Abuse

Training and Conferences

  • Families Thrive Training
  • Conferences

Spotlight on Strengthening the Protective Capacities of Families

Keeping Families Strong and Together: Prevention Strategies in Child Welfare

The winter 2020 edition of Insights highlights child welfare's role in child maltreatment prevention during the pandemic and beyond and the importance of community supports in strengthening families so they can remain together safely.

The issue features a framework for prevention from the Office of Child Abuse Prevention within the California Department of Social Services that defines and addresses prevention with a public health perspective to "create an integrated statewide system that supports families to provide safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for their children." The framework is based on three tiers of prevention:

The issue also provides key data and trends on child maltreatment and disparities in maltreatment occurrence, including information about implicit bias and systemic racism. Also included is information about how community supports—such as family resource centers, federally qualified health centers, and family justice centers—and protective factors are key to strengthening families and keeping them safely together during this unprecedented time and in the future.  
 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Spotlight on Strengthening the Protective Capacities of Families
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5732


Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families

The Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families works collaboratively across the state of Colorado to create the conditions for strong families and communities where children are safe, healthy, and thriving. The goal of the partnership is to reduce incidences of child maltreatment by strengthening and supporting families, from pregnancy through the first year of a child's life, with the goal of eventually expanding this up to age 5.

This initiative emphasizes the importance of a quality education, promising career opportunities, financial stability, physical and mental health, helpful connections to people and community supports, and cross-system collaboration in helping to build families' protective capacities.

The Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families comprises stakeholders from public health, housing, and social services organizations. It also includes a community norms group, which focuses on promoting community norms around culturally centered social connectedness, and an early touchpoints working group, which focuses on strengthening the family well-being service array and supporting Colorado counties in assessing their existing systems of support with the goal of moving toward a universally available, voluntary, and culturally responsive system that addresses racial, ethnic, or language barriers that may prevent access to these services.

To learn more about the partnership or to join a workgroup, visit the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families website.
 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Spotlight on Strengthening the Protective Capacities of Families
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5733


New Strengthening Families Resources for Parents and Providers in Response to COVID-19

For the past year, families have been experiencing increased stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Worrying about health, dealing with unemployment and financial concerns, and supporting school-age children with virtual learning have taken a toll on many.

To help mitigate this, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) released new Strengthening Families resources: one for parents and caregivers and one for service providers. The resource for parents, Building Resilience in Troubled Times: A Guide for Parents, contains tips that parents can put into action in their daily lives to help build resilience during the pandemic, while many are dealing with social distancing and being home with their children. Tips include the following:

For providers who work with families, CSSP released Strengths-Based Practice in Troubled Times. This resource is meant to help bolster and strengthen families as they work to overcome today's challenges and thrive. The resource provides the following six strengths-based steps to help providers guide and engage with families during times of stress:

Read more about these new resources on the CSSP website.
 
 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Spotlight on Strengthening the Protective Capacities of Families
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5734


Better Together Helps to Strengthen Vulnerable Families

Better Together is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization that is focused on primary prevention and strengthening and preserving families. It provides employment services, encouragement and support, and an alternative to out-of-home care should that be necessary. 

Better Together features the following two ways to help prevent child abuse and neglect and keep families safely together:

To learn more about Better Together, visit its website.


 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Spotlight on Strengthening the Protective Capacities of Families
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5735


News From the Children's Bureau

New Primer From Child Welfare Information Gateway Focuses on Differential Response

Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, released a new primer for child welfare professionals that focuses on differential response (DR). DR refers to the use of multiple pathways when responding to child maltreatment reports. These responses include the investigation response, which is the traditional response to families found to be at high risk for maltreatment, and alternative response, which is also known as an assessment response and is for families with low to moderate risk for maltreatment. When faced with a screened-in report of maltreatment, child welfare workers employing DR assess a family's needs and connect them with services that will strengthen their ability to safely care for their children. DR has been shown to reduce the number of children entering foster care and decrease recurring involvement with the child welfare system.

This primer discusses the following considerations for implementing DR:

The primer also discusses three title IV-E child welfare waiver demonstration projects (Arkansas, Nebraska, and Washington) that implemented DR and their key findings, including the following:

To learn more about DR, read Differential Response: A Primer for Child Welfare Professionals.
 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5736


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: February 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5738


Child Welfare Research

Children in Out-of-Home Care Are Less Likely to Receive Early Intervention or Special Education Services

A recent report from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families presents information on early intervention and special education trends among children in out-of-home care. According to the report, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act allows each state to set the criteria for eligibility for early intervention services for children younger than 3 years old and special education services for children 3 years of age and older. Children who meet the criteria for receiving special education services should have an individualized education plan for receiving special education, and those meeting the criteria for early intervention services should have an individualized family services plan for receiving early intervention. In addition, the Keeping Children Safe Act requires states to implement procedures for referring children under 3 years old who have experienced maltreatment to early intervention services.

The report goes on to note that, according to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, which is a nationally representative study of children involved with child welfare in the United States, children ages 0 to 2 who have been placed in nonrelative foster care are more likely to have a developmental delay (37 percent) than those placed in formal kinship care (22 percent) and voluntary kinship care (26 percent). Among children ages 3 to 17, developmental, cognitive, or academic needs were identified for 29 percent of children placed in nonrelative foster care, 36 percent of children placed in formal kinship care, and 21 percent of children placed in voluntary kinship care.

In addition, among children who have been identified as having a condition that would potentially qualify them for early intervention or special education services, their caregivers reported that half or fewer of those children received an individualized family services plan for early intervention services or an individualized education plan for special education services. Having unmet early intervention and special education needs is particularly prevalent among children who are living in voluntary kinship care, but these deficiencies can be seen in all types of out-of-home care.

The report, Child Well-Being Spotlight Children Living in Kinship Care and Nonrelative Foster Care Are Unlikely to Receive Needed Early Intervention or Special Education Services, can be found on the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation website.

 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5739


Research Shows Correlations Between COVID-19 Stressors and Maltreatment

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families have had to endure a range of negative experiences, including increased stress, social isolation, and economic hardship. These negative experiences particularly affect families involved with the child welfare system and may lead to increased incidences of child maltreatment.

From April 2019 to April 2020, Texas saw a 50-percent decline in calls to child protective services and a 56-percent decline in online reports, which can be attributed to children not being in school and in the presence of mandatory reporters. However, a recent report from Prevent Child Abuse Texas, Child Abuse and Neglect Risks During COVID-19, describes how, despite these decreases in reports, research in Texas supports the assumption that the stresses of COVID-19 on families is likely increasing the risk of child maltreatment during the pandemic.

According to the report, stressors such as natural disasters, economic recessions, and mental health issues tend to increase the chances for family violence to occur. The following are some statistics related to these stressors that show how child maltreatment may be increasing despite decreases in reports to child protective services:

The report concludes that, although child maltreatment is a complex issue based on many factors, it is reasonable to assume that child maltreatment increased during 2020 based on previous research about how school closures affect maltreatment reporting, natural disasters affect family relationships (particularly with regard to intimate partner violence), unemployment is correlated to increases in incidences of abuse, and behavioral issues and substance use are related to increases in family violence.

This research makes it clear that protecting children means supporting and strengthening their families in ways that will help parents provide stable, nurturing, safe environments.  
 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5740


Strategies and Tools for Practice

Trauma-Informed Strategies for Supporting Child Welfare-Involved Children and Youth During COVID-19

Children and youth are facing increased emotional stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those involved with child welfare. Child Trends released Trauma-Informed Strategies for Supporting Children and Youth in the Child Welfare System During COVID-19 to provide guidance for child welfare administrators and staff on how to use trauma-informed strategies to promote healing and increase the resilience of children, youth, and families during the COVID-19 pandemic and their involvement in the child welfare system.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges to the child welfare system as well as to the families it serves. Disruptions to services and supports, increased financial hardship, increased stress among parents and caregivers, separation from family and social supports, and fear for their health are just some of the obstacles families are facing. It is during these difficult and ever-evolving times that it is as important to promote families' and workers' emotional safety and well-being as it is to make sure they stay physically healthy.

This brief highlights five trauma-informed ways child welfare administrators can promote emotional well-being, resilience, and healing during the pandemic:

The brief also includes additional resources for supporting children and youth involved with child welfare during the pandemic.
 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5741


Motivational Interviewing Can Be Used in Child Protection

Parents who become involved with the child welfare system usually experience a significant amount of stress, fear, and hopelessness that can make them less willing to engage with a system they see as threatening. For this reason, caseworkers must be diligent about meaningful engagement with these families. Meaningful family engagement, where parents and children have a say in their case and outcomes, has been shown to promote family well-being and reduce repeat occurrences of maltreatment and the need for out-of-home care. 

A recent article from Casey Family Programs—How Can Motivational Interviewing Be Used in Child Protection?—highlights the benefits of motivational interviewing as an evidence-based tool for engaging families. Motivational interviewing is intended to help parents assess their willingness to make the changes needed to keep their families safely together.

The following are the elements needed for successful motivational interviewing:

The process for facilitating meaningful engagement include the following:

The article also includes motivational interviewing training resources as well as an example from the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency, which added motivational interviewing to its title IV-E prevention program 5-year plan.

Related Item

Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, recently published Motivational Interviewing: A Primer for Child Welfare Professionals.


 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5742


Using Data to Strengthen Protective Capacities

Written by the Capacity Building Center for States

Child welfare agencies can use data exploration—coupled with family engagement—to better understand protective capacities among families they serve and identify areas where more supports are needed.

Protective capacities are characteristics of a parent or other caregiver that help ensure the safety of his or her child (Capacity Building Center for States, 2016a). Caregiver protective capacities can be divided into three categories (Action for Child Protection, 2000; Capacity Building Center for States, 2016a):

Assessment of protective capacities at the case level informs child protection safety plans, placement decisions, and case plan services. At the system level, analysis of protective capacities may provide insight into the ways parents keep their children safe and the areas where additional services are needed.

The approach outlined below can help agency teams—including child welfare agency leaders, program managers, management information system (MIS) and data staff, and family representatives—explore protective capacities at the system level as a foundation for planning.

Define Terms and Identify Measures

A critical early step in examining protective capacities at a systems level is to develop a common understanding across all program, MIS, and data staff about how information on protective capacities is assessed and captured. For example, does the agency use a specific assessment tool, scale, parent survey, or other instrument to identify and capture information about protective capacities? Is this information captured in data fields that can be pulled into reports or does it appear in assessments that may be examined in a case review?

If protective capacities are not currently assessed or captured in a consistent way, teams will need to clearly define terms and identify how they can be measured. This work may draw language from safety or family assessments. Program, data, and research staff can work together to identify indicators that suggest the presence of the desired characteristics and how they are documented. For instance, this could mean specifying what will show that parents have appropriate expectations for their children (a cognitive capacity) or can demonstrate impulse control (a behavioral capacity).

Identify Research Questions

With the foundational pieces in place, teams can turn to identifying research questions. To better understand protective capacities among populations served, agencies may ask questions like the following:

Collect and Analyze Data

To answer their questions, agencies may explore both quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (narrative) data sources. These can include MIS data capturing safety, risk, and family assessments; case plan and case plan reviews; and services data. In addition, surveys, focus groups, or interviews may help provide a more comprehensive picture.

Disaggregating data—or breaking it down—is an approach that allows teams to dig deeper into whether different groups have different experiences. For example, a state may disaggregate data to explore which groups of children experience repeat maltreatment at the highest rates. Additional case review or interview data may offer insights into the reasons why and help target resources to build protective capacities where they may have the biggest impact.

Gather Stakeholder Perspectives

Gathering stakeholder perspectives is a critical part of collecting and interpreting child protection data and information (World Vision International, 2011). Family members can help shape research questions, refine survey questions in culturally sensitive ways, and share views on the findings and the nuanced reasons behind them. In addition, child welfare staff and community service providers can help identify data sources, participate in surveys or interviews, and discuss data findings.

Make Connections to Prevention-Oriented Efforts

Agencies can align their efforts to promote protective capacities at the individual level with prevention-oriented initiatives that build protective factors at the individual, family, and community levels (Capacity Building Center for States, 2016b). For example, a parent support program can increase caregiver protective capacities and strengthen community protective factors. By gaining a deeper understanding of the data and then reinforcing prevention-protection connections across the prevention continuum, agencies can work together with families and communities to promote family well-being and ensure child safety.

References

Action for Child Protection. (2000). Safety assessment and family evaluation: A safety intervention model by Action for Child Protection.

Capacity Building Center for States. (2016a). "Protective capacities and protective factors: Common ground for protecting children and strengthening families." [Infographic] 

Capacity Building Center for States. (2016b). "Protective capacities and protective factors: Common ground for protecting children and strengthening families." [Webinar] 

World Vision International. (2011). Analysis, design, and planning tool (ADAPT) for child protection

 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5752


Resources

Questions to Ask When Accepting a Foster Placement

When considering whether to become foster parents or accept a foster placement, it is important to research whether the child or youth will be a good fit and to understand the differences between a child who has just come into the foster care system and one who has experienced multiple placements.

The AdoptUSKids article "Questions to Ask When Accepting a Foster Placement" lists the following questions foster parents should ask when deciding whether to accept a child who has come into care for the first time:

The following are questions foster parents should ask when considering whether to accept a child who has experienced multiple placements:

The article also includes questions that should never be asked, such as how long the child will be staying.
 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5743


Guide for Parents on Preventing Child Sex Abuse

According to recent data, 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before they turn 18, and about 90 percent of victims know their abusers. Child sexual abuse is detrimental to a child's development in many ways, both physically and emotionally, and can have long-term consequences to a child's ability to learn life skills. Children involved with child welfare are more likely to have experienced or experience sexual abuse.

The guide Step Up to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse: A Guide for Parents & Caregivers is intended for parents, foster parents, and kinship caregivers of children and youth under the age of 18. The guide aims to teach parents about what sexual abuse is, signs indicating a child has been sexually abused, who the perpetrators are and the grooming techniques that are often used to lure children, and how to protect the children in their care from being sexually abused.

Some signs of child sexual abuse include the following:

The guide also includes information about child protection laws and additional resources on preventing and reporting child sexual abuse.

 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5744


Training and Conferences

Families Thrive Training

The Families Thrive training is intended for child welfare professionals working to implement the tenets of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which aims to reduce the need for foster care by substantially redirecting funds to programs and services that strengthen parents' capacity to safely care for their children at home. The training combines aspects of the Center for the Study of Social Policy's Youth Thrive and Strengthening Families trainings and is based on the protective and promotive factors. However, unlike Youth Thrive and Strengthening Families, it extends the focus from infancy to young adulthood to address the entire lifecycle of families.

Families Thrive is a 4-day intensive course that devotes one session to each of the protective and promotive factors and teaches practical techniques for applying the framework in programs, practices, and communities. The training is based on five premises that reflect what adults need to do to promote the long-term well-being of the children in their care:

Visit the Youth in Focus website to learn more.
 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5745


Conferences

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

February

March

April

 

Issue Date: February 2021
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=223&articleid=5748



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

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


Contact us at cb_express@childwelfare.gov.

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