Children's Bureau ExpressJuly/August 2021 | Vol. 22, No. 7

Table of Contents
 

Spotlight on Child Welfare Practice That Supports the Well-Being of Children and Families
This issue of CBX spotlights child welfare practices and strategies that promote and support the well-being of children and families. Read a message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg on how child welfare practices are not the only way to support families. It is important to also support families at the community level and within our own neighborhoods. Also highlighted are the benefits of mentoring for new foster parents, child welfare strategies for rural communities, the pros and cons of "blind removals," and a learning cohort comprising eight states that aims to collaborate on strategies to improve child and family well-being. The issue also features recent resources and publications for child welfare professionals and families.

  • Message From Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg
  • Cultivating Resilience in New Foster Parents Through Mentoring
  • How Can Child Welfare Systems Support Families in Rural Communities?
  • The Idea of Removing Race From Child Removal Decisions
  • 2021 Child and Family Well-Being Learning Cohort

News From the Children's Bureau
We highlight a pilot and evaluation of a new tool developed to measure educators' use of coregulation within youth-serving programs, the Children's Bureau's Early Childhood-Child Welfare grants, information about the availability of pandemic relief funds for young people in foster care, and a brief listing of the latest additions to the Children's Bureau website.

  • Tool for Measuring Coregulation in Youth-Serving Programs
  • Early Childhood-Child Welfare Grants: Where Are They Now?
  • Funds Still Available Through the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act
  • CB Website Updates

Training and Technical Assistance Updates
We feature active efforts resources from the Capacity Building Center for Tribes and the Tribal Information Exchange and a listing of some of the latest resources from the Children's Bureau's training and technical assistance partners.

  • Active Efforts List for the Indian Child Welfare Act
  • Updates From the Children's Bureau's Training and Technical Assistance Partners

Child Welfare Research
Read about the Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams program and its impact on families affected by substance use and how the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics allows clinicians to use a child's developmental history and current functioning to make decisions and plan treatment.

  • Study Finds That START Program Reduces Out-of-Home Care and Increases Reunification Rates
  • An Evaluation of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics in Tennessee

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.

  • Seven Lessons the Child Welfare System Can Take From COVID-19
  • Five Ways to Serve Youth Through the Family First Prevention Services Act
  • Supporting the Well-Being of Children, Youth, and Families After the Pandemic Is Over

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.

  • Skills to Consider Before Becoming a Foster Parent
  • Talking to Children in Foster Care About Their Stories

Training and Conferences

  • Strengthening Families Protective Factors and Youth Thrive Workshops
  • Conferences

Spotlight on Child Welfare Practice That Supports the Well-Being of Children and Families

Message From Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg

Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg

One of the best ways that we can support children and families is to care for them in our daily lives, in our communities. I'm sure many of us can remember seeing stories in the press about a child who had been repeatedly abused or maltreated and wondered, "Didn't anyone know?" or "Why didn't anyone help?" When we ask those questions, we are asking not necessarily as child welfare professionals; rather, we ask because we are concerned citizens who value the lives of children. 

In New York, where I grew up, the characteristic of a good neighbor was one who minded their own business. In the communities where I lived, neighbors who minded their own business were ideal. We might say, "Good morning" or "Goodnight." Any more conversation than that, or any attempt to find out what was going on in your neighbor's life, was deemed being nosy. We can turn that idea around. 

A few years ago, I suddenly became the temporary guardian of my 2-year-old grandnephew. Literally overnight I had to figure out how to incorporate a toddler into my life. I remember having to choose a day care. It had to be nearby, it had to be very safe, and it had to be an environment where he would thrive. At one day care visit, I found myself sitting quietly in an office with another parent while I waited for a meeting with the director. That parent, a mom of a child who was already enrolled, suddenly started talking to me. She offered her unsolicited opinion about the day care. She had great things to say. As it turns out, she was right! And I was so glad that she didn't mind her own business.  

Another neighbor of mine saw me with my grandnephew and asked me what was going on. I told her the story. The next day, she rang my bell and gave me a bunch of toys. Another neighbor slipped a note in my door to let me know that she had retired and would be happy to babysit if I ever needed help.

I was so proud of my neighbors, and I was so thankful. They didn't mind their own business. They stepped up, stepped in, and rallied in support of us.

In 1967, Congressman Adam Clayton Powel, Jr., delivered a speech titled, "What's in Your Hand?" and in it he says "…you've got in your hand the power…"

We don't have to be child welfare professionals to want to see families thrive. Think about how you can help our own neighbors. Perhaps it's the family down the street with a newborn baby, or a single dad of two who lives down the hall, or the woman who just became a kinship guardian. Think about what's in your hand. When I needed it, someone had encouraging words, another person had a basket of toys, and yet another person offered her time.  

Make a commitment to heighten the visibility of the families in your neighborhood. Pledge to be concerned, helpful neighbors. And ask yourself, reflectively, "What's in your hand?"

 

   

 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Spotlight on Child Welfare Practice That Supports the Well-Being of Children and Families
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5858


Cultivating Resilience in New Foster Parents Through Mentoring

A recent article in Children and Youth Services Reviews discusses a study that explores the relationship between mentoring and resilience in new foster parents and how mentors can help new foster parents. Mentorship between experienced and inexperienced foster parents has shown to improve retention and increase the mentee's ability to manage the behavioral problems of children in their care. It also provides new foster parents with additional supportive contacts and encourages greater parental engagement, which leads to better outcomes for youth in foster care. However, mentorship between foster parents is understudied in comparison to mentorship for youth in foster care. 

The article explains the risk and resilience framework—that is, how risks can be mitigated by protective factors and a person's dynamic capacity to adapt to challenges—and posits that mentorship is a possible strategy to strengthen the protective factors of new foster parents. Researchers interviewed 10 sets of mentors and mentees over 7 months. Their responses were analyzed for comparisons and repeating concepts and themes.

Four themes emerged:

  1. Permit yourself to grieve.
  2. Take breaks.
  3. Set boundaries.
  4. Attend to the needs of the family.

The study also found that mentorship supports intrapersonal growth, with foster parents gaining a deeper understanding of how fostering affected them. The experienced foster parent mentors were a continuing source of support for the novice foster parents, helped them navigate their unique challenges, and validated their emotions and experiences. 

Read the article, "Cultivating Resilience in New Foster Parents Through Mentoring: A Dyadic Analysis," for more information.

 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Spotlight on Child Welfare Practice That Supports the Well-Being of Children and Families
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5838


How Can Child Welfare Systems Support Families in Rural Communities?

Sometimes traditional or evidence-based child welfare strategies developed for urban areas are not suitable for rural communities. A larger geographical spread and greater travel time, higher rates of child poverty, limited infrastructure, and staffing difficulties pose challenges to child welfare systems in rural areas. However, these areas also have features that can mitigate some of the challenges—if leveraged properly. This brief from Casey Family Programs examines how the strengths of rural communities, such as having strong networks of local and community supports, combined with flexible economic support can be utilized to create unique and effective solutions that enhance family and community well-being and protect children. 

The article highlights the following key strengths-based strategies that have been successful in supporting rural and tribal communities:
Read the entirety of How Can Child Welfare Systems Support Families in Rural Communities? to learn more.
 

 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Spotlight on Child Welfare Practice That Supports the Well-Being of Children and Families
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5846


The Idea of Removing Race From Child Removal Decisions

An article from The Imprint explores the idea of removing race and other demographic-identifying information from removal decisions. The idea is growing in popularity and has shown limited success; however, there are concerns and pushback from those within the field.

Children and families of color are disproportionally represented in child welfare, and evidence has shown that racial bias and the systemic racism endemic in many institutions contributes to this disproportionality and disparity in services. In an effort to counteract this, "blind removals" were piloted in Nassau County, NY, a decade ago. In blind removals, a committee of child welfare workers make their decisions without knowing the family members' names, race, or any other identifying information, such as zip codes, education, and income level.

With implementation of the pilot, the percentage of Black children removed from their homes was reduced from 57 percent to 21 percent. The success of the program led officials to expand it statewide, and counties in other states adopted the same method. 

Despite this initial success, new data show that the decline in removals in Nassau County was neither steady nor consistent. The percentage of Black children entering care fluctuated every year and ranged from as low as 35.5 percent to as high as 61.9 percent. The data collected were also inconsistent between years and have been generally accepted without a peer-review process. Some child welfare workers feel that the blind removal process will have a negative impact on their ability to do their job. Some cite concerns about the time the process takes and the potential impact on emergency situations. Others have concerns that the process is potentially dehumanizing and that multiple adverse experiences add a layer of complexity to cases that the method will be unable to handle. It also does not address some of the initial reasons Black families and other minorities are brought to the attention of child welfare agencies in the first place, such as conditions linked to poverty and barriers to accessing resources to help mitigate risk factors. 

The article, "Color-Blind Ambition," by Jeremy Loudenback, is available from The Imprint.

 
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Spotlight on Child Welfare Practice That Supports the Well-Being of Children and Families
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5847


2021 Child and Family Well-Being Learning Cohort

The National Governor's Association and Casey Family Programs are working together to create a learning cohort that will collaborate on strategies to improve and support child and family well-being. This network, consisting of eight states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia), will work toward the following:

The pandemic's effect on the health and economic well-being of families has exacerbated some of the existing issues in child welfare systems. It has also shown that agencies and workers have the capacity for innovative ways to better serve children and families. This new cohort will focus on assessing states' needs, exploring challenges that affect multiple states, and achieving results-driven improvements.  
 
To learn more, visit the National Governor's Association's 2021 Child and Family Well-Being Learning Cohort webpage.

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Spotlight on Child Welfare Practice That Supports the Well-Being of Children and Families
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5848


News From the Children's Bureau

Tool for Measuring Coregulation in Youth-Serving Programs

It is important for youth to develop skills to help them manage their thoughts and feelings, engage in goal-directed behavior, express emotions appropriately, solve problems, and delay gratification. This type of emotional management is called self-regulation. Caring adults in their lives can help support the development of self-regulation by modelling self-regulating thoughts, feelings, and behavior; teaching coping strategies to deal with their emotions; and creating opportunities for youth to practice these behaviors and coping skills. This is called coregulation.

A brief from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families discusses the piloting and evaluation of a draft observation tool developed to measure educators' use of coregulation within youth-serving programs. The tool was designed as part of the Self-Regulation Training Approaches and Resources to Improve Staff Capacity for Implementing Healthy Marriage Programs for Youth project and is intended for evaluators and researchers who are interested in observational measures of coregulation and program managers and supervisors of youth-serving programs.  

The pilot test of the draft observational tool comprised four sections:
 Findings from the pilot include the following:
The brief also provides recommendations for next steps on how to refine the tool and discusses lessons learned. 
 
To learn more, read Measuring Co-Regulation: A Draft for Observing Educators in Youth-Serving Programs.
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5839


Early Childhood-Child Welfare Grants: Where Are They Now?

In 2011, the Children's Bureau (CB) funded nine Early Childhood-Child Welfare (ECCW) grants to build local community partnerships that maximize the enrollment and attendance of infants and young children who are age birth to 5 years and who have or are at risk for child welfare involvement into comprehensive, high-quality early care and education and mental health programs. It has been nearly 10 years since the ECCW grants were awarded, and CB, in collaboration with the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Early Childhood Development (ECD), checked in with grantees to see how ECCW projects have changed and developed over the last decade. Beginning in January 2021, ECD and CB hosted conversations with three former ECCW grantees to ask, "Where are they now?" These conversations included the following former ECCW grantees: the Arizona Superior Court of Maricopa County; the Colorado Department of Human Services; and the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families. Throughout these conversations, CB and ECD heard stories of grantees who built sustainable community partnerships between high-quality early care and education systems and child welfare. CB and ECD analyzed these conversations to give the field an update on where the grantees are now and the lessons learned from their ECCW journey.

The goal of the ECCW grants was to support a partnership between early childhood and child welfare systems as well as build the infrastructure to support those connections long term. Throughout all three interviews, it became clear that different elements of the ECCW partnerships are continuing to flourish and expand through improved referral systems, increased focus on prevention, and the enhancement of organizational supports. 

To learn more, please visit the Early Childhood-Child Welfare Partnerships page on the ECD website.
 
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5840


Funds Still Available Through the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act

The COVID-19 public health emergency has been especially stressful for families involved with child welfare and particularly for youth and young adults transitioning out of the foster care system.

To help mitigate the challenges these youth face, the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act (P.L. 116-260) was signed into law on December 27, 2020, to provide state, tribal, and county child welfare agencies with time-limited resources to respond to the needs of youth and young adults under the age of 27 who spent time in foster care after the age of 14. These pandemic relief funds are intended to help these young people with mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, car loans, groceries, and other basic needs.

To spread the word about this funding opportunity, Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, created a webpage that provides information for youth and professionals on eligibility as well as pertinent information on the law itself. The webpage includes a link to the Children's Bureau Information Memorandum (IM-21-05) that outlines the changes to the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood as well as information on education and training voucher supplemental funding, minimum age limitations in eligibility for assistance, programmatic flexibilities, and more. In addition, the webpage also links to a recording (passcode: 9ES4H0K#) of the Children's Bureau's webinar on the new law that was held on January 7, 2021.

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5841


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: July/August 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5842


Training and Technical Assistance Updates

Active Efforts List for the Indian Child Welfare Act

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 emphasized the importance of ensuring Indian children remain connected to their community, tribe, and culture by recognizing the sovereignty of tribal nations in child welfare cases involving Indian children. One of the requirements of ICWA dictates that state child welfare agencies and courts must engage in active efforts to both prevent removal and reunify children with their families.

The Capacity Building Center for Tribes, in partnership with the Tribal Information Exchange, released a resource containing guidance on active efforts for states and courts regarding the implementation of ICWA within their child welfare agencies. The resource features information from the North Dakota ICWA Implementation Partnership on active efforts federal regulations and guidelines, a recent publication from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges that provides information on the history behind ICWA and active efforts as a best practice, a webinar from the Capacity Building Center for Tribes that discusses how active efforts benefit both tribal and state child welfare systems and serve the best interests of Indian children and families, and more.  

Visit the Tribal Information Exchange website to learn more about ICWA active efforts.
 
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Training and Technical Assistance Updates
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5843


Updates From the Children's Bureau's Training and Technical Assistance Partners

The Children's Bureau funds several technical assistance centers to provide professionals with tools to better serve children, youth, and families.

The following are some of the latest resources from the Children's Bureau's technical assistance partners: 

Visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website for more.
Visit the FRIENDS National Resource Center website for more. 
Visit the CBC website for more.
Visit the CBLCC website for more.
Visit the AdoptUSKids website for more.
Visit the NDACAN website for more.
Visit the NCWWI website for more.
Visit the QIC-WD website for more.
Visit the QIC-LGBTQ2S website for more.
Visit the QIC-AG website for more.
 
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Training and Technical Assistance Updates
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5844


Child Welfare Research

Study Finds That START Program Reduces Out-of-Home Care and Increases Reunification Rates

In recent years, incidents of child maltreatment by caregivers with substance use problems have increased. An article in Child Abuse & Neglect discusses a study in Kentucky that investigated whether the Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) program had an impact on child welfare outcomes in families affected by substance use.

The START program is an intervention for families with co-occurring child maltreatment and substance use. It involves collaboration between child welfare services, substance use treatment providers, and the courts, with each stakeholder establishing shared plans and goals. There are three specific goals of the START program:

The study comprised 348 families reported to child welfare services in Kentucky, a state with significantly higher rates of both opioid use disorders and child maltreatment than the national average. All participating families had a substantiated finding of maltreatment or services needed, substance use as a risk factor, a child under 6 years old, and no other open child welfare cases. Participants were randomly assigned to either begin treatment through the START program or Kentucky's usual child welfare services. Three outcomes were tracked: out-of-home care placements, reunification, and subsequent child maltreatment.
 
The results were favorable for the START program. Participants receiving services through START had an out-of-home care rate that was 7 percentage points lower than the rate for families that received usual services and a reunification rate that was 13 percentage points higher.
 
For more information, read the article, "Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams for Families With Co-Occurring Substance Use and Child Maltreatment: A Randomized Controlled Trial."
 
 

 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5854


An Evaluation of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics in Tennessee

The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) is a neurobiological approach to working with at-risk children. Rather than being a specific technique or treatment protocol, NMT is an organizational structure that allows clinicians to use a child's developmental history and current functioning to make decisions and plan treatment.

A recent report from Child Trends discusses how the Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Prevention (QIC-AG) recently evaluated the NMT approach in Tennessee with families involved with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. The QIC-AG compared families in the eastern area of Tennessee served by the NMT approach with families in the rest of the state who received usual services. It measured four outcomes: 

NMT had a statistically significant impact on only one of the outcomes, behavioral problems, and the impact was small. 
 
For a detailed explanation of the findings, read the Child Trends article, Implementing the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics in Tennessee: Parent and Clinician Perspectives.
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5855


Strategies and Tools for Practice

Seven Lessons the Child Welfare System Can Take From COVID-19

Like many fields, child welfare was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent government responses. Incidents of child maltreatment are likely on the rise due to financial instability, school and day care closures, and social isolation. However, fewer incidents have been reported during the pandemic, likely because education personnel typically account for one in five child welfare services referrals.

While the pandemic has resulted in barriers for child welfare systems, it has also resulted in several lessons learned that can be used to improve system processes and operations even after life begins to return to normal. A recent report from the American Enterprise Institute details seven system improvement recommendations to protect children during and after the pandemic:

  1. Develop ways to detect child maltreatment outside of schools.
  2. Classify child welfare caseworkers as essential so they can continue working with families in person.
  3. Normalize virtual participation in court hearings.
  4. Require court hearings and other permanency-related requirements to continue without delay.
  5. Facilitate virtual visitation between children and their biological families, siblings, and others, when appropriate. 
  6. Find innovative ways to recruit foster families.
  7. Rely on community partnerships when addressing nonmaltreatment concerns.
These recommendations for new strategies, better use of existing technology, and increased partnership with community-based agencies can help address new barriers to detecting maltreatment and achieving permanency for children in foster care. 
 
For more information, read What Lessons Can the Child Welfare System Take From the COVID-19 Pandemic?
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5856


Five Ways to Serve Youth Through the Family First Prevention Services Act

A recent brief from the Center for the Study of Social Policy details five opportunities within the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) of 2018 for states to build a prevention continuum that focuses on healthy adolescent development. The brief also aims to address disparities in diverse populations.

The FFPSA authorized federal funding for certain child welfare prevention services. Most approved FFPSA programs to date have focused on restricting the use of congregate care and placing youth with foster families instead of more restrictive placements. However, services designed to meet the needs of children and youth who are not yet considered candidates for foster care could also be eligible for FFPSA funding, and, according to the brief, there is significant demand for programs that incorporate research on adolescent development and supports for Black, Latinx, Native, and LGBTQ+ youth.

The following recommendations identify ways states can use FFPSA funding to create a continuum of prevention programs that focus on adolescent development and underserved populations:

  1. Use the Youth Thrive framework. This framework helps states make funding decisions by determining which new and existing programs contribute to youth well-being. 
  2. Develop and support programs that prioritize and incorporate youth voice. Research has demonstrated that youth voice can improve outcomes for children. 
  3. Develop and support programs that focus on the quality of relationships between youth and adults. Research shows these "transformational relationships" are a foundation for healthy adolescent development.
  4. Integrate trauma-informed and healing-centered practices. For example, healing-centered engagement is an approach that promotes a holistic view of healing from traumatic experiences. 
  5. Enhance services from an equity perspective to promote antiracist policies. FFPSA provides an opportunity to address the disproportionality and disparities in the child welfare system.
For more information, read the full brief, The Opportunity Is Now: Five Ways to Better Serve Adolescents and Young Adults Through the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5857


Supporting the Well-Being of Children, Youth, and Families After the Pandemic Is Over

Written by the Capacity Building Center for States

Throughout 2020, agencies grappled with numerous disruptions, including the COVID-19 pandemic (with its related school and work closings and economic downturns), natural disasters, and racial and political turmoil around the country. In this tumultuous atmosphere, agency staff were challenged to respond creatively to ongoing disaster-related challenges and continue their work with children, youth, and families while keeping their own families safe. 

As child welfare agency leaders reflect on the past year, they can begin to assess how well they did in supporting the well-being of children, youth, and families, as well as consider areas where they might do things differently. The following considerations are drawn from lessons learned from the experiences of 2020.

Equity Matters
 
The COVID-19 pandemic hit communities of color especially hard for a variety of reasons, including higher levels of underlying health conditions and inequitable access to resources and services due in large part to a history of racial inequity and oppression (Wilson et al., 2020). The pandemic has provided child welfare agencies with an opportunity to rebuild systems in which families can equitably access preventive resources and services that can mitigate the impact of a disaster (such as access to technology infrastructure, child care resources, preventive medical care, and affordable sources of food and housing). For example, agencies might take a closer look at barriers to accessing services and resources such as location, scheduling, technology availability, and staff approachability.
 
A discussion of this topic and some strategies for addressing it are described in Children's Bureau Information Memorandum 21-03. A new Capacity Building Center for States (Center) publication, Visioning for Prevention: The Evidence for Strengthening Families, offers research and data on the many benefits of supporting families with prevention-focused services and what changes are needed for such a shift to occur.
 
Collaborative Disaster Planning Is Key 
 
Because disasters affect an agency's ability to provide services for children, youth, and families, proactively planning for disasters should be an agency priority. Over the past year, it has become clear that cooperating with families, youth, community organizations, and service providers can prepare agencies and families to respond more effectively to disasters by better understanding family needs and implementing supports before disasters occur. 
 
Engaging youth and families in disaster planning and response, listening closely to their input, and following their lead is especially important to ensure that everyone has what they need to continue their daily activities, such as school and work, as much as possible. For example, one state's youth advisory board sponsored a town hall to help connect young people currently and formerly in foster care to technology and self-care resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Coping With Disasters and Strengthening Systems is a new Center series that offers information and resources to help facilitate agency collaboration with youth, families, and other stakeholders and provides additional content on planning for, responding to, and recovering from disasters.
 
Build Flexibility Into the System 
 
According to a recent Children's Bureau (2021) Information Memorandum that shares lessons learned from the pandemic, flexibility needs to be built into the child welfare system at all levels and in all areas before disasters occur. Some of these areas mentioned include the following:
Technology use during the pandemic is a good example of how existing resources can be repurposed to address new needs if the existing rules for use are flexible. Although child welfare agencies have long used technology for communication (e.g., email) and information storage and tracking, new uses for existing technology emerged as critical for family well-being during the pandemic (e.g., using videoconferencing technologies to keep children and youth digitally connected to their parents and siblings) (American Enterprise Institute, 2021). Flexible policies around technology would allow many agencies to take advantage of this resource and others like it earlier when responding to disaster.
 
Children's Bureau Information Memorandum 21-03 offers additional information about ways the child welfare field can mindfully incorporate the lessons learned from the pandemic and other disasters. In addition, the Center's Building Capacity for Disaster Preparedness at a Child Welfare Agency webpage provides resources to help agencies think about ways to adjust their policies and practices in response to disaster.
 
Throughout 2020, child welfare agencies continued to focus on keeping children safe and supporting the well-being of children and families in the face of significant challenges. Now, they can use the lessons learned to begin the work of recovery. 
 
References
 
American Enterprise Institute. (2021). What lessons can the child welfare system take from the COVID-19 pandemic? https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/What-Lessons-Can-the-Child-Welfare-System-Take-from-the-COVID-19-Pandemic.pdf?x91208 
 
Children's Bureau. (2021). Information memorandum ACYF-CB-IM-21-03: Emerging transformed: Taking lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to create more just, equitable, proactive, and integrated approaches to supporting families and ensuring child and family health and well-being. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cb/im2103.pdf 
 
Wilson, D. B., Solomon, T. A., & McLane-Davison, D. (2020). Ethics and racial equity in social welfare policy: Social work's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Social Work in Public Health, 35. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19371918.2020.1808145 
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5845


Resources

Skills to Consider Before Becoming a Foster Parent

Aside from the inherent commitment, generosity, and love needed to become a successful foster parent, there are additional skills and considerations that prospective caregivers should have before bringing a child in need into their homes and hearts. Verywell Family, an online resource for parenting content and support, compiled the following checklist as a starting point for individuals preparing to foster:

To learn more, read "6 Skills You Need to Master Before Becoming a Foster Parent."
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5849


Talking to Children in Foster Care About Their Stories

A blog post from AdoptUsKids offers advice to foster parents and those adopting children from foster care on talking to children and teens about their lives, their pasts, and the circumstances that brought them into care. The following tips can help parents navigate these conversations:

Read the post, "Helping Children in Foster Care Understand Their History," to learn more.
 
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5851


Training and Conferences

Strengthening Families Protective Factors and Youth Thrive Workshops

Be Strong Families offers workshops on the Strengthening Families protective factors framework and the Youth Thrive framework, which were both developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy. These workshops are intended for parents and professionals to encourage their partnership in keeping families strong and together and supporting youth as they prepare to enter adulthood.

The workshops offered include the following: 

To learn more about the Strengthening Families protective factors and Youth Thrive workshops, visit the Be Strong Families website.
 
 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5852


Conferences

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

July

August

September

 

Issue Date: July/August 2021
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=228&articleid=5853



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