Spotlight on Child and Family Services Plan Development, Implementation, and Monitoring
Equity Is a Right
Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg
Last month, I sent a letter to child welfare leaders reaffirming our focus on equity. In the letter, I reiterated the definition of the term "equity" as it is written in the President's Executive Order 13985 on "Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government." The term equity is defined, in pertinent part, as "the consistent and systematic fair, just and impartial treatment of all individuals…" Equity is such a broad term, and there are so many ways and opportunities to achieve it, yet, as a nation, we have failed to achieve equity for the children and families we serve. My letter was an invitation to the nation to join me in leading the difficult work of advancing equity.
I could take this moment to quote the statistics on the disparate outcomes for our Black and Brown, our LGBTQIA+ and two-spirited, and our differently abled children and families—and even our rural and frontier families—but I won't. Let it suffice to say that for them, equity is illusory. In child welfare, we are closely familiar with intergenerational inequity and the generations of families for whom equity is all but an American dream. My ancestors dreamed, too. Among many dreams, they dreamed of freedom, they dreamed of the right to vote, and they dreamed about equitable schooling. The federal government, in concert with the United States Supreme Court, had the power to create space for change and to make the way for their dreams to be realized. Even with that revolutionary change, my ancestors are still dreaming.
I believe we can make it better for the generations to come. At the federal level, we are scrutinizing our current policies, we're having tough conversations, and we're identifying polices that exacerbate inequity and we are prioritizing them for change. We are conducting equity impact statements and asking ourselves, "Are we administering our programs equitably? Are we serving the families that need it most? Are we removing the obstacles to access? What more do we need to do?"
The transformational change that I envision will take time. And some of it will take even longer. In the same way that we watched the nation transform with human rights—voting rights, women's rights, and marriage equality—we have to expect that achieving equity for those who dream of it—and deserve it—is possible. But it is only possible if those of us who have the power to make the changes wield that power and make the changes. It means having the faith that with courage and persistence we will see breakthroughs even in the situations that seem insurmountable. I'm referring to those longstanding pits of inequity that we have been unable to dismantle.
Equity is a right. Our children and families have the right to be made whole. As June Jordan wrote in her Poem for South African Women, "We are the ones we have been waiting for." The time to stop dreaming is now! Let's do the work with courage and persistence so that every child and family has the right to be equal and whole. #EquityInAction.
Section: Spotlight on Child and Family Services Plan Development, Implementation, and Monitoring
Strengthen Your State’s Use of Data Evidence to Assess and Demonstrate Systemic Factor Functioning
Written by Steve Lao, M.P.H., child welfare data specialist, and Elizabeth Jones-Ferguson, M.S.W., child welfare data specialist lead, Children's Bureau Child and Family Services Review team
The statewide assessment (SWA) is the first phase of the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). During this phase, states assess the extent to which their child welfare system functions effectively to provide for the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families whom the system serves. The assessment, done in collaboration with key partners and stakeholders, requires a comprehensive analysis of the state's programs, processes, and practices to determine the degree to which they produce desired results on the seven outcomes and seven systemic factors associated with the CFSR.
The assessment highlights the importance of having a shared vision that is reflected in the design of system structures and processes, as well as in the quality of practices and services delivered. Some questions to consider about the state's child welfare system in preparation for the SWA include the following:
Is the state's vision for its child welfare system well-communicated and well-understood?
Are system structures, programs, processes, and practices aligned with the vision?
To what extent do system structures and processes produce desired results?
How well does the state meaningfully engage key stakeholders—such as families and youth with lived experience in the child welfare system, judicial and legal communities, tribes, resource families, and services providers—in the design, operation, evaluation, and improvement process?
To what extent does the state's continuous quality improvement (CQI) system adhere to best practices in measurement and implementation?
How well does the state employ a systematic approach to understand and address potential disparities different populations experience that may contribute to inequity in services and outcomes for historically underserved populations?
How well does the state integrate and build on findings and improvement strategies across past and present federal and state plans and reports (e.g., Child and Family Services Plans [CFSPs], Annual Progress and Services Reports [APSRs], Court Improvement Program Strategic Plans)?
The SWA process underscores the necessity for having a robust and high-functioning CQI system to identify problems, develop and implement solutions, monitor and evaluate actions taken, and act upon the findings by scaling up, adjusting, or repeating the cycle. When CFSR round 4 kicks off, it will mark a decade since the Children's Bureau issued Information Memorandum 12-07 titled, "Establishing and Maintaining Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Systems in State Child Welfare Agencies" on August 12. It will also be more than a decade since the development of the national set of court performance measures for child abuse and neglect cases and the corresponding toolkit for courts to implement performance measurement. The federal guidance was a call for state child welfare agencies and courts to strengthen quality assurance activities and CQI systems to more effectively evaluate and strengthen operations and delivery of timely and quality services and improve child and family outcomes.
The SWA process is part of the ongoing federal monitoring and state CQI cycle and is intended to build on work states are already doing to identify system strengths and areas needing improvement, prioritize areas of focus, and make improvements through development, implementation, and monitoring of federal and state program improvement plans and the evaluation and reporting of progress. The following are two cornerstones of all these monitoring and reporting processes:
Reliance on quality and relevant data and use of evidence to evaluate and demonstrate outcome performance and systemic factor functioning
Broad and meaningful involvement from child welfare system stakeholders, partners, and persons with lived expertise
As states prepare for the round 4 SWA, it is helpful to assess the extent to which they conduct the following activities and, as needed, strengthen the quality of these processes. Embedding these activities into the routine of day-to-day business processes will help states build a strong foundation for the SWA:
Determine the availability of data—or the need to obtain or collect data—to understand system dynamics, outcome performance, and the routine statewide functioning of systemic factors
Routinely review state administrative data regarding the performance on the statewide data indicators and supplemental context data to assess system performance
Ask questions and follow up on focus areas using the wealth of additional quantitative and qualitative data housed by the agency, judicial and legal communities, service providers, and other system partners to help identify potential drivers of system strengths and challenges
Apply sound measurement principles in the development and use of data resources, such as knowing the questions that need to be answered, selecting the appropriate population for measurement, assessing data quality, and specifying measurement methods (e.g., measure, time period, population)
Determine which part of the CQI change and implementation phase the state is in for each focus area, and complete or revisit associated steps for that phase
Determine which combinations of data analyses provide the most compelling evidence to support the state's observation of system performance and systemic factor functioning and how best to articulate that in writing
In preparation for round 4, states will receive a revised SWA template and instructions, a framework for completing the assessment, data profiles and supplemental context data, and a series of systemic factor briefs that provide examples and suggestions to demonstrate the functioning for each systemic factor.
The Children's Bureau believes that after a decade of CQI system and performance measurement work, advancements in our knowledge of implementation science, and the introduction and application of the CQI change and implementation process, states are well-positioned to complete high-quality statewide assessments.
For more information or to request technical assistance with the process, contact your Children's Bureau Regional Office.
Additionally, the following are federal resources that are currently available:
Systemic Factors—Results From the CFSRs: 2015–2018
Strategic Planning in Child Welfare: Strategies for Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement
Change and Implementation in Practice
CFSR Official Reports and Results
State CFSP and APSR Database
CFSR Round 3 Statewide Data Indicators
Child Welfare Outcomes Report Data
Section: Current Theme or Topic
Lessons Learned From the Child and Family Services Review Rounds 1 Through 3
Written by Jennifer Haight, director, Division of Performance Measurement and Improvement, and Linda Mitchell, senior child welfare specialist, Child and Family Services Review Unit, Children's Bureau
Over the past 20 years, the Children's Bureau (CB) has moved federal monitoring of titles IV-B and IV-E from a checklist approach of state compliance with federal requirements to a more comprehensive examination of the fundamental practices and systems processes that lead to better outcomes for children and families being served by state child welfare agencies. These monitoring refinements are embedded in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) processes and are featured in our collaboration with states on the development of their Program Improvement Plans (PIPs). Additionally, our efforts to frame federal monitoring as an aspect of our own continuous improvement has meant that we have been able to use the knowledge collected through these monitoring activities to support CB's broader work.
As we head into CFSR round 4, we want to first highlight some lessons from the preceding rounds that may be useful to consider when contemplating the next CFSR/PIP cycle. Secondly, we briefly describe the ways in which the knowledge gained from prior CFSR/PIP rounds has informed a wide range of CB programs and initiatives.
The following are six key lessons learned from prior rounds of the CFSR. As states enter the planning phase for round 4, we recommend keeping these observations in mind:
Continuous quality improvement (CQI) is the underlying foundation of the CFSR. Establishing a comprehensive CQI framework and cultivating the development of state CQI capabilities and capacities has helped states move forward to more meaningful system and practice changes over time.
Carefully developed data evidence should be used more consistently and effectively throughout performance improvement activities. This includes assessing the state's functioning when completing the statewide assessment; identifying underlying practice and systems issues that contribute to challenges in meeting PIP measures; and maintaining post-PIP monitoring to insure continued improvement in practice, systems change, and outcomes.
Innovation and change can only occur if there is effective leadership at all levels of the agency. Leadership should maintain focus on improving organizational culture and climate, communicating expectations to field staff and stakeholders, and advocating with governors and legislators for the resources needed to fully implement and sustain program and system improvements. It is critical for leadership to be engaged in all phases of the CFRS/PIP cycle.
Interviews with case participants provide valuable information on how the agency engages with them to assess their needs, provide services they believe are helpful to them, and ensure connections important to them are maintained. Data from these interviews can usefully augment the knowledge that informs each phase of the CFSR/PIP cycle and help agencies understand the impact of practice change on the families they serve.
Engaging stakeholders is necessary to provide insight on how the system is functioning in key areas that may impact outcomes. Stakeholder experiences with the system can help illuminate strengths and barriers in meeting the needs of families, and their thoughts on ways to address the gaps and barriers can be integrated into both the PIP and the title IV-B Child and Family Services Plan.
Training strategies in and of themselves do not routinely result in observable and sustained systems improvements. However, developing and delivering training designed to support the implementation of specific PIP strategies, new practices, and improvements to system functioning is critical to effective innovation and system improvement.
Incorporating these lessons into the work of CFSR round 4 will support ongoing integration of the federal monitoring responsibilities with our collective interest in building the evidence base that can inform CB's programs and priorities. The CFSR has become more than a federal monitoring process. It builds knowledge across the field of child welfare. As federal and state partners continue to identify best practices in the design and delivery of child welfare systems, that knowledge fuels federal innovation in the development of programs, policies, and opportunities that continue to promote improved outcomes for children, families, and communities. Many of the lessons learned above are routinely integrated across CB's work. The following are some examples:
CB uses CFSR findings to develop discretionary grants that support a wide range of initiatives intended to spur system and practice improvements that will result in measurable improvements for children and families.
The training and technical assistance/capacity-building network is structured to be more responsive to states' identified needs and to assist states in generating and acquiring evidence necessary to support decision-making at all phases of the performance improvement process.
CB regularly engages with youth, families, foster/adoptive parents, and key community stakeholders to solicit input and feedback in the development and implementation of CB programs and policies.
Workforce issues are continually identified through CFSR and PIP efforts and highlighted and strengthened through National Child Welfare Workforce Institute projects and resources.
CB emphasizes the importance of agency and legal/judicial collaboration around common goals to improve services to families and facilitates opportunities for joint agency and court efforts in all areas of our work.
The CB data team regularly develops and disseminates resources to inform partners and stakeholders about child welfare system dynamics and incorporates their use across CB divisions and operations.
Over time, we expect the CFSR/PIP cycle to continue to strengthen monitoring and program improvement within the larger framework of shared accountability and CQI. Establishing a comprehensive foundation for CQI has helped states move forward to implementing more meaningful systems and practice changes over time. On the federal end, CB has built its capacity to provide more data and information to states through both the national data profiles, including individual state context data, as well as additional technical assistance resources for data analysis. State, community, and other federal partners can expect to see more attention on how to use the information to assess states' functioning when completing the statewide assessment and in developing targeted PIP goals and strategies, identifying underlying practice and systems issues contributing to challenges in meeting PIP measures, and ongoing monitoring to ensure continued improvement in practice and systems changes. In addition, CB will continue to emphasize the importance of stakeholder involvement and engagement of state leadership so that improvements made through the CFSR/PIP process are successful and integrated into practice for lasting change.
Section: Spotlight on Child and Family Services Plan Development, Implementation, and Monitoring
News From the Children's Bureau
Letter From the Associate Commissioner to Child Welfare Leaders on Rental Assistance for Struggling Families
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families need housing assistance to maintain stability. In this time of uncertainty, many renters have struggled to pay rent, and landlords have struggled with the loss of rental income. To help ameliorate these financial challenges, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Treasury to encourage tenants and landlords to take advantage of emergency rental assistance available through the American Rescue Plan Act, which will help cover rent, utilities, and other housing costs to keep residents in their homes. Read the letter from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg to child welfare leaders that includes information on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, emergency housing vouchers, child welfare and child abuse prevention funds, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and pandemic emergency assistance funds, and additional suggestions and resources.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides $4.5 billion in additional funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help families afford home heating and cooling costs and unpaid electrical and gas bills. In addition, ACF is administering over $1 billion in funding to assist with drinking water and wastewater bills through the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).
For additional information on federal rental assistance by state, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website for resources and information—available in English and Spanish.
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
September Is National Recovery Month
Each September, National Recovery Month aims to shine a light on the recovery community and the dedication of the service providers who make recovery in all its forms possible. This year's National Recovery Month theme is "Recovery Is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community." Visit the National Recovery Month website to find a calendar of events from communities across the country, a space to upload your Recovery Month images and proclamations, the 2021 Recovery Month Toolkit, and more.
The following are resources to help individuals in recovery from substance use and the service providers who support them:
National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (cofunded by the Administration for Children and Families and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
"Civil Rights Protections for Individuals in Recovery from an Opioid Use Disorder": This five-part video series is a collaboration with the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The series aims to provide information on applying federal disability rights laws to child welfare programs and activities, discusses protections that apply to some individuals in recovery from an opioid use disorder, provides an overview of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and addresses common misconceptions about MAT as a treatment approach. This series has particular relevance for parents in MAT as well as in supporting the administration's focus on support rather than surveillance of families.
Opioid Use Disorder and Civil Rights Video and Webinar Series: This training series provides information to child welfare and court professionals about federal disability rights protections that apply to some parents with an opioid or other substance use disorder who are involved with child welfare. (Related CBX article: "Opioid Use Disorder and Civil Rights Video and Webinar Series")
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Working With Caregivers, Children, and Youth With Substance Use Disorders
Impact of Opioids on Families
The Opioid Crisis
For more information about National Recovery Month, contact Elaine Stedt, director, Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau.
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
Piloting Continuous Learning to Engage Fathers and Paternal Relatives in Child Welfare
When child welfare agencies successfully engage fathers in their children's cases, the agencies create a connection that can also improve children's outcomes.
The Fathers and Continuous Learning in Child Welfare (FCL) project used a methodology known as the Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC) to improve placement stability and permanency outcomes for children by engaging their fathers and paternal relatives. A BSC is a continuous-learning methodology developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement that is used to test and spread promising practices to help organizations improve in a focused topic area.
Six improvement teams representing five state or county child welfare agencies participated in the BSC. Throughout this BSC, each team identified, implemented, and studied a unique group of strategies to engage fathers and paternal relatives. Teams developed processes to collect, organize, and report data to gauge whether the engagement strategies were producing improvements on specified metrics. This pilot study report describes insights into the implementation of a BSC and potential strategies for increasing father and paternal relative engagement in child welfare.
After engaging in the BSC, improvement team members considered themselves more knowledgeable and identified cultural shifts and changes in their own behavior and the behavior of others in engaging fathers and paternal relatives. These changes were fueled by dedicating protected time and effort toward the BSC and staying deeply committed to engaging fathers and paternal relatives.
Improvement team members reported that the BSC could be strengthened even more by increasing protected time away from the competing demands of daily work, getting stronger guidance from the BSC team on data collection and community partner engagement, and engaging staff other than those on the improvement team. All improvement teams planned to keep using elements of the BSC after it formally concluded. Work on father and paternal relative engagement will continue by drawing on the BSC experience, building successful engagement strategies identified through the process, relying on sustained leadership, and furthering the beginnings of a cultural shift.
To learn more about the FCL project and the BSC methodology, read the report, A Seat at the Table: Piloting Continuous Learning to Engage Fathers and Paternal Relatives in Child Welfare.
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
Transitional Living Program Special Population Demonstration Report
A report that covers the process study, challenges, and lessons learned of the Transitional Living Program (TLP) Special Population Demonstration Project, which was funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is available from the HHS Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation. The demonstration project ran from September 2016 to September 2018 and was intended to provide additional support to TLPs providing specialized program models for two youth populations with a higher risk of homelessness: youth identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or questioning and youth who left foster care after age 18.
Grantees implemented several processes and strategies to improve the well-being of youth in the program, including the following:
Created screening processes that lessened the burden on youth and created more opportunities to have trauma-informed engagement
Used screenings and assessments to help youth make informed decisions when developing individual services plans
Implemented the positive youth development framework to help youth generate self-acceptance, encourage inclusion and respect between peers, and build protective factors and permanent supportive connections with adults
Some of the challenges included difficulties with youth participation and finding ways to best serve a population that had more intense trauma and mental health issues than initially anticipated.
Read Transitional Living Program Special Population Demonstration Report to learn more about promising strategies, future considerations, and the framework and methodology.
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
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.
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
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:
Letter From the Associate Commissioner on Equity in Child Welfare
Child Welfare Software and Artifacts Pool (C-SWAP) and State Technology Profile
Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System 2020 Implementation
Compilation of Titles IV-B, IV-E and Related Sections of the Social Security Act
Child and Family Services Reviews Update, Volume 15, Issue 3, June 2021
Child and Family Services Reviews Round 3 Statewide Data Indicators Workbook
Technical Bulletin #20 - Data Elements for Out-of-Home Care & Adoption and Guardianship Assistance Data Files
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new.
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
Training and Technical Assistance Updates
Leveraging Key Partnerships to Build a Resilient Workforce
The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) recently held a webinar on the importance of leveraging key partnerships when building staff resilience. This webinar is part of NCWWI's five-part Building a Resilient Workforce to Address Trauma and Enhance Well-Being webinar series, which addresses how child welfare leaders have supported their workforce in building resiliency during the pandemic.
In this episode, Laurence Nelson, director of training and professional development with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, discusses the partnerships his agency has leveraged and how these partnerships have worked to improve the resiliency of its workforce.
The webinar also poses the following three questions for participants to discuss in small groups:
What key partnerships do you currently have in your program that support resilience in your workforce?
What discussions on racism, either internally or with partners, have supported resilience in your workforce?
Where do you see opportunities to improve or create new partnerships to build a resilient workforce?
The small-group discussions also focused on the following:
Ways to strengthen internal partnerships, including cementing the relationship between new-worker training and new-worker mentoring, creating action groups that include all levels of staff to address staff's needs, and improving internal partnerships with the field to make sure new workers are getting what they need at every stage of training
Building wellness supports for staff, such as sending out weekly "care to connect" or "care and concern" communications, providing staff with emergency assistance programs, and establishing internal agency clubs that can offer wellness incentives
Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion by hosting peer-group discussions, establishing a multicultural diversity team, and creating an office of equity and engagement (multidisciplinary group)
Watch the webinar recording and view the accompanying materials to learn more about leveraging partnerships to improve child welfare workforce resiliency and ways to strengthen these partnerships, support wellness for staff, and promote diversity and equity.
Section: Training and Technical Assistance Updates
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:
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Disaster Preparedness & Response [Web section]
The Indian Child Welfare Act: A Primer for Child Welfare Professionals
Information Systems & Data [Web section]
Visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website for more.
FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention
"Fatherhood Engagement: Strategies That Work" [Webinar]
Visit the FRIENDS National Resource Center website for more.
Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative (CBC)
CBC for States
Coping With Disasters and Strengthening Systems: Resource Roadmap
Coping With Disasters and Strengthening Systems Guide
Coping With Disasters and Strengthening Systems: Disaster Impact Planning Matrix
Coping With Disasters and Strengthening Systems: Leading Your Agency Through a Disaster
CBC for Tribes
"Intergenerational & Historical Trauma"
"Defining Family From a Tribal Perspective" [Video]
"Supporting Native Youth Into Adulthood"
"Trauma-Informed Strategies to Support Youth Transitions" [Webinar]
Visit the CBC website for more.
Children's Bureau Learning & Coordination Center (CBLCC)
"Building Birth and Foster Parent Relationships to Promote Reunification" [Webinar]
Visit the CBLCC website for more.
"Managing Stress Through Mindfulness"
"Keeping Children You Foster and Adopt Safe Online"
"Evaluating Your Family Support Services" [Webinar]
Visit the AdoptUSKids website for more.
National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN)
NDACAN Office Hours Fall 2021 [Webinar series]
September 10: "Developing a Longer Panel: VCIS Data Workshop With Alexander Roehrkasse" [Webinar]
October 8: "Policy SCAN Data With Elizabeth Weigensberg From Mathematica and Christopher Wildeman" [Webinar]
November 12: "Linking AFCARS Data Workshop With Sarah Sernaker" [Webinar]
December 10: "Data Management Workshop With Frank Edwards" [Webinar]
Visit the NDACAN website for more.
National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI)
"Racism as Trauma"
"Intersectionality in Child Welfare" [Infographic]
Visit the NCWWI website for more.
Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development (QIC-WD)
"Workforce Analyses Using Combined Human Resources and Child Welfare Data" [Video]
"Creating a Workforce Analytics Team" [Video]
"Supportive Supervision and Resilience Alliance to Address Secondary Trauma in Ohio: Preliminary Findings on Impact"
Visit the QIC-WD website for more.
Section: Training and Technical Assistance Updates
Child Welfare Research
State of Babies Yearbook 2021
ZERO TO THREE released the third iteration of its State of Babies Yearbook. This report gives an indepth look at the story of babies in America though a lens of equity. It shows how racial and economic inequities affect babies—even before birth—and how the COVID-19 pandemic deepened the divide and illustrated the chain reaction that hardship can have on families and their children's development. The yearbook prioritizes looking at data about how racial and economic inequity affects the well-being of babies and families in the present as well as the future and it also features a call to action throughout. The authors state that policymakers can use these data to craft lasting and effective policies to address the issues affecting the well-being of babies in the United States.
In addition, State of Babies Yearbook 2021 focuses on good health, which includes preventative care and issues surrounding food insecurity; strong families, which includes indicators of well-being and babies in the child welfare system; and positive early learning experiences, which includes parent-child language interactions and early intervention and child care indicators. All three sections include additional information on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and paths forward through policy change at all levels of government.
The entire report is available for download on the State of Babies website.
Section: Child Welfare Research
Foster Care Alumni Are More Likely to Stop Out of College Than Their Low-Income Peers
A recent study investigated whether young adults who have experienced foster care were more likely to stop out of a 4-year university than their low-income, first-generation student peers. Foster care alumni were also less likely to graduate and took longer to graduate than the comparison group. The term "stopping out" refers to when students end their enrollment at an institution and reenroll after an extended absence. These temporary stop outs are often related to financial reasons, whereas the motivation behind dropping out, or permanently withdrawing from an institution, is often related to academic performance, according to the study.
In the study, researchers collected data from a sample of 803 students enrolled at a large, public, 4-year university in the Midwest over a 10-year period. Of the students studied, 438 were former wards of the court, and 365 were low-income, first-generation college students who did not identify as court wards. Of the foster care alumni, 43 percent experienced at least one stop-out episode compared with 27 percent of the comparison group.
The study aimed to answer the following questions:
What is the average time to graduation for students who are foster care alumni who stop out versus those who remain continuously enrolled?
Are youth with foster care experience more likely to stop out during college than other low-income, first-generation students?
Do foster care alumni who stop out graduate at a lower rate than other first-generation, low-income students who also experience a stop-out episode?
Is there a difference in time to graduation for foster care alumni compared with other first-generation, low-income students (controlling for stop outs, grade-point average, transfer status, gender, and race)?
Foster care alumni face unique barriers and are understudied compared with other populations of nontraditional students, such as those who enroll part time due to full-time employment and those caring for dependents, according to the study. The findings of the study concluded that students who were foster care alumni were less likely to have graduated than those in the low-income, first-generation comparison group. African-American students were less likely to have graduated than White students and students who identified with another race, and transfer students were less likely to have graduated than first-time students. These findings underscore the need to amend financial aid policies to better serve youth who have experienced foster care, provide more culturally relevant supports, and help students maintain enrollment whenever possible.
Read the full article, "Stopping Out and Its Impact on College Graduation Among a Sample of Foster Care Alumni: A Joint Scale-Change Accelerated Failure Time Analysis," for more information.
Section: Child Welfare Research
Strategies and Tools for Practice
Resource Provides State, National Data on Child Welfare Statistics
Child Trends has an interactive online tool that compiles state and national statistics on child maltreatment, foster care, kinship caregiving, and adoption from foster care. The resource can help state policymakers understand how many young people came into contact with the child welfare system and compare their statistics with their peers in other states as well as nationwide data.
The following are examples of data points available through the online tool:
Child abuse and neglect referral and investigation numbers and rates
Demographics of maltreatment victims
Percentage of victims and nonvictims who received postresponse services
Foster care entry reasons
Case plan goals for children in foster care
Outcomes of children exiting foster care
Adoption from foster care
Age distribution of children adopted and waiting to be adopted from foster care
Transracial adoption data
Relationship of adoptive parent to child
Number of children in foster care whose most recent placement was with a relative foster family
The average length of time in foster care before exiting to guardianship or living with relatives
Funding for guardianship
Find the online resource, State-Level Data for Understanding Child Welfare in the United States, on the Child Trends website.
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
Bringing Equity to Implementation
A collection of articles sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review focuses on incorporating the expertise of those in marginalized communities into the creation of policies and practices that are meant to serve them. Bringing Equity to Implementation: Incorporating Community Experience to Improve Outcomes features the following 10 articles, which cover a variety of related topics, including the need for systemic change, incorporating minority and youth voices in multiple spheres, the importance of building trust, and more:
"Equity Is Fundamental to Implementation Science": This article addresses how implementation science has failed to promote strategies that address equity and provides facets of equitable implementation.
"Trust the People": This article focuses on practices for funders and grantees pursuing equity in and through their implementation relationships.
"Youth Leadership in Action": This article features Youth Thrive, an initiative of the Center for the Study of Social Policy focused on youth well-being, and how young adults helped develop and implement the initiative to address the challenges they face while in foster care.
"Community Takes the Wheel": This article highlights Evidence2Success, an initiative developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation for improving the well-being and development of children and youth and reducing racial disparities, and the lessons learned from its pilot partner, Children and Youth Cabinet of Rhode Island.
"Equity in Implementation Science Is Long Overdue": This article discusses the need to advance equity within implementation science and how a systemic approach can further this goal. It includes three calls to action for the implementation field—equity-focused evidence development, intervention selection and outcomes measurement, and implementation strategies.
"Listening to Black Parents": This article features Village of Wisdom, an organization that leverages the lived experiences of Black families to support racially just schools.
"Faith-Based Organizations as Leaders of Implementation": This article discusses the important role faith-based organizations have in the implementation of physical and mental health-care initiatives for communities of color. It includes an infographic that shows a working alliance among intervention developers, cultural adaptation researchers, and church leaders.
"Community-Defined Evidence as a Framework for Equitable Implementation": This article highlights the Bienvenido Program, which engages Latinx communities to better understand their mental health concerns and develop programs that meet their needs.
"Community-Driven Health Solutions on Chicago's South Side": This article discusses the importance of advancing health equity by focusing on implementing interventions in communities that experience disparities in treatment.
"Equitable Implementation at Work": This article provides 10 recommendations for putting equitable implementation into action.
To learn more about equity in implementation science, read Bringing Equity to Implementation: Incorporating Community Experience to Improve Outcomes.
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
Supporting Caregivers Through Kinship Navigator Programs
Written by the Capacity Building Center for States in partnership with Liliana Hernandez, child welfare program specialist, Children's Bureau
Recognizing that family separation is a source of great trauma, the child welfare field is making efforts to keep children connected to their families even when they cannot safely remain at home. These efforts are supported by federal policy requiring child welfare agencies to "consider giving preference to an adult relative over a nonrelated caregiver when determining a placement for a child" (Children's Bureau, 2020, p.3).
Kin—which commonly include relatives, members of a tribe or clan, godparents, stepparents, or other adults who have a family relationship to a child—and fictive kin—close family friends of the child and their family—are a significant source of support for children and youth in the child welfare system, actively caring for about 25 percent of children in out-of-home care (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d.).
Kinship placements can have multiple benefits, including the following (Cooper & Christy, 2017):
Providing a familiar setting to a child who already may be suffering trauma (including maintaining connections with friends, community members, and schools)
Preserving existing positive relationships with the parents
Creating stability for the child by engaging in shared cultural practices and speaking the child's home language
While studies indicate that children placed with kinship caregivers experience fewer behavioral problems, fewer mental health disorders, better well-being, and less placement disruption than children in nonrelative foster care (Winouker et al., 2014), there are a number of barriers that relatives face as potential caregivers. Kinship caregivers are more likely to be older and less financially secure, experiencing poverty at double the rate of nonrelative foster parents (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, 2007).
Kinship caregivers may care for children and youth through either voluntary or formal placements (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2016). Voluntary placements allow children to remain in the custody of their parents while a relative or friend cares for them (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2016). Formal placements are a substitute for nonrelative foster care in which relatives or friends may become licensed foster parents to care for children removed from their parents' custody (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2016). Licensed kinship caregivers must meet state-specific licensing requirements, including household space requirements and background checks, although most states have chosen the option to waive licensing requirements that are not related to safety on a case-by-case basis (Children's Bureau, 2020).
One of the other key differences between voluntary and formal kinship care is the level of support provided by the child welfare system. While formal kinship providers receive monthly payments on par with other licensed foster parents, voluntary caregivers receive limited to no financial support through the child welfare agency and may or may not receive assistance navigating and accessing benefits for which they are eligible, such as child-only Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Medicaid.
As states continue to strengthen their support for kinship caregivers and address both financial and systemic inequities, kinship navigator programs may be one piece of the puzzle.
Kinship Navigator Programs
Kinship navigator programs can provide critical supports for relative caregivers, including connections to resources and benefits, financial and legal assistance, peer supports, and more. All states are currently in the process of developing or enhancing kinship navigator programs through federal funding. These kinship navigator programs are designed to provide information and referral services to kinship families, including connecting them with legal assistance and government and community resources.
Simply having services available is insufficient, however. To reap the benefits, families must have consistent and easy access to robust and high-quality kinship navigator services. To that end, federal guidance requires kinship navigator programs to be developed in partnership with kinship caregivers and the youth they are raising (Children's Bureau, 2018).
Spotlight on Nevada's Kinship Navigator Program
Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services contracts with Foster Kinship, a nonprofit agency, to deliver free kinship navigator services to any relative or fictive kinship caregiver. Foster Kinship is unique in that it is a standalone, private nonprofit agency focused exclusively on serving informal and formal kinship caregivers. Its services include the following:
Virtual supports, such as a helpline for information and referral and an online tool, available in English and Spanish, to help families find targeted local resources to meet their needs
Kinship resource centers that provide multiple services, including meeting rooms, notary services, and emergency resources, such as diapers and clothing
Family advocacy, case management, and behavior consultations
Support groups, respite, parenting education, and family events
Foster Kinship reports the following case plan outcomes for the more than 1,000 families receiving services:
92 percent of families achieved legal permanency
99 percent of families reached community connection goals
93 percent of families achieved financial stability
98 percent of families reached emotional support goals
In addition, an outside evaluation demonstrated that children in families receiving kinship navigator services are three times more likely to experience a stable placement without disruption (Preston, 2021).
According to Ali Caliendo, executive director of Foster Kinship, "Kinship care is complex due to there being so many types of kinship families and systems to fully understand. The heart of designing an authentic support system comes from listening to caregivers as they express their needs and ensuring they are at the table as we design services to meet those needs. The beautiful thing about kinship caregivers is the love and care they have for, not only the children, but the birth parents as well. We have to create a support system to meet their needs while also helping them feel supported, valued, and as an equal part of the team." (A. Caliendo, personal communication, July 17, 2021).
Visit Foster Kinship's website to learn more.
Components of Kinship Navigator Programs
The following examples highlight kinship navigator resources and services available in different jurisdictions:
Cultural Connections. The Port Gamble S'Klallam tribe's kinship navigator program is supported by an elder who maintains personal relationships with each participating family. The program offers activities focused on maintaining cultural connectedness, a critical protective factor for children and youth in care.
Legal Services. The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) partnered with Legal Aid to offer a hotline for legal advice and referrals. Visit the Georgia DHS Legal Services website to learn more. Several other states have developed legal guides for kinship caregivers, including Massachusetts, New York, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
Resource Guides. TheWisconsin Department of Children and Families has partnered with 211 Wisconsin to help kinship caregivers access community-based resources. Visit the 211 Relative Caregiver Guided Search to learn more. Several other states have developed printable or online resource guides, including Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Oregon.
The resources below include additional information about kinship care and supports for relative caregivers:
It's All Relative: Supporting Kinship Care Discussion Guides and Video Series
Family Mosaic Discussion Guide and Video Series
State Kinship Care Contacts and Programs
Kinship Caregivers and the Child Welfare System
Working With Kinship Caregivers
Kinship Guardianship as a Permanency Option
Placement of Children With Relatives
Children's Bureau. (2018). Requirements for participating in the title IV-E Kinship Navigator Program (ACYF-CB-PI-18-11). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/policy-guidance/pi-18-11
Children's Bureau. (2020). Use of title IV-E programmatic options to improve support to relative caregivers and the children in their care (ACYF-CB-IM-20-08). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/policy-guidance/im-20-08
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Kinship caregivers and the child welfare system. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f-kinshi/
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (n.d.). Kinship care. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau. https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/kinship/
Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation. (2007). National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. Research brief no. 15: Kinship caregivers in the child welfare system. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/report/nscaw-no-15-kinship-caregivers-child-welfare-system
Preston, M. S. (2021). Foster kinship navigator program: A two study mixed-method evaluation project. Preston Management and Organizational Consulting. https://www.fosterkinship.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Navigator-Evaluation-2021.pdf
Winouker, M. H., Holtan, A., & Batchelder, K. E. (2014). Kinship care for the safety, permanency, and well-being of children removed from the home for maltreatment: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 10(1), 1–292. https://doi.org/10.4073/csr.2014.2
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
Center on the Developing Child Releases Guide to Toxic Stress
Children and families involved with child welfare often experience or have experienced extended periods of stress and anxiety. Trauma from maltreatment, removal from their families, and adjusting to out-of-home care can greatly affect a child's mental health and development as well as their learning and behavior across their lifespan.
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University released a guide to help families that may be stressed learn about what toxic stress is and how to ameliorate its effects on their mental and physical health. The guide is divided into the following sections:
Toxic Stress 101: This section explains toxic stress and how it is different from other types of stress. It links readers to information on how toxic stress affects healthy development and provides information on the link between toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences.
The Science and Social Causes of Toxic Stress: This section explains what happens in the brain and body as part of the toxic stress response and what can cause it. It links readers to a paper that discusses what happens when children experience severe, prolonged adversity without adult support; a short video that explains why significant neglect is so harmful in the earliest years of life; and another video that focuses on the social and behavioral factors that play a role in triggering toxic stress for children and adults.
Preventing and Addressing Toxic Stress: This section focuses on developing resilience and features several articles about tackling toxic stress.
To access the guide and its resources, visit the webpage A Guide to Toxic Stress on the Center for the Developing Child website.
Grandfamilies: Strengths and Challenges
Generations United released a factsheet to help grandfamilies and those who support them understand the unique challenges associated with taking on the role of caregiver for their grandchildren. The factsheet provides data on grandfamilies, including their races and ethnicities, their socioeconomic backgrounds, their average ages, whether they are employed, and whether they have a disability. The factsheet also discusses their strengths and challenges.
Children are more likely to experience better outcomes when they live in grandfamilies because they can stay connected to their family and experience fewer disruptions to their daily lives. Challenges grandfamilies face are often related to legal issues surrounding obtaining a legal relationship to the children, financial burdens, physical and mental health issues, maintaining adequate housing after assuming financial responsibility for additional children, and maintaining children's education when grandparents do not have rights associated with legal guardianship.
The factsheet also provides additional resources and publications on grandfamilies, related laws, and state-specific information.
Read the factsheet, Grandfamilies: Strengths and Challenges, to learn more.
Training and Conferences
All Children – All Families Provides Training for Professionals Who Work With LGBTQ Children, Youth, and Families
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is offering a training program designed to promote policies and practices among child welfare agencies and practitioners that are inclusive of youth identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ). The program, All Children – All Families, offers two training programs: a training for facilitators designed to increase an agency's internal training capacity and a three-part training series for agency staff. The training for facilitators takes place over 3 days and equips agency staff to deliver five modules that cover the basics of working with LGBTQ children, youth, and families.
The three-part series for agency staff is customizable and offers both foundational and advanced content for child welfare professionals who work directly with children, youth, and families. The training is conducted by an All Children – All Families master trainer and approved for up to 18.5 continuing education units by the National Association of Social Workers. Each of the three sessions has a specific focus:
An introduction to LGBTQ competency for child welfare professionals
Best practices for serving LGBTQ families
Best practices for serving LGBTQ youth in foster care
Learn more about the trainings, complete a training interest form, learn about free online learning opportunities on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation website.
Section: Training and Conferences
Upcoming conferences and events on child welfare and adoption include the following:
2021 Child Protection Summit
Florida Department of Children and Families
September 8–10, Orlando, FL
Family Search and Engagement Training Series
Family Focused Treatment Association
September 13–October 10, online
"Applying NTI Concepts & Tools: Promoting Family Stability (MH/CW)" [Webinar]
National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI)
September 14, online, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET
Child Welfare Worker Recognition Event [Virtual]
National Child Welfare Workforce Institute and the Children's Bureau
September 14, online, 3 p.m. ET
"High-Quality Implementation of Evidence-Based Services at Scale: Supporting Practice Change at Every Level" [Webinar]
University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Social Work; Institute for Innovation & Implementation
September 16, online, 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
National Adoption Conference
National Council for Adoption
September 21–23, Alexandria, VA
2021 Information Technology Solutions Management for Human Services Annual Conference
American Public Human Services Association
September 26–29, Cincinnati, OH
NSDTA 2021 Annual Education Conference
American Public Human Services Association and the National Staff Development and Training Association [NSDTA]
October 3–6, Spokane, WA
2021 A Call to Action to Change Child Welfare Conference [Virtual]
The Kempe Center
October 4–7, online
SPARK 2021 [Virtual]
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and Council on Accreditation
October 12–14, online
39th Annual Michigan Statewide Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect [Virtual]
Michigan Medicine Child Protection Team and the Child Abuse and Neglect Conference Planning Committee
October 18–19, online
A Meeting of the Profession: 2021 Multistate NASW Conference [Virtual]
National Association of Social Workers [NASW] Illinois Chapter
October 21–22, online
2021 Families Learning Conference
National Center for Families Learning
October 25–27, Dallas, TX
How We endUP: A Future Without Family Policing [Virtual]
October 26–27, online
Texas Child Care Administrators Conference
Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services
November 8–10, Fort Worth, TX, and online
Shared Hope International
November 17–19, Washington, DC
Section: Training and Conferences
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