Children's Bureau ExpressSeptember 2021 | Vol. 22, No. 8

Table of Contents
 

Spotlight on Child and Family Services Plan Development, Implementation, and Monitoring
This issue of CBX highlights updates on the Child and Family Services Review from the Children’s Bureau. We also feature a message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg on reaffirming the focus on equity for children and families served by the child welfare system. In addition, the issue includes recent resources and publications for child welfare professionals and families.

  • Equity Is a Right
  • Strengthen Your State’s Use of Data Evidence to Assess and Demonstrate Systemic Factor Functioning
  • Lessons Learned From the Child and Family Services Review Rounds 1 Through 3

News From the Children's Bureau
We highlight a letter from the Associate Commissioner to child welfare leaders on available resources for struggling families on emergency rental assistance available through the American Rescue Plan Act; National Recovery Month and the importance of supporting those in recovery from substance use and the service providers who make recovery possible; how the Fathers and Continuous Learning in Child Welfare project used a methodology known as the Breakthrough Series Collaborative to improve placement stability and permanency outcomes for children; the process study, challenges, and lessons learned from the Family and Youth Services Bureau's Transitional Living Program Special Population Demonstration Project; 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.

  • Letter From the Associate Commissioner to Child Welfare Leaders on Rental Assistance for Struggling Families
  • September Is National Recovery Month
  • Piloting Continuous Learning to Engage Fathers and Paternal Relatives in Child Welfare
  • Transitional Living Program Special Population Demonstration Report
  • Funds Still Available Through the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act
  • CB Website Updates

Training and Technical Assistance Updates
We feature a webinar from the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute on the importance of leveraging key partnerships when building staff resilience and a listing of some of the latest resources from the Children's Bureau's training and technical assistance partners.

  • Leveraging Key Partnerships to Build a Resilient Workforce
  • Updates From the Children's Bureau's Training and Technical Assistance Partners

Child Welfare Research
We highlight the State of Babies Yearbook, which gives an indepth look at the story of babies in America though a lens of equity, and a study that investigated whether young adults who have experienced foster care are more likely to stop out of a 4-year university than their peers with no foster care experience.

  • State of Babies Yearbook 2021
  • Foster Care Alumni Are More Likely to Stop Out of College Than Their Low-Income Peers

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.

  • Resource Provides State, National Data on Child Welfare Statistics
  • Bringing Equity to Implementation
  • Supporting Caregivers Through Kinship Navigator Programs

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.

  • Center on the Developing Child Releases Guide to Toxic Stress
  • Grandfamilies: Strengths and Challenges

Training and Conferences

  • All Children – All Families Provides Training for Professionals Who Work With LGBTQ Children, Youth, and Families
  • Conferences

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.

 

 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Spotlight on Child and Family Services Plan Development, Implementation, and Monitoring
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5859


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:
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:
  1. Reliance on quality and relevant data and use of evidence to evaluate and demonstrate outcome performance and systemic factor functioning 
  2. 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:
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:
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Current Theme or Topic
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5860


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:

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:
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.
 
 
 

 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Spotlight on Child and Family Services Plan Development, Implementation, and Monitoring
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5861


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. 

 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5878


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:

For more information about National Recovery Month, contact Elaine Stedt, director, Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau. 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5879


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.

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5863


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:

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.
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5862


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: September 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5864


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: September 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5865


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:

The small-group discussions also focused on the following:
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.
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Training and Technical Assistance Updates
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5866


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.
 
 

 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Training and Technical Assistance Updates
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5867


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.
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5868


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: 

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.  
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5869


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:
Find the online resource, State-Level Data for Understanding Child Welfare in the United States, on the Child Trends website. 
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5870


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: 

To learn more about equity in implementation science, read Bringing Equity to Implementation: Incorporating Community Experience to Improve Outcomes.
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5871


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): 

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: 
Foster Kinship reports the following case plan outcomes for the more than 1,000 families receiving services:
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. The Wisconsin 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.
 
Additional Resources
 
The resources below include additional information about kinship care and supports for relative caregivers:

References

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
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5872


Resources

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:

To access the guide and its resources, visit the webpage A Guide to Toxic Stress on the Center for the Developing Child website.
 
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5873


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. 
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5874


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: 
Learn more about the trainings, complete a training interest form, learn about free online learning opportunities on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation website.
 
 
 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5875


Conferences

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


September
October
November
 

 

Issue Date: September 2021
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=229&articleid=5876



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

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


Contact us at cb_express@childwelfare.gov.

Return to the Children's Bureau Website.