Children's Bureau ExpressNovember 2021 | Vol. 22, No. 10

Table of Contents
 

Spotlight on National Adoption Month
This issue of CBX features National Adoption Month and brings to the forefront the need to find loving, stable, and permanent homes for children and youth waiting to be adopted. Read a message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg, Esq., and the Jim Casey Young Fellows about a new permanency option that aims to connect youth with caring adults while preserving key family relationships. This issue also includes valuable resources for professionals and the families they serve.

  • Introducing SOUL Family, a New Permanency Option
  • November Is National Adoption Month
  • Identifying Families Who May Be Struggling After Adoption or Guardianship
  • An Exploratory Study of the Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Siblings

News From the Children's Bureau
In this section, find the latest news, resources, and publications from the Administration for Children and Families, the Children's Bureau, and other offices within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as a brief listing of the latest additions to the Children's Bureau website.

  • YARH Grant Recipients' Experiences Engaging Youth in Interventions to Prevent Homelessness
  • Achieving Permanency for the Well-Being of Children and Youth
  • CB Website Updates

Training and Technical Assistance Updates
This section features resources and updates from the Children's Bureau's technical assistance partners to support practices and systems that improve the lives of children and families.

  • The Role of Leaders in Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Timely Permanency
  • Updates From the Children's Bureau's Training and Technical Assistance Partners

Child Welfare Research
In this section, we highlight recent studies, literature reviews, and other research on child welfare topics.

  • Evaluation Summarizes Insights From Child Safety Forward Initiative
  • Six Ways That Court Processes Impact Decision-Making and Hearing Quality in Child Welfare Cases

Strategies and Tools for Practice
This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other resources that provide evidence-based strategies or other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.

  • CASA for Children Develops Family Engagement Pocket Guide
  • Webinar Discusses the Value, Impact, and Application of Parent Partner Programs
  • Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Permanency

Resources
This section of CBX presents interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials that can be used in the field or with families.

  • Tips for a Successful Transracial Adoption
  • How Foster Parents Can Support Their LGBTQ+ Child

Training and Conferences
Find trainings, workshops, webinars, and other opportunities for professionals and families to learn about how to improve the lives of children and youth as well as a listing of upcoming events and conferences.

  • Adoption Options for Members of the Military
  • Conferences

Spotlight on National Adoption Month

Introducing SOUL Family, a New Permanency Option

Written by Patricia Duh and Sonia Emerson, Jim Casey Young Fellows with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Aysha E. Schomburg, J.D., associate commissioner, Children's Bureau

This National Adoption Month, we recognize the children and youth waiting to be adopted into loving, stable, and permanent homes, and we acknowledge their voice and input about what they need for their own lives. This year's National Adoption Month theme is "Every Conversation Matters," so I have devoted this space to the voices of Jim Casey Young Fellows and a new permanency option, SOUL Family, that aims to connect waiting youth with caring and supportive adults while preserving key family relationships.

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You are graduating—you want someone there. You need advice—you need someone who cares. But what if you have no one? Too often, that's the reality facing older youth in foster care. There are now three permanency options—adoption, guardianship, and reunification. And while APPLA (another planned permanent living arrangement) has its advantages, especially for boosting housing stability, it does not address the critical relationships young people need to thrive. These permanency options may work for many young people, but they are not sufficiently flexible for all. As a result, nearly half of young people age 16 or older—including the 20,000 who age out each year—exit foster care without the loving relationships they need. 

Choosing SOUL Family

In October, we shared preliminary ideas for a new choice—the SOUL Family Permanency Option. It stands for Support, Opportunity, Unity, and Legal Relationships. What does SOUL offer? One of its designers sums it up: "Having a choice in my permanency. Building connections that are important to me and not just the ones others believe are important to me."

SOUL would establish legal relationships between a young person (age 16 or older) and at least one caring adult. It would carry the legal status of a lifelong familial relationship and maintain a young person's legal relationship with their parents, siblings, and kin. It would also encourage other adults to support the young person—by providing education or career guidance, for example. And the young person could still access supports to navigate relationships and meet their well-being needs. 

What brought us here? Three years ago, Jim Casey Young Fellows began sharing painful personal experiences with permanency. A young person might get adopted—which is good. But too often, adoption severs cherished family relationships. If the adoption fails, a young person loses family connections again. If they reenter the system and then age out, they have no family, no supports, and no services. It can feel like being pushed off a cliff over and over again. 

Permanency Matters

In designing SOUL Family, Jim Casey Young Fellows wanted to spotlight what young people actually need—and their needs can be complex because human beings are complex! Fellows want people like you—caseworkers, system leaders, providers, and advocates—to listen to young people, recognize key relationships, and ask youth as soon as they enter the child welfare system: "Who is important to you?" 

Early responses to SOUL Family have been amazing. The following are some of our favorite comments:

We couldn't agree more. SOUL Family is flexible. It's youth led. It honors a wider array of unique cultures, family structures, and communities. 

Join us in redefining permanency in your community. Introduce a new path to permanency that is flexible, inclusive, and focused on belonging. That's what young people are telling us they need. It's time to listen. 

 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Spotlight on National Adoption Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5903


November Is National Adoption Month

Each November during National Adoption Month, the Children's Bureau, in partnership with Child Welfare Information Gateway and AdoptUSKids, brings to the forefront the need to find loving, stable, and permanent homes for children and youth waiting to be adopted. According to Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System data for 2019, there were over 122,000 children and youth in the United States waiting to find permanent homes. The theme of this year's National Adoption Month is "Every Conversation Matters" to emphasize the importance of youth engagement and truly listening to what the young person has to say, what their goals are, and how they feel about adoption. Youth are the experts of their own lives and should be a partner in their own permanency planning and the decisions about their future.

The National Adoption Month 2021 website features resources, tips, and tools from Children's Bureau adoption grant recipients to help child welfare and legal professionals cultivate relationships and start conversations with youth about permanency. This year's website also contains resources designed specifically for youth, including about how to get involved and ways to share their stories effectively. In addition, the following are a few of the new developments to the website:

Visit the National Adoption Month website throughout November and beyond to learn more about this year's initiative and to find resources, stories, and tools to help engage youth in the important decisions that affect their lives and lead to loving, permanent homes.
 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Spotlight on National Adoption Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5900


Identifying Families Who May Be Struggling After Adoption or Guardianship

A study published in the Journal of Public Child Welfare, "Identifying Families Who May Be Struggling After Adoption or Guardianship," evaluated the use of administrative data in identifying families who need postpermanency supports. Identifying these at-risk families can be challenging. Public systems do not regularly collect information about child well-being after children have been placed, and there is often limited funding for these postadoption activities. Agencies typically only become aware of a struggling family after they are contacted by the families themselves. Many agencies also already struggle with funding their services and do not have extra funds to use on collecting additional data or widespread outreach. The researchers set out to determine whether utilizing the administrative information already collected during various points of the adoption and guardianship processes can be a way to alleviate some of the costs of identifying families in need of additional supports and create a path for targeted services for the families who need it most.

For the study, the National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation, a service of the Children's Bureau, compared the risk profiles of adoptive and guardianship families using administrative data to understand the risk of postpermanency discontinuity. The researchers also analyzed data collected from surveys administered to parents and guardians from four sites in the United States (Catawba County, NC; Vermont; Illinois; and New Jersey) who adopted through public agencies. The surveys focused on measures of child behavior, caregiver strain, and family relationships as well as whether the adoptive parent was inclined to adopt again. The survey responses were used to answer the following research questions:

The study's findings suggest that administrative data may be an unreliable indicator for identifying families struggling after adoption. However, the research indicated that these survey questions could form the basis of a check-in for families after adoptions or guardianships are finalized and help identify and engage struggling families for prevention services. 

To learn more about the study, read "Identifying Families Who May Be Struggling After Adoption or Guardianship" in the Journal of Public Child Welfare.

 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Spotlight on National Adoption Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5901


An Exploratory Study of the Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Siblings

Although there is a large body of research on the impact of early childhood trauma on children who were adopted as well as on the impact adoption has on adoptive parents and children, there is not much research regarding the impact adoption has on biological children in families who adopt. The Journal of Child and Family Studies published a qualitative, retrospective article, "An Exploratory Study on the Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Siblings," that explores the impact adoption has on the well-being of these children.

The study surveyed 182 adult biological siblings (aged 18 to 64 years) in adoptive families about their experiences in their families both before and after adoption. Researchers asked participants 10 open-response questions and categorized the results by preadoption, initial transition, and postadoption with the following themes emerging from each:

The results indicated there was a range of both positive and negative experiences, and many reported parentification, feelings of invisibility and/or resentment, and trying to reduce the burden on their parents through peacekeeping and people pleasing. The results from the questionnaire also found two opposite lasting effects of adoption: the positive effect of personal growth (such as increased empathy, compassion, and maturity) and negative effects (such as mental health issues, broken relationships, trust issues, and a jaded worldview). Adoption of siblings also had a large effect on whether the biological sibling chose to enter a child welfare- or social welfare-related field or foster or adopt themselves.

For additional details about the study, including clinical implications, suggestions for service improvement, and a more detailed look at the results, read "An Exploratory Study on the Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Siblings." 

 

 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Spotlight on National Adoption Month
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5902


News From the Children's Bureau

YARH Grant Recipients' Experiences Engaging Youth in Interventions to Prevent Homelessness

The Youth At-Risk of Homelessness (YARH) project, an initiative of the Children's Bureau and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released a new brief that provides lessons learned from six YARH grant recipients about their experiences engaging child welfare-involved youth at risk of homelessness to participate in services and interventions geared toward preventing homelessness. 

As part of the evaluation, the YARH grant recipients were asked the following questions:

From these questions, the evaluation team extracted the following lessons learned:
To learn more about the YARH project and the lessons learned from this evaluation, read Youth Engagement: Lessons Learned.
 
 

 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5917


Achieving Permanency for the Well-Being of Children and Youth

A new Information Memorandum (IM) released by the Children's Bureau gives titles IV-B and IV-E agencies important guidance on best practices to improve permanency outcomes. It outlines patterns in exit outcomes for children and youth in foster care and emphasizes the importance of protecting family relationships while pursuing permanency for children and youth. It also reviews reunification, adoption, and guardianship as permanency goals and highlights the importance of strengthening attachments and connections while ensuring safety rather than focusing on prioritizing permanency timeframes, which will better preserve families and prevent maltreatment. The IM also provides background information on best practices and requirements to preserve family connections as well as three data analyses that focus on the impact the termination of parental rights termination has on time in care and negative outcomes. 

The IM concludes that strong family relationships and connections are essential to child well-being, family relationships and connections directly influence a child's sense of permanency, and meaningful efforts toward reunification should be an urgent priority. It calls for child welfare agencies to center their efforts on preserving and bolstering these relationships for all children and youth in foster care to ensure positive permanency outcomes.

To learn more, read Achieving Permanency for the Well-Being of Children and Youth (ACYF-CB-IM-21-01).

 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5904


CB Website Updates

The Children's Bureau website hosts information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, federal reporting, and much more.

Recent additions to the site include the following:

Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new.

 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: News From the Children's Bureau
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5916


Training and Technical Assistance Updates

The Role of Leaders in Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Timely Permanency

Engaging youth and families in permanency planning by acknowledging that they are the experts of their own lives can help improve outcomes and well-being as well as expedite finding permanent homes for waiting children and youth. The Capacity Building Center for States, a service of the Children's Bureau, released a report that aims to build youth and family engagement by identifying key steps child welfare leaders and agencies can take to promote a culture of partnership and engagement between child welfare professionals and the youth and families they serve.

The report focuses on building an organizational culture for authentic engagement through developing a "culture of curiosity," which empowers staff to ask questions that will tap into the expertise of families to gain information about how best to serve them. It also discusses prioritizing engagement through intentional action. Child welfare professionals should actively encourage conversations with youth and families, allow for time and coaching for frontline workers to build meaningful relationships, and integrate expectations for engagement into position descriptions and performance evaluations. The report provides ways child welfare leaders can embed these engagement strategies into practice and includes questions to consider and tips for getting started.

The following are some of ways to encourage engagement:

To learn more about youth and family engagement strategies and the importance of incorporating family voice into permanency planning, read The Role of Leaders in Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to Be Adopted.
 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Training and Technical Assistance Updates
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5905


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 these partners: 

Visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website for more.
Visit the FRIENDS National Resource Center website for more. 
Visit the Collaborative's 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: November 2021
Section: Training and Technical Assistance Updates
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5906


Child Welfare Research

Evaluation Summarizes Insights From Child Safety Forward Initiative

Child Safety Forward is an initiative designed to reduce child maltreatment deaths through a community-based approach. The initiative was developed as a result of a 2016 report from the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities: Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

A recent report presents insights from an evaluation of Child Safety Forward's effectiveness in five sites over the course of a planning year. The sites were Cook County Health in Illinois; the Indiana Department of Health; the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT; and the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Sacramento County, CA. Each of the sites received technical assistance from the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, including help with technology and training, developing local partnerships, and more.  

At the conclusion of the planning year, the sites were evaluated around five learning cycles:

The brief provides the following insights:

Read Child Safety Forward Planning Year Evaluation Brief for more information. 

 
 

 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5907


Six Ways That Court Processes Impact Decision-Making and Hearing Quality in Child Welfare Cases

A recent brief from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explores the impact of judicial processes on child welfare cases. The brief, How Court Practices and Resources Relate to Judicial Decision-Making and Hearing Quality in Child Welfare Cases, highlights the following practices that can affect child welfare cases:

To learn more, read How Court Practices and Resources Relate to Judicial Decision-Making and Hearing Quality in Child Welfare Cases.
 
 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Child Welfare Research
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5908


Strategies and Tools for Practice

CASA for Children Develops Family Engagement Pocket Guide

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and Texas CASA designed a toolkit to help child welfare professionals and court-appointed special advocates (CASAs) practice collaborative family engagement techniques. These strategies can help children and youth in care stay connected and maintain relationships with their support systems. The guide provides ways for professionals and advocates to gather insights about a family and identify who in the family network can be involved in case planning and decision-making. Although the guide was developed for professionals and CASAs in Texas, much of the information is pertinent to those in any location.

The guide discusses the following tools: 

For more information, refer to the full guide, Collaborative Family Engagement Tools: A Pocket Guide for Connecting With and Searching for Families.
 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5909


Webinar Discusses the Value, Impact, and Application of Parent Partner Programs

In a recent webinar from Casey Family Programs, presenters discuss the effectiveness of parent partner programs. 

The webinar covers the following topics: 

View the webinar, "Parent Partner Programs: Understanding Their Value, Research, Impact, and Application," to learn more.
 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5910


Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Permanency

Written by the Capacity Building Center for States
 
In honor of National Adoption Month, let's take a moment to consider the more than 120,000 children and youth waiting to be adopted and the very real promise of achieving permanency through authentic partnership with youth and families. Engaging families and youth in individual permanency plans, as well as in larger agency or systemic permanency-planning efforts, brings vital voice, choice, and expertise into the process—and is more likely to lead to permanent families for youth (Children's Bureau, 2021).
 
The information below is adapted from two Center for States publications: The Role of Leaders in Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to Be Adopted and Supervisor Toolkit: Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to Be Adopted. These publications offer tips and concrete strategies that leaders, supervisors, and caseworkers can implement as they work to embrace a permanency-driven culture of youth and family engagement. 
 
Do Agency Policies, Procedures, and Values Support Authentic Partnership?
 
Are you an organizational leader responsible for setting the tone and expectations for family and youth partnership? Consider asking yourself the following questions as you reflect on current practice and emerging priorities:
Check out The Role of Leaders in Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to Be Adopted for tips, strategies, and examples of engagement in action.
 
Are Youth and Families at the Center of Individual Permanency Planning?
 
Are you a supervisor supporting caseworkers in their efforts to partner with youth and families in permanency planning? Consider pulling your team together to brainstorm the agency and team supports needed for caseworkers to strengthen their practice and reviewing the following questions: 
Check out Supervisor Toolkit: Engaging Youth and Families to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to Be Adopted for additional questions for consideration, ideas for team activities that promote reflection about meaningful youth and family involvement in permanency planning, and worksheets for caseworkers to reflect on their own practice in building trusting relationships, developing a youth- and family-centered permanency-planning process, and leading meaningful permanency meetings.
 
Authentic partnership with youth and families is a key element of effective casework and policy development. Consider using and sharing these new resources as you and your colleagues identify your best next steps to engage youth and families in your agency's permanency efforts.
 
Reference 
 
Children's Bureau. (2021). Quality improvement center: Engaging youth in finding permanency, HHS-2021-ACF-ACYF-CO-1911. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Strategies and Tools for Practice
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5911


Resources

Tips for a Successful Transracial Adoption

The adoption process can be a lengthy and complex one. This is particularly true for prospective parents planning to adopt transracially. Maintaining and nurturing a child's connection to their unique culture and its traditions is vital to their ability to thrive and succeed. With this critical need in mind, adoptive families and child welfare professionals provide the following suggestions on how to successfully maintain these connections:

For more information, including links to related content, read the AdoptUSKids' article "Seven Suggestions for a Successful Transracial Adoption."
 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5912


How Foster Parents Can Support Their LGBTQ+ Child

The challenges and trauma that many youth in foster care have experienced or will experience can be compounded for youth identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning), and others (LGBTQ+). As a result, they need foster parents who are supportive, willing to listen and learn, practice empathy, and advocate.

An article on Parents.com discusses the overrepresentation of LGTBQ+ youth in the foster care system and the associated problems this subset of marginalized youth may encounter. It includes details from an interview with a child welfare professional who was in foster care as a youth and is a gay Black man. He describes how foster parents can mitigate the struggles that LGBTQ+ youth may face while in their care and provides guidance and tips on what foster parents should—and should not—do when caring for a LGBTQ+ child. He focuses on the need for foster parents to proactively educate themselves on topics such as individual expression, gender role and identity, common stereotypes, and the use of appropriate versus discriminatory terms and phrases. 

To learn more, read the article, "What Foster Parents Need To Know About Adopting and Affirming a Queer Child." 
 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Resources
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5913


Training and Conferences

Adoption Options for Members of the Military

The National Council for Adoption (NCFA) held a recent training webinar, "Adoption Options for Members of the Military," geared toward prospective adoptive parents in the military and adoption professionals. The 60-minute webinar discusses the misconception that the nature of military life is not conducive to adoption and explains that military families can provide loving, stable, and permanent homes to waiting children and youth.

The webinar was lead by Elise Lowe from NCFA and Kristine Altwies, L.M.F.T, from A Family Tree. It delves into considerations for military families for the adoption process, including information about obtaining clearances, the home study process, working with the placing entity (whether it be a foreign government or child welfare agency), managing moves and deployments, supporting attachment when one parent will be the primary caretaker, and more. The training also discusses factors that equip military families for adoption, such as their familiarity with paperwork and navigating bureaucracy and ambiguity, their experience with transitions, access to health-care benefits, and ability to build a support system outside of the nuclear family. 

After viewing the training webinar, participants are invited to complete an assessment and course evaluation. If participants achieve at least an 80-percent score on the assessment, they will receive a certificate for 1 continuing education hour. 

To learn more or take the training, visit the "Adoption Option for Members of the Military" webpage.

 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5914


Conferences

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

November

December
January
 

 

Issue Date: November 2021
Section: Training and Conferences
URL: https://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm?event=website.viewArticles&issueid=231&articleid=5915



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