Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

May 2022Vol. 23, No. 4Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

This edition of CBX highlights National Foster Care Month (NFCM). Learn about enhancements to the NFCM website and read articles on the importance of supporting children and youth who have experienced foster care. Read a message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg about how we should fearlessly strive for an equitable society despite the obstacles and challenges that come with this work. This issue also includes valuable resources for professionals and the families they serve.

Issue Spotlight

  • Best Practices Guide for Improving Education Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care

    Best Practices Guide for Improving Education Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care

    Youth in foster care continue to have poorer education outcomes compared with their peers. For example, the high school graduation rate in California for youth in foster care is 58 percent while the general population graduation rate is 84 percent. Best Practices Guide for Developing a District System to Improve Education Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care from the Alliance for Children's Rights seeks to build on its Foster Youth Education Toolkit and help school districts create a system that implements an education that fully supports youth in foster care.

    This data-driven guide is the result of a 4-year partnership built between a network of school districts and Alliance for Children's Rights staff working with youth in foster care in Los Angeles County and on systems change issues across the state. It covers the following topics:

    • Identifying and designating youth in foster care in local student information systems
    • Collecting and analyzing local data for continuous improvement
    • Improving school stability
    • Implementing immediate enrollment of youth in the least restrictive environment
    • Issuing partial credits to youth in foster care
    Each chapter provides an overview of relevant laws; provides discussion questions; includes a step-by-step guide; and presents other considerations, issues, and recommendations. The guide includes tools and practice tips to help districts implement the recommended best practices, equity issues for districts to consider, and trauma concerns. It also highlights participating districts that demonstrate the gains that had been made by following the recommendations in this guide.

    Program directors, education professionals who work with youth in foster care, and other stakeholders can access the guide and use the recommendations to further their work in improving educational outcomes for youth in foster care. 
  • The Warmth of Other Suns

    The Warmth of Other Suns

    Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg

    (This message is an excerpt from remarks delivered at the Kansas Racial Equity Collaborative Symposium.)

    Years ago, I read a book by Isabel Wilkerson called The Warmth of Other Suns. The title of the book relates to a poem by Richard Wright, wherein he writes, in part, "I was leaving the south, to fling myself into the unknown." The book is about the Great Migration of Blacks living in the south seeking opportunities in the north. When I think about this journey we are all on toward advancing racial equity, it can certainly feel like we are flinging ourselves into the unknown.

    There's a specific passage in the book that stays with me. The author describes a moment when, as a young girl, she discovers a photo of two Black migrant women and writes, "Why did they go? What were they looking for? How did they get the courage to leave all they ever knew for a place they had never seen…? Was it a braver thing to stay or a braver thing to go?"

    This is how I think about this journey toward equity. Is it braver to stay where we are, or is it braver to take the journey and move toward achieving racial equity? Can we fling ourselves into the unknown?

    A few weeks ago, I was asked to encourage attendance for a training on a racial impact assessment tool. The first question in this tool is, "Is there a diverse group of people at the table?". There is a 2-minute video of advocates in New York City picketing outside of a Prada store because Prada created a whole line of products with blackface imagery, including black monkeys with big red lips. How did this get approved? Who was at the table, and maybe more importantly, who wasn't? 

    I flung myself into the unknown and played the video for my colleagues. Then I asked, "Who was at the table when this decision was made?" The truth is, none of us had any idea who was at the table, or who wasn't. A few days later, a colleague who had been in the leadership meeting emailed me. She began by writing, "In the spirit of the Prada example…" and went on to suggest that we begin having conversations to assess the language we use in framing our policies. She was moved to act toward racial sensitivity.

    I flung myself into the unknown and I felt the warmth of impact.

    We do this work of advancing racial equity and equity for underserved communities because it is the best thing we can do for future generations—not only for Black and Brown people but all people. Everyone will benefit from an equitable society.  

    Is it braver to stay or go? For me, it is a braver thing to go.  

    I want to move toward racial equity and justice. 

    I want to fling myself into the unknown. 

    I want to feel the warmth of impact. 

    I want to feel the warmth of other suns.
  • Support and Resources for Expectant and Parenting Young People in Foster Care

    Support and Resources for Expectant and Parenting Young People in Foster Care

    Family Voices United published a report featuring a summary of responses from youth with lived foster care experience to the question "What supports should be provided to maintain stable foster care placements for expectant and parenting youth, or to support them in achieving safe reunification with relatives/loved ones?" Policymakers can use this report to better understand constituents and tailor programs and systems to better serve different populations.

    This report focuses on expectant and parenting youth—a special population that may need additional supports, such as help enrolling the youth's own children in early childhood care or education while they work on their own educational or professional goals. The responses included the following six themes:

    • Honor our mental health
    • Connect us to our peers
    • Show us the resources and support us in obtaining them
    • Facilitate networks of support
    • Invest in our futures
    • Celebrate and show us love
  • May Is National Foster Care Month

    May Is National Foster Care Month

    This year's National Foster Care Month (NFCM) theme, "Relative and Kin Connections: Keeping Families Strong," highlights the importance of prioritizing and strengthening relative and kin connections and emphasizing the positive impact these relationships have on maintaining family and cultural ties for children and youth in foster care.

    As in past years, the NFCM website is dedicated to offering an array of resources and tools aimed at addressing the unique needs of children in foster care; improving placement stability; and strengthening relationships between birth families, children and youth in foster care, and child welfare agencies. 

    The NFCM 2022 website features a new modern look and feel in addition to the following additions:
    • message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg
    • New stories added to the Reflections: Stories of Foster Care page that feature inspirational firsthand accounts from individuals with lived experience describing the important role kinship caregivers play in the lives of children and youth in foster care   
    • New outreach tools, such as graphics and GIFs, in the Graphics page
    • New resources that highlight family finding and other recruitment strategies, best practices for family engagement, information about licensing for relative caregivers, and more.
    Visit this year's website to find a host of enhanced web features and resources for the field as well as outreach tools for individuals and organizations to use to spread awareness at state and local levels and to amplify a unified campaign message across new audiences. 
  • Building Coregulation Capacity to Support Positive Development for Youth in Foster Care

    Building Coregulation Capacity to Support Positive Development for Youth in Foster Care

    report 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 how self-regulation can be applied as a framework for promoting youth health and well-being through coregulation. It reviews which developmental skills and competencies are addressed in the current literature, how coregulation is presented, and what context it is being applied in as well as identifies research gaps. The report provides key findings as well as recommendations. Child welfare researchers and program administrators can use this report to better understand coregulation and how to implement it into practice.

    Coregulation involves more than just relationships. There are three critical components within the coregulation framework: caring, consistent, and responsive relationships; cocreation of supportive environments; and intentional and developmentally informed day-to-day interactions. Coregulation also does not require a therapeutic context or a specific program.

    Although older youth in and transitioning out of care possess resilience and unique strengths, they often experience challenges with self-regulating, which can make it more difficult to successfully transition to adulthood. These challenges can stem from experiencing trauma, disrupted relationships, or maltreatment. Additionally, challenges exist within the child welfare system that make it more difficult for adults to provide coregulation. This population has limited access to evidence-based interventions and have a great need for targeted support services. 

    The report provided the following recommendations:
    • Utilize principles of practice
    • Strengthen supports for coregulation within the child welfare system
    • Strengthen evidence on coregulation for older youth in foster care

    Recent Issues

  • March 2023

    Spotlight on Incorporating Youth Engagement and Lived Experience Into Child Welfare Practice

    Spotlight on Incorporating Youth Engagement and Lived Experience Into Child Welfare Practice

  • February 2023

    Spotlight on the Title IV-E Prevention Program and the Family First Prevention Services Act

    Spotlight on the Title IV-E Prevention Program and the Family First Prevention Services Act

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 listing of the latest additions to the Children's Bureau website.

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.

Child Welfare Research

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

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.

  • Updated Recommendations for Legal Representation of Child and Youth in Neglect and Abuse Proceedings

    Updated Recommendations for Legal Representation of Child and Youth in Neglect and Abuse Proceedings

    The National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) recently released an update to its cornerstone resource, Recommendations for Legal Representation of Child and Youth in Neglect and Abuse Proceedings, which was originally released in 2001. In a press release, NACC notes that the recommendations are widely recognized as child welfare law best practices. Two decades later, the updated standards were rewritten to emphasize youth voice, equity, and high-quality legal representation.

    Unlike NACC's 2001 recommendations, which were largely drafted by lawyers, the new standards were developed in coordination with young professionals with lived experience in the child welfare system. The recommendations call upon attorneys and other members of the legal system to anchor legal representation around the voice and interests of children and youth. 

    The standards provide a list of 10 primary duties of attorneys for children and youth that reflect this priority:
    • Establish an attorney-client relationship
    • Support the attorney-client relationship
    • Offer legal counsel and advice
    • Ensure opportunity for full participation
    • Provide competent legal representation
    • Provide loyal and independent legal representation 
    • Maintain confidentiality
    • Advance equity in legal representation
    • Provide "360-degree" advocacy 
    • Provide continuity of legal representation 
  • Reconnecting Family Ties for Children and Youth in Foster Care

    Reconnecting Family Ties for Children and Youth in Foster Care

    Written by the Capacity Building Center for States

    "Reconnecting with and strengthening my relationships with family has always been an important part of finding my identity and sense of belonging. However, this power comes with a different set of unexpected challenges. Family events can often be stressful as we struggle with how to treat one another. It is difficult to have healthy relationships because we did not have the opportunity to learn how to do this when we were younger."— Aleks Talsky, young adult consultant, Capacity Building Center for States (2021, p. 2)

    When a child or youth enters foster care, it is traumatic. Being removed from their home interrupts family bonds, and a child may feel as if everything they have known has disappeared. When parents can no longer safely care for a child, living with a family member or close family friend may be the least disruptive option for the child. Children and youth need long-term relationships to give them a sense of belonging and help them feel loved and connected to their family, friends, and culture. While finding legal permanency through reunification, guardianship, or adoption is an important goal, supporting these long-term relationships, or relational permanency, is just as important. 

    The following provides information about what can agencies do to build a holistic network of family and caring adults for children and youth.

    Prioritize Family Finding 

    As a first step, ask youth what relationships are important to them. Agencies can begin conducting an intensive search for family members and fictive kin before children enter out-of-home care. Kinship care should be the priority for children if they are separated from their parents. Engaging extended family and fictive kin like teachers, coaches, and family friends should extend beyond finding children a home. Instead of pressuring kin into a caretaker role they may not feel able to fulfill, agencies can explore what long-term relationships, connections, and emotional or other supports kin are able to offer as children grow into adults. Throughout the time children remain in foster care, agencies should continue the search with urgency to expand their lifelong support network of caring adults and long-term relationships. For youth, having support establishing and maintaining these connections will help them navigate these often-complex relationships and explore their identity.

    Support Kinship Caregivers

    Provide kinship caregivers with benefits and support to the same degree as nonrelative resource parents, including financial and concrete supports, training, trauma education and support, guidance, and respite care. Children living with kinship caregivers achieve better outcomes, maintain a closer connection to parents and siblings, experience fewer disruptions when in kinship care, and are as safe or safer than children in nonrelative foster care (Hassall et al., 2021; Koh et al., 2021; Schmidt & Treinen, 2017; Winokur et al., 2018). Licensing should be individualized to prioritize the children's relationship with a specific relative; keeping siblings together; and safety requirements over nonsafety requirements, such as the square footage of a house.

    Invest in Kinship Navigator Programs 

    Dedicate staff and resources to promote and support kinship placements, caregivers, and families. Unlike foster parents who may go through training and certification, kinship caregivers may answer an unexpected call to step up for a family member with little time to prepare. Kinship navigators can ensure kinship caregivers have the support they need to meet children's social, emotional, and physical needs. Programs like Ohio's OhioKAN Kinship and Adoption Navigator have specially trained staff who continually reassess caregiver needs to align services and supports and also provide regular material and emotional support. In some programs, kinship navigators also participate in ongoing family finding. 

    Create a "Kin First" Culture 

    Work to create an agency culture that expects and supports kin-first practices. People need real strategies to become aware of and begin to dismantle unconscious biases, to replace negative stereotypes with positive examples, and to understand the benefits of maintaining kin connections for children and youth. Activities in the It's All Relative: Supporting Kinship Care discussion guides and video series can be used for individual coaching or to promote collaborative discussions. Enlist people with lived experience in the child welfare system to facilitate training at all levels, including preservice assessment, safety training for staff, and licensing training for kinship caregivers and nonrelative foster parents. Include youth, parents, and kinship caregivers on panels that speak to policy at agency, state, and federal levels to ensure policies and practices affirm, promote, and support family finding, kinship placement, and preserving sibling connections. Build parent partner programs to support family engagement, provide peer-to-peer mentoring, reduce social isolation, and link parents to services. The Parent Partner Program Navigator can guide agencies through this process.

    Maintain Sibling Connections 

    Placement in foster care is traumatic, and keeping siblings together provides continuity, connection to family, and serves as protection against trauma. Sibling relationships are often one of the longest-lasting relationships over a lifetime. Young children spend more of their free time with siblings than with anyone else and significantly affect each other's development. Support and warmth from sibling bonds can have a positive influence on social competence, academic engagement, and educational attainment, and sibling bonds continue to have a positive influence on adult well-being (Feinberg et al., 2012). Kinship care may increase the likelihood that siblings can stay together. If siblings are split apart, support meaningful opportunities for them to spend time together in natural settings and frequent contact through technology (e.g., internet, cell phones, social media). Take advantage of offering more extended time together through programs like Camp To Belong, which reunites siblings for a week of recreation in an emotionally supportive environment.

    Additional Resources

    Explore the following resources as you consider how your agency can support relative and kin connections:
    References

    Feinberg, M. E., Solmeyer, A. R., & McHale, S. M. (2012). The third rail of family systems: Sibling relationships, mental and behavioral health, and preventive intervention in childhood and adolescence. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 15, 43–57. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-011-0104-5 

    Hassall, A., Janse van Rensburg, E., Trew, S., Hawes, D. J., & Pasalich, D. S. (2021). Does kinship vs. foster care better promote connectedness? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Child & Family Psychology Review, 24, 813–832. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-021-00352-6

    Koh, E., Ware, A., & Lee, E. (2021). State implementation of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act: Exploratory study on kinship care. Advances in Social Work, 21, 77–99. https://doi.org/10.18060/23942

    Schmidt, M. C., & Treinen, J. (2017). Using kinship navigation services to support the family resource needs, caregiver self-efficacy, and placement stability of children in informal and formal kinship care. Child Welfare, 95(4), 69–89.

    Talsky, A. (2021). The path away from—and back to—my siblings: Discovering the power of identity and sibling relationships. National Association of Counsel for Children. https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.naccchildlaw.org/resource/resmgr/youth_voices/aleks_talksky_youthperspecti.pdf 

    Winokur, M. A., Holtan, A., & Batchelder, K. E. (2018). Systematic review of kinship care effects on safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes. Research on Social Work Practice, 28, 19–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049731515620843 

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.

  • Building Protective Factors With Parent Partners

    Building Protective Factors With Parent Partners

    An infographic for parents and parent groups from the Children's Trust Fund Alliance highlights the importance of protective factors in strengthening families. It provides a colorful and engaging look at how parents and families can thrive by building protective factors through everyday actions. It also introduces two of the parent groups with whom the Alliance works and outlines some of the available resources focused on building protective factors and developing effective parent partnerships. 

    The Children's Trust Fund Alliance is a national network for state children's trust funds that promotes the well-being of children by engaging the public and influencing national systems and organizations that impact children, families, and communities.

    To learn more, view What Gets Your Wheels Spinning? 

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.