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March 2023Vol. 24, No. 2Spotlight on Incorporating Youth Engagement and Lived Experience Into Child Welfare Practice

This issue of CBX highlights the importance of authentically engaging youth and families with lived experience and supporting practices that encourage them to be the experts of their own lives. Read a message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg about the Children's Bureau's main priorities and the importance to leveraging the experiences of children, youth, and families in building a better child welfare system. This issue also includes the latest resources for professionals and the families they serve.


Issue Spotlight

  • Message From Aysha E. Schomburg

    Message From Aysha E. Schomburg


    Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg

    In March, I will celebrate my second anniversary as the Associate Commissioner. We have accomplished so much over the past 2 years. When I started, I made it a priority to take time to listen to what people had to say about what children and families need. I set aside time to listen to youth, parents, external organizations, my colleagues in the federal government, as well as the team at the Children’s Bureau. These conversations took time; however, it was a priority to seriously consider how people have been impacted, what we can do differently, and what is important now. As a result of those conversations, we created our four Children’s Bureau priority goals: (1) prevention; (2) support for kinship caregivers; (3) ensure youth leave care with strengthened relationships, holistic supports, and opportunities; and (4) invest in the workforce.

    We have made progress with respect to goals 1 and 2. We are raising awareness about the fact that so many children come into care due to poverty and that this is often confused with neglect and maltreatment. We have approved Family First prevention plans in 44 jurisdictions, and we have established our plan to promulgate a regulation that would advance equity and provide much needed support for kinship caregivers. There is still a lot of work to do, but I am encouraged about how far we’ve come.

    As I launch into my third year, I want to leverage the conversations that I’ve had with youth and young adults impacted by the foster care system. They have been so generous with me about sharing the challenges that young people face when they have to transition out of foster care—particularly when they don’t have everything they need to succeed as adults. We have to do more. We have to do everything we can to ensure that youth and young adults are fully equipped to experience success. The fact is that they are the next generation of parents and kin caregivers, and they are the pipeline into the workforce. When we support young people—we are tackling all four of the priority goals. We must employ a multigenerational strategy; Our investment in young people today will benefit generations to come.  So, in this third year, I will spend time having action-oriented summits with young adults from all over the country so that they can help us prioritize what they need to be set up for success. We will lean into their vision of success for themselves. Together, we will explore the federal tools the Children’s Bureau can use to support their vision in a way that will have a lasting impact for them and their children. This is not only about their future; inevitably, it is about ours. Let’s lean forward.

  • Spotlight on Preparing to Engage Youth and Families in Round 4 of the CFSRs

    Spotlight on Preparing to Engage Youth and Families in Round 4 of the CFSRs

    The Capacity Building Center for States is seeking to help states prepare for the launch of round 4 of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) by providing resources and recommendations in "Preparing to Engage Youth and Families in the Round 4 CFSRs." This resource introduces what round 4 will focus on as well as guiding principles and insight as to what the Children's Bureau will be looking for.

    Round 4 of the CFSRs emphasizes the meaningful, authentic, and ongoing engagement of families and young people with lived experience. The Center for States suggests that states begin to asses their infrastructure needs, set goals for a supportive agency culture, and arrange for supports that promote successful engagement. The Center for States also provides recommendations on what engagement plans and infrastructure supports states should consider, such as the following:

    • Compensating families and young people
    • Providing coaching, training, and professional development
    • Exploring expectations, goals, and guiding engagement principles together
    • Promoting communication often and early
    • Offering logistical support to address in-person meeting challenges
    • Supporting peer-to-peer learning
    • Ensuring feedback mechanisms and "closing the loop"

    The Center for States specializes in offering resources and supports to agencies to help them build the capacity for authentic, meaningful, and ongoing engagement of young people and families.

  • Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency

    Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency

    Guided by four principles rooted in partnership, respect, equity, and holistic permanency, the Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency (QIC-EY) is seeking to redefine what it means to authentically engage children and youth in child welfare systems, particularly regarding permanency decisions. The QIC-EY will partner with six to eight pilot sites from different states, counties, tribal nations, and territories so they can receive support and resources. They will also receive support to make systemic changes to their culture, increase knowledge, and develop infrastructure to ensure there is youth engagement in all aspects of child welfare.

    The QIC-EY will work with these sites to implement a youth engagement model, a training and coaching model for the child welfare workforce, and a training on youth engagement for courts. The training and coaching model will be designed to shift the mindset, culture, and practice of child welfare and the courts and will be available nationwide for free. The lessons learned from the implementation and evaluation of the engagement models will also be disseminated nationally. An independent evaluation team will conduct a systemic and technical review of the training and coaching model and the youth engagement model. The team will also evaluate the process, outcome, cost, and dissemination. The information gained from these pilot sites will help inform systemic change to help children and youth authentically engage in child welfare systems.

  • A Look Inside Sharing Power in Child Welfare: A Podcast

    A Look Inside Sharing Power in Child Welfare: A Podcast

    The Capacity Building Center for States has produced a three-episode podcast series, A Look Inside Sharing Power in Child Welfare: A Podcast, that features conversations between those with lived experience in child welfare and agency leaders about how they shared knowledge and power to build trusting relationships. These podcasts highlight the successes and challenges of sharing power in child welfare and how deeper engagement of people with lived experience can improve child welfare policy and practice and, ultimately, create better family, child, and youth outcomes.

    The first episode features a conversation between lived experience consultants and provides an introduction to what terms like "lived experience," "lived expertise," and "sharing power" mean in order to help create a common understanding of the concepts. The second and third episodes are centered on an in-depth conversation between two child welfare agency leaders and the hosts—two lived experience consultants—on how they have learned to share power, develop young leaders, and build trust. These episodes can be conversation starters to explore the benefits and challenges of creating deep, authentic engagement of people with live experience.

  • Barriers to Authentic Youth Engagement in Permanency Planning

    Barriers to Authentic Youth Engagement in Permanency Planning

    The Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency (QIC-EY) published a report titled Barriers to Authentic Youth Engagement in Permanency Planning to present the challenges faced by youth in permanency planning. The report summarizes findings from a series of focus groups conducted with youth and young adults, as well as interviews with relevant stakeholders, about their personal experiences with authentic engagement and the perceived barriers to implementing authentic engagement. Fifteen people with recent lived expertise in the child welfare system were interviewed as well as 15 child welfare professionals and 11 court professionals. The report also incorporates a list of the most common barriers identified by the QIC-EY Youth Engagement Advisory Council. This report provides a qualitative analysis of the information from all these sources to summarize and define the main barriers identified by each group.

    The most common barriers to youth engagement were time constraints, staffing challenges, and legal regulations. The findings indicate that there are several other key barriers that limit youth engagement in permanency planning, including a lack of understanding of the permanency planning process, lack of trust in the system, lack of cultural competency, lack of connection to an adult mentor, and lack of communication and collaboration between those involved. The report outlines recommendations for addressing these barriers, including engaging youth in the planning process, creating more culturally competent systems, and building trust through meaningful relationships.

    Read the full report for more information and insight on the barriers as well as additional details on the recommendations.

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    Spotlight on National Child Abuse Prevention Month

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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 & 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.

  • Simulation Finds Preventing Births to Teens Can Have Long-Term Socioeconomic Benefits

    Simulation Finds Preventing Births to Teens Can Have Long-Term Socioeconomic Benefits

    Results from a Child Trends simulation demonstrate that preventing births to teenagers may have positive effects on education, physical and mental health, earnings, poverty, and lifetime income. The simulation used the Social Genome Model, a microsimulation tool that projects how changes that take place early in someone’s life course impact their adulthood. Specifically, this simulation projects how adolescents’ outcomes may have been different later in life if they had not had a child by age 19.


    Of the population used in the Social Genome Model, approximately 17 percent were determined “likely” to have a child by age 19. The simulation changed that probability to zero, allowing the researchers to observe how that change might affect those adolescents’ futures.


    Using the model, researchers examined projected outcomes at various life stages. At age 24, which is labeled the “transition to adulthood,” they analyzed educational attainment, mental and physical health, and the income-to-poverty ratio. At age 30, “adulthood,” they analyzed bachelor’s degree attainment and earnings. Based on those results, projected lifetime earnings through age 65 were determined. The simulation took into account differences based on gender, race, and ethnicity.


    The following are some of the simulation’s specific projections of what occurs when teenage births are prevented:


    • There are notable improvements to physical and mental health, particularly the mental health of women overall and especially Black women.
    • High school diploma attainment increases by at least 6 percentage points for White men and up to 18 percentage points for Black men.
    • By age 24, household incomes increase substantially relative to the poverty level, particularly for women.
    • By age 30, bachelor’s degree attainment increases by 5 percentage points for men and 7 percentage points for women. The groups who have the greatest education gains include White men, White women, Hispanic women, and Black women.
    • By age 30, annual earnings increase by approximately $384.
    • Lifetime earnings at age 65 increase by an average of $49,125 for women and $38,448 for men. Hispanic women have the greatest increase in lifetime earnings, followed by Black men and women in general.


    The full report, Preventing Births to Teens Is Associated With Long-term Health and Socioeconomic Benefits, According to Simulation, is available on the Child Trends website.


  • FFPSA Prevention Provisions That Can Benefit Older Youth

    FFPSA Prevention Provisions That Can Benefit Older Youth

    An article by the American Bar Association highlights the ways in which prevention services can be used to benefit older youth under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) of 2018. Before FFPSA, title IV-E funds for prevention services could be used only once a child was removed from the home. Under FFPSA, prevention funds can be used for “candidates for foster care,” which opens the door to prevention services for youth ages 18 to 21 who are eligible to reenter care under state law as well as expectant and parenting youth in care, regardless of whether their children are system involved.


    There are two types of prevention services these groups are eligible to receive under FFPSA: (1) mental health and substance use prevention and treatment services provided by a qualified clinician and (2) in-home parent skill-based programs, including parenting skills training, parent education, and individual and family counseling. For prevention programs to receive federal funding, they must fall into one of these two categories and be evidence based.


    When States develop prevention programs for older youth, they should address the reasons these youth come into care and better address the needs of them and their families. When states develop prevention programs for expectant and parenting youth, they can provide specialized support that improves outcomes and opportunities for these young parents.


    The article provides strategies for attorneys who represent children, youth, and parents to use to enforce existing laws to complement FFPSA implementation work. Examples include the following:


    • Enforce the reasonable efforts provision requiring child welfare agencies to make reasonable efforts to prevent placement of children in foster care.
    • Enforce the requirements for fair hearings for denials of services and benefits under title IV-E.
    • Enforce laws regarding dispositions for youth in care who are pregnant or parenting to ensure appropriate placements and services and respect for the parental rights of young parents. 


    More information is available in the article, “Leveraging the FFPSA for Older Youth: Prevention Provisions.” The article is part of a three-part series on how  FFPSA can be leveraged to benefit older youth. The other two articles are on the reduction of group care provisions and improving transitions.

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.

  • Healing-Centered and Trauma-Responsive Care Across Child Welfare for Better Youth Engagement

    Healing-Centered and Trauma-Responsive Care Across Child Welfare for Better Youth Engagement

    Written by the Capacity Building for States (including contributions by young adult consultants Brandy Hudson and Julia Mueller)

    Trauma results from events that are experienced by individuals as physically or emotionally harmful and that have lasting adverse effects on functioning and well-being (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2014). Research shows that children exposed to maltreatment often experience traumatic stress with profound long-term consequences for their futures (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2020). Young people in foster care have particularly high rates of trauma exposure (Casey Family Programs, 2018). Similar to the families and young people they partner with, child welfare caseworkers also are more likely than the general population to experience secondary traumatic stress, which is the emotional duress that occurs when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of others on a regular basis (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2011).

    Combined with other workforce challenges, secondary stress can lead to burnout, which is a progressive process characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced sense of personal accomplishment that, in a workplace setting, is often attributed to organizational characteristics or stressors (Rienks, 2020). This may lead to reduced levels of engagement. Young people who work with child welfare systems can also experience burnout as a result of their time in care, in addition to their efforts to transform child welfare systems.

    Finally, both staff and young people in the child welfare system (especially individuals identifying as Black, Indigenous, or people of color) may experience feelings of moral injury (the psychological damage caused when individuals are put in a position of representing policies and taking actions that conflict with their moral code), which may lead to additional traumatic stress (Seymour, 2021).

    The following challenges and sample solutions can help agencies consider how to improve engagement at their agencies by focusing on access to trauma-responsive and healing-centered care.

    Challenge: Burnout Among Caseworkers and Young People Sample Solution: Access to Trauma-Responsive Care

    Trauma and burnout are common problems for both caseworkers and young people involved with child welfare. This is partly a result of experiencing (firsthand or secondhand) the challenges, emotions, and stresses related to the work of ensuring that children and young people are safe and able to have experiences that are similar to those of their peers not in foster care (i.e., normalcy).

    Traumatic stress also can significantly affect engagement between caseworkers and young people by changing the way people process, retain, or understand information. For example, caseworkers with burnout may not be able to empathetically listen to the young people with whom they work or offer them the highest level of individualized care (SAMHSA, 2005). On the other hand, young people experiencing trauma may be less likely to provide meaningful input into their own case plans or engage fully with their caseworkers.

    To address this challenge, it is critical for child welfare agencies to provide access to trauma-responsive care for both staff and the young people they serve. It’s important to note that trauma treatment exists on a continuum that begins with recognizing the presence of trauma and acknowledging the role trauma may play in an individual’s life and continues on to integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices and building an organizational culture and climate that incorporates the needs of individuals with trauma (including caregivers) in every aspect (Buffalo Center for Social Research, n.d.; SAMHSA, 2014).

    Examples of trauma-responsive care that highlights healing and resilience may include the following:

    • Training staff on the principles of trauma-responsive care and how they can apply it to their work with young people, including looking for simulation training or other opportunities for staff to practice using trauma-responsive principles
    • Ensuring that young people and child welfare staff can access trauma treatment and resources (e.g., access to therapists, group therapy, published or digital resources on trauma and self-care) on a regular basis, including the participation of young people in group therapy or wellness activities together with caseworkers to build a shared understanding of trauma and find communal ways to address it
    • Building the capacity of trauma treatment providers to support young people and staff in the child welfare system
    • Training staff on burnout and self-care to address it, including incentives and paid leave for participation in self-care (National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, 2021)
    Challenge: Feelings of Depersonalization Due to Trauma Response Sample Solution: Focusing on Healing-Centered Engagement and Individualized Service Provision

    Traumatic stress and burnout can lead to feelings of detachment that may interfere with meaningful engagement and partnership. This may result in both caseworkers and young people feeling “detached” or “tuned out” from each other and not being able to actively listen and process information or their own emotions.

    An important part of addressing this challenge involves a focus on healing-centered engagement. This approach is strengths based and emphasizes culture, spirituality, civic action, and collective healing. A healing-centered approach emphasizes that a person is much more than their trauma and highlights the ways in which trauma and healing are experienced collectively (Ginwright, 2018). This type of holistic engagement is the foundation for any organizational trauma-informed or trauma-responsive approach.

    The following are additional ways child welfare agencies can address feelings of depersonalization among both young people and child welfare staff:

    • Creating a welcoming environment at the agency that facilitates conversation (e.g., comfortable chairs and couches, access to water or warm drinks) rather than a sterile, siloed one (e.g., cubicles)
    • Encouraging young people and staff to maintain strong connections to their cultural identity since there is evidence that it contributes to mental health resilience, higher levels of social well-being, improved coping skills, and other benefits (Stafanson, 2019)
    • Hiring staff with lived experience who can better understand what young people are experiencing because they have also been there
    • Providing time for caseworkers to process their emotions as they go from case to case to make it possible for them to fully focus on each one

    By implementing the principles of trauma-responsive care and healing-centered engagement, agencies can improve communication between caseworkers and young people, which can lead to a better understanding of young people’s needs and better outcomes going forward.


    Buffalo Center for Social Research. (n.d.). What is trauma-informed care? University at Buffalo.

    Casey Family Programs. (2018). Why should child protection agencies become trauma-informed?

    Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2020). The importance of a trauma-informed child welfare system. 

    Ginwright, S. (2018, May 31). The future of healing: Shifting from trauma informed care to healing centered engagement. Medium.

    National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2011). Secondary traumatic stress: A fact sheet for child-serving professionals.

    National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. (2021). Building a resilient workforce to address trauma and enhance well-being: Supporting self-care at the system level.

    Rienks, S. L. (2020). An exploration of child welfare caseworkers’ experience of secondary trauma and strategies for coping. Child Abuse & Neglect, 110, 104355.

    Seymour, M. (2021, August 25). Moral injury [Video]. University of Minnesota.

    Stafanson, A. H. (2019, November 20). Supporting cultural identity for children in foster care. Child Law Practice Today.

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2005). Addressing burnout in the behavioral health workforce through organizational strategies. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). SAMHSA’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

  • Using the ICE Parental Interests Directive to Ensure Fair Treatment of Detained or Deported Parents

    Using the ICE Parental Interests Directive to Ensure Fair Treatment of Detained or Deported Parents

    An October 2022 directive from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) titled Parental Interest of Noncitizens Parents and Legal Guardians of Minor Children or Incapacitated Adults provides protections for noncitizen families. The directive is an update of various ICE policies related to detaining and deporting parents, and it summarizes the various protections ICE offers noncitizen parents in order to prevent unnecessary barriers to family reunification. Largely, it ensures that parents or guardians who are arrested or detained for a civil immigration proceeding are able to maintain visitation with their children and participate in child welfare or other court proceedings.


    Individuals covered by the directive include parents or legal guardians who are the primary caretaker of dependents and those who have a direct interest in family or probate court, guardianship, or child welfare proceedings involving a minor or incapacitated adult. These individuals may participate in family court or child welfare proceedings to maintain or regain custody of a dependent. They can participate remotely if transport presents security or public safety issues.


    The directive has information useful for child welfare professionals. For example, child welfare professionals should ensure parent-child visitation is facilitated and inform ICE of special visitation requirements. It is also recommended that child welfare professionals notify ICE when a child of a parent detained by ICE is in child protective services custody, since ICE detention facility personnel may not be aware.


    ICE has a factsheet with information about the directive, requirements related to court proceedings and services, visitation, travel, and more.


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 Foster and Adoptive Parents on Supporting Children and Youth

    Tips for Foster and Adoptive Parents on Supporting Children and Youth

    A blog post from AdoptUSKids provides foster and adoptive parents with advice on how to best support the children and youth in their care. The author, Jamerika Haynes-Lewis, is a journalist, advocate, and motivational speaker with lived experience as a youth in foster care and an adoptee. She shares the difficulties she experienced as a young child and what the adults in her life did to support her. The following is a sample of the advice she offers to foster and adoptive parents:

    • Do your research. There is an abundance of information available to those wanting to foster or adopt, including classes and real-life stories from other resource parents, youth in foster care, and adoptees. A good place to start is the local child welfare agency.
    • Don’t be afraid to talk to a counselor. Becoming a foster or adoptive parent is a big decision. Talking to a counselor or therapist, especially one that specializes in this area, can help prospective parents understand their own feelings, the importance of attachment, bonding, and how trauma affects youth and families.
    • Build your network. Create and maintain connections with other families who foster and adopt. A community that shares similar life stories and experiences can serve as a source of information and support. In time, you can fill this role for others, too.
    • Know that it takes time. The process of becoming a foster or adoptive parent is a lengthy one, often spanning many months, and includes a variety of steps, actions, and waiting. Having a support network can help prospective parents navigate this time-consuming process.
    • Build a relationship with your child or teen. Patience is key. Be open with them about who you are and why they have come to live with you. It is important that your child knows that you are reliable and have a genuine interest in their life and well-being.   

    To learn more, read “What I Want Foster and Adoptive Parents to Know” on the AdoptUSKids website.

  • ConnectSafely Encourages Safe and Responsible Internet Use

    ConnectSafely Encourages Safe and Responsible Internet Use

    ConnectSafely is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people—especially children and youth, parents, and educators—use the internet and other technology safely. Its website contains an abundance of research-based information about online safety, privacy, security, and digital wellness that through tip sheets and guides, news and commentary, podcasts, videos, and more.

    Printable quick guides are available for popular social media apps and games and on topics such as internet safety and wellness (e.g., cyberbullying and hate speech, media literacy, security). The quick guides are available in Spanish. A larger selection of full-length parent and educator guides provide more detailed discussions of similar topics.

    ConnectSafely produces two podcasts. ConnectSafely Live features guests from education, health care, mental health, and other professions, as well as social media companies, who discuss technology and digital wellness. Media in the Middle is a teen-led podcast that emphasizes youth’s voice and their experiences and challenges living in an internet age. 

    For more information, visit the ConnectSafely website.

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.