News From the Children's Bureau
- National Resource Center Helps Child Welfare Courts Improve
Learn what child welfare courts are doing nationwide to improve their services to children and families through the National Child Welfare Court Improvement Catalog.
Issued jointly by the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues and the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, the catalog summarizes State court improvement project materials that may help other State court systems improve child abuse and neglect litigation. The material is classified both by State and subject area. Examples are provided of States' judicial forms, reports, studies, videotapes, program evaluations, project summaries, and other materials. Prices and ordering information are included with the description of each item.
Specific subject headings include:
- Hearing Quality and Depth
- Legal Representation of Parties
- Timeliness of Decisions
- Notice to and Participation of Parties
- Treatment of Parties
- Quality and Professionalism of the Judiciary
- Court Staffing
- Training and Education
- Legislation and Court Rules
- Community Collaboration
The National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues is funded by the Children's Bureau and provides expertise to agencies and courts on legal and judicial aspects of child welfare, including court improvement. Currently, 49 State court systems and the District of Columbia are operating federally supported court improvement projects.
Download a free copy of the July 2000 catalog as a Word document at: http://www.abanet.org/child/catalog.doc
To obtain the catalog and updates as email attachments, send an email request to Elyse Csillag at email@example.com. For hard copies, send a check for $9.95 to:
American Bar Association
National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues
740 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005-1022
To learn about how courts are using non-judicial staff to speed permanency for children, read "Benefits of Using Non-Judicial Staff to Aid Dependency Courts" in this issue of the Children's Bureau Express.
- NRC for Foster Care and Permanency Planning Partners With Casey Family Programs
The National Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning (NRCFCPP) will partner with the Casey National Center for Resource Family Support (CNC) to examine how dual licensing of foster and adoptive families can help expedite permanency planning for children who enter the child welfare system.
CNC was launched recently by Casey Family Programs as a resource for child welfare professionals and families providing foster care, kinship care, and adoption services for children and youth. The partnership with NRCFCPP is one of CNC's first projects.
The project will identify key practice and policy components; principles and values; implementation issues; benefits, concerns, and lessons learned about the dual licensing of foster and adoptive parents. Together, NRCFCPP and CNC will:
- Conduct a literature review
- Survey States, counties, localities, tribes, and private agencies
- Make site visits
- Publish a report of the findings.
The project started in August 2000 and will wrap up in March 2001.
NRCFCPP is part of a national resource and technical assistance network operated by the Children's Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Casey Family Programs (formerly the Casey Family Program) was established in 1966 by Jim Casey of United Parcel Service (UPS). Casey Family Programs provides an array of services to children, youth and families, including long-term foster care, adoption, kinship care, guardianship, and family reunification.
For more information, contact:
Sarah B. Greenblatt, Director
National Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning
Hunter College School of Social Work
129 E. 79th St.
New York, NY 10021
Kathy Barbell, Director
Casey National Center for Resource Family Support
1808 Eye Street, NW, 5th Floor
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 888-295-6727, ext. 226
See "States Streamline Foster and Adoptive Home Approval Process" in this issue of the Children's Bureau Express for a discussion of how States are combining the approval process of foster and adoptive homes.
- President Signs Law Promoting Children's Health
A comprehensive, bipartisan children's health bill reauthorizing and expanding several programs was signed into law by the President on October 17.
The legislation focuses on the following areas:
- Promoting new research on treatment for children's health
- Improving the health and safety of child care centers
- Ensuring safe and quality mental health treatment
- Reauthorizing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Combating youth and adult drug use
- Supporting a comprehensive response to school safety and youth violence.
Child welfare professionals should take note of specific provisions in the bill regarding adoption awareness and projects addressing children and violence.
Title XII, Subtitle A Infant Adoption Awareness, provides grants to adoption organizations to develop and implement programs that train health center staff to incorporate adoption information and referrals into counseling for pregnant women. Subtitle B promotes adoptions of special needs children by funding a national campaign, toll-free information, support groups, and research to identify the reasons for adoption disruptions.
Title XXXI, Section 3101, funds programs in local communities that assist children in dealing with violence. This includes grants to research evidence-based practices to treat the psychological problems of children and youth who witness or experience a traumatic event, such as domestic violence.
To learn more about the Children's Health Act of 2000, visit Thomas, a service of the Library of Congress at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:H.R.4365.ENR:
A PDF version of the bill is available at: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname= 106_cong_bills&docid=f:h4365enr.txt.pdf
- Study Considers History of Children's Bureau as Children's Advocate
The definition of childhood and the role that the Federal government has played in advocating for children has changed over the last century. Author Kristie Lindenmeyer provides an historical overview on these issues in an article for the Benton Foundation's Connect for Kids website.
Lindenmeyer's study examines the role of the Federal government in protecting the interests of children as a separate and distinct group.
Lindenmeyer reports that the Children's Bureau was established in 1912, making the United States the first nation to create a national agency mandated solely to investigate and report on the needs of children. The Bureau's "whole child" philosophy was promoted as a means to protect the right to childhood.
"Despite its weaknesses, the Children's Bureau significantly contributed to the growing idea that childhood was a time of special need and that society, not just families, had a responsibility to protect the rights of the 'whole child' for all young people," writes Lindenmeyer.
The Bureau focused on reducing infant mortality, the prevention of childhood diseases, child labor reform, and juvenile justice, among other issues. Despite strong popular support, the program was controversial among political leaders, and was greatly weakened during the Truman administration.
Lindenmeyer concludes that it may be a good idea to try a single agency approach again at the Federal level to address the changing needs of America's children in the next century.
To access this article online, visit: http://www.connectforkids.org/node/129.
- HHS Awards Adoption Bonuses and Grants
States that increased adoptions of children waiting in the foster care system received bonuses from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in September.
Forty-four States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will receive a share of the $20 million appropriated for the incentive awards. This compares with 35 States last year. Every State plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico has now qualified for these funds for one or both years of the program. The number of adoptions have increased so dramatically that, as specified by law, the awards have been prorated.
Adoptions of foster care children in the United States have continued to increase since the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was implemented in 1997. The most recent statistics show:
- 46,000 adoptions in fiscal year 1999
- 36,000 adoptions in fiscal year 1998
- 28,000 adoptions in fiscal year 1996
The President's goal in the Adoption 2002 initiative is to reach 56,000 adoptions by 2002, double the number since 1996. ASFA is helping to achieve this goal by making safety, permanency, and well-being of children paramount and providing this financial incentive for adoptions.
In addition to these State bonuses, HHS awarded grants to public and private organizations under the Adoption Opportunities Program, which aims to eliminate barriers to adoption, particularly for children with special needs. These grants, totaling $11.3 million will support initiatives in the following areas:
- Increasing adoptive placements of Hispanic/Latino children
- Leadership development of parent support groups
- Innovations to increase permanency options for children in kinship care
- Knowledge development for concurrent planning
- Collaborations between child welfare agencies and court systems to facilitate timely adoptions
- Innovative approaches to expediting permanence and implementing ASFA.
The National Adoption Center (http://www.adopt.org) was also the recipient of a grant to develop and implement a national adoption Internet photo-listing service. Scheduled to debut in 2002, the website will feature pictures and descriptions of at least 6,500 children needing homes.
The HHS press release, which includes a complete list of State bonuses and grantees, is available online at: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2000pres/20000920.html.
- Federal Legislation Enacted on International Adoption
Legislation that affects U.S. adoptions of overseas orphans was recently signed into law by the President. In 1999, more than 16,000 orphans from other nations were adopted by U.S. citizens.
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (HR 2883) automatically confers U.S. citizenship on children adopted from abroad. The Act amends the Immigration and Nationality Act, granting citizenship to foreign-born children who are:
- Under age 18
- Lawfully admitted to the U.S. as permanent residents
- Are in legal custody of at least one U.S. citizen
The bipartisan legislation eases the onerous paperwork burden on adoptive parents to naturalize their foreign-born children.
President Clinton signed the bill into law on October 30. The law will take effect 120 days after signing.
To learn more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, visit Thomas, a service of the Library of Congress at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:H.R.2883.ENR:
A PDF version of the bill is available at: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname= 106_cong_bills&docid=f:h2883enr.txt.pdf
Answers to frequently asked questions about the bill are available from the Holt International Children's Services website at: http://www.holtintl.org/infoupdates/archive/update091900bfaq.shtml
Another piece of legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (HR 2909), was signed into Public Law 106-279 by the President on October 6. It implements the 1993 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which is a worldwide legal framework intended to protect adoptive children and their families, and to streamline the international adoption process.
This legislation also combats abuses in the international adoption process, such as misportrayal of medical conditions, exorbitant fees, child kidnapping, baby smuggling, and coercion of birth mothers.
The Hague Convention has been signed by 40 other countries besides the United States. Under the treaty, each country designates a central authority to oversee intercountry adoptions and coordinate policy with other nations, which in the United States will be the State Department. The pact also promises stricter oversight of adoption agencies by requiring countries to establish accreditation standards.
"This significant legislation is intended to build some accountability into agencies that provide intercountry adoption services in the United States, while strengthening the hand of the Secretary of State in ensuring that U.S. adoption agencies engage in an ethical manner to find homes for children," said Sen. Jesse Helms, R-NC, a chief sponsor.
To learn more about the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000, visit Thomas, a service of the Library of Congress at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:H.R.2909.ENR:
A PDF version of the bill is available at: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname= 106_cong_bills&docid=f:h2909enr.txt.pdf
- Visit the Children's Bureau's Adoption Month Website
Participate in National Adoption Month this November by logging onto a special National Adoption Month website sponsored by the Children's Bureau at http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/nam/. The site was launched on November 1, 2000.
Created by the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, the website offers information about the national observance and children waiting to be adopted in the American foster care system. It also suggests ideas to get involved in an adoption awareness campaign, including a calendar with daily tips about how to celebrate adoption and strengthen families.
In conjunction with the website, the Clearinghouse mailed nearly 4,000 packets of Adoption Month materials to adoption professionals in the States and regions. The packets contain the following items (note: the National Adoption Month packet has changed since this article was written; similar information, where applicable, is provided below):
- Clearinghouse catalog (you may search for publications at http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/general/publications/index.cfm)
- Clearinghouse Rolodex card and bookmark
- Bibliography order form
- Funding resource list (Information on Funding Resources for Adoption Services can be found at http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?subjID=59&rate_chno=AR-0047A)
- "Hot Topic" publication on wrongful adoption (note: this publication is no longer available).
You can order a packet from the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse at 888-251-0075 or visit http://naic.acf.hhs.gov. (Note: these packets are no longer available to order.)
See related articles regarding adoption awareness in these issues of the Children's Bureau Express:
- "National Adoption Day Planned for November 18" (November 2000)
- "New Stamp Celebrates Adoption" (May 2000)
For a National Adoption Month Awareness Guide and National Adoption Month poster featuring waiting children from across the United States, contact the North American Council on Adoptable Children at 651-644-3036 or visit http://www.nacac.org.
For a list of National Adoption Month observance ideas, visit the Perspectives Press website at: http://www.perspectivespress.com/adoptionawareness.html.
- Five Universities Receive Federal Funding for Child Maltreatment Research
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently awarded nearly $344,000 to five universities for fellowships in the field of child abuse and neglect. The awards are given to encourage doctoral-level students and faculty to pursue research in this area.
As evidence that the awards are stimulating research, the ACF press release announcing the awards cited the research of Dr. Kerry Bolger. She received a fellowship award to fund her research on child maltreatment as a graduate student in 1994 at the University of Virginia, a competitive research award as a professor in 1997 at Cornell, and again this year as a faculty member at the University of Miami at Coral Gables. Bolger has studied peer relationships, behavior, and self-concept among maltreated children, and consequences in adult life of childhood maltreatment.
The fellowships are fulfilling ACF's goal of developing a cadre of researchers devoted to child maltreatment, said Pat Montoya, commissioner of ACF. "We're proud that our stipends have enabled [Dr. Bolger] to pursue a consistent line of research starting as a student and continuing as a faculty member."
Fellowships were awarded to the following universities:
- University of Illinois, Champaign
- University of California, Davis
- University of Chicago
- University of Miami, Coral Gables
- University of Oklahoma Health Sciences, Oklahoma City
To view the ACF press release and a complete list of faculty and student grant recipients, visit: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/news/press/2000/fellowship.htm.
- New Federal Law Aims to Strengthen Child Abuse and Neglect CourtsA new law signed by President Clinton October 17 authorizes Federal funding for courts to implement the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) and to better track children served in child abuse and neglect courts. The Strengthening Abuse and Neglect Courts Act (SANCA), as summarized by the Children's Defense Fund, authorizes the following:
- $10 million for grants to improve data collection systems to keep better track of children in the abuse and neglect courts
- $10 million to eliminate backlogs of children waiting to be adopted
- $5 million to expand the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program in under-served areas.
Funding for SANCA will have to be appropriated when the next Congress convenes in 2001.
To learn more about SANCA (S.2272) visit Thomas, a service of the Library of Congress at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:s.02272:
A PDF version of the bill is available at: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname= 106_cong_bills&docid=f:s2272enr.txt.pdf
- Internet Newsgroups Bring Prevention Professionals Together
Professionals working in the area of child abuse prevention can stay connected through numerous newsgroups on the Internet.
Created to facilitate the exchange of information, newsgroups specialize in areas that directly pertain to the field of child abuse and neglect, as well as peripheral subject areas. The Child Abuse Prevention Network has identified those that pertain to abuse and family violence; children; conflict and stress for parents; and related general interest forums.
Find a newsgroup to join by visiting: http://child.cornell.edu/capn.newsgroups.html.
Access other tools to aid in the identification, investigation, treatment, adjudication, and prevention of child abuse and neglect at the website of the Child Abuse Prevention Network (http://child-abuse.com/capn.html).
- Researchers Study Infants Who Reenter Child Welfare System
For many children placed in out-of-home care, family reunification is only temporary. This instability can be particularly damaging to infants due to their rapid developmental growth.
The factors leading to reentry of infants into the child welfare system, following reunification, are examined in the July/August 2000 issue of Child Welfare, published by the Child Welfare League of America. The authors reviewed the case records of 88 randomly selected infants who had been reunited with their families. Of these infants, 32 percent (28 infants) reentered out-of-home care within 4 to 6 years.
In this case review of reunified infants and their families, researchers found that the factors most strongly associated with reentry were:
- Maternal criminal activity and/or substance abuse
- Placement during the child's first month of life
- Placement in non-kin foster care.
Reentry also was more likely in families that experienced housing problems at the time of reunification and in families that had greater numbers of CPS reports.
The researchers found that children placed with relatives were about 80 percent less likely to reenter care, corroborating other research on the value of kinship care in achieving permanency. Other findings that align with earlier research summarized by the authors include the significance of the child's age at entry and certain key family problems.
The study did not find, as earlier studies have, that African American infants are more likely to reenter out of home care, nor did the study find significant associations between reentry and type of maltreatment, family size, or time spent in foster care. "The possible effects of such characteristics may be masked by the small sample size," the authors note.
The authors also consider the relationship between reentry and post-reunification services. In this study, all of the families of the infants who reentered care had received post-reunification services. One explanation might be that only the most troubled families receive post-reunification services, which appears to be the case in this particular study. Also plausible is that in the course of providing services, child welfare workers identify children who need to be removed from their homes again.
"[I]t appears unlikely that services themselves are causing reentry," the authors write. But, "the high reentry rate found in this sample suggests, at minimum, that current services are not enough to meet families' multiple needs."
The statistical models used in this small-scale study should not be used as the basis for broadbased policy making or decision making in individual cases, the authors stress. But, the results of this study may help administrators be more responsive to mothers who lack kin support and who may be involved in substance abuse and criminal activity. It also may guide child welfare workers during their casework. According to the authors, "[S]ome background knowledge about the likelihood of certain children eventually reentering foster care may inform, if not direct, their approach."
Address requests for a reprint of this article to:
Center for Social Services Research
School of Social Welfare
16 Haviland Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-7400
Single copies of Child Welfare may be obtained from:
9050 Junction Drive
P.O. Box 2019
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-2019
- Congressional Briefing Probes Policy Implications of Child Welfare, Child Protection Research
Three prominent researchers offered an overview of the current state of child abuse and neglect, child protective services, and child welfare systems before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Human Resources on September 14, 2000. The three speakers were University of North Carolina School of Medicine Professor Desmond Runyan, Columbia University Professor Jane Waldfogel, and University of Chicago Professor Mark Courtney.
Runyan questioned whether professionals, especially physicians, are adequately trained to deal with child abuse and neglect. He commented that physicians avoid involvement in child abuse and neglect cases because of conflict appearance, poor training, fear of litigation, and financial cost. Currently medical schools give 2 hours of training about child maltreatment in the third year of medical school.
Waldfogel discussed the current state of the child protective services (CPS) system and how poverty, welfare, and CPS involvement are interrelated. She said that her research uncovered the following five fundamental problems that must be addressed in order for CPS workers to adequately perform their jobs:
- Overinclusion: Some families that are currently in the system should not be.
- Underinclusion: Some families that should be receiving child protective services are not.
- Capacity: The number of families involved in the system exceeds the capacity of the system.
- Service Delivery: Families in the system do not receive the right type of services.
- Service Orientation: CPS has a problem finding the balance between protecting children and preserving families.
Courtney discussed the current state of the child welfare system and the implications for upcoming legislative debates. He believes that policy issues facing the next Congress will concern Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the structure of the Federal Social Services Block Grant program, and the consequences for States dealing with child welfare performance measures. Courtney also mentioned the British perspective on child welfare. In the UK, policy makers have decided to tackle the child welfare problem with the following measures:
- Expanding early childhood intervention
- Encouraging employment through welfare to work
- Taking direct steps to raise incomes of poor families.
For more information, consult the following:
- Summary of briefing by the Joint Center for Poverty Research at: http://www.jcpr.org/conferences/childabuse_briefing.html
- Article by Drs. Adrea Theodore and Desmond Runyan in Pediatrics, Vol. 104, No. 1, July 1999, "A Medical Research Agenda for Child Maltreatment: Negotiating the Next Steps."
- Forthcoming articles by Jane Waldfogel in Family Law Quarterly, Special Issue, "Protecting Children in the 21st Century"; and in Children and Youth Services Review, Special Issue, "Child Welfare Research: How Adequate Are the Data?"
- USDA Service Offers Rich Resource for Child Welfare Professionals
For a wide array of resources on many aspects of child and family well-being, including issues related to child abuse and neglect, visit CYFERNet (http://www.cyfernet.org), a service of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
CYFERNet provides program, evaluation, and technology assistance for children, youth and family community-based programs; the site is maintained by seven Land Grant universities.
Online items of interest to child welfare professionals include the following:
The April 2000 issue of Applying CYFERNET Resources to Evaluate Children Outcomes (http://www.ag.arizona.edu/fcr/fs/cyfar/nowg_bul_child_4.pdf--Editor's note: this link is no longer available) offers a case study of a community-based child abuse awareness program. Professionals from Cooperative Extension worked with local Child Protective Services staff, local policy, and a church to design and run the program. The report describes the program and discusses how CYFERNET resources were used to evaluate the program's effectiveness.
A literature review of risk factors for partner abuse and child abuse (http://www.cyfernet.org/parent/violence.html) was prepared by researchers at the State University of New York, Stonybrook. The review is organized as annotated tables. Chapters concerned with children address risk factors of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual victimization, and neglect.
In addition to the site, CYFERNet materials are made available through national conferences, printed publications, listserves, emails, and satellite downlinks. Contact:
- Home Visitation Measured as a Way to Prevent Child Abuse
An article published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association looks at the relationship between home visitations and the incidence of child maltreatment in those homes.
Although home visitation has long been promoted as a way to prevent child abuse, there has not been much scientific study to back this up.
Over a period of 15 years, researchers followed 324 women who originally enrolled in the study as socially disadvantaged pregnant women with no previous live births. A control group received routine perinatal care, while two other groups received, respectively, routine care plus nurse home visits during pregnancy only and during pregnancy up until the child's second birthday.
Among the findings of this study of New York State families was that "there were significantly fewer child maltreatment reports involving the mother as perpetrator...or involving the study child...for families receiving home visitation during pregnancy and infancy vs. families not receiving home visitation." However, the beneficial effect of home visiting through the first two years was diminished among mothers reporting more than 28 incidents of domestic violence over 15 years (21% of the sample).
Since domestic violence may limit the effectiveness of interventions to reduce child abuse and neglect, the researchers recommended new approaches to strengthen and expand basic services. These include the promotion of partner communication and a domestic violence assessment and education program.
The complete article is available online to paid subscribers of the Journal of the American Medical Association and to all American Medical Association members by registering at http://pubs.ama-assn.org/register.html.
For reprints, contact:
John Eckenrode, Ph.D.
Family Life Development Center
Ithaca, NY 14853
- Gain Insights into the Experience of Adoptees from Vietnam
For insights into the experience of young adults who were adopted from Vietnam, visit the website of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/proed/vietprelim.html).
The site posts preliminary results of a survey of 88 adoptees born in Vietnam and currently residing in the United States. The results were originally presented by Joy Kim Lieberthal at the Reunion of First Generation of Vietnamese Adoptees, which took place in April 2000 in Baltimore.
Along with statistical descriptions, the presentation features many quotes from survey respondents about their life experience and their thoughts on adoption, identity, discrimination, and searching.
For more information, contact:
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
120 Wall St.
New York, NY 10005
- National Adoption Day Planned for November 18
The Alliance for Children's Rights, based in Los Angeles, will coordinate a one-day record of over 1,000 adoptions nationwide on November 18 during its first National Adoption Day. Law firms, foster care departments, child advocates, and judicial officers will join the Alliance in finalizing adoptions in these cities:
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Washington, DC
- Columbus, OH
- Omaha, NE
While The Alliance has organized several similar adoption days in Los Angeles, finalizing a total of nearly 3,500 foster care adoptions, Saturday's event is the child advocacy group's first attempt to mount a nationwide effort. In Los Angeles, National Adoption Day is sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Freddie Mac Foundation--two ongoing supporters of The Alliance.
The Alliance's Foster Children's Adoption Project expedites the foster care adoption process through its network of pro bono and staff attorneys, and ensures that these children find stable, nurturing homes. It recruits private law firms and has conducted training for more than 200 attorneys. The Project focuses on children for whom adoptive families are often the most difficult to find, such as older children, children with siblings, children with physical and mental disabilities, immigrant children, and children of color.
For more information, contact:
Alliance for Children's Rights
3333 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010-4111
- Adoption Program for Children Orphaned by AIDS Grows in New York
Thousands of children are expected to be orphaned due to AIDS in the next few years in the United States.
The Council on Adoptable Children (COAC), a 25-year-old adoption services agency in New York, started a service in 1993 to assist parents terminally ill with AIDS to plan for the future care of their children and avoid having their children placed into foster care. While other programs in New York have focused on increasing the availability of foster care placements for AIDS orphans, COAC was the first non-governmental program to explore adoption as a viable option. Over 93 percent of children in this program are HIV-negative. COAC's AIDS Orphans Adoption Program features a specialized legal and social service team that offers the following services:
- Permanency Planning: discussions with the biological parent about the options available, the development of wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies, and custody documents;
- Recruitment: adoptive parent/guardian/custodian recruitment and matching for children who either have no one to care for them in the future, or whose kin are either unwilling or unable to do so;
- Family Support Services: appropriate referrals made where necessary through a network of resources
- Legal Services: advocacy and legal services of a staff attorney.
COAC has a strong track record of recruiting minority parents for the adoption of African-American and Hispanic children in foster care in New York City, particularly special needs children. As of April 2000, statistics for the AIDS Orphans Adoption Program were:
- Cumulative caseload of 273 AIDS-affected families with 492 children
- Responded to over 15 requests from other cities needing assistance on how to start an AIDS Orphans Adoption Program.
COAC's bilingual staff has developed informational and recruitment materials for this program in English and Spanish. The titles include:
- An informational brochure about program
- Legal Services, a brochure describing permanency planning services
- Financial Help for Your Family, a guide to entitlements for families affected by HIV/AIDS
- Who Will Take Care of Me?, a manual for parents with HIV/AIDS
- Who Will Take Care of Me?, a manual for professionals working with children whose parents have HIV/AIDS
- Finally a Family, a guide for prospective parents of special needs children
COAC staff is available for presentations to agency/hospital staff and clients in the New York City area. If you are an HIV caseworker or case manager and would like a copy of any of these materials to assist in advising your clients, contact:
New York Council on Adoptable Children
AIDS Orphans Adoption Program
666 Broadway, Suite 820
New York, NY 10012
- States Streamline Foster and Adoptive Home Approval Process
Historically, people who wanted to foster parent and people who wanted to adopt followed different paths within the child welfare system. Now, in an increasing number of States, prospective foster and adoptive parents are considered fellow travelers along one path leading to the permanent placement of children.
The practice of recruiting and preparing families simultaneously as foster families and adoptive families has been evolving for at least two decades. Currently the practice is known in the child welfare field as "dual licensing" or "dual certification." In earlier incarnations, the strategy was variably known as "flexible family resources," "permanency planning foster parents," and "high-risk adoptive parents."
In part, the move toward dual licensing reflects an existing trend toward foster parent adoption. The latest national statistics available indicate that 64 percent of children adopted from the child welfare system are adopted by their foster parents.
The aim of dual licensing is to streamline procedures, avoid delays, and minimize moves by children in the system. In these respects, dual licensing also responds to new Federal laws aimed at expediting the permanent placement of children who enter the child welfare system.
Practitioners familiar with the practice generally agree that dual licensing is a strategy that can benefit children and families. They also generally agree that to reap those benefits, policy makers and child welfare professionals must plan carefully to overcome institutional barriers to implementation.
Then and Now
Before establishing a dual licensing system, practitioners, policy makers, and other stakeholders should understand why and how separate systems for licensing foster parents and approving adoptive parents evolved.
As recently as the early 1970s, most public agencies did not allow foster parents to adopt or strongly discouraged them from doing so through both written and unwritten rules. Underlying agencies' reluctance were the following concerns--not all of them articulated but understood within the field:
- Agencies feared losing their valuable cadre of foster families
- Agencies believed that foster families hoping to adopt would undermine agency attempts to attain the primary goal of family reunification
- Agencies approved foster families based on their ability to provide temporary care, not a lifetime commitment
- Decisions to place a child in a particular foster home frequently were based on available space and not because a foster family was determined to be the best possible match for a particular child
- For complex reasons involving class, culture, social attitudes, and history, foster parents were considered "less qualified" than couples seeking to adopt--less capable of parenting, less concerned with the child's well-being, less solid citizens.
These and other issues, both practical and biased, became encoded in longstanding agency policies and procedures, which in turn shaped agencies' institutional cultures, organizational structures, and professional roles.
While the child welfare system was changing slowly, the population of children served was changing significantly. Beginning about 20 years ago, children who entered the child welfare system were more likely to be older, members of a minority, members of a sibling group, or have special physical, emotional, or mental health needs. Child welfare agencies increasingly found it difficult to recruit adoptive parents who could meet the needs of the children in their custody.
In addition, researchers were establishing the crucial role that attachment between a child and a stable caregiver plays in a child's long-term healthy development. The advantages of keeping a child with experienced foster parents in a familiar, safe environment became more apparent. But, the institutional structure was not in place to support foster parent adoptions. The process remained cumbersome, and outdated perceptions of "appropriate" adoptive families continued to impede change.
Change Takes Time
Kathy Ledesma of the Oregon State Office for Services to Children has observed the institutional culture gap firsthand. In Oregon, reports Ledesma, a widespread perception that adoption workers are the wheat and foster care certifiers the chaff has caused adoption workers to distrust information provided by their counterparts in foster care. Oregon also has tussled with issues of confidentiality and privacy during its 10-year effort to implement dual licensing.
But "the end is in sight," says Ledesma. Oregon will launch a common homestudy in November during a biannual conference targeted to foster home certifiers and adoption workers.
As Oregon's timeline illustrates, States making the shift have put time, thought, and resources into the change.
Texas expanded its dual licensing system statewide two years ago, but launched the effort as a pilot about 10 years earlier. And, like Oregon and other States, Texas grappled with issues of cultural change.
"It was a matter of rethinking and changing the perspective that training and assessing foster and adoptive parents separately was not in the best interest of children," recalled Janis Brown of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. "A child's first placement should be [a child's] last placement."
Dual licensure abolishes the philosophy that foster parents and adoptive parents can't be one and the same, says Brown. The policy is friendlier towards foster families who previously had entered into adoption through the "back door" and "helped them be honest about their intent to adopt."
One downside, according to Brown, has been a larger shortage of foster homes, since foster families tend to leave the system once they adopt.
Tailored to Each State
The definition and terminology for dual licensure can vary widely by State, making comparisons difficult. For example, some State laws may prohibit placement of children in foster/adopt homes prior to termination of parental rights, while others may allow it.
Another State that is working to streamline the process is Colorado. However, Barbara Killmore of the Colorado Department of Human Services explains that "dual licensure" isn't really a term that applies to her State. "We don't do 'licensure.' We approve adoptive homes and we certify foster homes." A State Rule, passed in 1994, provides for a single assessment of foster and adoptive parents but all other aspects of the program differ by county.
Colorado is one of a dozen States whose child welfare programs are State-supervised and county-administered. Therefore, some counties recruit and train foster and adoptive parents separately. In some areas, adoption and foster workers are different positions, while in rural areas, one worker might do everything. "The kids that we're placing in foster care are generally the same as we're placing for adoption, so we're trying to focus on joint recruitment," said Killmore. "It [recruitment] currently is based on the individual needs of a county but we're looking for funding for statewide recruitment."
The common home study rule applies to both prospective adoptive families who decide to foster a child who is not legally free and foster families who decide to adopt. "A few extra things are required for foster homes, for example, space requirements, but generally it's easy to certify a family for foster care based on the single assessment. It's also not uncommon to approve adoption for foster families," explained Killmore. "For families, it makes it easier not have to go through two studies. It really expedites and makes the process easier." Killmore has heard some concerns that with concurrent planning, resource families who can either foster or adopt don't really understand how important it is to work towards reunification first.
Arizona uses the "same methodology," according to Belva Stites of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, to assess adoptive and foster parents. The common paperwork and home study was introduced a year ago. Since so much of their agency's work is contracted to private agencies, internal logistics and systemic issues have been a problem, noted Stites. "Some contracts don't do both pieces [adoption and foster care], so oftentimes it is not a smooth process for parents," said Stites. "Arizona is also one of the only States to require court certification of all adoptive homes." Agencies receive the same logo and materials for combined recruitment and orientations but each one tailors them to fit their own agenda. "We realize that people often change their mind, but if they really only want to consider one path, they are guided to an agency that only handles adoption or only handles foster care," said Stites.
Worker training is still an area that needs improvement, according to Stites. Arizona has no standard curriculum, but rather each agency adapts core training to meet their needs. "We are moving toward merging their training but we still have a problem with people being comfortable," observed Stites. "There are still some staff that feel there is a difference in the population of people who want to adopt and people who want to foster." Although there are still holdover issues and perceptions to deal with, Stites feels Arizona is "slowly coming on track." She notes that kinship family assessments are beginning to be conducted like foster home studies, with the view that the basic home study only need to be updated for adoption or legal guardianship to proceed.
Maine's experience with dual licensure also underscores the importance of training. After seven years of planning, Maine implemented dual licensing in June 2000. The initiative involves a common inquiry, intake, informational, and home study process. Once families are qualified to be licensed, they are approved to adopt and vice versa.
Before implementation, administrators met districtwide with both groups of workers to learn their training needs and convened a huge statewide joint training. "Licensing and adoption workers are teamed up in the office so they can rely on each other to answer questions," explained Proulx. She said they will continue to meet quarterly with supervisors and periodically with workers to see how the new system is functioning. "Getting people to buy into it and bringing them to a common ground were the biggest glitches," said Proulx. "People are starting to see the value--that it's much better for families." Proulx noted that foster and adoptive parents were enlisted to share their insights and reactions to the combined recruitment materials that are in development.
Support from the Children's Bureau
Patsy Buida of the Children's Bureau is a strong supporter of dual licensing. As the former foster care manager in Texas when dual licensing was being implemented, she gained first hand insight. "It's a tool to maximize use of resource families in a flexible way that lets them decide how to interface with the system and what type of parenting fits their lifestyle--short-term foster care or long-term adoption," said Buida.
Dual licensing also opens up options for birth families. "It allows for the opportunity to meet ASFA timeframes in working with biological families and resource families and coming up with a long-term commitment to the child," said Buida. She finds that it often sets up a situation where birth families build trust and comfort with foster providers resulting in their granting immediate termination and possibly an open adoption. As an example, in a grant-funded program in Texas, foster parents acted as trainers for birth parents about what to expect from the agency, courts, case planning, and other processes. "Foster parents can become a positive ally and model to birth families," said Buida. She recalled one case, in which the non-abusing, birth father relinquished custody after receiving training from the foster mother in caring for his medically fragile child and deciding a better plan was to let go.
Buida cautioned that parameters need to be carefully set up when introducing dual licensing so that all the staff, resource families, and birth families involved have clear expectations and conflicts are avoided. Also, workers need to overcome their fears. "People think adoption and foster care are two bodies of knowledge and that you can't transition your skills," said Buida. However, she learned from personal experience that a lot of skills overlap in assessing and supporting families.
Although only a handful of States has fully implemented dual licensing, Buida finds that more and more States recognize the need. "This is a tool that can be used in quite a variety of different ways."
Oregon State Office for Services to Children and Families
HSB 2nd Floor South, 500 Summer Street, N.E.
Salem, OR 97310
Phone: (503) 945-5677
Fax: (503) 945-6969
Texas Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)
Janis Brown (Div Manager. Fed.& State Support)
701 West 51st Street, Mail Code E-558, PO Box 149030
Austin, TX 78714-9030
Phone: (512) 438-3412
Fax: (512) 438-3782
Colorado Department of Human Services
Child Welfare Services
1575 Sherman Street, 2nd Floor
Denver, CO 80203-1714
Phone: (303) 866-3209
Fax: (303) 866-4629
Arizona Department of Economic Security
Administration for Children & Families, Region IX
Site Code 940A, PO Box 6123, 1789 West Jefferson
Pheonix, AZ 85005
Phone: (602) 542-2431
Fax: (602) 542-3330
Maine Department of Human Services
221 State Street, State House
Augusta, ME 04333
Phone: (207) 287-5060
Fax: (207) 287-5282
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
330 C St.,SW
Washington, DC 20447
Phone: (202) 205-8769
URL : http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb
For a related article about the partnership between the Casey National Center for Resource Family Support and the National Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning to survey States on dual assessment, see "NRC for Foster Care and Permanency Planning Partners With Casey Family Programs" in this issue of the Children's Bureau Express.
Visit the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse website for a factsheet on Foster Parent Adoption: What Professionals Should Know at: http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/f_fospro/index.cfm.
- Benefits of Using Non-Judicial Staff to Aid Dependency Courts
Learn about ways that non-judicial court staff can help courts more quickly achieve permanency for children in an article by the ABA Center on Children and the Law (http://www.abanet.org/child/ courtstaffing.html).
Center staff studied the responsibilities of non-judicial court staff in several courts around the country. Although the study was not exhaustive, they found some promising practices in increasing dependency courts' effectiveness and efficiency. Non-judicial court staff as used in this article excludes judges and magistrates and includes people who work either inside or outside chambers and perform tasks for the court, even though they may not be employed for the court. Their research focused on the following activities:
- Innovative docketing practices
- On-site drug, alcohol assessments, and paternity screening
- Deadline tracking on individual cases
- Providing early case information to the judge
- Creating and distributing court orders
- Scheduling hearings and noticing parties
- Pre-appointment of counsel as a means to improved outcomes.
The authors discuss the benefits of each practice. They conclude that the examples they found "demonstrate that small changes in procedure have the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of children in the child welfare system and their families."
To share information about innovative efforts related to responsibilities of non-judicial court staff, contact:
ABA Center on Children and the Law
740 15th St., NW
Washington, DC 20005-1009
Phone: (202) 662-1759
Fax: (202) 662-1755
For other ways dependency courts are improving services and making the experience more friendly to families, see these articles in past issues of the Children's Bureau Express:
- "National Videoconference Examines Model Court Practices in Abuse and Neglect Cases" (March 2000)
- "Model Courts are Models for Change" (May 2000)
- "California Courts Produce Activity Book for Kids" (July 2000)
- "California Guides Parents Through Dependency Courts" (July 2000)
- To Grandmother's House We Go and Stay: Perspectives on Custodial GrandparentsSpringer Series on Lifestyles and Issues in Aging. Cox, C. B. (Editor) Springer Publishing Company, Inc. 2000. 347 pages, $44.95.
As more grandparents assume responsibility for raising their grandchildren, experts work to develop policies and interventions to support them. In this book social workers, lawyers, psychologists, and other professionals report on issues facing grandparent caregivers, and present their research findings:
- Why more grandparents are rearing grandchildren
- Profiles of grandparent caregivers in the United States
- Health, social support, psychological costs, and risks of grandparent caregiving
- Welfare reform, legal status issues, and permanency planning
- Grandparents raising children affected by HIV/AIDS and incarceration
- Support groups, empowerment, schooling, and community interventions.
To purchase a copy, contact:
Springer Publishing Company, Inc.
New York, NY 10012-3955
- Funding Reference Source for Preventing High-Risk Behaviors Among Youth
States, local governments, and non-profit organizations seeking Federal dollars now have a comprehensive guide available to lead them through the funding maze of youth intervention programs.
Developed by the Institute for Youth Development (IYD), the two-volume set focuses on the five major risk behaviors facing youth today: alcohol, drugs, sex, tobacco, and violence. IYD staff compiled a listing of 135 Federal funding sources in 10 Federal agencies.
Volume I, released last year, profiles grants exclusively through the Department of Health and Human Services. The recently published Volume II provides information on all other cabinet-level departments and agencies. An overview of the departments, their missions, and areas of emphasis are included to help the reader narrow their search.
"This is a manual, not a catalogue, in that it helps the reader to build a funding strategy, not simply look up funding sources," commented IYD President Shepherd Smith. "The reader begins by identifying all potential federal grants targeting a particular area of concern, and then is walked through all of the details necessary to apply."
In addition to specific funding programs, the manual features:
- How to write a grant proposal
- Requirements and provisions related to grant recipients
- Explanation of Federal acronyms
- Glossary of terms used
- Regional and State contacts for programs listed
- Additional resources
- Charts showing grant eligibility and four-year funding levels for all programs.
Volume I of The Federal Grants Manual for Youth Programs is available for $49 (384 pages); Volume II for $79 (500 pages). The two-volume set is available for $120 with discounts for multiple orders. Contact IYD at 703-471-8750 or visit http://www.youthdevelopment.org/booklist.asp?Category= Reference for more information.
- Web Links for Child Advocates
On its website, the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law has published a list of links that may be of interest to child advocates.
This index contains short descriptions and links to a wide variety of groups from private foundations and organizations to State and Federal government agencies.
The sites listed cover a broad range of issues relating to children, including:
- Sexual abuse of children
- Current law and legislation relating to the welfare of children
- Government programs for children
- Children and the court system
- Parental rights
- Violence against children
- Foster care
- Child health.
The list is available online at: http://www.abanet.org/child/links.html.
- Adoption and Prenatal Alcohol and Drug Exposure: Research, Policy, and Practice
Barth, R. P.; Freundlich, M.; Brodzinsky, D. (Editors). Child Welfare League of America; Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. 2000. 302 pages. $28.95.
As the impact of prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs continues to reverberate through the child welfare system, researchers have had the opportunity to chart long-term outcomes for these children. The effects on children's brain development, physical capabilities, and lifelong health are explored here, along with other issues that arise within the families who foster and adopt these children. Some highlights include:
- The impact of prenatal substance exposure for newborns
- Effect of fetal alcohol exposure on adult psychopathology
- Alcohol-related disorders and international adoption
- Attachment issues for adopted infants
- Emerging legal issues in the adoption of drug-exposed infants.
Contains 30 tables and figures.
To purchase a copy, contact:
Child Welfare League of America, Inc.
P.O. Box 2019
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-2019
- Resources for Survivors of Child Abuse
Child abuse survivors and anyone who wants to better understand the effects of and recovery from child abuse can access resources on the E-magazine for children's advocates, Best Interests (http://www.childadvocacy.com).
The site lists recommended books, including guides for women survivors of child sexual abuse and their partners. An excerpt from another recommended book, Becoming One: A Story of Triumph Over Multiple Personality Disorder, reveals author Sarah E. Olson's personal insight into dissociation following severe childhood trauma. The site also features links to recommended websites pertaining to survivors of child abuse.
- Working With Children and Families Separated by Incarceration: A Handbook for Child Welfare Agencie
Wright, L. E.; Seymour, C. B. Child Welfare League of America Press. 2000. 143 pages. $18.95
More than 1.9 million children in the U.S. have a parent in prison or have had a parent in prison at some point in their lives. They have been separated from their parents and often placed in the child welfare system. The authors' goals for this handbook are to:
- Make the child welfare community aware of the needs of children whose parents are incarcerated
- Inform child welfare agency organizations and caseworkers of the need for policies and programs that respond to these children's needs
- Emphasize the importance of agency collaboration to help children and families separated by incarceration
- Provide suggestions for improving case management and permanency planning for children with parents in prison
- Encourage caseworkers to use this opportunity to assess at-risk children and families, identify broader family issues, and engage in comprehensive intervention.
This publication is a product of CWLA's Children With Parents in Prison Initiative, accessible online at: http://www.cwla.org/programs/incarcerated.
Limited complimentary copies available. To order, contact:
Child Welfare League of America, Inc.
P.O. Box 2019
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-2019
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.
- Treating Sexually Abused Boys: A Practical Guide for Therapists and Counselors
Camino, L. Jossey-Bass Publishers. 2000. 280 pages. $34.95.
Lisa Camino has spent the past fifteen years developing treatment programs for sexually abused boys. Here she offers clinical guidelines for addressing the unique needs of these boys, along with exercises and activities that can be applied in individual and group therapy settings. These exercises and techniques are specifically designed to help sexually abused boys overcome feelings of helplessness, fear, and vulnerability and regain a sense of personal power. She covers:
- The initial assessment
- Individual and group therapy
- Working with parents and significant adults
- Handling challenges
- Structured activities to use in therapy
- Nine therapeutic interventions.
Contains 50 activities, nine interventions, and references and resources.
To purchase a copy, contact:
350 Sansome St., 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
- Risking Connection: A Training Curriculum for Working With Survivors of Childhood AbuseSaakvitne, K. W.;Pearlman, L. A.;Gamble, S.;Lev, B. T. Sidran Press. 2000. 312 pages. $75.00.
Professionals who work with survivors of severe childhood trauma and abuse have realized the need for more specialized training. This curriculum consists of five modules that address:
- Understanding trauma and the effects of traumatic abuse
- Forming a therapeutic alliance with the client
- General principles of crisis management with survivor clients
- Working with dissociation
- Vicarious traumatization.
Includes four appendices, an annotated bibliography, index, references, forms, and worksheets.
To purchase a copy, contact:
2328 W. Joppa Rd., Suite 15
Lutherville, MD 21093
- Representing Parents in Child Welfare Cases: A Basic Introduction for Attorneys
Rauber, D. B; Granik, L. A. American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law. 2000. 80 pages. $8.95 paperback.
When a child is removed from the home for protection from abuse and neglect, and reunification is not possible, the parents may find themselves facing termination of parental rights proceedings. This 80-page booklet is a general guide for the attorney who represents the parent(s) in these proceedings. It covers:
- The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997
- The responsibilities and duties of the attorney
- Relevant laws and recent reforms
- The most typical terminology
- The essence of the court process.
A bibliography, Federal statutes and regulations, and other resources are included.
To purchase a copy, contact:
ABA Publications Orders
PO Box 10892
Chicago, IL 60610-0892
- Empowering Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Training Manual for Group Leaders
Cox, C. B. Springer Publishing Company, Inc. 2000. 142 pages. $30.95.
Grandparents who have accepted the task of raising their grandchildren often need assistance navigating the child welfare system, refining parenting skills, and becoming informed of legal and entitlement issues. The author presents training sessions focused on these issues, as well as:
- Communicating with children
- Dealing with problem behaviors
- Teaching their grandchildren about sex, HIV, and drugs
- Helping the child cope with grief and loss
- Developing advocacy skills
- Helping children build self-esteem.
To purchase a copy, contact:
Springer Publishing Company, Inc.
New York, NY 10012-3955
- The Sexualized Child in Foster Care: A Guide for Foster Parents and Other Professionals
Hoyle, S. G. Child Welfare League of America. 2000. 117 pages. $14.95.
Foster parents and mental health professionals often struggle to care for and treat children who have been sexually abused. This practical guide provides information, training tips, and a wide range of resources for helping these children and promoting normal development, while reducing sexual acting out. Chapters cover:
- Sex and sexuality
- A discussion of normal sexual behavior
- The signs and symptoms of sexual abuse
- Assessment and treatment of sexual abuse
- Coping with sexually aggressive children in foster care
- Understanding the emotion cost of working with sexually traumatized children.
A bibliography, list of resources, and references are provided.
To purchase a copy, contact:
Child Welfare League of America, Inc.
P.O. Box 2019
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-2019