News From the Children's Bureau
- Improving Head Start: A Common Cause
Improving Head Start: A Common Cause
Wade F. Horn, Ph.D.
Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
President Bush has made managing for results a guiding principle of his Administration since its inception. In accordance with that principle, we are working to make sure that we measure the outcomes of our efforts, not merely the processes and procedures that make up each of our programs. In the end, the most important indicator of any program's efficacy is whether it is, in fact, helping the people it is intended to help. Nowhere is this truer than for Head Start.
Although the Head Start program has been shown to have many benefits for parents and children, we need to do a better job of determining how well Head Start children across the country are being prepared for academic success once they enter school. In line with this, the President's "Good Start, Grow Smart" initiative challenges us to improve the operational effectiveness of Head Start programs by developing a systematic nationwide approach to assessing every child's school readiness. I believe that this initiative offers Head Start programs the opportunity both to showcase their achievements and to ensure that every child in Head Start develops the full range of skills he or she needs to succeed in school and in life.
To meet the President's challenges we are pursuing several approaches. The first effort, STEP (Strategic Teacher Education Program), launched last summer, is a comprehensive professional development program aimed at training Head Start teachers and child care administrators in the latest research on how to enhance children's early literacy, language, and math skills. STEP-trained teachers will return to their classrooms and become mentor-trainers for their colleagues, creating an ever-widening circle of better-trained teachers.
Yet, as vital as excellent training is for improving the Head Start program, it is not enough to stop there. To show our commitment to attaining positive outcomes for children, we are instituting a new outcomes-oriented national reporting system. This system will employ a common, core set of measures that will allow us to determine whether or not the children that Head Start serves are developing the early literacy, language, and math skills they need to be successful in school.
One of the strengths of the Head Start program is its local diversity, and we have no intention of diminishing the ability of local Head Start agencies to design programs to meet local needs. Local programs, for example, will be able to continue to use whatever curriculum and child assessment systems they currently employ that are tailored for their community's unique needs. However, it is only by establishing a common core of outcome measures, administered by each Head Start program in the same way, that we will be able to evaluate how well all Head Start children are doing and help them do better.
In developing this outcomes-oriented system, we will include only reliable and valid measurement tools that have been thoroughly tested and that take into account cultural, socio-economic, and linguistic differences. Where no such reliable and valid measurement instruments exist, we will enlist the best researchers to develop and refine them before including them in the outcomes-oriented reporting system. The goal is to include only those assessment tools that are reliable and valid for use with economically disadvantaged 4-year-old children.
Some have reacted to news of this approach with the fear that we intend to use the national reporting system as a "pass-fail" test for grantees. This is just not the case. Rather, the purposes of the system are first, to help with educational planning, and second, to identify which programs may need additional training and technical assistance to achieve good outcomes for children. If a particular program is not achieving the kinds of results we all want for children enrolled in Head Start, the response will not be to de-fund the grantee, but to provide intensive assistance designed to increase the capacity of that program to help children achieve good outcomes. Of course, despite all our efforts a particular program may be unable to produce good outcomes for its children. As prudent managers, we would take that into account along with other factors examined during our normal monitoring process. In some cases, we may determine that a different agency would be in a better position to deliver effective Head Start services. This approach is not a departure from procedures already in place to monitor how well grantees are performing.
I am also aware that some fear this system will become the equivalent of an entrance exam for kindergarten. Again, absolutely not. Yes, the information gathered by this system can--and should--be used to help children make the transition from Head Start to kindergarten. But it should never be used--and will not be used--to determine whether or not a child should be enrolled in kindergarten in the first place.
Recently, I was asked by a reporter when I anticipated we would start "de-funding" Head Start programs as a consequence of this new outcomes-oriented reporting system. My answer: I hope it will be never. That's because I am confident that this new outcomes-oriented system will be an effective tool in helping Head Start deliver quality services to children. Delivering quality services to economically disadvantaged children is what Head Start is all about. Working together, we will continue to do just that.
Read more about outcomes of Early Head Start and preschool programs in the upcoming (March 2003) issue of Children's Bureau Express (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov).
- QICs Define Regions, Topics of Focus
QICs Define Regions, Topics of Focus
Having completed needs assessments and identified topics of interest for their regions, the four Quality Improvement Centers (QICs) in the areas of child protective services (CPS) and adoption, implemented under cooperative agreements awarded by the Children's Bureau, are proceeding to the next phases of their projects.
The purpose of the QICs (three CPS and one adoption) is to promote knowledge development with the overarching goal of improving child welfare services. The QICs represent an experiment by the Children's Bureau to examine the feasibility and benefits of increasing regional involvement in designing and managing research and demonstration efforts. During the first year of their projects, the QICs collected data and identified topics of focus, with input from a regional advisory group and with Federal approval. During years 2 through 4, the QICs will fund, monitor, and evaluate research or demonstration projects. They will disseminate findings during year 5.
More information about the QICs, their self-defined regions, and accomplishments can be found on the following websites:
Rocky Mountain QIC (American Humane Association)
Region: AZ, CO, ID, WY
Website: http://www.americanhumane.org/site/ PageServer?pagename=pc_best_practice_rmqic_homepage
Key Contacts: Myles Edwards (303-925-9419) and Kim Murphy (303-792-9900)
Topic of focus: test programs or practice models that are designed to strengthen families who struggle with both child abuse/neglect and substance abuse problems.
Southern Regional QIC for Child Protection (University of Kentucky Research Foundation, College of Social Work)
Region: AL, AR, GA, KY, LA, MO, MS, SC, TN, WV
Key Contacts: Chris Groeber (859-257-7156) and Crystal Collins (859-257-5476)
Topic of focus: study supervisory enhancement of worker skill in assessment and the application of that data to case planning and targeted interventions.
Frontline Connections (University of Washington School of Social Work, Northwest Institute for Children and Families)
Region: AK, OR, WA
Key Contacts: Katharine Cahn (206-685-1675) and Indra Trujillo (206-696-3823)
Topic of focus: implement and evaluate promising culturally appropriate interventions that increase the capacity of the system to engage parents, kin, and communities of Native American or African American families involved with CPS due to child neglect.
QIC on Adoption (United Methodist Services of Virginia)
Key Contacts: Jackie Burgeson (804-353-4461, ext. 1301) and Katherine Mayo (804-353-4461, ext. 1303)
Topic of focus: what is the impact on the adoption of children from foster care when services are delivered by specially trained staff in a private agency in collaboration with a public child welfare system?
Read more about the QIC Initiative on the Children's Bureau website at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/tta/index.htm#qips.
- National Resource Center on Child Maltreatment
National Resource Center on Child Maltreatment
The National Resource Center on Child Maltreatment (NRCCM) is a service of the Children's Bureau and a key member of the Technical Assistance and Consultation network for the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs). A collaborative effort between the Child Welfare Institute based in Duluth, Georgia, and Action for Child Protection based in Aurora, Colorado, the NRCCM helps States, Tribes, and local child protective services (CPS) agencies build their capacity to assess and respond to children and families. Its objectives are to:
- Identify, develop, and promote the application of practice strategies and models.
- Identify and facilitate essential connections for a coordinated and integrated response to child maltreatment.
- Bolster the capabilities of managers, supervisors, and caseworkers by providing direct consultation, technical assistance, and training.
The NRCCM's Leadership Initiatives study and develop the state of the art in areas of high priority to State, county, and Tribal child welfare services agencies. Leadership Initiatives bring a rigorous, collaborative approach to effectively addressing undeveloped or underdeveloped policy, program, and practice areas and produce concept clarification, guidelines, recommendations, training content, and intervention options. They attempt to focus the efforts of child welfare services, avoiding duplication and bringing practical assistance to today's challenges.
The Leadership Initiative on Recurrence of Maltreatment focuses attention on those circumstances of maltreatment and intervention that are most important to reducing recurrence. NRCCM hopes to illuminate how the CFSR recurrence measure is likely to be impacted by changes to CPS policy, information systems, and programs. The expectation is that this Leadership Initiative will be helpful to States in developing a viable and balanced Program Improvement Plan (PIP) in this area. From this Leadership Initiative, the NRCCM in late January published and distributed Child Maltreatment Recurrence, a review of research findings on recurrence, exploration of the limitations of the recurrence measures, examination of the Federal recurrence outcome indicator and the recurrence standard, and strategies for program improvement. A supplemental publication on recurrence of maltreatment will follow later in the year.
For more information about the NRCCM, including how to order publications, visit their Website: http://nrccm.gocwi.org/publications.html. (Editor's note: this link is no longer available.)
Child Welfare Research
- <em>Right on Course</em> Helps Teachers Understand Effects of Child Maltreatment and Trauma
<em>Right on Course</em> Helps Teachers Understand Effects of Child Maltreatment and Trauma
An essential aspect of a teacher's job is to understand the effects of maltreatment and trauma on children and their impact on development; however, guidance around these issues is not always easy to find. A new handbook, Right on Course: How Trauma and Maltreatment Impact Children in the Classroom, and How You Can Help, can help teachers learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of maltreatment and trauma, understand the role of teachers in the child protection system, and craft classroom environments, activities, and experiences to maximize learning and facilitate the healing process.
Right on Course contains facts and statistics, real-life case studies, and question-and-answer segments. It is available for $35.00 from Civitas, a national, not-for-profit communication group benefiting children.
More information about Right on Course can be found at http://www.civitas.org/right_on_course.html.
Read more about the Role of Teachers in Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect in the April 2002 issue of the Children's Bureau Express (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov).
- New Findings from Longitudinal Study Show Adoption Openness Results in Greater Birth Mother Satisfac
New Findings from Longitudinal Study Show Adoption Openness Results in Greater Birth Mother Satisfac
Open adoptions work well for most birth mothers who have participated in them, according to the most recent findings from a national longitudinal study. The researchers, Dr. Ruth McRoy of the University of Texas at Austin and Dr. Harold Grotevant of the University of Minnesota, say study findings suggest that while the level of openness should be decided on a case-by-case basis, adoption should be viewed as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event.
Other findings regarding birth mothers included:
- Birth mothers in direct, ongoing contact with the adoptive family report greater satisfaction with openness, lower levels of grief about the placement, and more satisfaction with their role in the adopted child's life.
- Many birth mothers in confidential adoptions were either actively seeking information or actively providing updated information later in their children's adoptions, in some cases as long as 21 years after the placement.
- Almost 40 percent of the birth mothers experienced a change in openness level from Wave 1 of the study (1987-1992) to Wave 2 (1995-2000). Of those, 58 percent had more openness and 42 percent had less openness.
The recent study is part of the larger Minnesota Texas Adoption Research Project (MTARP), the only nationwide longitudinal study of its kind. Researchers have surveyed and interviewed adoptive families and birth mothers from 35 adoption agencies across the United States involved in adoptions with a range of confidentiality or openness. A total of 720 participants (169 birth mothers, 190 adoptive mothers, 190 adoptive fathers, and 171 children) have been interviewed over 13 years (from 1987 to 2000).
More information about the most recent findings regarding birth mothers can be found on the University of Texas website at: http://www.utexas.edu/opa/news/02newsreleases/ nr_200210/nr_adoption021007.html.
For more information regarding the MTARP study, its conclusions, and the many publications resulting from this study, visit the MTARP website at: http://fsos.che.umn.edu/mtarp/default.html.
For more information on openness in adoption, read the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse fact sheet and bulletin, Open Adoption (http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/f_openadopt.cfm and http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/f_openadoptbulletin.cfm).
- Infant Homicide Rates Continue to Rise
Infant Homicide Rates Continue to Rise
According to a recent Child Trends DataBank report, between 1970 and 1990 the annual infant homicide rate rose from 4.3 to 8.4 deaths per 100,000 children under age 1. By the year 2000, that rate had reached 9.1 deaths per 100,000 children. Infant homicide rates now rival those of teenagers (currently 9.6 deaths per 100,000).
Homicide is the leading cause of injury death among infants. Half of the infant homicides occur by the fourth month of life, and the risk of homicide is highest on the day of birth--usually occurring at the hands of the infant's mother.
Males are more likely than females to be killed during the first year of life: 10.3 per 100,000 for boys and 7.8 per 100,000 for girls. Non-Hispanic blacks are substantially more at risk of infant homicide than other races. In 2000, non-Hispanic blacks had an infant homicide rate of 25.6 deaths per 100,000 children, while non-Hispanic whites had a rate of only 6.0 per 100,000.
The DataBank report indicated that the circumstances surrounding the child's birth are key factors in infant homicide. For example, among homicides on the first day of life, 95 percent of the victims were not born in a hospital. Maternal risk factors also play an important role in infant homicide. Among them are:
- Second or subsequent infant born to an unmarried teenage mother.
- An initial prenatal visit after the 6th month of pregnancy or no prenatal care.
- A history of mental illness.
- 12 or fewer years of education.
- Premature birth.
The full report can be found on the Child Trends DataBank website at http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/indicators/72InfantHomicide.cfm.
For more information about infant mortality, contact:
National Fetal Infant Mortality Review (NFIMR)
Kathleen Buckley, MSN, CNM, Director
For more information about infant homicide, see the June 2001 issue of CBX for "CDC Analyzes Statistics on Infant Homicides."
- National Leadership Symposium on Siblings in Out-of-Home Care Presents Recommendations, Outlines Nex
National Leadership Symposium on Siblings in Out-of-Home Care Presents Recommendations, Outlines Nex
On May 19-20, 2002, the Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support and the Florida-based Neighbor to Family Program co-sponsored the National Leadership Symposium on Siblings in Out-of-Home Care. Symposium participants discussed issues affecting brothers and sisters in foster, kinship, and adoptive placements. The gathering of foster care alumni, child welfare practitioners and policy makers, legal experts, resource families, and researchers discovered there is a lack of factual information regarding siblings in out-of-home care and that myths about siblings in placement still flourish.
Outcomes from the symposium included recommendations in the following areas:
- Best Interests. It is essential to place children with siblings and maximize their ability to maintain all family and community connections. Agencies must do a better job of recruiting and supporting resource families who are willing, able, and prepared to care for sibling groups.
- Definition of "Sibling." The concept of "sibling" should be expanded to cover connections through blood, adoption, or affinity and should include both actual (legal) siblings or "fictive" siblings—adults with whom children have connections based not on blood, but on caring relationships.
- Siblings Who Are Separated. When siblings are separated, they should be given the opportunity to know who their siblings are and where they are living. Resource families should facilitate communication and visits between siblings.
- Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being. Keeping family groups together (providing that the safety of none of the children is compromised) is part of Permanency Outcome 2 of the Federal Child and Family Services Reviews—the continuity of family relationships and connections are preserved for children.
Symposium participants are committed to continuing the efforts to gather meaningful data, develop a clearer understanding of the issues, make recommendations for public policy changes, and lead a public will-building campaign to improve outcomes for siblings in out-of-home care.
Transcripts from the symposium, background information, and presentations are available on the Casey Family Programs website at www.casey.org/Resources/Archive/Publications/SiblingSymposium.htm.
Strategies and Tools for Practice
- States Employ Innovative Strategies to Recruit Resource Families
States Employ Innovative Strategies to Recruit Resource Families
In fiscal year 2000, 61 percent of children adopted from the child welfare system were adopted by nonrelative foster parents, according to Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) estimates. While undoubtedly positive for children, this statistic highlights the need for rigorous recruitment efforts if State child welfare systems are to refresh the pool of available resource families (foster and adoptive families willing to serve as permanent caregivers for children). A new paper published by the Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support highlights the unique recruitment and retention efforts of eight States and suggests promising approaches that may help other child welfare systems striving to meet this challenge.
Using case studies from Minnesota, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, Alaska, Missouri, Utah, and New Jersey, the paper offers strategies for developing targeted recruitment messages, using performance-based contracting, implementing innovative recruitment initiatives, and improving retention. Efforts have paid off with positive outcomes for waiting children. For example:
- Through data-driven, community-specific recruitment efforts focused around specific children awaiting homes, Utah experienced a significant increase in the number of resource families.
- Hillsborough County, Kentucky instituted a policy requiring a personal visit or telephone call within 2 days of an inquiry by a prospective family. This improved the County's "response rate" (the number of interested families who followed through by attending an orientation) by nearly 15 percent.
- In Illinois, partnerships with corporations and with the faith community have met with success in increasing the pool of potential resource families. The corporate program resulted in the licensing of nearly 50 families in the first year, with 16 children adopted or waiting for finalization. The State's "One Church One Child" program exceeded its fiscal year 2001 goal to find and register 100 African American families seeking to become resource families.
The paper also offers more concrete lessons learned, such as:
- Recruitment messages must reflect the evolving role of the resource family as a support to the entire birth family, not just the child.
- Recruitment efforts are enhanced by strong relationships with high profile, influential community members.
- Structured partnerships with private nonprofit providers can strengthen efforts.
- Retention is recruitment--existing resource families must be supported.
The full paper and an executive summary are available on the Casey Family Programs website at http://www.casey.org/Resources/Archive/Publications/RecruitmentRetentionResourceFamilies.htm.
Related Items in this Issue
Read about a new publication to help resource families take advantage of significant tax benefits in "Federal Tax Benefits for Resource Families."
- New Publications for Grandparents as Caregivers
New Publications for Grandparents as Caregivers
The Children's Defense Fund offers a series of guides designed specifically for grandparents as caregivers. Their most recent guide, The Grandparent's and Other Relative Caregiver's Guide to Child Care and Early Education Programs, provides the basics about child care programs including how to choose the right program and how to get help paying for it. Other guides in the series include Grandparents' Guide to Food and Nutrition Programs and Grandparents' Guide to Raising Children with Disabilities. The first copy of each guide is free and can be ordered by calling Della Hoffman at the Children's Defense Fund at 202-662-4568 or via email at: email@example.com.
- New Regulations Proposed for Funding Faith-Based Organizations
New Regulations Proposed for Funding Faith-Based Organizations
HHS has proposed new regulations to clarify the rights and requirements for religious organizations that use HHS funds in delivering human services. The proposed regulations, announced in December, build on earlier HHS efforts to help smaller faith- and community-based organizations access federal funds.
Some of the regulations specify:
- Faith-based organizations cannot be excluded from competition for federal funds simply because they are religious.
- Religious organizations that receive federal funds must serve all eligible participants, regardless of those persons' religious beliefs.
- Religious organizations that receive federal funds may continue to carry out their missions, including maintaining a religious environment and taking religion into account when making employment decisions.
- Religious organizations may not use direct program funds to support any inherently religious activities. These activities must be offered separately from the HHS-funded programs or services.
The new regulations affect several HHS programs, including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and the Community Services Block Grant. HHS is accepting comments on the proposed regulations through February 18, 2003. To read and submit comments regarding the TANF proposed regulations, visit the ACF website at www.acf.hhs.gov/hypernews/topics21.htm (Editor's note: this link is no longer available). The proposed regulations for the Community Services Block Grant are available for review and comment on the ACF website at www.acf.hhs.gov/hypernews/topics22.htm (Editor's note: this link is no longer available).
Read "HHS Awards $30 Million from the Compassion Capital Fund" from the November 2002 issue of the Children's Bureau Express.
- Drug-Free Communities Support Program Offers Grants for Fiscal Year 2003
Drug-Free Communities Support Program Offers Grants for Fiscal Year 2003
The Drug-Free Communities Support Program announced the availability of 150 grants (of up to $100,000 each) to support community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth. The purpose of the grants is to:
- Reduce substance abuse among youth.
- Help community coalitions strengthen collaboration.
- Enhance intergovernmental collaboration, cooperation, and coordination.
- Enable communities to conduct data-driven, research-based prevention planning.
- Provide technical assistance, guidance, and financial support to communities.
To be eligible, coalitions must have been working together on youth substance abuse reduction for at least 6 months prior to submitting an application. Applications are due March 11, 2003; applicants must register by February 25. Funding announcements will be made by September 30, 2003. A series of regional workshops will be held in February to explain the application process.
Information about the grant program and application materials can be found on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention website at http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/grants/current.html#021231. (Editor's note: this link is no longer available.)
Find answers to frequently asked questions about the grant program at http://drugfreecommunities.samhsa.gov/history/dffaqs.html.
- Federal Tax Benefits for Resource Families
Federal Tax Benefits for Resource Families
Resource families (e.g., foster parents, adoptive parents, and kinship caregivers) are often unaware of federal tax laws that can make a big difference in their tax returns--sometimes as much as several thousand dollars. The Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support has published a tax year 2002 guide to help these families identify the tax benefits to which they are entitled.
The 19-page booklet is available online. Agencies are free to edit (by adding State tax information, for example), reproduce, and distribute copies to resource families and staff. Sample newsletter articles and check stuffers are also available. Similar guides are available for tax years 2001 and 2000. If resource families discover tax benefits they missed in prior years, they have up to 3 years to file an amended return.
Information on tax benefits can be found on the Casey Family Programs website, at http://www.casey.org/cnc/support_retention/federal_tax_benefits.htm. (This link is no longer available.)
The North American Council on Adoptable Children has released a one-page fact sheet on the adoption tax credit, worth up to $10,000 for parents who finalized the adoption of a child during tax year 2002. Download a copy of the fact sheet from their Website: www.nacac.org/pub_taxcredit.html.
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.
- News from the Child Welfare Training Resources Online Network: New Training Curricula Target Foster
News from the Child Welfare Training Resources Online Network: New Training Curricula Target Foster
Two new training packages from the Child Welfare Institute (CWI) are designed to help foster parents work more effectively with agencies to accomplish critical outcomes. Partnering for Safety and Permanence and Shared Parenting both focus on knowledge and skills needed by foster parents to help agencies address Child and Family Services Reviews outcomes related to safety, well-being, and timely permanence for children and youth who have been abused or neglected.
Developed in consultation with the National Foster Parent Association Board of Directors, and built upon CWI's experience with Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) programs, these training packages utilize realistic case examples to help new foster parents develop specific strategies, techniques, and plans to meet the challenges of foster parenting today.
Partnering for Safety and Permanence (PS) is designed to be used for foster parent selection and preparation. It focuses on building foster parents' abilities to meet the developmental, well-being, and safety needs of children and youth; to share parenting with a child's family; to support concurrent planning; and to meet their own family's needs in ways that ensure a child's safety and well-being. PS includes family and individual assessment and development tools to be used during nine meetings that comprise the 8-day training program. The package consists of a Leader's Guide, Participant Handbook, five companion videos, and an optional PowerPoint presentation. A Trainer's Guide is also available.
The Shared Parenting In-service Training Series is designed for use with PS or other foster parent/adoptive parent preparation programs. Its objective is to help foster parents create positive alignments and healthy boundaries with the parents of children in their care. Consisting of 19 modules or units which can be purchased individually or as a group, the Series addresses work with specific populations, such as adolescents or children whose parents are mentally ill, as well as techniques around critical issues, such as control issues in shared parenting or helping children manage anger or fear. Each module includes a Leader's Guide; diskettes containing the curriculum, handouts, and overheads; and the rights to modify or adapt all material to fit your agency's procedures and policies.
For more information about these training programs, visit the CWI site at http://www.gocwi.org/view_714733.html#practice or contact:
Child Welfare Institute
Thomas Morton (770) 935-8484, ext. 205 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathy Welsh (770) 935-8484, ext. 203 or email@example.com
For information on other training programs, visit the Child Welfare Training Resources (CWTR) Online Network at http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov/profess/workforce/index.cfm.