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March 2010Vol. 11, No. 2Spotlight on 10 Years of Child Welfare News

To mark our 10th anniversary issue, we're taking a look back at the last 10 years of child welfare—the trends and important happenings. We've included special articles from guest contributors as we explore some of the significant changes in the field.

Issue Spotlight

  • Key Themes in Child Welfare Legislation Since 2000

    Key Themes in Child Welfare Legislation Since 2000

    Since 2000, Federal child welfare legislation has shaped the delivery of State child welfare services by increasingly requiring the incorporation of innovative best practices into federally funded child welfare programs. Four Federal legislative themes demonstrate some of the overarching efforts to improve programs and services that ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of children.

    1. Ensuring Protection of Children in Foster Care. Increased requirements and guidelines were added to existing Federal child welfare legislation in the past decade to improve the safety of children in foster care:

    2. Supporting Older Foster Youth and Youth Aging Out of Care. Concern regarding the number of older youth remaining in foster care and long-term outcomes of youth aging out of foster care prompted legislative efforts to include federally funded programs and services designed to improve permanency and well-being of older youth in foster care:

    3. Focus on Child Well-Being Outcomes. Children in foster care often have multiple and complex issues that affect their well-being. Federal legislation has addressed the importance of improving outcomes of a child's physical, mental, and educational well-being:

    4. Reducing Barriers to Placing Children in Permanent Homes.  
      The movement to reduce barriers to permanency for children has encouraged the use of incentives and other strategies to find safe and nurturing placements and move children into legally permanent homes:

    For more information on Federal child welfare legislation, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

    www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/otherpubs/majorfedlegis.cfm

  • CBX Looks Back at a Decade of Child Welfare News

    CBX Looks Back at a Decade of Child Welfare News

    As Children's Bureau Express celebrates its 10th anniversary, a look back at the decade's worth of articles provides an interesting perspective on trends in child welfare. We've combed the archives to see what happened in research, policy, and practice over the last 10 years.

    Do you remember some of these events and issues?

    The year is 2000 . . .

    • President Clinton signs the Child Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Act.
    • The Children's Bureau posts Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) statistics on its website for the first time.
    • The Children's Bureau Express website debuts with the first issue of CBX.
    • Notable trend: Family Group Decision Making.

    2001 . . .

    • The National Family Caregiver Support Act provides support services to grandparents and older relatives raising grandchildren.
    • Neurons to Neighborhoods, the landmark study on early childhood development and public policy, is published.
    • Recruiting Latino foster and adoptive families is the focus of several Federal demonstration projects and State initiatives.
    • Notable trend: The link between childhood maltreatment and adult depression and mental illness.

    2002 . . .

    • The AdoptUsKids website launches with national photolistings of children available for adoption.
    • The first CFSR results are published.
    • The Heart Gallery traveling photo exhibit of waiting children debuts across New Mexico with great success.
    • Notable trend: Fatherhood and nonresident fathers.

    2003 . . .

    • A number of studies examine the impact of the Adoption and Safe Families Act on adoption from foster care.
    • Child welfare waiver demonstration projects show how title IV-E funds can be used to promote prevention and reunification.
    • For the first time, the Census Bureau releases information on numbers of adopted children.
    • Notable trend: Faith- and community-based organizations.

    2004 . . .

    • Some programs around the country begin to solicit input from youth in foster care for child welfare worker training (the "youth voice").
    • AdoptUsKids launches its new parent recruitment campaign with the slogan, "You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent."
    • For the first time, States are able to access Chafee funds for Education and Training vouchers for youth aging out of foster care.
    • Notable trend: Working with children of incarcerated parents.

    2005 . . .

    • In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, States begin to better prepare for natural and manmade disasters.
    • A number of studies examine how decisions made at several points in the child welfare system may contribute to unequal treatment for children of color.
    • Studies appear on the impact of methamphetamine on the child welfare system.
    • Notable trend: Education advocacy for children in foster care.

    2006 . . .

    • As evidence builds for the link between caseworker visits and positive outcomes for children in foster care, States review their standards for visits.
    • More studies show that older youth can benefit from staying in foster care until age 21.
    • Programs around the country look at ways to recruit and retain child welfare workers.
    • Notable trend: Evidence-based practice.

    2007 . . .

    • The Children's Bureau releases "Report to Congress on Interjurisdictional Adoption of Children in Foster Care."
    • The National Resource Center for Adoption creates the Minority Adoption Leadership Development Institute.
    • National Foster Care Month urges the public to "Change a Lifetime."
    • Notable trend: Cultural competence.

    2008 . . .

    • President Bush signs the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.
    • The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption enters into force for the United States.
    • National Child Abuse Prevention month focuses on strengthening families and communities.
    • Notable trend: Rural child welfare.

    2009 . . .

    • The Children's Bureau funds Regional Implementation Centers to help States implement systems change.
    • Carmen Nazario is confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families.
    • The National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence indicates that more than 60 percent of children were exposed to violence in the previous year.
    • Notable trend: Implementing Fostering Connections at the State level.
  • Trends in the Child Welfare Workforce

    Trends in the Child Welfare Workforce

    By Nancy S. Dickinson, Project Director, National Child Welfare Workforce Institute

    Concerns about the child welfare workforce revolve around the difficulties of recruiting and retaining qualified and committed staff and subsequent impact on organizational health and effectiveness. Additionally, there's mounting unease about widespread retirement among the most experienced child welfare leaders. While troubling, these trends have served as a wakeup call for action, characterized by the following developments. 

    • Increased visibility of child welfare workforce development initiatives. For decades, workforce development focused primarily on education and training through titles XX and IV-E and 426 funding. These approaches are necessary workforce development tactics, but they are not sufficient. Prompted by findings of the Child and Family Services Reviews, the Children's Bureau has endorsed a range of workforce development strategies through their funding of recruitment and retention projects beginning in 2003 and the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute in 2008.
    • Changing priorities of the contemporary workforce. The workforce is increasingly mobile, focused on work fulfillment and work/life balance, and motivated by professional aspirations rather than unquestioning organizational loyalty. "Emergent" child welfare workers are more likely to remain on the job when agencies recognize and facilitate good performance and support work/life balance. 
    • Increase in studies of retention and turnover. The focus of research on the correlates of retention and turnover has expanded from individual characteristics (human caring, self-efficacy, etc.) to organizational aspects (supervision, role clarity, creating a learning organization, etc.). The good news is that organizational factors can be changed in order to support effective workforce development. And we are beginning to test the effectiveness of interventions in stemming unwanted turnover.
    • Awareness of the link between workforce stability and client outcomes. Most concerning is research that shows a direct relationship between high rates of worker turnover and children experiencing significantly longer stays in foster care, repeat reports of neglect and abuse, and higher rates of foster care reentry. Testing interventions to increase retention will help to address these troubling outcomes. 
    • Contributions of recruitment and selection to workforce stability and performance. Recruiting and selecting the right people for the job reduces turnover and improves performance. For these reasons, agencies are increasingly implementing realistic recruitment strategies and competency-based selection approaches.
    •  Workforce development as an implementation tool. Testing and implementing evidence-informed practices rely on expert staff. The science of implementation suggests that staff be recruited, selected, and trained specifically for these new initiatives. And research shows that retention improves among staff who deliver evidence-informed practices, a trend that is consistent with what we know about emergent workers who value performance.

    In sum, workforce trends have led to the development of key workforce initiatives to enhance organizational effectiveness and improve outcomes for children, youth, and families.

    For information about the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, visit the website:

    www.ncwwi.org
     

  • Building Accountability in Child Welfare: The CFSRs

    Building Accountability in Child Welfare: The CFSRs

    The establishment of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) in 2000 marked the beginning of a new era in Federal monitoring and in State and agency accountability for child welfare services. While previous monitoring efforts, such as the Section 427 reviews, focused on process and paperwork, the CFSRs introduced the concept of conformity with specific desired outcomes for children and families. In fact, the leap from earlier types of reviews to the CFSRs involved the adoption of a number of significant changes, including:

    • A focus on practice and outcomes, including safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for children and families
    • Meaningful use of national data, including data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS)
    • Opportunities for States to improve through their individualized Program Improvement Plans (PIPs)
    • Inclusion of a wide variety of stakeholders, such as families and youth involved in the child welfare system and representatives from the courts, Tribes, State agencies, mental health services, law enforcement, foster care, education, and more

    What led to such dramatic changes in Federal monitoring of State child welfare systems? There was a general consensus by the 1990s that the monitoring and accountability processes in place at the time were not oriented to helping States achieve outcomes for children and families and did not provide Congress or the Federal agencies with clear information regarding State performance. In 1994, Amendments to the Social Security Act authorized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a new system to evaluate States for conformity to positive outcomes for children and families. The Children's Bureau was responsible for designing and conducting the reviews. In preparation, the Bureau consulted with a broad array of national stakeholders in the child welfare field about the best ways to carry out the new monitoring process. Focus groups and consultations were followed by 12 pilots of what would become the CFSRs. With each pilot study, the Bureau used State feedback to refine the review process.

    At the Children's Bureau headquarters and Regional Offices, the responsibility for the new monitoring process required the addition of new staff with more State child welfare experience and knowledge of the field, which was necessary to assist States in program improvement. A National Review Team was formed that spanned the divisions of the Children's Bureau and the Regional Offices to focus leadership for reviews in a concentrated group of staff. Since the first CFSRs in 2001, the review teams have always included members of the National Review Team, as well as State officials, State-designated stakeholders, and consultant reviewers drawn from a pool of reviewers with child welfare experience and training.

    The CFSRs had an additional, unanticipated impact at the national level: They provided a unifying direction for the Children's Bureau and its staff from all divisions. Staff were mobilized around this new monitoring process and the potential it had for improving real outcomes for children and families. Eventually, this was reflected in funding initiatives through discretionary grants and in the expansion of the Training and Technical Assistance Network. As the CFSR results pointed to areas of need (e.g., in-home services, caseworker visits), the Bureau was often able to direct discretionary funding toward programs and research to meet those needs.

    Throughout the implementation of the CFSRs, the Children's Bureau has continued to maintain its focus on achieving better outcomes for children and families and holding States accountable for these improved outcomes. While the first round of CFSRs (2001–2004) served as an initial assessment of States' performance on the CFSR outcomes and systemic factors, the second round of reviews (2007–2010) and second round of PIPs provide continuing opportunities for the CFSR process to have a positive impact on children and families. There is evidence in many cases that States have made improvements in their systems, and these improvements have often been reflected in measures associated with the safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes. Additional benefits have emerged, including the following:

    • States have become more effective at self-evaluation and at collecting and analyzing data to then make improvements in their practice.
    • Youth and the youth voice have become more prominent in child welfare policy and training at local and national levels.
    • The CFSR process has empowered frontline workers and supervisors by focusing on what practices they need to improve in their work with families.
    • Establishing and training a pool of consultant reviewers from around the country, as well as using State staff to review cases, has led to improved practices at the State and local level as reviewers take "lessons learned" from reviews back to their own States and local offices.
    • The child welfare field has developed more agreement around outcomes for children and families being served by child welfare.

    The last 10 years have seen enormous leaps forward not only in terms of more accurate Federal monitoring of State child welfare systems, but also in the real impact that the review process has had on child and family outcomes. Going forward, the goal of the CFSRs will continue to be helping States improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families involved with the child welfare system.

    Many thanks to Will Hornsby and Linda Mitchell, from the National Review Team, who contributed the content for this article.

  • A Decade of Technology in Child Welfare

    A Decade of Technology in Child Welfare

    By Lynda Arnold, Director, National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology

    In 2000, the first statewide automated child welfare systems (SACWIS) had been in place for a short period of time. It was also the first year of operation of a Children's Bureau resource center dedicated to assisting States with data and technology issues. It was the beginning of a huge cultural shift  in the way child welfare did business—from paper and pencil, volumes of files, desk cards, dictation, and "hand counts" to workers' inputting the information directly into a case management system. This gave workers immediate access to information, including case assignments, pending and completed services, and the entire child/family record.

    A major challenge was resistance from the workforce. Many staff had never turned on a computer, much less used one for work. Supervisors had the challenge of convincing their workforce to use this new technology and new way of doing business, even when they themselves often were hesitant and skeptical.

    These first systems were generally client-server based and slow, which added to the resistance from the workforce. Today, systems are increasingly web-based, faster, and more dynamic and may be integrated or interfaced with other agency/court systems. Today's workforce uses the latest technologies in their personal life and expects no less in their professional life. Real-time data are available throughout the organization to plan, manage, and monitor practice, programs, and service delivery.

    Child welfare has embraced many new technologies to improve services:

    • Cell phones have increased worker safety and given workers immediate access to supervision when in the field.
    • Distance-learning technologies have made training more accessible for the workforce and clients. 
    • Laptops and mobile devices make on-the-go case management possible.
    • Photolistings on websites have increased the options for finding families for children.
    • Geographic information systems (GIS) make instant mapping of client and foster parents possible and facilitate making placements close to the child’s own neighborhood and school. They may also be used for targeted recruitment efforts.
    • Global positioning systems (GPS) are improving efficiency in transportation. As networks grow, this technology has implications for worker and children’s safety.

    Some of the most exciting new technologies are the ones defined under web 2.0—interactive  technologies such as Facebook. As States implement the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD), keeping in touch with youth can be significantly enhanced by using networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, foursquare, and ooVoo to connect with youth in their own language. 

    We’ve come a long way in 10 years. Technology provides better accessibility and quality of services to clients, improved safety for workers and children, efficiencies in doing the work, and quality data for decision-making throughout the organization. However, no technology can take the place of skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable social workers who engage the families and youth with whom they work to achieve safety, permanency, and well-being.
     

    For information about the National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology, visit the website:

    www.nrccwdt.org/index.html

    Related Item

    AdoptUsKids' National Photolisting

    One of the most innovative and effective uses of new technology in child welfare over the last 10 years was the launch of AdoptUsKids' national photolisting of children awaiting adoption. The website debuted on July 23, 2002. In a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on that date, then-Secretary Tommy G. Thompson lauded the site, saying, "This site is an example of using technology for a very compassionate purpose—linking families with waiting children."

    In 1996, as part of the Adoption 2002 initiative, President Clinton had set a goal of doubling the number of adoptions and other permanent placements from the public child welfare system by 2002. To help reach that goal, in November 1998, the President directed HHS to expand the use of the Internet as a tool to link children in foster care more quickly with possible adoptive families.

    Since its debut, almost 12,000 children appearing in the AdoptUsKids photolisting have found families.

    www.adoptuskids.org

  • The Frontline Worker: Then and Now

    The Frontline Worker: Then and Now

    What's changed for the frontline child welfare worker over the last decade? Plenty! Laws, procedures, technology, resources, and more. While not every worker has access to all of the resources mentioned below, changes in both policy and practice have had an impact on all workers. See if you recognize some of the changes.

    20002010
    Inputting case information by handLaptops and PCs
    PagersCell phones                                    
    Paper desk calendarsMS Outlook calendar
    Less data collected for home studiesMore data collected for home studies
    Paper forms in the "form room"Online forms
    Polaroids to document abuse and neglectDigital and video cameras for documentation
    Kinship caregivers operating in isolationSupport groups and national organizations for kinship caregivers
    Hard copy resources gathered at conferences and from libraries, coworkers, trainers, and networkingOnline resources and libraries (but we still like those hard copies!)
    Less emphasis on finding fathers and paternal relativesFather engagement and family finding
    Educating the public about preventing child abuseEducating the public about strengthening families and communities
    Hard copy photo albums of children available for adoptionAdoption photolistings on the Internet
    Adoption and Safe Families ActFostering Connections
    Leaving work to attend trainingsOnline trainings                             

     

    One thing that hasn't changed: Frontline workers continue to provide invaluable services to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families.   

    Recent Issues

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    Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

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News From the Children's Bureau

Welcome to the 10th anniversary issue of Children's Bureau Express! This month, News From the Children's Bureau includes a welcome to our readers, announcement of the new ACYF Commissioner, as well as reports on the release of the NIS-4, a site visit to a CB-funded grantee, updates from the T&TA Network, and more.

  • Welcome to the CBX 10th Anniversary Issue!

    Welcome to the CBX 10th Anniversary Issue!

    For the past decade, Children's Bureau Express has brought you news, information, and resources on child welfare issues that are essential to the work you do. This anniversary issue gives us the opportunity to reflect on the many accomplishments that have been made over the past 10 years in the lives of children and families in the child welfare system. These successes range from launching the first national online photolisting of children for adoption to more effectively integrating data and technology into our work. It is with great pleasure that we celebrate the contributions that Children's Bureau Express has made to inform the field and encourage revolutionary thinking.  

    It is without question that we will continue to explore new information and implement new strategies in child welfare over the next decade. We hope that Children's Bureau Express will remain a source of valuable information that will help you make more monumental changes in the lives of children and families.

  • Samuels Confirmed as ACYF Commissioner

    Samuels Confirmed as ACYF Commissioner

    On February 12, the Senate confirmed Bryan H. Samuels to be the new Commissioner of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), which includes the Children's Bureau and the Family and Youth Services Bureau. Mr. Samuels has served as Chief of Staff for the Chicago public school system, as well as Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). While Director, he initiated a number of reforms that helped DCFS lower caseloads for workers, reduce the number of runaways, minimize the use of group homes and residential care, and cut the number of past due child protection investigations.

    Much of Mr. Samuels' commitment to helping children and youth stems from his own 11-year experience of growing up in a residential school for disadvantaged children. He went on to earn a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an M.A. from the University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy Studies. 

    To read the press release, visit the HHS website:

    www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/02/20100212c.html

  • New! On the Children's Bureau Site

    New! On the Children's Bureau Site

    The Children's Bureau website carries information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, Federal reporting, and much more. The "New on Site" section includes grant announcements, policy announcements, agency information, and recently released publications.

    Recent additions to the site include:

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

    www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb

  • Site Visit: Leadership Training for Community-Based Care Managers

    Site Visit: Leadership Training for Community-Based Care Managers

    To meet its goal of increasing leadership skills of mid-level managers in public and Tribal child welfare agencies, the National Child Welfare Leadership Institute (NCWLI) provided leadership training in regional settings to mid-level managers from across the country, including four members of the management team of the Sarasota YMCA Safe Families Coalition (the Coalition), a Community-Based Care (CBC) program serving three Florida counties. As one of the State's 22 CBC Lead Agencies, the Coalition manages subcontracts for case management services with three private agencies. Coalition managers participated in the leadership training with two goals in mind:

    • Building stronger relationships with their case management agencies in an effort to improve performance
    • Improving community connections to reflect a true CBC model

    At the time the leadership training began, the Coalition was undergoing downsizing and reorganization. A new management team had been put in place, and that team realized how the organization had moved away from the CBC model. The team members decided to pursue their goals of strengthening collaborative efforts and communication connections through a system change initiative that was aided by the NCWLI leadership training.

    As part of the NCWLI program, the four managers participated in two offsite training events and two implementation phases to pursue their system change goals. As a result of the training, the managers were able to fine-tune the initial system change concept and to identify achievable measures for documenting progress and assessing effectiveness of the initiative. They employed a variety of implementation strategies, including peer reviews, in-service training, discussions of performance measures, consensus building, internal case reviews, tracking systems, monthly management reports, and benchmarks.

    Collaboration with the case management agencies increased through the system change initiative. In addition, the monthly reports revealed that performance standards for child safety improved significantly as a result of the system change. Improvements were also seen in the percentage of children reunified within 12 months and in other areas. The likelihood of sustainability of these changes is high because of support from management in the YMCA and case management agencies, the improved performance measures, and the initiative's low cost.

    For more information on the NCWLI, visit the website:
    www.ncwli.org

    For information about the Coalition, contact Monique Myers, Director of Child Welfare Operations:
    mmyers@sarasota-ymca.org

    For more reports of visits to grantee sites, visit the Information Gateway website:
    www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/funding/funding_sources/cbreports.cfm

    Leadership training for the Sarasota YMCA Safe Families Coalition was provided by the National Child Welfare Leadership Institute, which is funded by the Children's Bureau, CFDA #93.648.This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.
     

  • Updates From the T&TA Network

    Updates From the T&TA Network

    The Children's Bureau's Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) Network continues to produce resources that can help States and Tribes in their work with children and families. Some recent resources are listed below:

    • The National Quality Improvement Center on the Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System has a new web address:
      www.ImproveChildRep.org

    • The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) has posted its 2010 schedule of teleconferences, which will address topics such as father engagement, runaways, secondary trauma, concurrent planning, and undocumented families:
      www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork/nrcfcpp/teleconferences/teleconference_schedule.html

    • The National Resource Center for Tribes, one of the two newest resource centers in the T&TA Network, has launched its website. In its first year, the NRC plans to conduct a national assessment of Tribal child welfare systems to better understand how to serve Tribal communities in the future.
      www.nrc4tribes.org

    • The National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues recently added publications to its Court Improvement Program (CIP) catalog:
      • A Caregiver's Guide to Dependency Court, by the Florida Office of Court Improvement
      • Legal Representation for Parents in Child Welfare Proceedings: A Performance-Based Analysis of Michigan Practice, by the American Bar Association Center for Children and the Law for the Child Welfare Services Division of the Michigan State Court Administrative Office
      • Guidelines for Achieving Permanency in Child Protection Proceedings, by the Michigan Department of Human Services, Michigan Child Welfare Resource Center, Michigan Association of CASA, Michigan Foster Care Review Board, and Michigan Indian Legal Services
      • Child Planning Conferences Best Practices and Procedures for Juvenile Abuse, Neglect and Dependency Cases in North Carolina, by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, Court Programs Division
      Abstracts for these documents and links to access them in full are available on the NRC's website:
      www.abanet.org/abanet/child/catmaterials/allcip.cfm  
  • Fourth National Incidence Study Shows Declines in Child Abuse

    Fourth National Incidence Study Shows Declines in Child Abuse

    The ACF Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation (OPRE) recently released the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. The NIS-4 includes national data on child maltreatment from 2005 and 2006. Compared to NIS-3 data, results show decreases in all categories of child abuse, including physical and sexual abuse. An increase was found in emotional neglect, however, which may be partially related to agencies' increased focus on domestic violence and substance abuse, which are involved in certain types of emotional neglect.

    In collecting national statistics on child maltreatment, NIS includes not only children whose victimization was substantiated by child protective services (CPS) workers, but also children whose victimization was not reported to CPS or was not substantiated by CPS but was recognized by community professionals ("sentinels").The goal is to estimate more broadly the incidence of child maltreatment in the United States, as well as to collect demographic information on children and their families.

    NIS studies are conducted approximately every decade in fulfillment of requirements in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

    The full report to Congress, as well as a number of supplementary studies and related technical reports, are available on the OPRE website:

    www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/natl_incid/index.html

Child Welfare Research

Research from the child welfare field includes a look back at ASFA and articles on screening for prenatal substance exposure and testing a collaborative approach to family assessment.

  • Illinois' Integrated Assessment Process

    Illinois' Integrated Assessment Process

    The Illinois Integrated Assessment (IA) is a unique approach designed to meet behavioral, mental, and developmental health needs of the child welfare population and achieve positive outcomes for families involved with the child welfare system. Based on partnerships between caseworkers and licensed clinicians, the IA process uses comprehensive family assessment data obtained through various information-gathering activities to help determine the level of services needed by families.

    The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago recently released a report on the IA process, Family Assessment in Child Welfare: The Illinois DCFS Integrated Assessment Program in Policy and Practice. The report draws on data from statewide databases and interviews with frontline workers to determine how well the model has been implemented since its introduction across the State in 2005.

    The report notes a number of challenges to implementation:

    • Meeting the 45-day timeframe to complete the IA
    • Including licensed clinician screeners in family team meetings
    • Engaging fathers in the IA process
    • Incorporating IA recommendations in the service plan

    Over time, there was an increase in the percentage of cases meeting the 45-day timeframe and in the percentage of cases that included interviews with fathers.

    The report's recommendations focus on (1) adhering to the IA model and having the resources necessary to do so and (2) the transfer of learning opportunities between licensed clinicians and caseworkers that support caseworker professional development.

    Family Assessment in Child Welfare: The Illinois DCFS Integrated Assessment Program in Policy and Practice, by Cheryl Smithgall et al., is available on the Chapin Hall website:

    www.chapinhall.org/research/report/family-assessment-child-welfare-illinois-dcfs-integrated-assessment-program-policy-a
     

  • Screening and Responding to Prenatal Substance Exposure

    Screening and Responding to Prenatal Substance Exposure

    Prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs can negatively impact infant and child development and lead to poor outcomes for the child and family. An article published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review underscores the importance of screening for prenatal substance exposure and reviews the role of the child welfare field in responding to this issue.

    The authors reviewed a wide range of State policies and practices and found inconsistencies in the early detection of and response to prenatal substance exposure. Some factors hindering an effective response include the real or perceived costs of administering screening instruments, confusion over the responsibilities of different family-serving agencies, and disagreements regarding the appropriate response to parental substance abuse.

    The authors suggest that States can overcome some of these barriers by increasing the understanding of substance abuse issues among professionals working with pregnant women and families and training workers to use screening instruments during normal client visits. Universal screening for prenatal substance exposure has several potential benefits:

    • Most instruments are free or low cost and require minimal training to use.
    • Professionals can identify risks quickly and make treatment referrals as needed.
    • Screening across race and socioeconomic groups reduces the potential for bias.
    • Early identification and intervention can lead to better child and family outcomes and reduce the need for future services.

    The article reviews four common screening instruments and compares their effectiveness in detecting prenatal substance exposure. The authors make several suggestions to improve the screening instruments and advocate for their wider use across systems. By identifying prenatal substance exposure early and providing pregnant women and families with effective treatment options, child welfare agencies and related organizations can help improve outcomes for infants, children, and their families.

    "Early Detection of Prenatal Substance Exposure and the Role of Child Welfare," Children and Youth Services Review, 32(1), 2010, was written by Elizabeth K. Anthony, Michael J. Austin, and Denicia R. Cormier and is available for purchase online:

    http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0190740909001637

    Related Item

    Read Parental Drug Use as Child Abuse, a State Statutes publication written by Child Welfare Information Gateway, for a review of State laws that protect children endangered by their parents' illegal drug use:

    www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/drugexposed.cfm

     

  • ASFA 12 Years After: A Look at Consequences and Lessons Learned

    ASFA 12 Years After: A Look at Consequences and Lessons Learned

    The intended and unintended consequences of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA), and the degree to which ASFA has promoted the goals of safety, permanency, and well-being for children in the child welfare system, are the focus of a new publication from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and the Urban Institute.

    Intentions and Results: A Look Back at the Adoption and Safe Families Act is a compilation of papers that examine the impact and outcomes of ASFA for children and families and for the child welfare system that endeavors to serve them. It begins with a framework paper that summarizes the key provisions of the law, the major controversies surrounding implementation of the law, and available data on its results. Five additional papers illustrate the personal views of the people directly affected by the law, including parents, youth, one of the drafters of the original legislation, a child welfare commissioner, and a family court judge.

    The publication also presents a series of seven policy briefs that review such issues as the impact of ASFA on special populations, including parents with mental health or substance abuse problems, families involved with the criminal justice or immigration systems, and older youth. Other briefs examine the issues of adoption and preserving family connections. The publication concludes with a final paper that provides lessons learned and recommendations from CSSP.

    This publication is available for download on the Urban Institute website:

    www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/1001351_safe_families_act.pdf  (672 KB)

Strategies and Tools for Practice

CBX provides tools and examples of State programs that promote college enrollment for youth in foster care and offer guidelines for university-agency research partnerships.

  • Effective University-Community Research Collaborations

    Effective University-Community Research Collaborations

    Research collaborations between schools of social work and community organizations or agencies can be beneficial to all parties and to the child welfare profession. A recent article in Social Work, "Developing Effective Social Work University – Community Research Collaborations," offers strategies for effective partnerships during the research process. Drawn from the research literature and the authors' experiences, these strategies may be especially useful for investigators new to research partnerships.

    Four strategies are discussed:

    • Using a technology exchange perspective to ensure that research is beneficial to both the schools and the community
    • Using a longitudinal perspective that recognizes the evolutionary nature of research partnerships and creates professional development in the participating community agencies
    • Knowing the characteristics of the partners, including the motivation for participants, their organizational systems, and the agency culture of each partner
    • Developing clear contracts and budgets so partners can see who is assigned which components of the project and where money is designated

    "Developing Effective Social Work University-Community Research Collaborations," by Audrey L. Begun, Lisa K. Berger, Laura L. Otto-Salaj, and Susan J. Rose, was published in Social Work, Vol. 55(1), and is available for purchase from the publisher:

    www.ingentaconnect.com/content/nasw/sw/2010/00000055/00000001/art00007

     

  • Washington's Foster Care to College Partnership Initiative

    Washington's Foster Care to College Partnership Initiative

    Youth aging out of foster care may benefit from special outreach and education programs that promote college enrollment. A recent report from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) supports this finding in its evaluation of the State's Foster Care to College Partnership (FCTCP) initiative.

    The FCTCP initiative, begun in 2006, focused on improving the educational achievement of youth in foster care by implementing two strategies:

    • Establishing a systemwide education pathway to college that included disseminating information about educational opportunities through an online portal, mailed information packets, and  seminars for youth, as well as trainings for social workers and caregivers on educational planning
    • Providing direct educational services to youth, including a mentoring program and summer program,  to increase the likelihood of high school graduation and college enrollment

    After 3 years, the evaluation of the FCTCP initiative found the following:

    • The information dissemination campaign resulted in increases in on-time high school graduation and in college enrollment.
    • Students who participated in the mentoring program were more likely to enroll in college than nonparticipating youth.
    • Among students who participated in the summer program, only 40 percent felt ready for college before attending the summer program, while 80 percent felt ready for college after the summer program. These students were also more likely to attend college than nonparticipants.

    The full report, Foster Care to College Partnership: Evaluation of Outcomes for Foster Youth, is available on the WSIPP website:

    www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/09-12-3901.pdf  (616 KB)

Resources

  • College Scholarships for Former Foster Youth

    College Scholarships for Former Foster Youth

    The Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) is now accepting applications for scholarships for the 2010-2011 academic year. Scholarships are available to eligible former foster youth who are pursuing postsecondary education. To qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:

    • Have been in foster care for one consecutive year at the time of their 18th birthday or high school graduation OR have been adopted or taken into legal guardianship out of foster care after their 16th birthday OR have lost both parents to death before age 18 and not been subsequently adopted
    • Be accepted into or enrolled in an accredited postsecondary program (university, college, community college, or vocational/technical institute)
    • Be under age 25 on March 31, 2010

    For more information, visit the OFA website:

    http://orphan.org/index.php?id=30

  • Video on Working Together to Prevent Child Abuse

    Video on Working Together to Prevent Child Abuse

    "Circles of Caring," a video from Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, demonstrates that everyone can play a role in preventing child abuse. The Circles of Caring concept is based on research from the Center for the Study of Social Policy's Strengthening Families Initiative, which identifies several protective factors linked to reduced occurrences of child abuse and neglect. The video explains how individuals, groups, and communities can form the following Circles of Caring to support child development and prevent abuse:

    • Knowledge of parenting and child development. Ensure that parents are educated about the stages of child development. Parent education programs, improved parenting skills, and parent information are part of this circle.
    • Parental resilience. Reach out to parents, particularly during difficult times. Community programs such as in-home family education and parent support groups are part of this circle.
    • Social connections. Be a supportive friend or helpful neighbor, get parents involved in local groups so that they can build relationships with each other, and connect with parents online through social networks and email.
    • Social and emotional development of children. Support children's social and emotional skills and help them to express their feelings and needs effectively. Quality early care and education programs, trusted family members, and mentors are part of this circle and can help to strengthen communication and bonds among children, parents, and other adults.
    • Concrete supports in times of need. Help parents during difficult times, especially through community services, donations, and volunteering.

    The "Circles of Caring" video is available on YouTube:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_GozRIDJzs

    More information about the protective factors is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

    www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/promoting/protectfactors
     

  • Foster Care Alumni Resources

    Foster Care Alumni Resources

    Foster Care Alumni of America offers a variety of resources to support youth in foster care or those formerly in care. Two new resources were recently announced:

    • FLUX: Life After Foster Care is a new book that includes contributions from more than 100 alumni of foster care. FLUX looks at the emotional transition from foster care to adulthood and serves as a resource for both foster care alumni and social workers. To order a copy, visit: www.fostercarealumni.org/FLUX
    • The Foster Care Alumni website now offers a variety of information on housing rentals, mortgage assistance, and other housing issues: www.fostercarealumni.org/resources/Housing.htm

    The Foster Care Alumni Association just celebrated its fifth anniversary. To learn more about this organization, visit the website:

    www.fostercarealumni.org

  • Federal Tax Help for Caregivers

    Federal Tax Help for Caregivers

    Congress has enacted several important changes in tax laws for the 2009 tax year, including an increase for claiming an adoption tax credit—up to $12,150. This and more information is available in a booklet from the National Foster Parent Association: Federal Tax Benefits for Foster, Adoptive Parents and Kinship Caregivers.

    The 26-page booklet has chapters on topics such as deductions and credits, professional foster parents, special rules for legal guardians, and inquiries and disputes with the IRS. It lists tax law changes enacted for 2009, including the child tax credit decrease, mileage rates, and education credits. It defines a "special needs child" and qualifying expenses and stresses the need for documentation and recordkeeping.

    The online version of the booklet has links to IRS forms and publications referred to within the chapters and on a page of resources. Interspersed throughout the pages are tips for foster and adoptive parents and relative caregivers.

    Access the booklet on the National Foster Parent Association website:

    www.nfpainc.org/uploads/2009_federal_tax_benefits.pdf (944 KB)

  • HIPAA Closes the Insurance Gap for Adoptive Families

    HIPAA Closes the Insurance Gap for Adoptive Families

    As a result of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), health insurance coverage is now available to cover adopted children for all families enrolled in group health plans. An article in the National Council for Adoption's Adoption Advocate explains the history of health insurance coverage for adopted children and the benefits provided by HIPAA.

    The situation may be different for families covered by non-employer-sponsored health insurance plans (individual plans), because such plans are regulated by State rather than Federal regulation. However, many States have their own laws prohibiting health insurance discrimination.

    The article advises parents of adopted children to apply for health insurance within 30 days of the adoption or placement for adoption to ensure eligibility for HIPAA protection.

    Resources for State-specific and other information are also included. The article, "Health Insurance for Adopted Children," by Mark McDermott with Elisa Rosman, is available on the NCFA website:

    www.adoptioncouncil.org/resources/documents/NCFAAdoptionAdvocate19.pdf (336 KB)

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.

  • Conferences

    Conferences

    Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through June 2010 include:

    April 2010

    May 2010

    • Daniel Memorial Institute 17th Annual National Foster Care Conference
      Footsteps to the Future
      May 12–14, Clearwater Beach, FL

    • Prevent Child Abuse America National Conference
      Changing the Way We Think About Prevention: Making Children Our Priority
      May 17–19, Jacksonville, FL
      http://www.preventchildabuse.org/index.shtml

    June 2010

    • 2010 Family Group Decision Making and Other Family Engagement Approaches Conference
      Fostering All the Connections
      American Humane
      June 22–25, Burlington, VT

    • Substance Exposed Newborns: Collaborative Approaches to a Complex Issue
      National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center/University of California, Berkeley
      June 23–24, Alexandria, VA
      http://aia.berkeley.edu/training/SEN2010
    • APSAC's 18th Annual National Colloquium
      American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
      June 23–26, New Orleans, LA
      www.apsac.org/mc/community/eventdetails.do?eventId=231148

    Further details about national and regional adoption and child welfare conferences can be found through the Conference Calendar Search feature on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

    http://www.childwelfare.gov/calendar/index.cfm

     

  • Health Evaluations of Children in Foster Care

    Health Evaluations of Children in Foster Care

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now offers an online training for pediatricians on evaluating the health needs of children in foster care. After completing the course, training attendees will:

    • Be able to conduct an initial medical screen on all children entering foster care
    • Be able to identify the timeframes for conducting comprehensive and follow-up health assessments on all children in foster care
    • Gain a basic understanding of medical consents for children in foster care

    Training registration fees are $10 for AAP members and $12 for nonmembers, and CME (continuing medical education) credits are available. This training is available until September 2012. For more information or to register, visit:

    www.pedialink.org/cmefinder/search-detail.cfm/key/ACFAA7A3-518D-4B66-9A5C-6D8B82957A3D/type/course

  • Improving Outcomes for Youth Exiting Foster Care

    Improving Outcomes for Youth Exiting Foster Care

    The California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Social Welfare, provides a number of child welfare-related training resources on its website, including a training designed to disseminate information about improving outcomes for youth exiting the foster care system and transitioning to adulthood.

    This web-based training is divided into two sections: one for child welfare supervisors and managers and the other for caseworkers and families. Each section has the following components:

    • Learning Objectives
    • Title IV-E Competencies
    • Lesson Plan
    • Training Activities
    • Handouts

    The training activities were designed to last approximately 1.5 hours, and the handouts may be viewed online or printed.

    For more information, visit the CalSWEC website:

    http://calswec.berkeley.edu/CalSWEC/OtherTraining_ExitFoster.html