May 2015Vol. 16, No. 4Spotlight on National Foster Care Month
As part of our Spotlight on National Foster Care Month, CBX highlights the 2015 initiative, personal accounts of youth who experienced foster care, the important role of grandfamilies and kinship care as alternatives to nonrelative out-of-home care, and more.
- Teens and Unnecessary Out-of-Home Placements
Teens and Unnecessary Out-of-Home Placements
The child welfare and juvenile justice systems are in place to help children, youth, and families struggling with issues related to child abuse and neglect and delinquency. However, youth sometimes become unnecessarily involved in these systems although problems may be better resolved through other means. The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Child Welfare Strategy Group (CWSG) published a report detailing findings from investigations on teens who are inappropriately placed in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
CWSG studied a number of factors, including surveys of States, interviews with experts, visits to communities implementing promising approaches to helping teens, State legislation, and program funding. The study found that many teens become unnecessarily involved in these systems because their communities don't have adequate alternative options to address their conflict and behavioral issues. These teens are often placed in group placements instead of with kin or foster families. In fact, in 2012 alone, 35.5 percent of system-involved teens ages 13 to 17 became placed in group settings, which are often not equipped to provide the strong relationships, access to behavioral health services, and growth opportunities that are vital to helping teens navigate turbulent adolescent years.
CWSG's report provides details on four communities—New York City; Erie County, NY; Mecklenburg County, NC; and Wayne County, MI—that are implementing promising approaches to working with teens and families and avoiding group placements for teens. The study found that these communities had four practice elements in common:
- A wide front door, open to all families and youths in crisis
- Timely access to initial screening and assessment
- High-quality screening and assessment
- A range of high-quality services
The agencies in these communities also had six specific systemic factors in common:
- Strong internal champions for change
- A requirement that families must exhaust available services before petitioning the court to remove a child
- Data collection and analysis
- Community outreach
- Multisystemic collaboration
- Flexible, sustainable funding sources (e.g., redirecting State or local savings from reducing out-of-home placements to help fund community-based prevention services)
Read more about the study and its findings by accessing Too Many Teens: Preventing Unnecessary Out-of-Home Placements on the Annie E. Casey Foundation's website at http://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-TooManyTeens-2015.pdf (278 KB).
The Children’s Bureau recently released a data brief on the use of congregate care (e.g., group homes, child care institutions, residential treatment facilities, maternity homes) in the child welfare system. The brief examines data on the population of children and youth who are likely to experience congregate care and what, if any, additional supports may be needed to further reduce reliance on congregate care as a placement setting. Access the data brief on the Children's Bureau website at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/congregate-care-brief.
- Evaluations of the Family Finding Model
Evaluations of the Family Finding Model
The Family Finding model outlines a method for finding, engaging, and working with family members of children who are involved with child welfare in order to establish connections and improve legal and emotional permanency outcomes for children. Child Trends released a report that summarizes and assesses the results of 13 recent evaluations of Family Finding from the past 2 years. The report, Family Finding Evaluations: A Summary of Recent Findings, states that research on this model is inconclusive.
The report provides several possible explanations for the inconclusive results:
- The model was not fully or consistently implemented.
- The scope of the evaluations may have been sufficient to detect positive impacts, which may not be realized immediately.
- The evaluations' hypotheses about the model's effects on children and families may not have been accurate (e.g., the model calls for workers to find at least 40 family members and engage with 6 of them, but perhaps focusing on finding a smaller number of "high-quality" connections may be more effective than a broader search).
The report can be found on the Child Trends website at http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2015-01Family_Finding_Eval_Summary.pdf (444 KB). The report's appendix is available at http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Family-Finding-Evaluations-Appendix.pdf (196 KB).
- Personal Accounts of Life in Foster Care
Personal Accounts of Life in Foster Care
As part of National Foster Care Month and in an effort to raise awareness of the varied experiences associated with foster care, Children's Rights' Fostering the Future campaign lends a voice to youth by sharing personal blogs that highlight their experiences in care. While each account is unique, a common theme exists: Positive outcomes and future success are attainable by youth in foster care despite adversity. Each blog also provides words of encouragement and advice to youth currently in foster care and includes recommendations for child welfare reform geared toward practitioners and policymakers.
In one story, Maisha explains that she was removed from home at 11 years old. Maisha had been living with her grandmother and mother, who gave birth to Maisha at age 15. Due to drug-related activities of another relative who was living with them, Maisha's grandmother, her primary caretaker, was detained and evicted from her home. Maisha's first foster home was not a positive experience, and she began to rebel and lash out. She was placed with a second foster family, who provided her with a more nurturing home life. However, her foster mother's son became involved in violent, gang-related situations, and Maisha was again removed.
All the while, Maisha's grandmother had been fighting to regain custody of her. Once grandmother and granddaughter were reunited, they moved away from their violent and unstable neighborhood to a safer area in her grandmother's home State. After an initial period of adjustment, Maisha flourished in this environment and, with the support and love of her grandmother, graduated on time from high school. Maisha encourages other children and youth in foster care to never lose hope and to remember that, no matter what, they have a purpose in life.
The blog series concludes with "Furthering Our Mission," a message from Marcia Robinson Lowery, director emeritus of Children's Rights, that reinforces the importance of really listening to and hearing youth voices and understanding the realities of foster care.
Children's Rights is a national advocacy organization dedicated to protecting maltreated children involved in the child welfare system. To read Children Unseen: Personal Accounts of Life in Foster Care: A Collection of Blogs From Children's Rights' 2014 Fostering the Future Campaign, visit the Children's Rights website at http://www.childrensrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/CR-Blog-brochure-9.22-spreads-LowRes1.pdf (911 KB).
- Safety of Transgender Youth in Foster Care
Safety of Transgender Youth in Foster Care
Child welfare agencies provide services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in foster care, but more needs to be done to ensure the safety of these youth. A recent article in the New York University Law Review examines the particular risks and challenges faced by transgender youth in foster care. The article focuses on New York City's foster care system and discusses specific changes, including legislation, to help improve transgender youths' experiences and outcomes.
Part I of the article addresses the past and present experiences of transgender youth in New York City and New York State. It provides an introduction to the jurisdictions' foster care systems, discusses the discrimination and violence often faced by transgender youth, and examines the differences in safety provided by LGBTQ-only group homes versus other group homes. Part II examines current jurisdictional efforts to improve the safety of transgender youth. Part III proposes solutions for making transgender youth safer, such as legislation that would provide for placements in gendered group homes, appropriate bedroom assignments, access to appropriate bathroom facilities, confidentiality of gender identity, deference to individual choice, and ongoing placement management.
Access the full article "A Room of One's Own: Safe Placement for Transgender Youth in Foster Care," by A. Love, New York University Law Review, 89(6), 2014, at http://www.nyulawreview.org/sites/default/files/pdf/NYULawReview-89-6-2268-Love.pdf (152 KB).
- May Is National Foster Care Month
May Is National Foster Care Month
Each May, the Children's Bureau, together with Child Welfare Information Gateway and other partner organizations, promotes National Foster Care Month and raises awareness about the important roles everyone can play in the lives of children and youth in care. This year's theme, "Get to Know the Many Faces of Foster Care," particularly emphasizes the tremendous diversity found within foster care. Children and families come into contact with child welfare for many different reasons, and they may require a variety of supports and services to meet their needs. There are also many "faces" making up the diverse support teams that work to help children and families find and maintain permanence and achieve positive outcomes. These "faces" can include not only caseworkers, but also judges, guardians ad litem, attorneys, treatment providers, resource parents, and kin. In addition, "permanence" can mean different things to different children and families, and there are many paths to achieving permanence.
To mirror this theme, the 2015 initiative website features information for a variety of audiences represented in foster care. Dedicated resource pages provide information targeting youth, foster parents and caregivers, Tribes, communities, and child welfare professionals, including resources from the Children's Bureau. The website continues to highlight real-life stories of children, youth, and families touched by foster care. These stories, presented in both narrative and video formats, offer inspiring examples of how everyone can enhance the lives of children and youth in care. Help spread the word about National Foster Care Month by visiting the initiative website's Promote section, where you will find tools to support promotional, outreach, and social media activities.
Explore the 2015 National Foster Care Month website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/.
- The Role of Grandfamilies in Raising Children
The Role of Grandfamilies in Raising Children
Grandfamilies and kinship care are increasingly becoming alternatives to nonrelative out-of-home care. In fact, about 27 percent of children in foster care are placed with relatives, an increase from the 23 percent placed with relatives in 2003. Nearly 8 million children in the United States live with grandfamilies or kinship families—that is, families in which they reside with and are cared for by grandparents, other relatives, or adults who have a close family-like relationship.
Generations United recently released a report, The State of Grandfamilies in America: 2014, that describes these families and the supports that are available to them, such as financial assistance (e.g., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), kinship navigator programs, and support groups. The report also provides a series of policy recommendations to assist grandfamilies and a list of ways the public can help.
The full report is available at http://www.grandfamilies.org/Portals/0/14-State-of-Grandfamilies-Report-Final.pdf (1 MB).
Spotlight on Incorporating Youth Engagement and Lived Experience Into Child Welfare Practice
Spotlight on the Title IV-E Prevention Program and the Family First Prevention Services Act
News From the Children's Bureau
This month's "Associate Commissioner's Page" features the first half of the Associate Commissioner's conversation with a young woman who shares the story of her journey through foster care and search for permanence. We also feature the Children's Bureau's new Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative and Capacity Building Center for States.
- CB Website Updates
CB Website Updates
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.
Recent additions to the site include:
- PI-15-01 – This Program Instruction (PI) provides direction on the availability of fiscal year (FY) 2015 Children's Justice Act Grants to States Under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA): http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/pi1501
- PI-15-03 – This PI provides guidance to States, territories, and insular areas on submission of the 2016 Annual Progress and Services Report (ASPR), due June 30, 2015, and that requests funding for FY 2016: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/pi1503
- PI-15-04 – This PI provides instruction to Tribes on the on the June 30, 2015, submission of ASPRs and actions they are required to take in order to receive their allotments for FY 2016: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/pi1504
- A National Look at the Use of Congregate Care in Child Welfare – This brief examines the use of congregate care in the child welfare system: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/congregate-care-brief
- Annual Report to Congress on State Child Welfare Expenditures reported on the CFS-101 (2014) – This report to Congress provides national totals of planned spending by service category for the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services program and planned and actual spending by service category for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/cfs-101-report-to-congress-2014
- National Financial Capability Month – This letter to child welfare agencies and providers from JooYeun Chang, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, highlights information and tools for working with and enhancing the financial capacity of older adolescents in foster care: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/national-financial-capability-month
- Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Grants HHS-2015-ACF-OFA-FM-0985 – A funding opportunity announcement (FOA) soliciting applications for demonstration projects that support "healthy marriage promotion activities" as enacted by the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-291): http://www.grants.gov/view-opportunity.html?oppId=276477
- New Pathways for Fathers and Families HHS-2015-ACF-OFA-FK-0993 – An FOA soliciting applications for demonstration projects that support activities promoting responsible fatherhood as enacted by the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-291): http://www.grants.gov/view-opportunity.html?oppId=276480
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb.
- QIC-CT Demonstration Sites
QIC-CT Demonstration Sites
In 2014, ZERO TO THREE was selected as the national Quality Improvement Center for Research-Based Infant-Toddler Court Teams (QIC-CT). The project's goal is to strengthen and enhance the capacity of the courts, child welfare agencies, and related child-serving organizations to promote the healthy development of infants and toddlers and their families involved with the child welfare system. ZERO TO THREE and its partners will provide training and technical assistance to help develop and expand research-based infant-toddler court teams based on the Safe Babies Court Team approach in six newly selected demonstration sites.
After an extensive review process, the six jurisdictions chosen as QIC-CT demonstration sites are:
- New Haven/Milford Safe Babies Court Teams, CT
- Florida Court Improvement Program, FL
- The Judiciary, State of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
- Polk County Safe Babies Court Team, Des Moines, IA
- Forrest County Safe Babies Court Team, Hattiesburg, MS
- Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee, NC
Following implementation, the QIC-CT will disseminate best practices and findings from the experiences with each site, including identification of practices that can be applied in other State and local child welfare systems across the country.
The QIC-CT project is a ZERO TO THREE-led collaborative partnership with the Center for the Study of Social Policy; the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges; and RTI, International, and it is funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau, Grant #HHS-2014-ACF-ACYF-CA-0832. For more information, including a link to the March 2015 press release, visit the ZERO TO THREE website at http://www.zerotothree.org/maltreatment/safe-babies-court-team/sbct-related-resources.html.
- Center for States: Assessments for Tailored Services
Center for States: Assessments for Tailored Services
The Capacity Building Center for States, part of the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative, offers practical tools and research-informed training and coaching that are tailored to the unique needs and contexts of individual States and territories. Tailored capacity-building services begin with an assessment and planning, and services vary in intensity and duration based on each public child welfare agency's needs and objectives.
The Center for States has already begun partnering with interested States and territories to complete initial capacity assessments. The assessment process is designed to be thorough, efficient, and collaborative. Rather than submit multiple requests for assistance on an ongoing basis, any State seeking tailored services from the Center for States is invited to participate in a single annual assessment of its capacity-building needs. This process will produce a single, integrated capacity-building plan that will help the State set priorities and identify both internal and external resources, including but not limited to Children's Bureau-funded technical assistance, that can be mobilized to address its needs.
For information about how to schedule an assessment for tailored services, a State or territory can contact its Regional Office Specialist or the Capacity Building Liaison assigned to it by the Center for States. Initial outreach to child welfare directors in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia is expected to be completed by the end of May. Find more information about the Center for States on the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative website (http://capacity.childwelfare.gov), and look for articles about the Center for States and its services in future issues of Children's Bureau Express.
- Capacity Building Collaborative Begins Outreach
Capacity Building Collaborative Begins Outreach
The Children's Bureau recently announced the launch of a new technical assistance service delivery structure. The Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative (the Collaborative) serves jurisdictions that receive title IV-E or title IV-B funds, and it is comprised of three centers: the Capacity Building Center for States, the Capacity Building Center for Tribes, and the Capacity Building Center for Courts. These centers support public child welfare agencies and courts to build the capacities necessary to successfully implement Federal child welfare requirements; improve child welfare practice; and achieve outcomes for children, youth, and families.
The Collaborative provides three categories of services: universal, constituency, and tailored. Universal services are designed to increase awareness, understanding, and engagement among a broad audience of child welfare professionals across the country. Constituency services are designed to enhance the knowledge, skills, and relationships among targeted groups of professionals and peer groups. Tailored services are designed to help individual States, Tribes, and courts assess their unique needs and develop the resources, infrastructure, knowledge and skills, climate and culture, and partnerships necessary to improve their performance and achieve outcomes for children and families. Each center has identified a liaison—a single point of contact, assigned to each jurisdiction to help facilitate access to tailored services.
In March, liaisons from each of the centers and Children's Bureau Regional Office Specialists began reaching out to States and Tribes through a series of introductory calls and meetings, and many States have already met their liaisons in person. For more information about the Collaborative and each center, please visit http://capacity.childwelfare.gov.
- Associate Commissioner's Page
Associate Commissioner's Page
The following is the monthly message from JooYeun Chang, the Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau. Each message focuses on the current Children's Bureau Express Spotlight theme and highlights the Bureau's work on the topic.
This year's National Foster Care Month theme encourages us all to "Get to Know the Many Faces of Foster Care." The 2015 initiative speaks to the many different children and youth in foster care, the diverse needs of families receiving foster care services, and the different people that can help children and youth in care achieve positive outcomes. This year's National Foster Care Month also places particular emphasis on the many possible paths to permanence and the different things "permanence" can mean.
In this month's "Associate Commissioner's Page," I would like to share the first half of my interview with Athena, a young woman formerly in foster care. Athena first entered care at the age of 8 and again at 14. She was later placed with a foster family at age 18 who would go on to adopt her a year later. The second half of our conversation, to be featured in CBX's June 2015 issue, will share her experiences as an older youth in care preparing for adulthood. This month, Athena, currently a Young Adult Consultant with the National Resource Center for Youth Services (http://www.nrcys.ou.edu/), shares with us her journey through foster care and search for permanence. Athena's story speaks to the importance of never giving up on the idea of a loving, permanent home.
Joo: How did you come into contact with foster care?
Athena: My mom passed away when I was about 7 years old, and I was placed in foster care for the first time when I was 8 because my father couldn't take care of my siblings and me. I was afraid and didn't understand why I was being taken away. In my first foster home, I felt very isolated—no one told me what was going on or answered my questions. I didn't like the experience, but I appreciated knowing that foster care was a good option to stay safe. While I was still 8 years old, I was able to go back and live with my father, and I stayed with him until I was 14, but it was not a good environment. I remembered my time in foster care and how I felt safer and protected in care. So, instead of running away, I requested, through my school and social workers, to be placed back in foster care. When child welfare services saw that my situation was dire, they found me my next foster home.
Joo: What was your experience like when you entered foster care again? Were you able to stay in contact with your siblings?
Athena: I went through lots of foster homes, about 10 total from the time I was 14 years old until I turned 21. I never spent more than 18 months in the same home. I was separated from my little brother, who was born with cerebral palsy, during our first experience with foster care when I was 8. He was placed in a foster home for children with disabilities, and I never got to live with him again, though he continued to be in my life. My little sister and I lived together with my dad until we were both placed back in care when I was 14. I became more like a mother figure to my siblings. My sister and I eventually ended up in separate homes, but I talked to our caseworker about placing my sister in my brother's home, so they at least could stay together. They've been in the same foster home for more than 4 years now, and we're all still very close.
Joo: Did your caseworker consult you about your wishes as far as case plan goals or a permanency plan? Did anyone ever talk to you about adoption as part of a permanency plan?
Athena: No. I was always very vocal about what I needed and wanted, so caseworkers didn't hold my hand or push me in any direction. But they never asked questions like "what are your goals?" or "what do you want?" It just seemed to be a fact that I was going to have to age out of foster care. No one ever asked me if I wanted to be adopted. I was surprised to find out that my adoptive mom was told I didn't want to be adopted; I never said that. It was a shock that the opportunity came to me at such a late age. The whole adoption thing fell into place unintentionally.
Joo: Do you know if anyone has talked to your siblings about permanence?
Athena: No. My little brother and sister have been in the same foster home for more than 4 years. When I got adopted, I saw how emotional it was for them. My little sister cried so much on my adoption day. I told her she has that option, too, and that I could help her reach out to get that option for herself if she wanted it. She was very receptive to that. I asked their caseworker if she had asked them about adoption. She said she hadn't, and she didn't know they wanted that option. I said, "How do you know if you don't ask?" It's a disservice to them to not ask.
Joo: What does permanence mean to you?
Athena: Permanence is such a broad word; lots of youth haven't heard it or know what it means. It can mean different things to different people. For me, permanence meant adoption, relief, long-term stability. For others, it can mean emancipation but with stable relationships. My 20-year-old brother isn't ready to emancipate yet, so he would benefit from care until at least age 24. For my sister, permanence is on the fence—she wants to be adopted, but she's afraid of losing the stability she has in her current foster home.
Joo: How is your relationship with your siblings? How do you stay connected with them?
Athena: It's great. I consider them like my own kids—we're very close. I see them once a month, and they come for the whole weekend. In between, I call and text them a lot, or I'll go pick them up for a visit. My little sister reminds me of a young me. She never had a mother figure, but she knows she missed out on it. I learned after I got adopted what I was missing in not having a parent figure.
Joo: Do you have any advice for youth in care, or for the caseworkers working with them?
Athena: I would tell kids in care that it's hard to know exactly what you want at a young age. I thought I knew what I wanted before I got adopted, but I didn't. I was lost, and it wasn't until I resolved a lot of emotional issues that I knew I wanted to be adopted.
Caseworkers should ask kids "What would you like to happen?" None of the caseworkers I met ever asked what I wanted. Don't force kids in any direction; but by communicating with them, you can enable a smoother plan to get kids where they want to be.
- CECANF Works Toward Development of a National Strategy
CECANF Works Toward Development of a National Strategy
The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF), established by the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 (H.R. 6655 [112th]), is more than a year into its mission to study the current landscape and develop a national strategy and recommendations for reducing fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect. The legislation mandates that CECANF submit a report to the President and Congress within 2 years (with a potential 1-year extension on the deadline). As part of its mandate to study the issue, CECANF hosted public meetings in San Antonio, TX; Tampa, FL; Detroit, MI; Denver, CO; Burlington, VT; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; Scottsdale, AZ; and Memphis, TN, as well as a research roundtable in Philadelphia, PA, to learn more about State, local, and Tribal strategies and programs—across multiple social service systems—that have been effective in reducing maltreatment fatalities to children both known and not known to child protective services.
JooYeun Chang, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, was a presenter at the CECANF's Portland, OR, meeting. She made some suggestions for the Commissioners' forthcoming policy recommendations, including improving State definitions and data collection around near fatalities and encouraging more cross-system efforts across Federal agencies. Ms. Chang also discussed a number of provisions of the President's FY 2016 budget proposal for child welfare, which seeks to strengthen and make targeted investments in child welfare programs. Find more information on Ms. Chang's presentation at https://eliminatechildabusefatalities.sites.usa.gov/files/2014/12/OR_Slides_Panel3_2.26.15.pdf (1 MB).
According to CECANF Chairman Dr. David Sanders, "Commissioner Chang's feedback and recommendations reflect our observations on the complexity of this issue and are aligned with our current thinking around broadening the issue beyond child welfare with a stronger multidisciplinary approach."
"Preventing child abuse and neglect broadly, and child abuse and neglect fatalities specifically, requires a commitment from all of us," commented Commissioner Wade Horn, a director with Deloitte Consulting LLP and a former assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Whether you are a Child Protective Services caseworker, a physician, a teacher or a neighbor, we all have a shared responsibility to provide support for families and children in need and to help educate every parent and adult who comes into contact with children how to keep children safe."
"As we prepare to recognize Foster Care month in May, CECANF has the opportunity to focus on a group we owe our best efforts to support—vulnerable youth in foster care transitioning to adulthood—who research tells us will nearly all soon be parents themselves," noted Commissioner Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of the Youth Law Center and a foster care alumna. "Strengthening the support net available to this group of young parents provides us a tremendous chance to impact two generations of children we have a responsibility to protect from abuse and neglect."
Some key CECANF observations to date include:
- There are deficiencies in the counting of child abuse and neglect fatalities, which confirm earlier Government Accountability Office findings.
- The research on risk and protective factors is critically important, and there appears to be a lack of alignment between research, practice, and policy. The issue is complex, as there is no direct causal link between any one risk factor and child abuse and neglect fatalities.
- There is a strong case for the importance of information sharing, particularly among agencies tasked with better understanding risk and identifying prevention and intervention strategies. The issue of confidentiality laws, policies, and practices that facilitate or hinder system improvements cannot be overlooked.
- Questions remain about prioritization of prevention and support services and the allocation of Federal funding to support a national strategy.
- Better understanding near fatalities may be helpful for efforts to better prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities. They are similar in many characteristics, but near fatalities occur in larger numbers.
- There are questions around workforce issues, including workload and training, that may impact the problem.
- CECANF has seen a few State, jurisdiction, and community-based strategies, but has not seen any overarching strategies for eliminating child abuse and neglect fatalities. There is very little in terms of evidence-based practices, and the low incidence of fatalities presents challenges to identifying evidence-based practices.
Additional meetings are planned for the remainder of 2015 in Utah, Wisconsin, and New York. Individuals are invited to share recommendations and feedback with CECANF via the website. For more information on CECANF's work and information gathered during its public meetings, or to leave comments, go to http://eliminatechildabusefatalities.sites.usa.gov.
Child Welfare Research
CBX points to an article on a framework for culturally competent trauma-informed systems in Indian Country, an issue brief on intimate partner violence and its impact on children in the home, and more.
- Effects of Intimate Partner Violence on Children
Effects of Intimate Partner Violence on Children
The impact of intimate partner violence (IPV) on children in the home varies and often depends on a number of factors, including a child's age, gender, relationship with the victim and perpetrator, and other internal and external characteristics. Defined as physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse, IPV can manifest in many forms, and children, even siblings residing in the same home, can experience instances of IPV very differently. Additionally, children that witness IPV in the home are more likely than their peers to become victims of child abuse themselves (35 percent vs. 5 percent, according to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect).
To raise awareness of IPV and the broad and often long-lasting effects it can have on children, and in order to help professionals, advocates, and community members identify and address the needs of these children, Family and Children's Trust Fund of Virginia (FACT) developed an issue brief that presents an overview of IPV and research findings on its impact on children in the home. Some of the questions answered and topics addressed include:
- What is IPV?
- What is the prevalence of IPV in Virginia?
- IPV and child abuse
- What is the impact of exposure to IPV on children in the home?
- Finding evidence-based and promising practices
- Why collaborate?
The Spotlight section recognizes national and Virginia-specific programs that have demonstrated success in the following areas:
- Collocating domestic violence and child welfare services
- Developing cross-system partnerships
- Utilizing opportunities for cross-training
The brief concludes by providing IPV-related tips and advice for professionals, family members, advocates, and community members. Additional information such as training materials, assessment tools, and program resources are available in the supplemental toolkit available at http://www.fact.virginia.gov/ibtoolkit/.
Facing the Facts: Impact of Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence on Children in the Home, by R. T. Hjelm, is available on the FACT website at http://www.fact.virginia.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/FACT-V-Issue-Brief_FINAL.pdf (297 KB).
- Trauma-Informed Systems in Indian Country
Trauma-Informed Systems in Indian Country
A recent article in the Journal of Family Strengths discusses a comprehensive framework for the creation of culturally competent trauma-informed systems in Indian Country. American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children are disproportionately represented in child welfare. These children also face a number of particular challenges, such as the effects of historical trauma, high rates of intrafamilial victimization, and longer adoption times than non-Native children. The article describes a concept for trauma-informed systems that focuses on collaboration across Indian child welfare systems and systems such as schools, mental and physical health, juvenile justice/courts, and Tribal councils in order to effectively implement trauma-informed child welfare. Four specific and necessary interventions are highlighted:
- Research-supported interventions for children and youth, as well as parents and family systems
- Research-supported secondary traumatic stress (STS) interventions for child welfare professionals
- Capacity-building systems interventions for child welfare and related systems to systematically and collaboratively detect and address children's trauma and STS in the workforce
- The prioritization and incorporation of indigenous healing practices as facilitators for culturally-competent practice and also as safeguards against colonialism
The article stresses that, when designing and implementing new trauma-informed systems, it is important that leadership is collaborative, developmental, adaptive, and outcomes oriented. Leaders must have extensive knowledge of their respective AI/AN community's culture and needs, and design teams should include diverse representation from Tribal members.
Read more about the framework, including a sample logic model, in "Conceptualizing a Trauma Informed Child Welfare System for Indian Country," by J. C. Caringi and H. A.Lawson, Journal of Family Strengths, 14(1), 2014, available at http://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/jfs/vol14/iss1/10/.
- Children in Vermont Impacted by Parental Incarceration
Children in Vermont Impacted by Parental Incarceration
Vermont's Building Bright Futures and Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children's Heath) initiatives published a policy brief discussing the impact of parental incarceration on children. Children whose parent(s) are incarcerated can experience feelings of shame, isolation, toxic stress, and other adverse childhood experiences. The brief addresses how the effects of toxic stress due to parental incarceration can be reduced by maintaining strong relationships with caregivers and the child's incarcerated parents, when possible. Early identification of toxic stress and the implementation of appropriate interventions are integral to helping children improve physical, emotional, and behavioral wellness.
Successful programs in Vermont that offer services and support for incarcerated parents and their children are highlighted in the brief, along with recommendations for programs and policies to help improve children's health and well-being. Recommendations include the following:
- Address the data gap related to these children and families, and ensure that the data are accessible.
- Ensure contact visiting with parents in all Vermont correctional facilities, including older children.
- Implement proven-effective programs aimed at reducing the trauma experienced by children of incarcerated parents.
- Establish interagency efforts to assess the impact law enforcement and criminal justice policies have on children and families.
- Increase financial aid and other support to kinship providers.
Parental Incarceration and Its Effect on Childhood Health, by T. Sawyers, 2014, is available at http://cdn.buildingbrightfutures.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/LAUNCH_policy_brief_novdec14-FIN.pdf (774 KB).
To learn more about the impact of parental incarceration on children in out-of-home care, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/casework/children/incarcerated/.
- How Peers Affect Teen Dating Violence
How Peers Affect Teen Dating Violence
The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice published a research brief examining the risk and protective factors associated with teen dating violence. The brief explores this topic through the lens of the emerging idea that "Peers and the contexts in which peers interact can contribute to their risk for and protection against dating violence." Child welfare and related professionals might be interested to know that teens exposed to risky family and social environments are at greater risk for dating violence victimization or perpetration. Overarching research questions in this brief include:
- Do risky peer contexts increase the likelihood that teens will experience dating violence?
- What roles do peers play in seeking help after teens experience violence?
- Can group interventions or those focused on social contexts reduce the risk for teen dating violence?
This research brief also evaluates the influence of technology on dating or interpersonal violence, as well as current prevention programs. Community-based interventions have been particularly effective at reducing the risk of dating violence among at-risk youth, and the brief discusses a study focused on community-based group interventions for teen girls involved in child welfare. Implications and key future research questions are also addressed.
Access Teen Dating Violence: How Peers Can Affect Risk and Protective Factors, by B. Oudekerk, D. Blachman Demner, and C. Mulford, at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/248337.pdf (414 KB).
The findings discussed in this report are also found in the National Institute of Justice Office of Research and Evaluation's Crime, Violence & Victimization Research Division's Compendium of Research on Violence Against Women 1993–2013, available at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/223572/223572.pdf (2 MB).
Strategies and Tools for Practice
This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other instruments that provide either evidence-based strategies or other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.
- Well-Being of Crossover Youth
Well-Being of Crossover Youth
Children and youth who have suffered maltreatment have a 47 percent higher risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice system than their peers. Maltreated youth who are involved with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, also known as "crossover" youth, are particularly vulnerable to increased developmental risks. A new blog series from the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) seeks to provide information and raise awareness of issues surrounding crossover youth. The first blog post in the series defines who crossover youth are and why they are at higher risk than their peers in the child welfare system.
Crossover Youth & Well-Being (Crossover Youth Series) is available on the CASCW website at http://cascw.umn.edu/featured/crossover-youth-well-being-crossover-youth-series/.
- Education Programs for Youth Transitioning to Independent Living
Education Programs for Youth Transitioning to Independent Living
As part of its planning efforts for Chafee Foster Care Independence Program-funded evaluations of Independent Living programs, the U.S. Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation partnered with the Urban Institute and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to develop a series of briefs on different programs supporting youth transitioning out of foster care. The first brief in the series provides specific information on the education-focused programs currently available for youth in foster care, the programs' effectiveness, and areas for the field to consider regarding next steps in evaluating the Chafee Program, which offers assistance to help current and former youth in foster care achieve self-sufficiency. Chafee funding supports activities and programs such as help with education, employment, financial management, housing, and emotional support.
This brief provides multiple tables of information comparing typical education programs to those specifically geared toward youth in transition. These tables provide a summary of education programs broken down into categories, including education type, purpose, common elements, and types of intervention.
To access Supporting Youth Transitioning out of Foster Care–Issue Brief 1: Education Programs, visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/resource/supporting-youth-transitioning-out-of-foster-care-issue-brief-1-education-programs.
- Immersive Learning, Practical Application in Simulation Lab
Immersive Learning, Practical Application in Simulation Lab
Child welfare professionals and educators in the Los Angeles, CA, area are implementing a new training program that utilizes an immersive simulation lab. The simulation lab builds a model apartment that can be staged to create different home environments, allowing participants to practice in a variety of realistic potential scenarios. Students, professionals, and new hires to the field are able to improve and practice their skills for real-world application in a safe, controlled environment where both trainers and peers can support participants firsthand.
Piloted at the Residential Simulation Lab (RSL) at California State University in 2013, this engaging training model has expanded to both California State University, Long Beach, and the University of California, Los Angeles. The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute produced a webinar that outlines the creation of a simulation lab and useful information for organizations looking to create their own. The webinar also offer tips for trainers based on proven learning theories with a focus on adult learning. Materials presented during the webinar include a sample facilitator's guide, an RSL factsheet, a mock group rotation schedule, and more.
The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute webinar, "Mind the Gap #2: Simulation Labs for Child Welfare Education and Training," along with the supplemental materials, is available at http://ncwwi.org/index.php/link/220-mind-the-gap-2-simulation-labs-for-child-welfare-education-and-training.
- Healing Child Sexual Abuse in Tribal Communities
Healing Child Sexual Abuse in Tribal Communities
A recent article in the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children's (APSAC's) news journal APSAC Advisor shares information on Pathway to Hope (PTH), an indigenous approach to guiding the process of community awareness, acceptance, and healing from child sexual abuse. Developed by and for Alaska Native communities, the PTH curriculum can be adapted to the specific needs, culture, and practices of the Native communities in which it is implemented, and it has been adapted and implemented in several American Indian and Canadian indigenous communities.
PTH faculty from outside the community conduct a 3-day training for community facilitators composed of key individuals from within the Tribe, who then adapt the PTH agenda and activities to meet their specific community's needs. Participants in the training session receive the Pathway to Hope: Healing Child Sexual Abuse video and accompanying step-by-step Tribal Community Facilitator Video Guidebook. Participants often include trusted elders, spiritual leaders, and young people interested in community change, as well as non-Native community leaders (e.g., law enforcement representatives, local or State child protection workers, behavioral health clinicians, clergy).
The internal origin of the PTH curriculum helps Tribal and indigenous communities to not only recognize and heal child sexual abuse survivors, but also promote greater interaction among associated Tribal programs and agencies and facilitate the creation of collective action steps to support survivors and prevent future instances of abuse. The U.S. Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime funded the initial development and delivery of PTH. Since 2010, participating Tribes and organizations have funded their own training expenses, with some exceptions.
Learn more about PTH in "Pathway to Hope: A Tribal Community-Based Empowerment Curriculum to Heal Child Sexual Abuse," by D. Payne, APSAC Advisor, 1, 2014, available at http://www.tribal-institute.org/2014/E8-HO.pdf (289 KB).
This CBX section provides a quick list of interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials that can be used in the field or with families.
- Developmental, Behavioral Screening for Housing and Shelter Providers
Developmental, Behavioral Screening for Housing and Shelter Providers
As part of the Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! initiative—part of a Federal effort to encourage healthy child development—the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education published a guide for shelter and housing assistance providers serving vulnerable families during their transition to permanent housing. The guide highlights the importance of conducting behavioral and developmental screenings of children upon entry into shelter or housing assistance programs to address potential issues and determine eligibility for early intervention services.
Risk factors and early adverse experiences, such as homelessness, child maltreatment, and exposure to domestic violence, may have negative long-term consequences on a child's psychosocial functioning. A partnership between housing providers, families, and specialists is crucial to best support the development of children and ensure their well-being. Shelter providers can discuss developmental and behavioral screening with parents, and the guide includes recommendations on how and when to engage families, address screening results, and refer families to specialists.
The guide is accompanied by a compendium of research-based developmental screening tools (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ecd/screening_compendium_march2014.pdf [1 MB]) and a developmental screening passport (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ecd/screening_passport.pdf [2 MB]) to help parents monitor their child's progress and track and share screening information with all members of their child's team.
Similar guides targeted for other professionals, such as child welfare professionals, primary care providers, and early care and education providers, are available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ecd/child-health-development/watch-me-thrive.
Access Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! A Housing and Shelter Provider's Guide to Developmental and Behavioral Screening at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ecd/shelter_screening_guide.pdf (272 KB).
Children's Bureau Express featured Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! in the June 2014 issue.
- New Website Focuses on Hispanic Children and Families
New Website Focuses on Hispanic Children and Families
Child Trends, Abt Associates, and other university partners established the National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families (the Center) in 2013. Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, the Center aims to enhance the lives of low-income Hispanic communities in the areas of early care and education, healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood, and poverty and economic self-sufficiency.
The Center's new website offers easy navigation and a visually appealing presentation of information relating to the Center's mission and goals, focus areas, resources, and fellowship program. Through capacity building, training, fellowships, research, and by increasing knowledge of the three focus areas, the Center seeks to help programs and policies better serve the U.S. Hispanic population.
Access the site at http://www.childtrends.org/nrc/.
- Take Action to Prevent Bullying
Take Action to Prevent Bullying
The American Psychological Association (APA) created a webpage featuring action items for parents, teachers, and children on how to prevent bullying. The webpage focuses on bullying in schools, as well as the increasing issue of cyberbullying, which has allowed bullies to expand their reach outside of the school environment through the use of technology and various social media websites. This information can be useful to anyone who works with or cares for children and youth, and child welfare professionals can use and share these tips with families, foster and adoptive parents, and youth to help identify and ease the harmful effects of bullying. The APA suggests the following actions items to help recognize, address, and prevent bullying and cyberbullying:
- Teachers and school administrators: Be knowledgeable and observant, involve students and parents, and set positive expectations about behavior for students and adults.
- Parents of kids being bullied: Observe your child for signs they might be being bullied, teach your child how to handle being bullied, and set boundaries with technology.
- Parents of kids engaged in bullying: Stop bullying before it starts, make your home "bully free," and look for self-esteem issues.
- Students: Report bullying and cyberbullying, don't bully back, and avoid being alone.
Along with these action items, the APA recommends that parents of bullied children who are struggling emotionally seek the assistance of a mental health professional. For more information, visit http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/bullying.aspx.
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.
- Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education Training
Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education Training
By Ted G. Futris, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Georgia, and David Schramm, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Missouri.
In 2008, a multistate partnership of Cooperative Extension Specialists from five land-grant universities was awarded a 5-year cooperative agreement from the Children's Bureau to develop and pilot the Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education Training (HRMET). The partnering States included Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina. The primary purpose of the project was to develop, deliver, and evaluate a relationship and marriage education (RME) training curriculum designed to support child welfare professionals (CWPs) and other professionals in building families' protective factors to improve the safety, stability, and well-being of children.
RME does this by teaching principles and practices that help parents and caregivers develop the knowledge and skills needed to form and maintain healthy couple and coparenting relationships. Based on the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Model, the principles and practices shared in the HRMET can be used by professionals both in their work with individuals not currently in a relationship (e.g., single parents, youth, grandparents, coparents) as well as those in a couple relationship (e.g., foster/adoptive parents, married couples, cohabiting couples).
In the first year of the project, a statewide needs assessment of over 1,000 CWPs in North Carolina and Missouri was conducted to identify and explore their attitudes, experiences, and possible barriers and concerns regarding RME. Findings showed that CWPs were largely open to RME and recognized the link between healthy couple relationships, positive parenting, and child safety and well-being (Schramm, Futris, Galovan, & Allen, 2013).
During the following 4 years of program development, 52 trainings were conducted across the five States, reaching 1,375 professionals. The evaluation focused on assessing not only trainee satisfaction but also pretraining and posttraining changes in the core competencies required to deliver RME. This included helping trainees see the usefulness of RME to their work and empowering them with the knowledge and efficacy to teach RME skills to their clients. Both quantitative (e.g., how often they used the resources) and qualitative (e.g., how they used the resources) data were collected 2 and 6 months following the training to examine what factors had influenced the transfer of learning to practice. Results showed that CWPs felt comfortable with delivering RME, believed the tools were a great way to help families, and used the resources in their work (Futris, Schramm, Lee, Thurston, & Barton, 2014). We also found that personal application, organizational support, and client needs and characteristics influenced their application of the training materials (Futris, Schramm, Richardson, & Lee, 2015; Scarrow, Futris, & Furhman, 2014). Here are a few comments shared by professionals:
- "This information really can be used as a basis for managing so many of the problems that our families are facing." (Georgia)
- "HRMET has fantastic information—it is important for anyone working with families to understand the importance of healthy relationships and the importance of parents having healthy relationships." (Iowa)
- "I really wish it was a part of training required for all social workers. This has been the most beneficial training in the past 5 years." (Missouri)
Based on evaluation feedback, the curriculum development process culminated in a 6.5 hour training curriculum, a facilitator toolkit consisting of 60 educational fact/tip sheets, and nearly 2 hours of online training modules. For more information about the training curriculum, resources, and evaluation, visit http://www.hrmet.org.
Futris, T. G., Schramm, D., Lee, T. K., Thurston, W. D., & Barton, A. W. (2014). Training child welfare professionals to support healthy couple relationships: Examining the link to training transfer. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 8(5), 560–583. doi: 10.1080/15548732.2014.953719
Futris, T. G., Schramm, D. G., Richardson, E. W., & Lee, T., K. (2015). Integrating relationship education into child welfare services: The impact of organizational support on the transfer of learning to practice. Children and Youth Services Review, 51, 36–43. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.01.019
Scarrow, A., Futris, T. G., & Fuhrman, N. E. (2014). The factors associated with child welfare professionals' application of relationship education. Children and Youth Services Review, 46, 265–275. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.08.023
Schramm, D., Futris, T. G., Galovan, A. M., & Allen, K. (2013). Is relationship and marriage education relevant and appropriate to child welfare? Children and Youth Services Review, 35(3), 429–438. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.12.013
Upcoming national conferences on child welfare and adoption through August 2015 include:
- National Post-Adoption Conference
Harmony Family Center
June 1–2, Nashville, TN
http://harmonyfamilycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/ASAP/ASAPConferenceSavetheDateAnnouncement.pdf (474 KB)
- 2015 Summer Institute on Aging
West Virginia University (WVU) School of Social Work & WVU School of Public Health
June 2–4, Morgantown, WV
- 26th Annual Conference of the Network for Social Work Management
Network for Social Work Management
June 4–5, Washington, DC
- One Child, Many Hands: A Multidisciplinary Conference on Child Welfare
Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
June 10–12, Philadelphia, PA
- MFCAA's One Conference
Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association (MFCAA)
June 17–20, Osage Beach, MO
- Putting Family First Conference: Family Strengthening to Adoption
National Council For Adoption & Joint Council on International Children's Services
June 22–24, Arlington, VA
- National Foster Parent Association 2015 National Convention
National Foster Parent Association
June 25–28, Norfolk, VA
- ASCA 2015 Annual Conference
American School Counselor Association (ASCA)
June 28–July 1, Phoenix, AZ
- "Growing Positive Community Norms: Innovations in Research, Practice, and Leadership"
Montana Summer Institute
July 7–10, Big Sky, MT
- Fostering Strategies for Change: Children, Family, and Their Communities
Cornerstones of Care, University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Social Work, Missouri Children's Division, & Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association
July 22–23, Kansas City, MO
- 4th ABA National Parent Attorney Conference
American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law
July 22–23, Washington, DC
- APSAC's 23rd Annual Colloquium
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC)
July 22–25, Boston, MA
- 16th ABA National Conference on Children and the Law
American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law
July 24–25, Washington, DC
- NCJFCJ 78th Annual Conference
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)
July 26–29, Austin, TX
- Prevention and the Child Protection Professional: Implementing Effective Child Abuse Prevention Programs
Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center
July 29–30, St. Paul, MN
- 2015 NACAC Conference
North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
July 30–August 1, Long Beach, CA
- FFTA 29th Annual Conference on Treatment Foster Care
Foster Family-Based Treatment Association (FFTA)
August 2–5, Denver, CO
- 27th Annual Crimes Against Children Conference
Sponsoring Organization: Dallas Children's Advocacy Center/Dallas Police Department
August 10–13, Dallas, TX
- First Responder Training: When the Call Comes for Mandated Reporters
Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center
August 18, St. Paul, MN
- 32nd Annual 2015 NOFSW Conference
"Forensic Practice: Promoting Social Justice for All Through Policy and Practice Reform"
National Organization of Forensic Social Work (NOFSW)
August 21–23, Arlington, VA
Further details about national and regional child welfare and adoption conferences can be found through the Conference Calendar Search feature on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at http://www.childwelfare.gov/calendar/index.cfm.
- National Post-Adoption Conference