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March 2014Vol. 15, No. 3Spotlight on Permanence for Youth

Of the approximately 400,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States, one-third are between the ages of 12 and 17. All young people—regardless of age—need and deserve permanent, loving families. No one is too old for permanency. This month, we highlight resources focused on achieving permanence for youth, including an issue brief with information on efforts to reunite children and families, funding available for reunification efforts, and promising practices for supporting reunification; a pilot program that aims to keep teenagers out of foster care and safely at home; and more.

Issue Spotlight

  • Improving Transition Planning for Youth

    Improving Transition Planning for Youth

    Responding to studies that indicate largely negative outcomes for youth who have transitioned out of foster care, researchers in Los Angeles County, CA, embarked on a study to identify best practices for improving transition planning at the departmental, judicial, and caregiver levels. A new publication reports on the work of Court Lab, the research and implementation efforts of the nonprofit group Child Welfare Initiative, which, together with the Children's Law Center of California and The Alliance for Children's Rights, partnered with the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court and the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services to examine existing transition planning practices in order to identify areas for improvement.

    Starting in 2011, the Court Lab partners collected data through reviews of court records, observations of court proceedings, and structured interviews with both youth and their caregivers. The data collected revealed deficiencies in youth and caregiver involvement in the transition process, education and employment planning, health-care access, and making permanent adult connections. These observations informed specific policy recommendations, including increasing caregiver involvement in the development and implementation of transition plans; identifying short-term, age-appropriate, and measureable goals for youth that can be evaluated at each 6-month hearing; and improving efforts to connect youth with needed services and supports.

    The publication also discusses steps the partners used in implementing the recommendations and provides guidance on how the lessons learned from this initiative can be used as a model for other jurisdictions, both in and outside of California.

    An Implementation Guide for Improving Outcomes for Older Foster Youth is available on the website for the Child Welfare Initiative: (2 MB)

  • Permanence and Family Preservation

    Permanence and Family Preservation

    The best way to ensure permanence for children and youth is to prevent unnecessary removal from home. A pilot program conducted by New York City's Administration for Children's Services (ACS) aims to keep teenagers out of foster care and safely at home by implementing evidence-based, in-home therapies. The evidence-base for these services, however, has been proven in juvenile justice, and ACS is testing their efficacy in child welfare. The pilot is featured in the Winter 2012/2013 issue of Child Welfare Watch.

    More than one-third of cases investigated by the city's child protective services and more than one-third of youth placed in the city's foster care system are children 12 years old and older—many of whom age out of care. In the coming months, ACS plans to spend $22 million providing short-term therapies to 3,000 families each year in an effort to reduce the number of older youth entering foster care. Some of the therapy models being implemented by ACS include Family Functional Therapy and Multisystemic Therapy. In the juvenile justice system, these programs helped to keep 1,000 youth with their families in lieu of being sent to a juvenile correctional facility. While ACS has previously provided services to help youth involved with child welfare successfully transition to independent living, this pilot marks a shift in the Administration's ACS approach—preventing children from entering foster care in the first place. 

    Child Welfare Watch is a project of the Center for New York City Affairs at Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy. "Social Workers at the Kitchen Table: New York Aims to Keep Teens Out of Foster Care by Adapting Model Therapies That Have Their Roots — and Evidence of Success — in Juvenile Justice," Child Welfare Watch, Winter 2012/2013, is available on the New School's website: (10 MB)

  • Promoting Kinship Foster Care

    Promoting Kinship Foster Care

    When it is possible to do so, children should be placed with relatives if they must be removed from their homes. Research shows that formal kinship foster care provides greater stability for children and youth than licensed foster homes and that kinship caregivers can reduce trauma related to being removed from the home. Kinship foster care also serves as an alternative for out-of-home placement as the number of licensed foster care providers decreases. The article "Kinship Foster Caregivers — Partners for Permanency," Social Work Today, 13(5), outlines the different types of kinship care, the need for kinship foster caregivers, the benefits of children living with kinship caregivers, and the lack of services available to these caregivers.

    There are two types of kinship caregivers: (1) those who are formally involved with the child welfare system and (2) those caregivers who care for the children on an informal basis, without child welfare involvement. Kinship caregivers include grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings of the children requiring care, cousins, and, in some cases, fictive kin or unrelated "relatives," in which someone who is not blood related is considered a family member. The article points to 2011 census data showing that 2.8 million children (4 percent of the children in the United States) lived with grandparent caregivers. Additional research indicates that the majority of kinship caregivers fall under the "informal" category. Information in the article indicates that both formal and informal kinship caregivers tend to receive less financial, educational, emotional, and supportive assistance than nonrelative, licensed foster parents. The article also provides information about the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, its benefits for kinship caregivers and children, and services and programs that have been established as a result of the legislation.

    "Kinship Foster Caregivers: Partners for Permanency," by Lynne Soine, Social Work Today, 13(5), 2013 is available on the Social Work Today website:

  • Investing in Youth Well-Being

    Investing in Youth Well-Being

    The Foster Care Work Group—one of three work groups in the Youth Transition Funders Group, a network of grantmakers seeking to help all youth make a successful transition to adulthood by age 25—recently released a written agenda promoting increased investment in the well-being of children in or transitioning out of foster care. The investment agenda opens by noting that youth in the child welfare system often experience lower levels of social, emotional, and physical well-being than their peers; however, compared to the efforts that go into promoting safety and permanency for members of this population, relatively little attention is given to improving their well-being. The document seeks to increase awareness of this issue by leveraging and advancing emerging interest in well-being among the Federal Government, as well as within the research and advocacy communities.

    An overview on the current status of well-being among older youth currently in or transitioning out of foster care is provided, followed by a new framework for viewing and assessing well-being within this population. Finally, the investment agenda provides a series of recommendations for public and private funders that are seeking to improve the social, emotional, and physical well-being of older youth transitioning out of foster care. These recommendations fall within the following five categories:

    • Improving, expanding, and sustaining innovative and evidence-based practice
    • Supporting policy and advocacy initiatives
    • Increasing community supports and opportunities
    • Investing across systems
    • Promoting research and evaluation

    Recommendations are grounded in a positive youth development approach, taking into account an understanding of the developmental stage of emerging adulthood and incorporating a new understanding of adolescent brain development.

    A Plan for Investing in the Social, Emotional and Physical Well-Being of Older Youth in Foster Care is available on the website for the Foster Care Work Group: (1 MB)

  • Caseworker Perspectives on APPLA

    Caseworker Perspectives on APPLA

    In 1997, with the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, Congress eliminated long-term foster placement as a permanency option. There was widespread belief that all children and youth needed and deserved a permanent family. Due to concerns about some children and youth, when legal permanency as defined in Federal laws was not appropriate, Congress included a new permanency goal as "another planned permanent living arrangement" (APPLA). A 2013 article in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal examined caseworker perspectives on APPLA, including strengths and challenges in service provision, agency support, and the meaning of permanency. Information was collected during five focus groups with child welfare caseworkers located throughout the country, including both urban and rural locations.

    Various themes emerged from the study:

    • The age of youth, extreme youth behaviors, and poor family situations often contribute to an APPLA designation.
    • Work with APPLA-designated youth tends to be more intensive than work with younger or non-APPLA youth, often because of the youth's mental health and behavioral issues.
    • Caseworkers often believe that they do not receive adequate system or agency support in working with APPLA-designated youth.
    • Caseworkers generally could not specify many strategies used in their agencies for finding permanent legal placements for APPLA-designated youth.
    • Caseworkers believe APPLA-designated youth need more and better Independent Living services.

    The authors also list several recommendations for practice and policy.

    "Improving Permanency: Caseworker Perspectives of Older Youth in Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement," by Karen W. Tao, Kristin J. Ward, Kirk O’Brien, Paul DiLorenzo, and Susan Kelly, Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 30, 2013, is available for purchase through the publisher's website:

  • Reunification: The First Permanency Outcome

    Reunification: The First Permanency Outcome

    In 2012, 51 percent of the children who left foster care in the United States were reunited with their parents or primary caregiver. States also reported in 2012 that 53 percent of children in foster care had a case plan goal of reunification. Despite the preference for reunification, this permanency outcome is the only one not eligible for ongoing Federal funding support under title IV-E, requiring States to patch together services and funding for such services. An issue brief from the State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center (SPARC) and First Focus reviews efforts to reunite children and families, funding available for reunification efforts, and promising practices for supporting reunification.

    For many families, the issues that caused a child to enter out-of-home care may not have been completely addressed by the time reunification occurs, and reunification services, when available, may provide needed support. The issue brief notes that continued research is needed on reunification services, which families would benefit from such services, and the types of services needed. The authors also note that while some limited block grant funds are provided for reunification services, time limitations on services make it difficult to fund services that follow the child home. 

    The report discusses the challenges of reunification, such as limited resources and the complex needs of families seeking services, and promising State approaches, including a chart of State spending on reunification services through title IV-B programs.   

    Reunification of Foster Children With Their Families: The First Permanency Outcome is available on the SPARC website: (262 KB) 

    Recent Issues

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    Spotlight on National Child Abuse Prevention Month

    Spotlight on National Child Abuse Prevention Month

  • March 2024

    Spotlight on Diversity and Racial Equity in Child Welfare

    Spotlight on Diversity and Racial Equity in Child Welfare

News From the Children's Bureau

The Child Welfare Outcomes Data Site has been updated with a new reporting feature that increases capabilities for viewing race/ethnicity data, and the March "Associate Commissioner's Page" focuses on the Children's Bureau's Permanency Innovations Initiative to help older youth in foster care achieve permanence.

  • Child Welfare Research and Evaluation Workgroups

    Child Welfare Research and Evaluation Workgroups

    In the February issue of Children's Bureau Express, the Children's Bureau introduced the Child Welfare Research and Evaluation Workgroups, three groups of national child welfare experts that were convened by the Bureau after the 2011 National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit. Each workgroup examined a particular evaluation topic with the goal of improving child welfare research and evaluation and strengthening the link between research and practice. In February, publications from two of the three workgroups were released. These documents are being made available on the Children's Bureau website.

    Calculating Costs Workgroup

    Motivated by a growing need for accurate and comparable information about child welfare program costs and by the lack of a standard methodology for calculating costs across projects, the Bureau brought together researchers, evaluators, and child welfare agency financial officers. The result of their collaboration is a guide that demonstrates how cost analysis, when integrated with program evaluation, can promote a better understanding of key program components, implementation, and unit costs. The guide is relevant for multiple audiences, including program directors and evaluators, child welfare agency administrators, funders of research studies and evaluation projects, and other important stakeholders who rely on child welfare evaluation. To learn more about the workgroup and its recommendations check out the workgroup's publication.

    Cost Analysis in Program Evaluation: A Guide for Child Welfare Researchers and Service Providers is available here:

    Tribal Evaluation Workgroup

    American Indian and Alaska Native communities face unique challenges when participating in program evaluation. Historically, Tribes have experienced intrusive research and judgmental evaluations that have caused many of them great harm. Often, evaluators do not understand the fear that persists due to this history, and they may fail to respect Native cultural traditions, worldviews, and values. The Children's Bureau formed the Tribal Evaluation Workgroup to develop a product that might improve evaluation with Tribal communities. Together, workgroup members created a shared vision for the future of Tribal child welfare evaluation and a guide for developing culturally and scientifically rigorous evaluation. The product identifies values and priorities that can foster trust and build the knowledge and skills of Tribes, their evaluation partners, and other stakeholders to conduct more useful and meaningful evaluations. The workgroup's roadmap also is available for download.

    A Roadmap for Collaborative and Effective Evaluation in Tribal Communities is available here:

    Be on the lookout for the workgroup's third product and two videos that complement the cost analysis guide, which will be released in the coming weeks.

  • 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. 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!

  • 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 CBX Spotlight theme and highlights the Bureau's work on the topic.

    Of the nearly 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, one-third are between the ages of 12 and 17. We know that youth who leave foster care without a permanent family or a lifelong connection to a caring adult are more likely than their peers to experience negative outcomes, including homelessness, joblessness, and low educational attainment. The Children's Bureau strives to help all children and youth involved with child welfare achieve safety, permanency, and well-being. In recent years, increased attention has been paid to older youth with serious barriers to permanence. Our Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII) is just one of our many efforts to help older youth in foster care establish healthy, nurturing, and permanent connections.

    In 2010, the Children's Bureau committed to awarding $100 million over 5 years to six grantees to test innovative approaches to improving outcomes for youth in foster care. In February, my "Associate Commissioner's Page" message pointed to the Recognize Intervene Support Empower (RISE) initiative that is working to address barriers to permanence for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) children and youth. Other PII grantees include the following: 

    • The California Partners for Permanency (CAPP) is working toward a goal of improving permanency outcomes for African-American and American Indian children in foster care by implementing a Child and Family Practice Model that addresses systemic bias and includes culturally sensitive engagement; empowerment of family, Tribal, and community networks; and use of culturally based healing practices and practice adaptations.
    • The Fostering Readiness and Permanency Project (FRP), developed by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Central Region (Eastern Maricopa and Pinal Counties), uses coordinated service provision to prepare children who have been in or are most likely to remain in continuous out-of-home care and their potential caregivers for permanency.
    • The Illinois Trauma Focus Model for Reducing Long-Term Foster Care project is working to implement an evidence-based trauma intervention to promote more timely achievement of permanence among youth ages 11 to 16 who have reached their 2-year anniversary in foster care.
    • Kansas Intensive Permanency Project (KIPP) is working to accelerate permanence for families of children with serious emotional disturbances  by delivering intensive home-based parent training and support services shortly after children have been removed from their homes.
    • The Nevada Initiative to Reduce Long-Term Foster Care aims to reduce the number of children in long-term foster care by implementing an intervention approach, SAFE-FC, to keep children safe, prevent them from entering foster care, and to improve permanency outcomes for subgroups of children that have the most serious barriers to permanence.

    We hope that our work at the Children's Bureau enhances your work helping youth establish permanent, lifelong connections that promote their health and well-being.

    Resources from and information about each of the PII grantees is available on the Children's Bureau website:

  • Child Welfare Outcomes Data Site Update

    Child Welfare Outcomes Data Site Update

    Since its launch in December 2010, the Child Welfare Outcomes Data Site has provided child welfare-related data to research consumers using data from the annual Child Welfare Outcomes Report to Congress. This report assesses State performance in operating child protection and child welfare programs and presents State-performance data in seven outcome categories related to child safety, permanency, and well-being. New enhancements to the site now allow users to look at race and ethnicity data in a more detailed manner.

    The site includes data on contextual factors that are relevant to understanding and interpreting State performance on the outcome measures. It allows for an efficient release of these data and enables users to view the statistics according to their own unique needs. During its brief history, the Data Site has undergone several enhancements, including developments that allow users to download data into Excel spreadsheets and to produce printer-friendly outputs. Most recently, the website has been updated with a new reporting feature that increases capabilities for viewing race/ethnicity data and creating data reports using the following two race/ethnicity breakdown options:

    • The "traditional" breakdown treats race and ethnicity as mutually exclusive categories. When a child is reported as Hispanic, the child is removed from reporting for any of the race categories (White, Black, etc.). 
    • The new "alternative" breakdown reports race and ethnicity as two separate categories. They are not mutually exclusive, and counts for both race and ethnicity can be reported for the State.

    With concern in recent years regarding the disproportionate representation of children of color in child welfare, it is especially important to have data available that allow users to more precisely distinguish between the race and ethnicity populations within States. 

    The Child Welfare Outcomes Data Site is available here:

Training and Technical Assistance Update

The National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment developed a tool to help guide diligent recruitment efforts and assist child welfare agencies create comprehensive diligent recruitment programs. We also highlight the free subscription services offered by Child Welfare Information Gateway and other updates from the T&TA Network.

Children's Bureau Grantee Updates

We highlight two grantee site visits this month, one from the Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in the Foster Care System grant cluster and another from the Child Welfare/Early Education Partnerships to Expand Protective Factors for Children With Child Welfare Involvement cluster.

  • Site Visit: Oklahoma's Bridge to the Future

    Site Visit: Oklahoma's Bridge to the Future

    In 2007, a survey of Oklahoma Department of Human Services' (OKDHS') child welfare staff indicated significant concerns regarding the agency's ability to effectively meet the needs of children in out-of-home care. The most critical of these concerns was recruiting and retaining a sufficient number of qualified foster and adoptive parents. To resolve these issues, OKDHS, in collaboration with the University of Oklahoma's Center for Public Management (OUCPM), initiated the Bridge to the Future project. The project was funded as one the Children's Bureau's eight 5-year grants in its Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in the Foster Care System grant cluster.

    The Bridge was defined as a component of the OKDHS practice model that seeks to view "practice through the eyes of the child and seeks to ensure that children in care maintain connections to their kin, culture, and community while in out of home care." There was a need for current and future Bridge Resource Families (BRFs) to be trained in the Bridge philosophy and practice to ensure a focus on permanency from the first day a child enters the child welfare system. With this in mind, improving customer service and ultimately the satisfaction of BRFs with the recruitment, approval, and ongoing support process was a primary goal of the project. Survey data indicated several issues impacting BRF satisfaction, including the following: 

    • Many BRFs found the approval process overwhelming.
    • Parent inquiries that came in through the Internet or the 1-800 number rarely resulted in application submission and included high withdrawal rates. 
    • Families needed access to information and training in multiple formats.
    • BRFs had a low acceptance of children with medical issues, disabilities, or significantly traumatic backgrounds, including sexual or physical abuse and drug or alcohol exposure.
    • Once BRFs understood what Bridge meant for the child and for them, they were willing to participate. 

    To address these issues, the Bridge to the Future project focused on the following activities:

    • Bridge Resource Support Center (BRSC). The center employs two full-time staff who have child welfare experience and are prepared to respond to Internet and phone inquiries from prospective and current BRFs from across the State. Since implementation, the BRSC has responded to more than 9,500 contacts from families, acting as an additional support to families during the approval process by conducting follow-up calls at 10 days, 30 days, and as requested. In response to these calls, over 3,000 inquiry packets have been sent to families desiring to know more about the Bridge program.
    • Bridge Resource Family Website (BRFW). The website provides general information about what BRFs do, FAQs about the Bridge Family philosophy, supportive resources, forms, and news and events from around the State. Additionally, the website includes more than 20 training videos. As of December 2012, more than 2,055 trainings were registered as completed. Importantly, the website also includes the telephone number for the BRSC. 
    • Training for OKDHS Staff. Data and conversations with BRFs and staff indicated there was a significant problem with staff perception of the level of support needed for prospective and current BRFs. A 1-hour online training for all staff, Valuing Our Resource Families, was designed and delivered. The training plan includes pre- and posttest survey instruments, future performance appraisal surveys at 3, 6, 12, and 18 months for supervisors, interviews with supervisors assessing behavioral change, and focus groups with staff. The impact of training is currently being evaluated utilizing the Kirkpatrick Model of Evaluation. 

    In 2009 and 2012, customer service surveys were administered to prospective BRFs. In 2009, there was only an 8-percent response rate, but in 2012, the response rate increased to18 percent. Results indicated that there was an overall 23-percent improved customer satisfaction rate among prospective BRFs. Other responses from the surveys indicated that negative perceptions of OKDHS decreased by 7 percent, and there was a 9-percent decrease in the reported lack of knowledge of the application process or system.

    Since 2011, an annual customer service satisfaction survey of current BRFs has been administered and asks questions related to how respondents feel about the support they are receiving from a variety of sources including the BRSC, the BRFW, and their caseworker. In 2011, the response rate was low, approximately 20 percent. By 2013, the response rate had increased to over 35 percent. In May 2013, the Bridge to the Future project received the Oklahoma Governor's Commendation of Excellence for enhancing foster and adoptive family recruitment and retention through innovative, effective, and efficient programming.
    For more information about this project, contact Karen Poteet, Project Manager, The full site visit report is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

    The Bridge to the Future project is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award 90CO1033). 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.

  • Site Visit: Arkansas Is Building Bridges in Early Childhood

    Site Visit: Arkansas Is Building Bridges in Early Childhood

    Young children (ages birth to 5) in the custody of the child welfare system need access to high-quality child care if safety, permanency, and well-being are to be achieved. High-quality child care means that the provider is able to meet the unique needs of children in foster care, most of whom have experienced some form of trauma. Using a 17-month Children's Bureau (CB) infrastructure-building grant, the Building Bridges for Better Beginnings project in Arkansas aims to bolster access to care for this child population. The project is bringing together State-level leaders from child welfare and early education agencies and programs, as well as other professionals who are involved with children in foster care. The project is evaluating policies and knowledge about the benefits of early child care and the effects of trauma on young children. 

    The leadership team for the project consists of representatives from the following: 

    • The University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) School of Social Work 
    • The Arkansas Division of Children and Families (DCFS) 
    • The Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE)
    • Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) 
    • Project PLAY (a project within the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) 
    • The UALR Survey Research Center
    • The Midsouth Training Academy 

    The CB grant, awarded in fiscal year 2011, is part of the CB's Child Welfare /Early Education Partnerships to Expand Protective Factors for Children with Child Welfare Involvement cluster.

    Project staff sent surveys to professionals in child welfare, early childhood, and court-related staff to assess their knowledge of the effects of trauma on young children and the benefits of early childhood education. Focus groups and individual interviews also were conducted. It was discovered that some child welfare staff and early childhood care providers had limited knowledge about the effects of trauma, and some child welfare staff were not fully aware of the benefits of early childhood education. In addition to the findings of the surveys, focus groups, and interviews, the leadership team learned that there was minimal training required for DCFS transporters, who are responsible for transporting children to and from appointments, visitations, and placement moves. However, despite minimal training for transporters, the information they document about children's reactions to these transitions becomes part of DCFS records. The lack of training for these staff members on the ongoing effects of trauma was a concern to the Building Bridges leadership team.

    Building Bridges and the Midsouth Training Academy designed trainings specific to DCFS personnel, including transporters, DCCECE, child care providers, and court-related staff. The following topics were addressed in the trainings:

    • The impact of trauma on young children ages 0–5 years
    • The definition of high-quality child care and education
    • The relevance of high-quality child care in mitigating the impact of trauma

    Throughout the training, the importance of exploring collaborative opportunities and mutual goals of early childhood, child welfare, and the courts was emphasized. Pre- and posttraining surveys were collected at the training, and the information from the surveys will be used to assess if the training improved the participants' knowledge. The training for transporters, Smooth Moves, is available on the DCFS Intranet, as well as on a DVD. The early childhood training also is available on DVD. Building Bridges also created an informational CD-ROM that contains various resources relevant to early childhood and child welfare. The CD-ROMs are provided to participants at the end of the trainings. Building Bridges plans to provide copies of the training DVDs as well as the resource CD-ROMs to foster parents, child care providers, and other child-serving professionals. At the writing of this article, the project had distributed approximately 2,400 training DVDs and 5,000 of the resource CD-ROMs across the State.

    A lack of communication between foster parents, child welfare staff, and child care providers was identified as a barrier to successful child care placement. To address this issue, Building Bridges designed, and DCFS and DCCECE implemented, a Child Welfare Toolkit that included a form that allows for the exchange of information among stakeholders. The Child Welfare Toolkit is included on the resource CD-ROM. Another barrier to the effective provision of high-quality child care that was identified by the project was DCCECE's tracking of early childhood vouchers and child care moves. The leadership team made recommendations for changes in this process in order to make accessing information easier. Implementation of these recommendations is pending.

    Building Bridges also decided to use Facebook and Twitter to provide more information to the public about the program. According to project staff, the social media accounts did not receive the response the project had hoped. Project staff plan to maintain the accounts after the grant period ends—which includes a no-cost extension—on August 31, 2013, to continue to share information with the public about the benefits of early childhood education for children served by the child welfare system. The collaboration between the agencies and the trainings also will continue after the grant ends in order to assist with building the capacity of the providers.

    For more information on this project, contact E. Christopher Lloyd, L.C.S.W., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Social Work at the UALR School of Social Work,

    Building Bridges for Better Beginnings is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award 90CO1067). 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.

Child Welfare Research

We point to research on the prevalence of substance use among children and youth involved with child welfare, a study of social worker readiness for organizational change, and ongoing child welfare reform efforts.

  • Health-Care Use by Children in Foster Care

    Health-Care Use by Children in Foster Care

    Children in foster care are often at higher risk for various physical and mental health problems. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a report outlining a study of Medicaid data from 2010 that compared several health factors between children in foster care who are covered by Medicaid and the general population of children who are covered by Medicaid. These factors include the following:

    • Most common diagnoses
    • Most common comorbidities (for this study, diagnoses that occur within the same year)
    • Use of health and behavioral health-care services

    The following are examples of key findings from the report:

    • Across all ages, mental health and substance use diagnoses were more common among children in foster care (49.4 percent mental health disorder and 3.3 percent substance use disorder) compared to children not in foster care (10.9 percent mental health disorder and 0.6 percent substance use disorder).
    • Among children ages 0 to 5 years, children in foster care were more likely to have the following diagnoses than children not in foster care: developmental disorders (16.9 percent vs. 4.1 percent); disorders of the teeth and jaw (13.1 percent vs. 6.4 percent); attention-deficit, conduct, and disruptive disorders (8.7 percent vs. 1.4 percent); and adjustment disorders (7.6 percent vs. 0.5 percent).
    • Among youth ages 12 to 17, those in foster care used mental health services at a much higher rate than those outside of foster care (55.3 percent vs. 16.5 percent).

    Diagnoses and Health Care Utilization of Children Who Are in Foster Care and Covered by Medicaid is available on the SAMHSA website: (1 MB)

  • Substance Use Among Youth in Care

    Substance Use Among Youth in Care

    While research has linked adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect to a high risk for substance use disorders later in life, research specific to substance use among children involved with child welfare is limited. A recent study using data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) compared substance use among children and youth involved with child welfare to substance use by youth not involved with child welfare (in this study, "community youth").

    NSCAW baseline data of children and families involved with child welfare were collected from 2000 to 2001. Add Health is a nationally representative, school-based sample of adolescents in the 7th through 12th grades, with baseline data collected during the 1994–1995 academic year. Using these data, the authors examined the following eight outcome measures of substance use: lifetime and current use of alcohol, inhalant, marijuana, and other illicit drugs.

    Results showed that substance use for lifetime marijuana use, lifetime and current inhalant use, and lifetime and current illicit drug use was higher among youth involved with child welfare than community youth. Twice as many youth involved with child welfare than community youth reported lifetime inhalant use (12 percent compared to 6 percent), in addition to a 50-percent greater amount of hard drug use reported among youth involved with child welfare. Among youth involved with child welfare, delinquency was the sole significant factor associated with lifetime alcohol, marijuana, inhalant, and hard drug use. Results also showed that family structure and parental closeness were important protective factors against substance use among youth involved with child welfare.

    The authors suggest that, in order for the child welfare and behavioral health communities to develop effective prevention interventions, further research is necessary to explore risk and protective factors associated with substance use.

    "Higher Rates of Adolescent Substance Use in Child Welfare Versus Community Populations in the United States," by Danielle Fettes, Gregory Aarons, and Amy Green, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74(6), 2013, is available for purchase through the publisher:

    For more information on NSCAW, visit the website for the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation:

  • Child Welfare Reform Efforts

    Child Welfare Reform Efforts

    A November 2013 article in the Chronicle of Social Change, "The Many Faces of Federal Child Welfare Reform," outlines several national child welfare reform proposals that could have a significant impact on how the government supports vulnerable families. It lists the key individuals and organizations involved with the efforts and provides background information, including why the efforts may be necessary and how they may assist children and families. The article highlights reforms in the following areas:

    • Family preservation and flexible title IV-E funding
    • Restricting and improving foster care
    • The adoption incentives program
    • Education funding for youth who age out of foster care

    "The Many Faces of Federal Child Welfare Reform," by John Kelly, can be found on the website for the Chronicle of Social Change:

  • Social Worker Readiness for Organizational Change

    Social Worker Readiness for Organizational Change

    While research has looked at successful change implementation in the fields of education, health, and psychology, little research on this topic has been specific to child welfare. A recent study examined the statewide implementation of a child welfare practice model, in addition to the role staff play in effective organizational change.

    The study was conducted while the practice model was being implemented and supported with technical assistance from the Mountains and Plains Child Welfare Implementation Center and framed around the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) model. The evidence-based NIRN includes seven core implementation drivers and six implementation stages. This framework was chosen by the Children's Bureau in 2008 and supported by its five child welfare implementation centers to help guide States and Tribes through systems change.

    Data for this study were collected from 568 child welfare staff in 13 local agencies and among 12 implementation coaches. Additionally, focus groups and case study interviews were conducted with 52 staff in four agencies. The authors set out to answer the following three questions: 

    1. What is the level and nature of staff/worker buy-in related to the innovation?
    2. Does buy-in vary according to staff characteristics?
    3. What is the relationship between buy-in, local-level agency readiness, and implementation status 1 year after the project's start date?

    The authors concluded that agencies with staff who had a higher level of understanding of and belief that the practice model was worthwhile would be more likely to reach implementation, compared to agencies with lower levels of staff buy-in. Results showed that progress was higher among smaller agencies and that staff/worker buy-in across the board was related to specific characteristics such as gender and tenure. Specifically, males and those with tenure of 16 years or more had higher rates of buy-in. Results also showed that workers with lower levels of job stress accelerated implementation, demonstrating the need for agencies to address stress levels among staff as a key barrier to successfully implementing change.

    "Who's on Board? Child Welfare Worker Reports of Buy-In and Readiness for Organizational Change," by Julie McCrae, Maria Scannapieco, Robin Leake, Cathryn Potter, and David Menefee, Children and Youth Services Review, 37, 2014, is available for purchase:

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.

  • Parental Access to Mental and Behavioral Health Supports

    Parental Access to Mental and Behavioral Health Supports

    A November 2013 policy brief on the website highlights the Affordable Care Act and States' opportunities to improve access to health care for parents and families involved with child welfare. As of January 1, 2014, States have the option to increase coverage to make health and mental health care accessible for working and nonworking adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. As parental mental health and substance use issues are often an underlying cause of child abuse and neglect, focusing on the importance of parental well-being by expanding access to needed treatment can prove beneficial to and improve outcomes for children, youth, and their families.

    The brief also provides recommendations for policymakers, child welfare practitioners, and advocates related to promoting and implementing policies and programs that support the health, happiness, and success of parents and their families.

    To read the full brief, visit, a website and project of the Center for the Study of Social Policy, an organization dedicated to helping policymakers make informed decisions that affect children and families. "Using the Affordable Care Act to Improve Well-Being Outcomes for Children and Families," is available here: (436 KB)

  • Suicide Prevention for Youth

    Suicide Prevention for Youth

    Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 15–24. Youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system, especially those in residential facilities, have higher rates of suicide than their peers not involved with juvenile justice. Drawing on evidence that a comprehensive public health approach can be effective in reducing suicide rates, the Youth in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention has launched an initiative, the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, in an effort to reduce the number of suicides among justice-involved youth. Given the correlation among youth involvement with the juvenile justice system and involvement with child welfare, these resources may be of use to child welfare and related professionals.

    As part of this initiative, the task force has released a series of publications that describe the approaches showing promise, including education and training, assessment and treatment, and long-term prevention strategies. One publication, Preventing Juvenile Suicide through Improved Collaboration: Strategies for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Agencies, describes the need for collaboration and data sharing across the juvenile justice, behavioral health, and social services systems and discusses how cross-systems collaboration can enhance the effectiveness of suicide reduction efforts.

    The initiative's publications include:

    The task force's Public Awareness and Education Workgroup also has developed a series of factsheets to raise awareness among individuals who work with youth involved with the juvenile justice system, including:

    The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is supported by grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Quality Assessments in Child Welfare

    Quality Assessments in Child Welfare

    Assessment is a fundamental part of child welfare work, from intake to adoption, and is conducted by child protective services (CPS) and other child welfare-related professionals to help ensure that the services provided to children and families are appropriate and beneficial. The December 2013 issue of Practice Notes focuses on conducting quality child welfare work assessments, practitioners' interest in developing their assessment skills and processes, and what is currently being done in North Carolina to strengthen assessments and improve outcomes for children and families.

    Articles in this issue highlight the following:
    • The increase in CPS assessments in North Carolina (12 percent in 10 years) at the same time that the number of children in the State declined by 7 percent 
    • The usefulness of a Comprehensive Family Assessment or "umbrella" assessment framework in child welfare, the related Children's Bureau guidelines, and a list of commonly used assessment terms
    • The importance of enhancing family engagement in order to strengthen child welfare assessments, including a list of 12 tips that may help practitioners engage families, the associated barriers to engagement, and national and North Carolina-specific family engagement resources and trainings
    • Examples of North Carolina's system- and agency-level efforts to strengthen assessments
    • Some of the specialized assessments and tools North Carolina child welfare professionals commonly use in their work, including developmental assessments, domestic violence assessment tools, functional assessments, and medical evaluations/physical exams

    Practice Notes, 19(1), 2013, produced by the North Carolina Division of Social Services and the Family and Children's Resource Program, is available on the Practice Notes website:

  • Caregiver and Community Capacity Logic Model

    Caregiver and Community Capacity Logic Model

    The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University produced a logic model highlighting how policies and programs that strengthen caregiver and community capacities can build healthy development across children's developmental lifespans. The interactive logic model is centered on three concepts: 

    • Brain development begins before birth and continues through adulthood. 
    • Experiencing adversity early in life can produce physiological disruptions or biological "memories" that upset development.  
    • The ability to change behavior decreases over time. 

    The narrated logic model contends that the presence or lack of three domains—(1) stable and responsive environment of relationships, (2) safe and supportive physical environments, and (3) sound and appropriate nutrition—will either nourish or interrupt development. The tool notes that effective policies to boost caregiver and community capacities that support development include legislative and administrative actions affecting public health, early care, child welfare, and other human services, and workplace policies related to flexible working hours and time off.

    Driving Science-Based Innovation in Policy and Practice: A Logic Model is available on the website for the Center on the Developing Child:

  • Interviewing Children With Disabilities

    Interviewing Children With Disabilities

    Interviewing children with disabilities about alleged abuse can be challenging for even the most seasoned child welfare professional and/or investigator. In its October 2013 newsletter, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP's) Missing and Exploited Children's Program (MECP) featured data from the 2012 National Survey of Abuse of People With Disabilities. Survey results showed that more than 70 percent of respondents were victims of abuse, and more than 90 percent said they had experienced multiple incidents of abuse. The October issue of the MECP newsletter builds on the August issue that focused on victimization of children with disabilities.

    The first article links to the webinar "Interviewing Children With Disabilities II," which offers information on the various stages of interviewing children with disabilities, a follow-up to the first webinar that was held in August. The second article, "Building a Better Model to Serve Child Victims with Disabilities," provides an overview of the Sanford Health Dakota Children's Advocacy Center's Accessible Justice Conference, as well as its Accessibility Toolkit available for professionals who provide services to children with disabilities who have been abused. The third article includes information about the perspective of law enforcement and child protective services in interviewing children with disabilities. In addition, this article includes a section on investigating cases involving children with disabilities when there are ethical dilemmas.

    The OJJDP MECP newsletter for October 2013, and other issues, is available on the MECP training website:

  • Kinship Process Mapping

    Kinship Process Mapping

    Federal and State child welfare policy promotes kinship placement for children and youth who cannot safely live with their parents. Although studies show that placement with extended family can reduce trauma and support well-being, many public child welfare agencies nationwide face obstacles in achieving kinship care goals. An April 2013 guide developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation thoroughly examines Kinship Process Mapping (KPM), a standardized method of analysis that child welfare agencies can use to identify and develop recommendations for removing barriers to placing children with kin.

    The guide is divided into three sections, which mirror KPM's three phases: preparing for KPM sessions, facilitating KPM sessions, and analyzing results and developing solutions. The first two sections contain practical step-by-step instructions for documenting and evaluating how child welfare staff currently identify, approve, and support kin (the three key functions of the kinship care system), and the third section outlines a process by which child welfare agencies can better identify barriers to kinship placement and develop solutions to achieve positive outcomes for children and youth.

    When employed, the three-phase KPM process takes approximately 2 months to implement. The guide also provides recommendations child welfare organizations should consider in order to be successful in KPM implementation.

    Kinship Process Mapping: A Guide to Improving Practice in Kinship Care is available on the Annie E. Casey Foundation website: (660 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.

  • Youth Voices for Change

    Youth Voices for Change created the Youth Engaged 4 Change website for teens and young adults who want to advocate for strengthening programs that improve outcomes for vulnerable youth. The website features voices of youth advocates or "Change Makers"; opportunities for internships, speaking engagements, conferences, and other events offered by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs; tools for building knowledge and skills for advocacy on an array of topics, including foster care, education, LGBTQ issues, bullying, and more; and a list of hotlines, publications, and other resources offering support. is an agency created by the Federal Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs that supports programs and services focusing on youth. For more information on Youth Engaged 4 Change and other resources, visit its website:

  • Establishing CQI in Child Welfare

    Establishing CQI in Child Welfare

    The Center for State Child Welfare Data (Data Center) designed a continuous quality improvement (CQI) webpage and model specifically for child welfare agencies. The Data Center works closely with agencies to help them adopt CQI structures (''interventions'') and establish data-driven practice across the organization. According to the Data Center's CQI process model, the steps toward establishing CQI include assessing baseline performance on central child welfare outcomes, analyzing, establishing performance targets, implementing, evaluating, and gathering feedback.

    The Data Center features selected publications on CQI in child welfare, in addition to an archive of online CQI seminars. The Data Center's CQI webpage is available here:

  • From Youth Advocate to Advocate for Youth

    From Youth Advocate to Advocate for Youth

    Youth Move National and the Research and Training Center for Pathways to Positive Futures produced a guide to help young leaders transitioning out of foster care share their stories and advocate for effective systems change. Just as youth may struggle transitioning to adulthood, young leaders often struggle with the transition from youth advocate to advocate for youth. Designed for youth between the ages of 15 and 30, as well as the adults that support them, Youth Advocate to Advocate for Youth: The Next Transition identifies seven stages in the journey to advocate for youth and provides tips and strategies to master this process. The guide also includes definitions of key terms and specific stage level resources.

    Youth Advocate to Advocate for Youth: The Next Transition is available on the Research and Training Center for Pathways to Positive Futures website:
 (516 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.

  • CBCAP Online Learning Course

    CBCAP Online Learning Course

    The FRIENDS National Resource Center on Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention recently launched a free, online learning course offering an introduction to the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) program. The course includes three modules: 

    • Module 1 provides an introduction and overview of the CBCAP program and is applicable to CBCAP State Lead agency staff, board members, parent leaders, and other stakeholders. 
    • Module 2 is specifically designed for new CBCAP State Lead agency staff and provides information and resources on the CBCAP program, roles and responsibilities, application and annual report guidance, and contact information for the CBCAP Federal Project Officer. 
    • Module 3 focuses on the work of the FRIENDS National Resource Center.

    CBCAP 101: An Introduction to the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) Program and FRIENDS National Resource Center is available on the FRIENDS website:

  • Fostering Connections Training

    Fostering Connections Training

    In 2010, California became one of the first States to take advantage of the provision set forth under the Federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 allowing States to extend title IV-E foster care eligibility for youth to age 21. To support implementation of the State's legislation (AB 12), the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) has developed a variety of training resources arranged by audience type. CalSWEC also produced a suggested training plan to help users identify the proper order for using the materials.

    Fostering Connections After 18 (AB 12) Training Resources are available on CalSWEC's website:

    Related Item

    In the December 2013 issue, Children's Bureau Express featured a report exploring California's planning process and implementation of its Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. For more information, read "Extending Foster Care to 21 in California."

  • Conferences


    Upcoming national conferences on child welfare and adoption through June 2014 include: 

    April 2014

    • New World of Adoption Conference 2014
      University of Massachusetts Amherst/Rudd Adoption Research Program 
      April 11, Amherst, MA  
    • 32nd Annual Protecting Our Children National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect 
      National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA)
      April 13–16, Fort Lauderdale, FL 
    • 19th National Conference on Child Abuse & Neglect 
      Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families
      April 29–May 2, New Orleans, LA 

    May 2014

    • 17th Annual Welfare Research and Evaluation Conference
      The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families
      May 28–30, Washington, DC 
    • 21st Annual Foster Care Conference 
      Footsteps to the Future
      Daniel Memorial
      May 28–30, Daytona Beach, FL 
    • 8th Biennial St. John's University Adoption Conference
      Sleeping Giants in Adoption: Power, Privilege, Politics and Class
      St. John's University in collaboration with Montclair State University
      May 29–31, Queens , NY  

    June 2014

    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: