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March 2008Vol. 9, No. 2Spotlight on Systems Change in Child Welfare

Issue Spotlight

  • Special Issue on Systems Change Research

    Special Issue on Systems Change Research

    Systems change is the focus of the June 2007 issue of the American Journal of Community Psychology. This special issue draws on new research to provide conceptual and methodological tools for practitioners involved in designing, implementing, and assessing social change. Articles of interest include the following:

    • "Putting the System Back into Systems Change: A Framework for Understanding and Changing Organizational and Community Systems" (by Pennie G. Foster-Fishman, Branda Nowell, and Huilan Yang) provides a framework for identifying and understanding system parts and interdependencies that can help explain system functioning and leverage systems change.
    • "Lessons Learned in Systems Change Initiatives: Benchmarks and Indicators" (by Mary Kreger, Claire D. Brindis, Diane M. Manuel, and Lauren Sassoubre) discusses collaboratives as engines of social change and the establishment of benchmarks and indicators of systems change.
    • "Changing Systems by Changing Individuals: The Incubation Approach to Systems Change" (by Susan L. Staggs, Marlita L. White, Paul A. Schewe, Erica B. Davis, and Ebony M. Dill) describes and evaluates the incubation approach to systems change in which a change agent collaborates with project staff to "incubate" feasible and warranted change in target systems.
    • "Developing Operating Principles for Systems Change" (by Teresa R. Behrens and Pennie G. Foster-Fishman) proposes five operating principles for systems change work.

    This issue of the American Journal of Community Psychology is available for purchase online:

  • Collaboration and Systems Change: Two States' Efforts

    Collaboration and Systems Change: Two States' Efforts

    This article presents examples of two States’ efforts to achieve better outcomes for children and families by effecting systems change through collaboration. The effort in Kentucky is a relatively new approach that involves the State’s Court Improvement Program. The North Carolina Collaborative for Children, Youth and Families is a more long-standing endeavor that provides a forum for a variety of groups to engage in discussion, policymaking, and advocacy.


    As part of the Court Improvement Program (CIP) in Kentucky, the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are collaborating to identify systems changes and innovations in court procedures, legislation, and services that will lead to better outcomes for children and families. Central to this effort is a series of Summits on Children held around the State that involve stakeholders at all levels in a dialog about needed changes.

    After attending a national Summit on Children in New York City early in 2007, Kentucky's Chief Justice Lambert brought the idea of a series of summits back to Kentucky, directing the Administrative Office of the Courts to convene both a statewide summit and a series of regional summits. The statewide summit, "Courts and Community: Improving Systems for Our Children," was held in August 2007, attracting approximately 600 participants, including judges, attorneys, legislators, child welfare workers, foster parents, and children. Later in the year, nine regional summits hosted another 1,300 attendees. In each case, participants attended workgroups designed to examine the court and child welfare systems experienced by children and to recommend changes. Participants also completed surveys designed to gather individual input.

    The University of Kentucky is collecting and analyzing the data from these summits and surveys. An advisory group will then make recommendations for court reform and other systems changes, and the university will help to evaluate the resulting systems reforms.

    The broad participation and high profile of these summits have brought a new perspective to some of the longstanding problems in child welfare and juvenile justice. Participants hope that this new collaborative effort will offer solutions for improved outcomes for children and families involved with child welfare and the courts.

    For more information, visit the Kentucky Summit on Children website:

    (Thanks to Crystal Collins-Camargo, University of Kentucky, and Patrick Yewell, Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, for contributing to this article.)

    North Carolina

    Long-term collaboration does not occur naturally and, despite good intentions, is hard to sustain. Successful long-term collaboration between agencies requires at least two conditions: first, a neutral venue that is not owned by any one agency and, second, holding agencies accountable for a product that cannot be produced by any one agency acting alone.

    For the last 7 years, the North Carolina State Collaborative for Children, Youth and Families (the Collaborative) has provided the first condition: a neutral venue for public and private child and family serving agencies, families, and community partners to meet, satisfy mandates to collaborate, coordinate initiatives, and help members become better informed about the needs of other agencies, families, and a variety of community partners.

    The Collaborative is not part of any agency, has no budget, and has no formal legal status. While it does not change the authority or responsibility of agencies or families or community partners who attend, it does take on formal, often official, roles for a number of organizations that are mandated to collaborate with other agencies. For instance, the Collaborative functions as the collaborative body for North Carolina’s CFSR and title IV-B Plan.

    The number of agencies that voluntarily attend the Collaborative continues to grow because it has been able to help agencies produce products that they could not have produced by themselves, including a common training curriculum used by different agencies and groups serving children; a list of the tools used by different agencies to screen and assess children and families; and matrixes showing funding sources and data sources used by different agencies. More importantly, the Collaborative has increased the synergy between initiatives across all the child-serving agencies in North Carolina. While the Collaborative makes no formal decisions, decision-makers come to the Collaborative, seek input and advice, often reach consensus about policy with their colleagues in other agencies, and return to their own agencies to make decisions informed by those meetings.

    For more information, visit the Collaborative's website:

    (Many thanks to Joel Rosch, Duke University, for providing this information about the Collaborative.)

  • California Counties' System Improvement Plans

    California Counties' System Improvement Plans

    New child welfare reform legislation in California in 2001 prompted the development of a comprehensive, county-based accountability system that requires counties to develop System Improvement Plans (SIPs) as part of a larger systems change effort. A new report by the Child and Family Policy Institute of California (CFPIC) examines the first year of SIP data from California's 58 counties to determine their impact on strategic planning and program improvement.

    SIPs incorporate information from data reviews, case reviews, and self-assessments and serve as operational agreements between the county and the State. The plans must be developed in collaboration with the community and other agencies, a systems change that promotes partnerships and greater stakeholder involvement in the child welfare system. SIPs also are used to set milestones and statewide outcome goals (similar to CFSR outcome goals) that counties must achieve to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families. After identifying outcome goals, each county's SIP also identifies the types of strategies it will use to achieve the goals, including:

    • Administrative (e.g., record keeping, staffing structure)
    • Case strategies (e.g., safety assessment, family and youth engagement)
    • Collaborative strategies (e.g., early referral, court processes and relationships)

    Preliminary data from the counties' SIPs show significant improvements in most outcome areas for children and families, and they indicate real systems changes in child welfare agencies, including:

    • Data outcome measures are focusing discussions on common goals.
    • Child welfare and other agencies are sharing information and knowledge.
    • Counties are involving communities in problem-solving on behalf of children and families.

    An Analysis of California Counties' Child Welfare System Improvement Plans, by Stuart Oppenheim and Joni Pitcl, is available online: (PDF - 474 KB)

  • T&TA for Systems Change

    T&TA for Systems Change

    The Children's Bureau National Resource Centers (NRCs) provide training and technical assistance (T&TA) to States and Tribes and, in some cases, grantees to help them improve outcomes for children and families involved with child welfare. Many of the NRCs are able to provide T&TA that is specific to a State's need as identified through Federal monitoring, such as the State's Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) or Program Improvement Plan (PIP). States access this T&TA through their Regional Offices.

    The following examples give some idea of the breadth of the T&TA available through the NRCs. Many thanks to the NRCs who provided these examples.

    From the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement:

    • We worked with the NRC on Child Welfare Data and Technology (NRCCWDT) to help Missouri reform its supervision, with resulting improvements in practice. The two NRCs are now undertaking a similar supervision effort with North Carolina, and several other States also may focus on supervision.
    • With AdoptUsKids, we provided T&TA in South Dakota, working with stakeholders to create the Collaborative Circle for the Well-Being of South Dakota's Native Children. Members of the Collaborative include the State child welfare agency, the nine Sioux tribes, family members, and youth and providers.
    • In West Virginia, we partnered with the NRCCWDT to roll out a statewide assessment of the service array in 13 systems of care regions, which will result in the creation and implementation of a Resource and Capacity Development Plan for each region and a composite plan for the State.

    From the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning:

    • Based on the Youth Permanency Initiative that we engaged in with AdoptUsKids, Montana has engaged our NRC in helping State staff to think further about concurrent planning and family engagement as a means toward improving permanency for youth. The State staff have really embraced client-centered meetings and have employed Family Group Decision Making techniques into their work as a result of our TA with them. It is clear that they have made systemic changes as a result.
    • As a result of TA on case planning and assessment that we provided to Arizona and Rhode Island, these States have completely redesigned how they are conducting family centered assessments with their families.
    • Our NRC rolled out TA on family search and engagement work in 10 regions in Louisiana, demonstrating how to use technology to engage and find families for children and youth. The State has purchased equipment to do this and dedicated additional funds toward supporting the systems change effort. Our TA in Louisiana has really made a difference in the area of family engagement throughout the State.

    From the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Adoption:

    • In Idaho, our T&TA in adoption-related child, youth, and family assessment and preparation contributed to the State child welfare agency rethinking how they deliver foster care and adoption-related services.
    • In Virginia, the State child welfare agency has formulated recommendations and plans on how to expedite adoptions for their children and youth in out-of-home care, in part as a result of our TA in the areas of child and youth assessments.
    • Our TA in reviewing the county child welfare system from a child/youth's entry into foster care to the adoption finalization helped the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services reassign their staff and redesign their service delivery system to provide more timely permanency for children and youth.

    From the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services (NRCCPS):

    • Using an approach consistent with the University of South Florida's findings on implementation, our NRC has helped Alaska and its Tribal partners develop a systemic framework to ensure the fidelity of its implementation of child protective services practice standards. Six workgroups composed of both Alaska staff and Tribal partners, have been formed and now work interdependently, concentrating on how leadership, supervision, policy, documentation, staff development, and quality assurance support the practice standards.
    • Hawaii has brought about significant child welfare systems change through the design and implementation of a differential response practice model that involves contracted community partners who respond to selected referrals as an alternative to the traditional child welfare services response. The systems impact is evident in frontline practice, the information system, quality assurance, supervision, and training. (See the related article in this issue of Children's Bureau Express, "Hawaii's Differential Response System: An Interview With John Walters."

    From the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare:

    • We worked with the Minnesota Supreme Court and Department of Human Services to develop a "Catch the Vision! Toolkit" titled Through the Eyes of the Child: 20 Recommended Practices to Help Families in the Child Protection Court System With Alcohol and Other Drug Issues.
    • We provided TA to the Squaxin Island Tribe to develop Forming a Family Wellness Team guidebook.
    • In New York, we worked with the NY Partnership for Family Recovery to produce Gearing Up to Improve Outcomes for Families: A Collaborative Practice Guide for Managers and Supervisors in Child Welfare, Chemical Dependency Services, and Court Systems.

    Two NRCs that focus their T&TA on specific grantee groups also offered examples.

    From the National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) Programs (FRIENDS):

    • As a result of a joint Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF)/CBCAP session at the 2005 CBCAP Grantees meeting, the Region IV Collaboration was formed to foster ongoing collaborative efforts between CBCAP and PSSF grantees. The Collaborative meets annually and has quarterly conference calls with the goal of improving collaboration, coordination, and communication between systems. Initially, the FRIENDS NRC and the NRCCPS worked with Region IV staff to plan and facilitate the meetings; we now have increasing numbers of attendees and sponsoring NRCs.
    • In May 2007, FRIENDS, in collaboration with NRCCPS, attended a joint meeting in Region VII for State Liaison Officers and CBCAP State Lead Agencies to encourage collaboration between State child welfare agencies and community-based child abuse prevention grantees on efforts to prevent child abuse. This meeting included information-sharing opportunities, facilitated group discussions, and a time for States to develop action plans.
    • FRIENDS provides individualized T&TA on systems change to CBCAP State Lead Agencies though telephone, email, or onsite assistance. Sample activities include ensuring that the State Lead is involved in CFSRs, sending program reports (especially reports on outcomes) to all stakeholders, and encouraging parents to participate in the legislative process.

    From the National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center:

    • We brought together experts to review future care and custody planning for children whose parents face life-threatening or debilitating health conditions. A subcommittee authored a monograph that described a variety of approaches to voluntary permanency planning, including innovative tools (e.g., standby guardianship, standby adoption) and offered specific recommendations to service providers, child and family advocates, and legislators to advance the development and implementation of these planning tools.
    • We used our grantee meeting and listserv to inform our projects about the CFSR and PIP process so that they could get involved with their States' child welfare system reform. Our conference included a session on how substance abuse disorders were addressed in the CFSRs and how projects could assist the child welfare system in providing better outcomes for families.
    • Our 2005 national conference on interagency, statewide collaboration for substance-exposed newborns provided a venue for agencies and providers with an interest in families affected by substance abuse in States to come together and discuss and strategize how to enhance services.

    For more information on the NRCs and the complete T&TA Network, visit the Children's Bureau website:

  • Substance Abuse and Child Welfare Systems Change

    Substance Abuse and Child Welfare Systems Change

    Many children come to the attention of the child welfare system due to parental substance abuse. Systems change efforts that incorporate new ways to address parental substance abuse concerns help to ensure that families have the resources they need to provide a safe and stable environment for their children.

    Some recent resources and articles on child welfare systems change efforts that address substance abuse include:

    • Through the Eyes of the Child: CJI-AOD Tool Kit: This summary of recommended practices and protocols is a product of Minnesota's Children's Justice Initiative Alcohol and Other Drug (CJI-AOD) workgroup. The toolkit is designed to assist frontline practitioners, as well as managers and supervisors who set policy in the child welfare, chemical health, and juvenile protection court systems.
    • Screening and Assessment for Family Engagement, Retention, and Recovery (SAFERR): This guidebook and tool were developed by the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare for caseworkers to use in screening parents for potential substance use disorders in order to make decisions about children's safety. (PDF - 3,510 KB)
    • National Evaluation of Family Treatment Drug Courts (FTDCs): Findings from a national evaluation of four Family Treatment Drug Courts in California, Nevada, and New York show the effectiveness of the FTDC model for treatment and child welfare outcomes.
      Executive summary: (PDF- 250 KB)
    • The Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Waiver Demonstration: Illinois is in Phase II of a long-term study exploring the use of Federal funds to support the Recovery Coach Program, which provides intensive services for substance-abusing parents and their families involved with public child welfare.
    • Methamphetamine and Child Maltreatment (The Virginia Child Protection Newsletter, Spring 2007): This newsletter from the Virginia Department of Social Services offers an overview of the challenges methamphetamine use poses to the child welfare system and highlights some of the promising practices that practitioners can consider, including the use of interdisciplinary teams to respond to children removed from methamphetamine labs. (PDF - 2,260 KB)
  • Agencies and Courts Meeting Presentations Available

    Agencies and Courts Meeting Presentations Available

    "Fresh Perspectives on Child Welfare Partnerships" was the theme of the December 2007 Children's Bureau Conference for Agencies and Courts in Arlington, VA. State child welfare directors, Court Improvement Program representatives, staff of the Children's Bureau's Training & Technical Assistance Network, State training directors, university partners, Federal staff, and others were invited to attend and make presentations. The variety and scope of the presentations highlighted the many creative ways that agencies and courts are collaborating with partners to effect systems change and improve outcomes for children and families.

    Speakers provided the most up-to-date information, statistics, and promising practices from their programs around the country. Topics included funding, the CFSRs, assessment, court/agency collaboration, training, workforce development, disproportionality, and more. Several of the presentations formed the basis for other articles in this issue of Children's Bureau Express (see "Hawaii's Differential Response System: An Interview With John Walters," "Collaboration and Systems Change: Two States' Efforts," and "Practice Models in Child Welfare.")

    Presentations, handouts, and videos of the plenary sessions from the conference can be accessed through the website [editor's note: this link no longer exists].

  • Hawaii's Differential Response System: An Interview With John Walters

    Hawaii's Differential Response System: An Interview With John Walters

    Hawaii's differential response system, implemented in 2005, has already shown compelling positive outcomes for children and families and for the caseworkers who provide services. In a recent interview, John Walters, the Program Development Administrator for the Department of Human Services, talked with Children's Bureau Express (CBX) about the development and implementation of this significant systems change.

    CBX: What were some of the factors that prompted Hawaii's Child Welfare Services (CWS) to implement a differential response system?
    Walters: There were two main factors that motivated the change, and both of them came out of our CFSR and PIP. The first was the high percentage of cases that were "risk" cases rather than "safety" concerns. Also, about two-thirds of the children who came into foster care returned home in a short time, so we knew we could probably maintain those children safely in the home with services. The second factor was the high caseload that our workers were carrying—averaging about 24 families per worker. With the workload requirements, we did the math and realized our workers were not going to be able to meet the PIP goals and would have no time to provide other services to the families. We decided to implement a differential response system, because we believe it provides the most effective approach to serving families with risk issues that focuses on family strengthening and removal prevention as an identified alternative. This would also provide CWS workers with additional, needed time to support families with safety factors. We saw that we could address both of the factors with differential response.

    CBX: Talk about the implementation and the different components of your differential response program.
    Walters: One of the first things we did was to contact the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services (NRC CPS). We knew that they could tell us what works in other States and help us find the best solutions. Working with Theresa Costello and the other NRC staff, we developed a web-based intake process that allows us to triage incoming reports. Using this system, all reports of child maltreatment now fall into four categories:

    • No response
    • Low risk, to be addressed with Family Strengthening Services for up to 6 months
    • Moderate risk, to be addressed with Voluntary Case Management for up to 1 year
    • High risk/safety concern, to be addressed with a child welfare services investigation

    Both the Family Strengthening Services and the Voluntary Case Management are in-home services systems and were able to take on this new responsibility. We already had positive relationships with these providers, and they enhanced their services to take on this new responsibility. The ability to refer cases without safety factors that are identified as low, moderate, or moderate high to the private agencies frees up our CWS staff to take on the most serious cases.

    To ensure consistent safety assessments, both the private agencies and State CWS staff use the same safety assessment instrument. This is the first activity conducted by a private agency when visiting the family home. If Family Strengthening Services or Voluntary Case Management providers find that there is a safety concern—which happens in approximately 15 percent of the cases they see—the agency then refers the case back to CWS for an assessment and possible investigation.

    We outstation two of our CWS staff members in each Voluntary Case Management agency to ensure good collaboration between the two systems. This position, called the Voluntary Case Liaison, helps address issues such as confidentiality and access to prior CWS involvement and/or criminal history, as the Liaison has access and enters specific case information into our CWS system.

    CBX: How has this systems change been accepted by families, workers, and other stakeholders?
    Walters: We've been very fortunate with the response. Of course, the families and children like it better, because we are removing fewer children. Families trust us more, and they feel like we are working with them. Caseworkers were initially concerned about the safety of the children, but they knew that a change was needed, and they really stepped up to the plate and embraced the change. They saw that we had a chance to make things better and to forge strong partnerships with the community in the process. The private agencies have fully embraced this program and are committed to supporting the philosophy of working with families to support and keep the family together. So, I would say that differential response has been well received all around.

    CBX: Tell us about your evaluation and outcomes.
    Walters: It’s been great to see positive change. In Hawaii, for at least 7-8 years, the caseloads had been going up, the children in foster care were also increasing, and until we implemented the differential response system, it looked like things were just going to keep getting worse. The differential response system did everything we had hoped it could accomplish. Overall, 38 percent of cases now go to Family Strengthening Services and Voluntary Case Management. But the best news is that the number of children in out-of-home care has decreased by 20 percent, and caseloads for workers have dropped from an average of 24 to 18. In addition, recurrence of child abuse and neglect decreased from 5.7 percent in 2004 to 2.2 percent in 2007.

    We're planning a full-scale evaluation effort that will encompass the whole system. And we're anxious to see the numbers from our next CFSR, when that happens in 2009. In the meantime, we're continuing to reach out to the community and make improvements wherever we can to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of Hawaii's children and families.

    John Walters can be contacted at

    Visit the website for the 2007 Children's Bureau Conference for Agencies and Courts to download a PowerPoint presentation on "Hawaii's Differential Response System: Practical Implementation Strategies That Led to Successful Outcomes" [editor's note: this link no longer exists].

  • Practice Models in Child Welfare

    Practice Models in Child Welfare

    With permission, the following article is drawn directly from a presentation and handouts developed by Angie Herrick Bordeaux from the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement, Dr. Roque Gerald from the District of Columbia's Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), and Dr. Midge Delavan from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services as part of the presentation "Understanding and Developing Child Welfare Practice Models" at the December 2007 Children's Bureau Conference for Agencies and Courts.

    Effective child welfare systems are founded upon and driven by an overarching theoretical or conceptual framework that unifies all domains of agency functions. A child welfare practice model is a conceptual map and articulated organizational ideology of how agency employees, families, and stakeholders should partner in creating a physical and emotional environment that focuses on the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and their families.

    The practice model contains definitions and explanations regarding how the agency as a whole will work internally and partner with families, service providers, and other stakeholders in child welfare services. A practice model is the clear, written explanation of how the agency successfully functions. The practice model should make an explicit link connecting the agency’s policy and practice with its mission, vision, and core principles. It is a framework to guide the daily interactions of employees, families, stakeholders, and community members connected to their work with the child welfare agency in conjunction with the standards of practice to achieve defined outcomes. Recommended elements of a child welfare practice model are:

    • Core principles, agency values, and standards of professional practice
    • Strategies and functions to achieve the core principles, agency values, and standards of professional practice
    • Plan for assessing service needs and engaging families
    • Strategies to measure family outcomes
    • Strategies to measure agency and worker outcomes
    • Plan for measuring and sustaining organizational success
    • Plan for supporting organizational and practice change

    The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement and the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning proposed to team up to develop a Child Welfare Practice Model framework. The NRCs intend to have the Child Welfare Practice Model framework available for distribution by early 2008.

    Practice Models in Washington, DC, and Utah

    As part of the presentation, Dr. Roque Gerald from the District of Columbia's Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) and Dr. Midge Delavan from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services discussed their jurisdictions' development and implementation of child welfare practice models. Their examples illustrate the importance of models in effecting systems change.

    In the case of DC's CFSA, the practice model was founded upon a core set of values that encompass goals for children and families. The values facilitate the articulation and use of leadership principles for supervisors and managers and a practice protocol for all workers. The CFSA practice model has been integrated with the development of a Family Team Meeting model for use throughout the agency to meet the needs of children throughout the life of a child welfare case.

    In Utah, the practice model is a principle-based framework that identifies best practice principles and procedural requirements. The model incorporates principles, processes, skills, and outcomes for child welfare agencies and workers. As the link between training and outcomes has become clearer to administrators, trainings have been developed and refined to ensure that all workers are trained on the practice model. Annual Case Process and Qualitative Case Reviews assess how well agencies and workers follow the model.

    For more information about this work on practice models, view the full PowerPoint presentation and access handouts [editor's note: this link no longer exists].

    To download a brochure on DC's CFSA practice model, go to: (PDF - 3,666 KB)

    To visit the website on Utah's practice model, go to:

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News From the Children's Bureau

  • Child Welfare Training in Rural Oregon and Alaska

    Child Welfare Training in Rural Oregon and Alaska

    Focusing on the unique opportunities presented by rural child welfare, partners from the University of Alaska and Portland State University in Oregon teamed with Oregon's Department of Human Services and the Child Welfare Region centered in Bethel, AK, to develop training for State and Tribal child welfare workers, foster parents, and community partners. The resulting training project, "Training for Excellence in Child Welfare in Rural Oregon and Alaska," serves as an affirmation and celebration of rural child welfare practice, boosting the recognition and importance of rural and Tribal child welfare staff and their work.

    The project addresses the special benefits and challenges of working in rural communities. As noted by the project's principal investigator, Dr. Katharine Cahn, rural child welfare practice differs from practice in other localities in three major ways:

    • Remoteness, which affects budget, time, and workload, as workers cover long distances and find creative ways to deal with technological challenges
    • Resources, which may be limited in a formal sense but plentiful when community networks, family, and cultural networks are tapped
    • Relationships, which take on a greater importance in areas where workers may regularly come into contact with families in the community, and collaboration among service providers and partners is the norm

    Representatives from child welfare and Tribal staff, the State agency liaison, training staff, and an evaluator formed a steering committee for the project, often holding meetings via teleconference. As its first task, the committee conducted a training needs assessment by visiting pilot sites in Oregon and Alaska and reviewing Child and Family Services Review data. As a result of the assessment, the committee launched an ambitious training program, developing a variety of training materials and methods for delivery, including:

    • A 3-day institute, "In Celebration of Rural Practice," that offers face-to-face training for child welfare workers (and has been held in both Oregon and Alaska)
    • Web CT (course tools), which offers 5-week, college-level classes and credit for rural child welfare staff and includes real-time and self-paced training
    • Net-Link distance training for child welfare workers and caregivers, offering training on specific topics through a virtual classroom
    • Creation of a casebook of rural family case studies and community scenarios that can be used in a variety of trainings
    • Adaptation to meet cultural learning needs and training of trainers for the Tribal Risk and Safety Training offered by the National Resource Center on Child Protective Services
    • A newsletter, Rural Express, available online and in hard copy for wide distribution (

    Anecdotal reports from the more than 900 workers and supervisors who participated in trainings have been very positive, indicating that training objectives were accomplished. More evaluation data will be available as the project funding period comes to an end this fiscal year.

    For more information on "Training for Excellence in Child Welfare Practice in Rural Oregon and Alaska," visit the project website:

    Or contact:
    Judy Miller, Project Director
    Portland State University
    Child Welfare Partnership
    4061 Winema Place NE #215
    Salem, OR 97305

    The Training for Excellence in Child Welfare Practice in Rural Oregon and Alaska project is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0125, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Training for Effective Child Welfare Practice in Rural Communities. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.

  • Children's Bureau T&TA Network

    Children's Bureau T&TA Network

    The 2008 online edition of the Children's Bureau's Training & Technical Assistance (T&TA) Network directory is now available. The new directory contains information on Network members, including the National Child Welfare Resource Centers funded to help States, Territories, and Tribes, resource centers funded to help specific grantees, the newest Quality Improvement Centers, and several other organizations that provide assistance in specific areas. The T&TA Network helps States, Territories, Tribes, courts, and grantees meet Federal requirements related to child welfare. Network members also can provide assistance in improving outcomes for children and families as identified in States' CFSRs.

    The entry for each Network member gives information about the kinds of T&TA provided, the resources produced by that member, and contact information. States can request help from the T&TA Network by contacting their Regional Office.

    Download the directory from the Children's Bureau website:

  • New! On the Children's Bureau Site

    New! On the Children's Bureau Site

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

    Recent additions to the site include:

    • New Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assitance Network booklet
    • Child and Family Services Review Final Reports for the District of Columbia and Georgia
    • Statewide Assessments for California and Arkansas
    • IM 08-01: Issued: February 26, 2008. Final rule for the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD)

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

  • Children's Bureau Discretionary Grants Available

    Children's Bureau Discretionary Grants Available

    Several separate Children's Bureau funding announcements will be published again this year, rather than one consolidated announcement.

    The first discretionary grant announcement, released on February 11, 2008, announced the availability of funds for Grants to Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Migrant Programs for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Programs. The deadline for submission of applications is May 12, 2008. The announcement is available at:

    Print copies of funding announcements will not be mailed out routinely but will be sent only to those who request them. For print announcements or any other information about the grants process, call the ACYF Operations Center at 866.796.1591.

    For general information about Children's Bureau discretionary grants, visit the Programs and Funding Section of the Children's Bureau website at:

    For information on specific grants, visit the following websites:

    • Search for Children's Bureau grant opportunities under the Agency Category "Department of Health and Human Services" (HHS) or under the Funding Activity Category "Social Services and Income Security or Income Security and Social Services." Users also can apply for Children's Bureau discretionary grants online, only through The website has options for requesting automated notification of grant availability.
    • ACF Grant Opportunities. Children's Bureau and other Administration on Children and Families (ACF) funding announcements are posted on this site.
  • New Supervision Curriculum for Work With Foster Youth

    New Supervision Curriculum for Work With Foster Youth

    Preparation for Adulthood—Supervising for Success is a new project of the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning (NRCFCPPP) in collaboration with the Foster Care Coalition and the Child Welfare League of America. The goal of the project is to develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate a training curriculum for public child welfare supervisors. This curriculum is designed to strengthen supervision of staff interventions with older youth in foster care.

    NRCFCPPP partnered with Oregon, New York City, and Mississippi to create a framework for professional development. The framework uses technology and small learning communities to enhance competence and incorporates three steps: discovery, engagement, and integration. During the discovery step, administrators, supervisors, and workers can download relevant information from the project website to prepare for the next step.

    The engagement step utilizes the concept of learning circles, which are small, facilitated focused discussion groups. Each learning circle focuses on one of six core strategies:

    • Develop and maintain positive permanent connections between youth and caring adults
    • Actively engage youth in developing life skills that will prepare them for successful transition
    • Relate to youth as resources rather than just recipients of services in the child welfare system
    • Create and maintain environments that promote physical and emotional safety and well-being
    • Value the individual strengths and uniqueness of each youth
    • Involve a diverse array of stakeholders in the development of a comprehensive continuum of services and supports for youth transitioning out of the foster care system

    During the integration step, supervisors can download on-the-job activities to use in their supervision to incorporate the concepts and strategies discussed in the learning circles.

    Visit the website for more information and to download materials:

  • Permanency Planning Today

    Permanency Planning Today

    The winter 2008 issue of Permanency Planning Today, a newsletter published by the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning (NRCFCPPP), includes articles on digital media and permanency, parent counseling for an unexpected pregnancy, employment opportunities for foster care youth in the State of Maine, and interviews with Harry Spence, former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, and Marketa Gautreau, Assistant Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Community Services.

    The newsletter leads off with a word from NRCFCPPP Director Gerald P. Mallon about his recent experience evaluating the work of NRCFCPPP consultants in the State of Idaho. (PDF - 2,954 KB)

  • Get an Early Start on National Child Abuse Prevention Month

    Get an Early Start on National Child Abuse Prevention Month

    In preparation for National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, the Children's Bureau has released Promoting Healthy Families in Your Community: 2008 Resource Packet in both electronic and print formats. The packet, which is an update and enhancement of the 2007 packet, emphasizes five key protective factors for service providers to focus on when working with families to prevent child abuse and neglect:

    • Nurturing and attachment
    • Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
    • Parental resilience
    • Social connections
    • Concrete supports for parents

    The packet offers guidance for service providers in exploring these protective factors with parents, and it includes tipsheets in both English and Spanish to share with parents. Additional chapters address ways to engage the community to help strengthen families and information to help community members understand and report child abuse and neglect.

    The packet was developed by the Children's Bureau's Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Child Welfare Information Gateway, the FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention, and numerous national organizations and stakeholders, including parents.

    To view or order the packet or download individual tipsheets, go to the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

    Single copies of the packet can be ordered on the website. Service providers and other professionals interested in receiving up to 100 packets for their organization may contact Child Welfare Information Gateway Customer Services at 800.394.3366 or

  • Online Learning Center for CBCAP State Lead Agencies and Grantees

    Online Learning Center for CBCAP State Lead Agencies and Grantees

    The FRIENDS Online Learning Center is now available to provide additional training and support to Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) State Lead Agencies and their grantees. Developed in partnership with Essential Learning, a leading provider of web-based learning management systems, the Online Learning Center offers courses in the areas of logic models, data management, and maximizing financial resources. Participants also can take advantage of other courses offered by Essential Learning. The Online Learning Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and provides training services to CBCAP State Lead Agencies free of charge.

  • Exploring the Role of Privatization in Child Welfare: The National QIC

    Exploring the Role of Privatization in Child Welfare: The National QIC

    The final article in a series on the Children’s Bureau’s Quality Improvement Centers.

    What is the status of privatization in child welfare today, and how do privatization efforts compare with traditional government-managed systems in effecting positive outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system? To answer these questions, the National Quality Improvement Center on the Privatization of Child Welfare Services (QIC PCW) developed a two-phase approach to research and testing to provide evidence on the effectiveness of privatization. Funded by the Children's Bureau in 2005 and developed as a partnership of the University of Kentucky College of Social Work and Planning and Learning Technologies, the QIC PCW's mandate is to provide the kind of objective data that will help government agencies make judicious decisions about how and when to contract for services with private agencies.

    The QIC PCW identified three specific goals:

    • Promote and support an evidence-based approach to child welfare system development and organizational improvement
    • Facilitate a collaborative network among the Children's Bureau, its Training & Technical Assistance Network, public and private service providers, and other stakeholders
    • Build consensus on models of reform for child welfare, including roles for public and private agencies, and suggest areas of focus for child welfare policy and evaluation

    During Phase I, the QIC facilitated forums and discussions with stakeholders to determine the approaches currently in use in public/private child welfare partnerships across the country. This research, along with an extensive literature review, helped establish the status of privatization as well as knowledge gaps and research questions that need to be answered.

    Phase II, currently underway, involves the funding of three projects (in Florida, Illinois, and Missouri) to test innovative strategies for implementing performance-based contracting and quality assurance systems within a privatized context. Each 36-month project will compare public and private delivery of services to children in out-of-home care. Researchers will look for each system's ability to promote positive child welfare outcomes for children and families, quality service delivery, accountability, and collaboration. A strong evaluation component will be facilitated by the QIC PCW, which also will conduct cross-site analysis, provide training and technical assistance, and disseminate research results.

    The QIC PCW has already begun knowledge dissemination activities, as evidenced by its extensive website content. Results of Phase I research, including the literature review and a report on the knowledge gap and needs assessment are available on the website. Interim research results from Phase II will be posted as these become available.

    The QIC also is engaged in a number of activities to facilitate dialog regarding public/private partnership in child welfare service provision. Crystal Collins-Camargo, Ph.D., Director of the QIC PCW, reported, "All States fall somewhere on the continuum of public/private partnership in their child welfare service delivery system, whether they are involved in moving large portions of the service array to the private sector, or more traditional subcontracting. The entire field can benefit from knowledge development regarding how these relationships can best be developed and maintained in order to yield the best possible outcomes for children and families." Lessons learned and promising practices emerging from this research will be shared to help States and localities make informed decisions about the place of privatization in their child welfare system.

    To find out more about the QIC PCW, visit the website:

    Or contact Crystal Collins-Camargo, Project Director, at

  • Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Toolkit

    Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Toolkit

    High-quality evaluations of early childhood mental health consultation are a key component of timely and effective mental health service provision. A new evaluation toolkit is now available to help States, communities, agencies, and grant-funded projects assess the impact of their early childhood mental health consultation projects. The toolkit defines the characteristics and core features of mental health consultation programs and examines the components of the evaluation process. It includes sections on program improvement and outcomes and early childhood mental health research. Appendices with evaluation tools are included.

    Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation: An Evaluation Tool Kit was developed by the Georgetown University National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health, the Johns Hopkins University Women's and Children's Health Policy Center, and the Research and Training Center on Family Support and Children's Mental Health at Portland State University. (PDF - 644 KB)

Child Welfare Research

  • Study Surveys the Mental Health of Foster Youth

    Study Surveys the Mental Health of Foster Youth

    A recent study found that past-year mental health diagnosis rates among youth in foster care were similar to those among youth in the general population. The mental health of youth receiving foster care services from Casey Family Programs is the focus of a new publication, Mental Health, Ethnicity, Sexuality, and Spirituality Among Youth in Foster Care: Findings From the Casey Field Office Mental Health Study. The study features interviews with 188 youth between age 14 and 17 who were receiving foster care services at eight Casey field offices located in Arizona, California, Idaho, Texas, and Washington. The survey included questions about mental health, spirituality, ethnic identity, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

    While past-year diagnosis rates were similar among Casey youth and youth in the general population, lifetime rates were higher among Casey youth. Results suggest that placement into foster care may provide a stable environment that allows youth to recover from mental health disorders. The report concludes with policy, program, and research recommendations.

    The report was compiled by Catherine Roller White, Anne Havalchak, Lovie Jackson, Kirk O'Brien, and Peter Pecora. The full report and an executive summary are available online:

Strategies and Tools for Practice

  • Supporting Higher Education for Foster Youth

    Supporting Higher Education for Foster Youth

    A new report from the National Foster Care Coalition describes six States' experiences in implementing the Chafee Educational and Training Voucher (ETV) Program to improve outcomes for youth exiting the foster care system. The Chafee ETV Program is a federally funded program authorized in 1999 as part of the larger Chafee Foster Care Independence Program that helps States support young adults from foster care who attend postsecondary training and higher education institutions. The most common supports that States provide to foster youth through this program are vouchers and scholarship programs to help with tuition costs, as well as targeted support programs that serve youth in college.

    The report highlights programs in California, Maine, Montana, New York, North Carolina, and Wyoming, including an overview of the structure of each State's ETV program as well as challenges encountered, noteworthy practices, and positive outcomes. The report documents young people's experiences with the program and shares recommendations from constituents and other stakeholders on how to improve the program.

    The full report, The Chafee Educational and Training Voucher (ETV) Program: Six States' Experiences, was published in partnership with Casey Family Programs and is available on the National Foster Care Coalition website: (PDF - 2,800 KB)


  • Strategies for Managing the End of Funding

    Strategies for Managing the End of Funding

    A grant program may come to an end for many reasons, for example, a foundation may change its priorities, phase out a program, or close out a grant at the end of a funding cycle. A new guide from the GrantCraft series, The Effective Exit: Managing the End of a Funding Relationship, provides strategies to help grantmakers ease the transition for grantees. Strategies discussed include:

    • Good ongoing communication with the grantee
    • Assisting the grantee in strengthening its own organizational capacity
    • Helping the grantee find new funding

    The guide was written by Anne Mackinnon and Jan Jaffe. Underwriting for the guide was provided by the Ford Foundation. (PDF - 229 KB)

  • Resources for Developing an Effective Workforce

    Resources for Developing an Effective Workforce

    The Workforce Planning Portal is a website designed to help individuals in a variety of organizations improve their workforce. It provides hands-on tools, as well as strategies and solutions, for human services agencies looking for solutions for short- and long-term workforce challenges. The site's resources are organized around the Workforce Planning model in five stages:

    • Strategy—strategy assessment
    • Data collection—environmental scans and assessments
    • Data analysis—gap analysis
    • Implementation—gap-closing strategies
    • Evaluation—review and assessment

    The portal was developed by Cornerstones for Kids as part of their Human Services Workforce Initiative. This initiative is based on the belief that there is a direct correlation between the quality of the human services frontline worker and the effectiveness of services these workers deliver to children and families.

    The portal can be found on the Cornerstones for Kids website:

  • Philanthropy News Offered on the Internet

    Philanthropy News Offered on the Internet

    Philanthropy News Digest is a weekly compendium of philanthropy-related articles and features culled from print and electronic media outlets nationwide. Published every Tuesday, each issue summarizes the content of an original article, press or news release, or grantmaker website. Users can access the issue online or subscribe to have the newsletter delivered to their email account.

    From the home page of the Digest, users can access other resources provided by the Foundation Center, including a listing of current funding opportunities.

  • The Evidence-Based Internship

    The Evidence-Based Internship

    The Evidence-Based Internship: A Field Manual, edited by Barbara Thomlison and Kevin Corcoran, helps social work students, supervisors, and field instructors gain familiarity with the latest protocols and methods of evidence-based practice. Designed to give students the skills to complete a rewarding internship, the manual helps students and others identify, locate, and use evidence-based practices, as well as to incorporate their field experience into their own practice models. Chapters include practical information on evidence-based skills and interventions, skills for assessment, practice interventions for co-occurring conditions, mental health interventions, at-risk and violent youth, risk assessment, gathering evidence, assessing competencies, and more.

    The book is available from Oxford University Press:

  • SAMHSA Grant Announcements

    SAMHSA Grant Announcements

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) is currently accepting applications for two new FY 2008 funding opportunities:

  • DVD Prepares Child Protective Services Workers for Court

    DVD Prepares Child Protective Services Workers for Court

    Testifying in Court: A Guide for CPS Workers, is a DVD and discussion guide from Arizona State University, School of Social Work, designed to prepare child protective services workers for testifying in dependency cases. Part 1 of the DVD presents a demonstration of a progress review hearing for a fictional family with domestic violence and substance abuse issues. An introduction discusses the individuals involved in a progress review hearing and the different types of examinations that occur during the hearing.

    In Part 2 of the 66-minute DVD, the roles of the different individuals are discussed, along with strategies often used during hearings to achieve desired outcomes. The discussion guide includes questions for reflecting on the court processes and the case content.

    The DVD and guide are available for purchase from Arizona State University:

  • Healthy Families America: Integrating Research, Theory, and Practice

    Healthy Families America: Integrating Research, Theory, and Practice

    The Healthy Families America Initiative: Integrating Research, Theory, and Practice is a new volume of articles on Healthy Families America (HFA), a model program that provides home visiting and other services to expectant and new parents to promote positive parenting and prevent child maltreatment. The 16 articles include 9 that focus on the intersection of research and practice. Specific topics include the HFA Research Practice Network, quality assurance, HFA outcomes, and the role of the community in implementing HFA.

    Edited by Joseph Galano, the articles were published simultaneously in the Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, Volume 34 (1/2). The book is available from Haworth Press:

  • Webcasts Address Improving Outcomes for Foster Youth

    Webcasts Address Improving Outcomes for Foster Youth

    A series of webcasts on improving outcomes for children and youth in the child welfare system has been made available on the website of the NGA (National Governors Association) Center for Best Practices. The webcasts were produced by the NGA Center in partnership with Casey Family Programs.

    In addition to the archived webcast for each presentation, links to reports and other resources related to the topics are provided. The topics currently available include:

    • Addressing Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System: What State Policymakers Should Know
    • Improving Educational Outcomes for Children in Foster Care: What States Can Do
    • Supporting Kinship Families: What State Policymakers Can Do

Training and Conferences

Find trainings, workshops, webinars, and other opportunities for professionals and families to learn about how to improve the lives of children and youth as well as a listing of upcoming events and conferences.

  • Conferences


    Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through June 2008 include:


    • NABSW 40th Annual National Conference
      "Ma'at, Sankofa, and Harambee: 40 Years Strong"

      National Association of Black Social Workers
      April 1–5, Los Angeles, CA
      [Editor's note: this link no longer exists]
    • 26th Annual "Protecting Our Children" National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
      National Indian Child Welfare Association
      April 20–23, Minneapolis, MN
    • 16th Annual Children's Justice Conference
      Washington State Department of Social & Health Services
      April 21–22, Seattle, WA
      [Editor's note: this link no longer exists]


    • Pathways to Adulthood 2008
      National Independent Living/Transitional Living Conference

      U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Administration on Children, Youth and Families; Administration for Children and Families; Children’s Bureau & Family and Youth Services Bureau
      May 14–16, Pittsburgh, PA
    • Prevent Child Abuse America 2008 National Conference
      Connecting the Dots: Turning Knowledge into Action

      May 19–22, Milwaukee, WI
    • Fifteenth Annual National Foster Care Conference
      Footsteps to the Future

      Daniel Memorial Institute
      May 21–23, Orlando, FL


    • 2008 Conference on Family Group Decision Making
      American Humane
      June 3–6, Tucson, AZ
      [Editor's note: this link no longer exists]
    • 16th Annual Colloquium
      American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
      June 18–21, Phoenix, AZ
      [Editor's note: this link no longer exists]

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

  • Tribal Child Welfare Certification

    Tribal Child Welfare Certification

    The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) has developed a certification process that lends itself to the growing and changing field of Tribal child welfare. Through the Tribal child welfare certification process, NICWA intends to enhance the quality of child welfare services provided to American Indian children and families by ensuring that Tribal child welfare programs have access to staff trained in the specialized knowledge and skills needed to provide the most effective services.

    Candidates interested in certification are accepted through an application process and must successfully complete a certification exam. Applicants must meet certain education, employment, training, and professional competency requirements.

    Complete information about the certification process is available online: