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February 2013Vol. 14, No. 1Spotlight on Workforce Issues

This month, CBX highlights issues affecting the child welfare workforce. Staff from the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute contributed a guest article, and we explore research on performance-based contracts and worker retention.

Issue Spotlight

  • Performance-Based Contracts and Worker Retention

    Performance-Based Contracts and Worker Retention

    An article recently published in the Administration in Social Work journal examines how employment with private child welfare agencies operating under performance-based contracts can affect worker attitudes related to job retention. Because performance-based contracts link agency funding to achievement-oriented outcomes, workers employed by agencies operating under such contracts may experience increased pressure to meet deadlines for achieving permanency, finalizing adoptions, or finding kinship caregivers for children in care. The authors of the study aim to inform agencies about the issue of employee retention and shed light on factors related to workers' intention to quit their jobs. 

    The researchers received surveys from 152 child welfare caseworkers and family support workers employed by three large private child welfare agencies operating under performance-based contracts. The surveys examined a number of worker attitudes, including:

    • Job satisfaction, defined as the extent to which a worker likes his/her job
    • Organizational commitment, which reflects worker dedication to the agency based on shared values, mission, and goals
    • Work-family conflict, occurring when work-related demands interfere with responsibilities in the home
    • Family-work conflict, occurring when family responsibilities interfere with on employees' abilities to perform work activities

    The researchers examined how the aforementioned attitudes and conflicts were related to employees' intentions to quit their jobs in the near future. Findings unveiled two significant predictors of worker intention to quit: low job satisfaction and high levels of work-family conflict. The authors provide a discussion of the results, implications for agency practice, and implications for future research.

    "Work Attitudes and Intention to Quit Among Workers in Private Child Welfare Agencies Operating Under Performance-Based Contracts," by Michelle Levy, John Poertner, and Alics Lieberman, Administration in Social Work, 36(2), 2012 is available for purchase here:


  • NASW Standards for Social Work Practice

    NASW Standards for Social Work Practice

    In 2012, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) released a new version of the NASW Standards for Social Work Practice in Child Welfare (the Standards). The Standards, which were first released in 1981 and are periodically revised, are intended to broadly describe the scope of services that should be provided by social workers, supported by administrators, and expected by clients. They also highlight the skills, knowledge, values, methods, and sensitivities required by social workers in the child welfare field.

    Examples of specific standards discussed in the document include ethics and values, advocacy, record keeping and confidentiality of client information, cultural competence, family and youth engagement, permanency planning, and supervision. These standards are intended to be the foundation for child welfare practice across the continuum, from prevention to out-of-home care, adoption, and independent living.

    NASW Standards for Social Work Practice in Child Welfare is available on the NASW website: (147 KB)

    NASW also produced standards on other areas of social work, including school social workers, social work practice with service members and their families, practice with clients with substance abuse disorders, and more. The related standards also are available on the NASW website:

  • Worker Experiences With Child Maltreatment Fatalities

    Worker Experiences With Child Maltreatment Fatalities

    Between 30 and 40 percent of child maltreatment fatality victims, or their families, were known to child welfare or social service agencies prior to their death. A new study suggests that, given these numbers, child welfare professionals may play an important role in preventing child maltreatment fatalities (CMFs).

    The article "Child Welfare Workers' Training, Knowledge, and Practice Concerns Regarding Child Maltreatment Fatalities: An Exploratory Multi-State Analysis," by Emily Douglas, is based on survey responses the author collected from 426 current child welfare workers from 25 States, regarding the respondents' experiences with CMFs.

    Survey questions focused on participant demographics and whether they had experienced a CMF on their caseload. Questions also centered on worker knowledge of CMF risk factors, their opinions about CMFs, and practice concerns. A majority of participants were female (89 percent), had a master's degree (more than 50 percent), and specialized in social work (57 percent).

    Key findings include the following:

    • Workers were more knowledgeable about child-level risk factors and the parent-child relationship than the parental and household risk factors.
    • Roughly 75 percent of respondents said they are worried a child on their caseload will die, and more than 27 percent had experienced such a death.
    • More than 92 percent of respondents reported assessing for potential risk of fatality when working with families. Those who had received training regarding CMFs were more likely to assess for risk factors.
    • Over 72 percent said they had received training about risk factors for CMFs, and more than 90 percent of participants reported wanting more training.
    • When asked for their opinion about how the child welfare system could better prevent CMFs, respondents listed lower caseloads, increased training, and expanded services for families, among their suggestions.

    Douglas produced a series of factsheets presenting various aspects of data from the study, such as information about workers who experience the death of a client, case characteristics for CMFs, and posttraumatic stress symptoms among workers who experience the death of a client.

    The factsheets are available here:

    The article "Child Welfare Workers' Training, Knowledge, and Practice Concerns Regarding Child Maltreatment Fatalities: An Exploratory Multi-State Analysis," Journal of Public Child Welfare, 6(5), 2012, is available for purchase here:

  • Building Cultural Competence

    Building Cultural Competence

    Researchers have proposed that developing cultural competency in caseworkers might be an effective means of addressing the issue of overrepresentation of children of color in child welfare. An article in the Journal of Public Child Welfare examines the effects of cultural competence training on child welfare caseworkers' relevant knowledge, attitudes, and applied skills.

    In order to test the effects of cultural competence training on job-related capabilities, researchers provided a sample of 151 caseworkers with a 2-day course and conducted follow-up assessments on the trainees' acquired knowledge and skills. The training provided information on cultural competence and gave participants an opportunity to integrate curriculum concepts through an experiential activity. Researchers assessed changes in caseworker knowledge and attitudes using pre- and posttraining surveys. A subsample of caseworkers also participated in follow-up interviews that assessed their experiences applying information from the training to practice with families. Analyses of the data revealed the following key results:

    • The training increased participants' general cultural competence knowledge, as well as their knowledge of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
    • The training led to more positive attitudes among caseworkers toward using culturally competent practice with families.
    • Participants expressed that the training was valuable, as it served to remind them of the importance of cultural competence in their job, and it helped strengthen their existing relevant skills.
    • Participants were more likely to discuss a general feeling that the training improved their practice rather than to identify specific changes in their day-to-day work.

    The researchers provide a discussion of the results and implications for practice. The full text article, "Building Cultural Competence in the Child Welfare Workforce: A Mixed-Methods Analysis," Journal of Public Child Welfare, 6, 2012, is available for purchase via the publisher's website:

  • Strengthening the Workforce for Systems Change

    Strengthening the Workforce for Systems Change

    By Mary McCarthy, Co-Principal Investigator, Katharine Briar-Lawson, Co-Principal Investigator, and Nancy S. Dickinson, Project Director, at the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute

    Children, youth, and families who come into contact with child welfare services deserve evidence-informed assistance from a committed and skilled workforce, one supported and nurtured by the leadership skills of staff at all levels. These leadership skills include competencies to implement systems change; develop innovative programs and practices advancing improved outcomes for children, youth and families; and foster stable, well-managed, high performing agencies. Over the past 10 years, there has been increasing attention to and significant Federal support for strengthening the child welfare workforce, in particular the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI).

    NCWWI is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Children's Bureau and is a collaborative involving nine schools of social work with Principal Investigators experienced in child welfare workforce development. Serving as a national learning and capacity building resource, NCWWI is guided by a rich evaluative process. NCWWI spearheads a number of strategies to build the leadership capacity of the workforce to implement meaningful change in child welfare:

    1. Developing a model for child welfare leadership
      The Leadership Model and Competency Framework with The Leadership Competency Model and Framework that portray the multiple dimensions of child welfare leadership are fundamental to the work of NCWWI. The Leadership Model describes four domains of leadership—leading change, leading in context, leading people, and leading for results—and five leadership principles (adaptive, collaborative, distributive, inclusive, and outcome focused), identifying the skills of successful leadership performance, as well as indicators of proficiency for workers, supervisors, managers, and executives. 
    2. Cultivating middle-managers' leadership capacity for systems change
      The Leadership Academy for Middle Managers (LAMM) is a weeklong residential program—followed by peer networking and coaching—whose goal is to enable middle managers in public and Tribal child welfare to lead sustainable systems change. LAMM participants identify and develop change initiatives that are part of efforts in States and Tribes to improve outcomes for children, youth, and families, and NCWWI provides resources and support to strengthen the implementation of these projects. Evaluation findings show significant gains in all competency areas from pre- to posttraining, and participants indicate they are using LAMM leadership skills in their work. Since 2009, 14 LAMM trainings have been held regionally for more than 400 middle managers, as well as a LAMM Tribal coaching event for graduates from Tribal agencies. 
    3. Advancing supervisory leadership skills and competencies
      Many States and counties are prioritizing leadership development for frontline supervisors, using a developmental approach with multiple strategies designed to strengthen key competencies. Since 2009, NCWWI's Leadership Academy for Supervisors (LAS), which includes a core curriculum plus four stand-alone modules of the Take the Lead series and facilitated peer networking, has provided free online leadership training to more than 1,600 experienced child welfare supervisors. In Albany County, NY, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Tennessee, training departments are implementing LAS using a more coordinated approach, facilitating their own State/county cohorts, learning networks, and individual or group coaching.
    4. Building an effective child welfare pipeline
      Traineeship projects are building a more diverse and culturally responsive group of trained child welfare professionals for the 21st century workforce. NCWWI Traineeship Projects involve 12 schools of social work and are promoting evidence-informed curricula, innovations in course work/field units, and co-curricular learning and competency development. More than 300 social work trainees are being prepared for child welfare practice and leadership roles. Faculty experts bring their research and innovations to the cross-university learning community. Special focus is placed on trauma-informed practice, cultural humility, and racial disproportionality, as well as educational strategies to support the American Indian child welfare workforce.
    5. Sharing information for effective transfer of learning and workforce/leadership development
      To address challenges associated with accessing, understanding, and applying new knowledge and information, NCWWI has developed a dissemination framework and is implementing a range of approaches to effectively share resources with our distribution network of  nearly 13,000 subscribers. Timely resources on workforce and leadership topics are housed on our Online Resource Library, as well as summarized in one-page overviews. NCWWI has developed a master packet of online resources in 105 different child welfare hot topics to support participants' implementation of change projects, as well as 20 comprehensive resource packets. Finally, NCWWI offers webinars and teleconferences for peer network program participants, distributes quarterly updates to the field, and hosts a popular national webinar series, What Works for the Workforce: Leadership Competencies in Action, showcasing workforce innovations and the skills and action steps necessary to support, implement, and sustain them. Since 2011, NCWWI has hosted six national webinars and six follow-up learning labs, attracting a large national following of 5,000 unique registrants.

    For more information, please contact:

    Mary McCarthy, M.S.W., Ph.D.
    Co-Principal Investigator

    Katharine Briar-Lawson, M.S.W., Ph.D.
    Co-Principal Investigator

    Nancy S. Dickinson, M.S.W., Ph.D.
    NCWWI Project Director
    University of Maryland School of Social Work

    Randi Walters, M.S.W., Ph.D.
    Federal Project Officer

  • Secondary Traumatic Stress

    Secondary Traumatic Stress

    Child welfare workers, therapists, case managers, and other professionals working with children who have experienced trauma can suffer from emotional duress after hearing about firsthand trauma experiences. This emotional toll, which can affect professional functioning and quality of life, is called secondary traumatic stress and its symptoms mimic those of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Child Traumatic Stress Network published Secondary Traumatic Stress: A Fact Sheet for Child-Serving Professionals. The factsheet defines secondary traumatic stress, explains how it relates to similar conditions, and describes how it can affect the lives of the professionals involved in the care of traumatized children and families.

    The factsheet is divided into six sections:

    • How individuals experience secondary traumatic stress
    • Understanding who is at risk
    • Identifying secondary traumatic stress
    • Strategies for prevention
    • Strategies for intervention
    • Worker resiliency in trauma-informed systems: Essential elements

    Readers will also find a list of various symptoms related to secondary traumatic stress, and a list of resources for information on managing this type of stress.

    Secondary Traumatic Stress: A Fact Sheet for Child-Serving Professionals is available on the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website: (724 KB)


    Recent Issues

  • April 2024

    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 ninth article in our second Centennial Series highlights the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. We also feature a summary of ACYF projects focused on well-being, the new Child Maltreatment 2011 report, and other Bureau updates.

  • Children's Bureau Centennial Update

    Children's Bureau Centennial Update

    With just 2 months remaining in the Children's Bureau's centennial year, a number of materials are being released and there are ongoing events honoring the Bureau's 100-year history of serving the nation's children and families.

    Additions to the centennial website include:

    • Recordings, transcripts, and PowerPoint slides from the second and third historical webinars "The Story of the Children's Bureau, America in Wartime: 1938–1960" and "The Story of the Children's Bureau, Changing Times, Reshaping Priorities: 1961–1986":
    • Recordings, transcripts, and PowerPoint slides from three recent topical webinars, including:
      • "Formal Education or School of Life? What Are the Best Credentials for the Child Welfare Workforce?"
      • "Who Should Our Clients Be? Differential Response and the Provision of Services to Voluntary Clients"
      • "Friending Your Clients on Facebook: How Social Media Influences Child Welfare Practice"

    Still to come:

    • The final historic webinar, "The Story of the Children's Bureau, 21st Century Child Welfare: 1987 – 2012," will focus on the most recent 25 years in Children's Bureau history. This webinar will take place in March. The date and time are forthcoming.
    • The next topical webinar, "Taking Risk With Risk: Examining the Conflict Between Children's Rights and Parents' Rights in Child Welfare," will take place in the coming weeks. 
    • An interactive timeline of child welfare and Children's Bureau milestones is scheduled to launch on the centennial website in April.
    • Also in April, an e-book commemorating the Children's Bureau's history, The Children's Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to Childhood, will be made available.  
    • The second CBX Centennial Series will continue through April. The first Centennial Series addressed some of the social issues, practices, and policies that laid the groundwork for the creation of the Children's Bureau. The second Centennial Series, CB Decade-by-Decade, features articles that examine highlights from each decade of the Children's Bureau's first 100 years.

    For more information about the Children's Bureau's centennial and updates about these forthcoming events and materials, visit the centennial website:

  • Child Maltreatment 2011

    Child Maltreatment 2011

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released Child Maltreatment 2011. This is the 22nd in a series of reports designed to provide State-level data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). The annual reports include information on screened-in referrals (reports) of abuse and neglect made to child protective services (CPS) agencies, the children involved, types of maltreatment, CPS responses, child and caregiver risk factors, services, and perpetrators.

    Highlights of Child Maltreatment 2011 show:

    • During Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2011, child protective service agencies received roughly 2.4 million referrals.
    • The national estimate of unique victims for FFY 2011 was 681,000, with 42 States reporting a decreased number of victims.
    • Children from birth to 1 year had the highest rate of victimization.
    • Boys accounted for 48.6 percent of the victimizations, and girls accounted for 51.1 percent of victimizations.
    • The most common type of maltreatment was neglect (more than 75 percent), followed by physical abuse (more than 15 percent), and sexual abuse (less than 10 percent).

    The full report is available on the Children's Bureau website: MB)

  • New! From CB

    New! From CB

    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:

    For news from the Administration for Children and Families, read the latest entries in its blog, The Family Room:

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

  • ACYF Well-Being Project Summary

    ACYF Well-Being Project Summary

    In fiscal year 2012, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) awarded $46.6 million in cooperative agreements and demonstration projects for State and Tribal programs to better integrate the promotion of social and emotional well-being for children and families. Nine title IV-E child welfare waivers also were awarded in 2012 that permitted States to use some of their Federal child welfare funds for child abuse and neglect demonstration projects. These awards are the focus of a report that summarizes 2012 ACYF projects that integrate safety, permanency, and well-being into child welfare.

    The summary describes ACYF's enhanced focus on well-being, citing the growing number of evidence-based interventions that can restore developmentally appropriate functioning for children and youth who have experienced maltreatment. The publication outlines the alignment of ACYF opportunities to promote social and emotional well-being, its child welfare demonstration projects, discretionary funding, and evidence-based and evidence-informed interventions in ACYF projects.

    Integrating Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being for Children and Families in Child Welfare is available on the Children's Bureau's website:

    Related Item:

    Bryan Samuels, Commissioner of the Administration for Children and Families, recently posted a message on the ACF blog The Family Room about ACYF's program summary:

  • Spotlight on Child Well-Being

    Spotlight on Child Well-Being

    The Administration for Children and Families' (ACF) Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) released two new research briefs on child well-being. The first Spotlight on Child Well-Being focuses on the need for services for caregivers of children who remain in the home following a child maltreatment investigation. The second Spotlight is centered on the effects of maltreatment on adolescents' ability to transition to adulthood. Both briefs use data from the second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW).

    The first brief notes that roughly 86 percent of children who are the subject of a report of child abuse or neglect remain in the home following an investigation. According to NSCAW data, caregivers of these children face a number of challenges that may affect their ability to care for their children, shedding light on their need for services.

    • More than 29 percent of NSCAW in-home caregivers ages 18–25 suffered from substance abuse, in contrast to 20 percent of adults in the national comparison group.
    • More than 24 percent of NSCAW in-home caregivers were victims of intimate partner violence in the past 12 months, while less than 2 percent of adults in the comparison group were victims in the same timeframe.
    • Nearly 23 percent of NSCAW in-home caregivers suffered from major depression in the past 12 months, in contrast to less than 7 percent of adults in the comparison group.

    Caregivers of Children Who Remain In-Home After a Maltreatment Investigation Need Services is available here: (318 KB)

    The second Spotlight highlights NSCAW data suggesting that more than half of youth who were the subject of a maltreatment report are at risk for emotional or behavioral problems. Because children's services and the adult human services system differ in their support for people with maltreatment histories, the authors suggests that a range of services and interventions is needed to help youth in care prepare for successful transitions to adulthood.

    Adolescents With a History of Maltreatment Have Unique Service Needs That May Affect Their Transition to Adulthood is available here: (275 KB)

    Other recently released OPRE reports include:

  • Centennial Series: The Adoption and Safe Families Act

    Centennial Series: The Adoption and Safe Families Act

    This is the ninth article in our second Centennial Series, CB Decade-by-Decade. These articles will examine highlights from each decade of the Children's Bureau's first 100 years. The first Centennial Series addressed some of the social issues, practices, and policies that laid the groundwork for the creation of the Children's Bureau.

    The growing population of children in foster care that began in the mid-1980s continued through the early 1990s due to rising rates of family poverty, teen pregnancy, substance abuse disorders, and the AIDS epidemic. Child welfare caseloads increased and more children seemed to linger in foster care. Mounting concerns about improving children's safety, coupled with the Clinton administration's strong interest in protecting well-being, ushered in a new era in the Children's Bureau. Increased collaboration and achieving timely permanency for the nation's waiting children became strong focuses for the Bureau and the administration, yielding the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

    In the early 1990s, child welfare services were focused more on crisis intervention than on prevention (Children's Bureau, 1994). To enhance parental functioning and protect children, President Clinton signed the Family Preservation and Support Services Program Act in 1993. The bill was the first revision of Title IV-B of the Social Security Act since 1980 and encouraged States to use funds to integrate preventive services into treatment-oriented child welfare. Allocating $1 billion over 5 years, the bill funded services such as counseling, respite care, and in-home assistance for families in crisis, in addition to parent support groups, home visits, drop-in centers, and more.

    The Act required States to conduct a 5-year planning process for delivering child abuse prevention and treatment services, foster care, Independent Living services, and other assistance to at-risk families. Tasked with the law's implementation, the Children's Bureau sought recommendations from child welfare administrators, Tribal representatives, and families involved with child welfare. The Bureau also increased collaboration with other Federal agencies.

    Another way to improve children's safety, permanency, and well-being was to increase adoption. In 1995, President Clinton expanded National Adoption Week—established by Congress in 1984—to the entire month of November, and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton produced a public service announcement promoting adoption. That same year, the Children's Bureau convened the Adoption Program Network, composed of representatives from national, State, and local adoption programs. The result was the National Adoption Strategic Plan that included eight goals and measures for success for achieving appropriate and timely adoption of the nation's waiting children:

    1. Increase the number of adoptions, including those of children with special needs
    2. Minimize loss and maintain the continuity of children's relationships
    3. Integrate the child's need for cultural continuity in adoption decision-making
    4. Ensure adoption placements, when appropriate, occur within 1 year of entering out-of-home care
    5. Increase the number of and diversity of adoptive families
    6. Provide culturally competent services and resources
    7. Provide all necessary information pertinent to meeting the child's needs
    8. Increase public awareness of and support for waiting children (Spaulding for Children, 1996)

    In response to a 1996 directive from President Clinton to more quickly move children from foster care to permanent families, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released Adoption 2002—named after the President's goal to double adoption numbers by 2002—outlining a series of recommended steps for achieving permanency. Among the steps were annual adoption targets for States, financial incentives for States, enhanced technical assistance to help States achieve adoption goals, and a proposed change in Federal law to speed court hearings after a child enters foster care (HHS, 1997). Adoption 2002 was later used as a framework for the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA).

    Passed in 1997, ASFA included well-being as a central focus of child welfare, along with safety and permanency (Center for the Study of Social Policy, Urban Institute, 2009). The legislation reauthorized the Family Preservation and Support Services Program, included adoption promotion and support services, added ''safety of the child'' to the case plan and review process, and required criminal record checks for foster and adoptive parents receiving Federal funds. ASFA's most significant requirement was that States initiate court proceedings to free a child for adoption—i.e., terminate parental rights—within 15 of their most recent 22 months in foster care (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d.).

    The Children's Bureau was again tasked with implementation of the law, including oversight of the Adoption Incentive program, which awarded nearly $160 million to States by the end of 2002 for increasing adoption from foster care. The Adoption Incentive program has been reauthorized twice, most recently under the Fostering Connections and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Children's Bureau, 2011).

    While there was much controversy surrounding ASFA's strict permanency timelines, as they caused unintended consequences for incarcerated parents and parents suffering from substance abuse disorders, the legislation created tremendous change in child welfare (Center for the Study of Social Policy & the Urban Institute, 2009). More children left foster care through guardianship and adoptions, and the law cemented the important legal recognition that kinship care and relative placements are acceptable permanency options (Center for the Study of Social Policy & the Urban Institute, 2009).

    To recognize States, Tribes, families, and organizations that make extraordinary contributions to promoting adoption and other permanency outcomes, the Bureau began administering the Adoption Excellence Awards in 1997. This recognition, and the Bureau's work to improve the overall health and well-being of our nation’s children and families, continues today.

    Center for the Study of Social Policy & the Urban Institute. (2009). Intentions and results: A look back at the Adoption and Safe Families Act. Retrieved from (671 KB)

    Children's Bureau. (1994). ACYF-PI-94-01. Retrieved from

    Child Welfare Information Gateway. (n.d.). Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997
    P.L. 105-89. Retrieved from

    Children's Bureau. (2011). Adoption incentive awards history. Retrieved from

    Spaulding for Children. (1996). A national adoption strategic plan. The Roundtable, 10(2). Retrieved from

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1997). Adoption 2002: Safe and permanent homes for all children. Retrieved from

  • Congress Passes Foster Care Education Bill

    Congress Passes Foster Care Education Bill

    On January 1, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), improving information sharing between education and child welfare agencies. The Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA) was approved by the U.S. Senate on December 30, 2012, and signed into law by President Obama on January 14, 2013. The legislation could eliminate several legal hurdles for child welfare professionals.

    FERPA, enacted in 1974, protects the privacy of student education records by giving certain rights to parents. These rights are transferred to the student when he or she turns 18 and attends a school beyond high school. The law, however, often creates problems for children in foster care by prohibiting child welfare professionals with whom the children work, including their attorneys, access to basic educational information. Challenges such as transferring schools, which is common for children in care, may be eased with better information sharing.

    More information about the new changes to FERPA is available in the December 30, 2012, issue of The Chronicle of Social Change:


Training and Technical Assistance Update

CBX highlights WPIC's redesigned website and framework centered on the five elements required for achieving sustainable systems change, the TA Partnership's decision-making guidebook, and other updates from CB's T&TA Network.

Children's Bureau Grantee Updates

A new site visit report highlights child welfare and TANF collaboration in Alaska, and the Children's Bureau forecasts 10 discretionary grant funding opportunities for fiscal year (FY) 2013.

Child Welfare Research

This month, CBX points to research on the impact of the Internet on adoption, parental exposure to trauma, the increase in cohabiting grandparents and grandchildren, and other articles.

  • Putin Bans Intercountry Adoption by U.S. Families

    Putin Bans Intercountry Adoption by U.S. Families

    On December 28, 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a Federal law prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families. The law, which went into effect on January 1, 2013, also restricts civil society organizations in Russia that work with U.S. partners. Several statements have been released by Federal agencies, Members of Congress, and organizations focused on adoption.

    The U.S. Department of State released a statement on December 28, reading:
    "American families have adopted over 60,000 Russian children over the past 20 years, and the vast majority of these children are now thriving thanks to their parents' loving support. The Russian government's politically motivated decision will reduce adoption possibilities for children who are now under institutional care. We regret that the Russian government has taken this step rather than seek to implement the bilateral adoption agreement that entered into force in November."

    Read the full statement on the Department's website:

    The Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs issued an Alert in December, providing advice to U.S. families currently in the process of adopting a child from Russia. The Alert is available on the Bureau's website:

    Related Items:

    Additional statements or articles regarding Russia's ban on intercountry adoptions by U.S. families are listed below:


  • Grandparents Living With Children

    Grandparents Living With Children

    According to data from the American Community Survey, in 2010, over 6.5 million grandparents lived in the same home as their minor grandchildren. Forty percent of these grandparents assumed the primary caregiver role. A number of factors account for the rise in cohabiting grandparents and grandchildren, including continued high rates of divorce and single-parent families; parental incarceration, substance abuse, and death or disability; and adverse family economic circumstances.

    In October 2012, Child Trends released two companion research briefs focused on this increased cohabitation. Grandparents Living With Children: State-Level Data from the American Community Survey examines the rate of poverty and level of English proficiency of grandparents responsible for the care of their grandchildren. For example, in Mississippi, 59 percent of cohabiting grandparents were the primary caregiver, and of these, 29 percent fell below the poverty level (the highest rate of any State).

    In 2010, over 5 million children under age 18 lived in a household headed by a grandparent, and 2.8 million of these children were provided basic care and needs exclusively by a grandparent. In Children Living With and Cared for by Grandparents: State-Level Data from the American Community Survey, numbers are broken down and compared by State.

    Both papers, by David Murphey, Mae Cooper, and Kristen A, Moore, briefly discuss some of the benefits and challenges associated with these living arrangements, provide tables with State-specific data from 2005-2007 and 2008-1010, and are available on the Child Trends website:

    Grandparents Living With Children: State-Level Data From the American Community Survey: (396 KB)

    Children Living With and Cared for by Grandparents: State-Level Data From the American Community Survey: (369 KB)

  • Tracking Child Maltreatment Data

    Tracking Child Maltreatment Data

    Recent child welfare data suggest that child maltreatment may be on the decline; however, because child protective services (CPS) agencies are able to report only maltreatment cases brought to their attention, the actual number of children suffering from abuse and neglect may be higher. A fall 2012 Evidence to Action Brief by PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia provides an overview of the data collection sources and systems in place to capture child maltreatment figures; discusses the benefits of adopting a surveillance system for tracking trends; and outlines several strategies, with State examples, for improving this method of information gathering.

    Surveillance systems collect data from multiple sources. For example, the authors note that surveillance systems are commonly used for population health issues such as seasonal influenza. Together, separate organizations contribute data that inform prevention initiatives, public awareness campaigns, and response efforts. With respect to child abuse and neglect, the information gathered by multiple sources—both CPS and related agencies—would provide a varied and more comprehensive picture of the prevalence of child maltreatment. While CPS data are a valuable source of information, using this source exclusively presents limitations; the incidence of child maltreatment may also be gleaned from hospital administrative, death certificate, law enforcement, and other survey and multisource data.

    For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded an initiative to link case-based data on child fatalities in California, Michigan, and Rhode Island. The surveillance program aimed to identify children who died from abuse or neglect, which are deaths that often are underreported and undercounted. By linking more than one data source, such as child welfare agency data, death certificates, medical examiner records, child death review teams, and crime reports, the States discovered more than 90 percent of child maltreatment deaths in their jurisdictions.

    A surveillance system that captures reliable, population-level data would enable child welfare administrators and other stakeholders to better understand the prevalence of maltreatment in their communities. It also would help agencies better guide the policy and practice developments needed to effectively respond to the needs of and improve outcomes for children and families.

    Tracking Child Abuse and Neglect: The Role of Multiple Data Sources in Improving Child Safety, by Sheyla P. Medina, Katherine Sell, Jane Kavanagh, Cara Curtis, and Joanne N. Wood, is available on the PolicyLab website: (592 KB)

  • GAP Funds Promote Permanency

    GAP Funds Promote Permanency

    Among the provisions of Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 is the establishment of the Federal Title IV-E Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP). States can use GAP funds to provide subsidies to relative caregivers who become permanent guardians to children in foster care.

    A new report details interviews with stakeholders in the 29 States, the District of Columbia, and the Port Gamble S'Klallam Indian Tribe in Washington State that have been approved by the Department of Health and Human Services for Federal funding from the GAP program. Interviews were conducted by staff from Children's Defense Fund, Child Trends, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, Casey Family Programs, Child Focus, and Generations United.

    Early findings show that GAP has enabled States to either start subsidized guardianship programs or expand existing programs. The benefits to children in kin guardianships include enabling them to stay connected to family and to their culture, maintaining connections with siblings and other birth family members, and achieving permanency when adoption or reunification with birth parents are not viable options. The challenges that States face in implementing GAP also are discussed in the report.

    Making it Work: Using the Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP) to Close the Permanency Gap for Children in Foster Care is available on the Children's Defense Fund website: ( 12 MB)

  • Impact of the Internet on Adoption

    Impact of the Internet on Adoption

    Noting a lack of scholarly literature focused on the Internet's impact on adoption, the Donaldson Institute for Adoption set out on a multiyear study of the subject. The results of the study, in addition to recommendations for practice and policy changes, were released in the December 2012 report Untangling the Web: The Internet's Transformative Impact on Adoption.

    The primary goal of the study was to start a national discussion on the impact of digital media on adoption and how to regulate online adoption services to ensure they meet ethical and legal standards. Information for the study was gathered using multiple tactics, including interviews and confidential email addresses where participants could send responses.

    Highlights from key findings include the following:

    • The Internet has offered positive changes in adoption, including increased access to support for adoptive families and better information sharing.
    • A growing number of adopted children are finding their birth relatives online but not always with their adoptive parents' knowledge or approval.
    • The relative ease of finding birth family members online may signal the end of "closed" adoptions and an increase in relationships between birth families and adoptive families.

    While there is a rising number of information sites that expedite the adoption of waiting children, there remain several unregulated websites that raise serious ethical and legal concerns. Some of the recommended policy and practice changes include the following:

    • Child welfare agencies, organizations, and professionals involved with foster care and adoption should develop best practices and standards. The Adoption Institute plans to hold a meeting on the topic in 2013.
    • More education and training opportunities should be made available to help adoption professionals gain a better understanding of technology and the changing impact of technology on adoption.
    • Adoption professionals and social workers should advise and prepare adoptive families for the reality that "closed" adoptions may be coming to an end and that their adoption will be "open" to some extent.
    • Policymakers and other stakeholders should conduct hearings about whether changes in the law are necessary to ensure those affected by adoption are protected from unscrupulous practices online, such as fraud or exploitation.

    The full report is available on the Donaldson Institute for Adoption's website:

  • Parental Exposure to Trauma

    Parental Exposure to Trauma

    Chapin Hall recently released a report that explores how parents' personal histories and extensive exposure to trauma as children affect their adult functioning. The study examined comprehensive family assessments and administrative data for 85 families (140 parents and 176 children) in Illinois who had a child enter foster care in 2008 and were referred to the State's comprehensive family assessment program as standard placement cases.

    The study team reviewed the assessments to determine if parents had experienced any of 10 traumatic experiences as children, as defined by the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) short form. The most common adverse childhood experiences for these parents were the loss of a parent (66 percent), such as through divorce or abandonment, and living with someone who had a problem with drugs or alcohol (42 percent). Additionally, more than one-quarter of the parents experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or domestic violence. More than a third of the parents (37 percent) had experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences, resulting in a high ACE score. Parents with a high ACE score also had more issues that required an immediate referral for services.

    The assessments reflected significantly more concern about the service needs of parents with high ACE scores, particularly for mental health, residential stability, marital partner violence, and posttraumatic stress syndrome. Reunification rates and average lengths of stay for children who have at least one parent with a high ACE are similar to those who have parents with lower scores. The rate of reentry into foster care in those cases where the child was reunited with his or her parent, however, was higher for children with a high-scoring parent than for children with low-scoring parents.

    The study was completed as part of a cooperative agreement between the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Children's Bureau. The report, Parents' Pasts and Families' Futures: Using Family Assessments to Inform Perspectives on Reasonable Efforts and Reunification, is available on the Chapin Hall website:

Strategies and Tools for Practice

  • Working With Polyvictimized Children

    Working With Polyvictimized Children

    The Safe Start Center, a National Resource Center for Children's Exposure to Violence, released a new tip sheet, Tips for Staff and Advocates Working With Children Polyvictimization. This tip sheet aims to create a greater emphasis on community-based partnerships as a way to offer early intervention services and prevent children's exposure to multiple episodes of victimization.

    In addition to providing tips for those who work with victimized children, the resource presents common warning signs of exposure to violence in children and teenagers in three age categories—children age 5 and younger, elementary school-age children, and teenagers. Definitions of polyvictimization and posttraumatic stress are also provided.

    Tips for Staff and Advocates Working With Children Polyvictimization is available on the Safe Start Center's website: (857 KB)

    For more information about the Safe Start Center, visit its website:

  • Latino Kids Data Explorer

    Latino Kids Data Explorer

    The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has created the Latino Kids Data Explorer, an online tool that provides data on the well-being of Latino children in the United States. The Data Explorer allows users to choose among 27 indicators of well-being, such as citizenship status, children in single-parent or low-income families, and children without health insurance. The data are grouped by age, time trend, racial group, and by State.

    The Data Explorer was designed to be a resource for people whose work may be affected by the increasing diversity in our nation's child population, such as researchers and policymakers. It is an extension of NCLR's America's Future: Latino Child Well-Being in Numbers and Trends, published in 2010.

    The Latino Kids Data Explorer is available on the NCLR website:

    Related Item

    Children's Bureau Express covered NCLR's America's Future: Latino Child Well-Being in Numbers and Trends in the article "Data on Latino Children Well-Being" (July/August 2010).

  • Permanency Planning Toolkit

    Permanency Planning Toolkit

    Planning for permanency for older youth in care is the focus of a new publication, Permanency Planning Toolkit: A Framework for Serving Older Youth in Care. Prepared by Copia Consulting on behalf of Texas CASA, the toolkit was developed to provide practical guidance to volunteers to assist youth in developing connections to family and community that will support their transition to independent living. The toolkit is centered on the concept that permanence means youth who transition out of foster care have developed significant lifelong relationships. 

    Following a brief overview of statistics and the challenges that youth face, the toolkit offers several activities and worksheets designed for volunteers to assist youth in the process of envisioning and planning for various aspects of their lives, including:

    • Cultural and personal identity formation
    • Supportive relationships and community connections
    • Physical and mental health
    • Life skills and education
    • Employment and housing

    Best practices of local Texas programs are described, and links to resources are provided. The toolkit is available on the Copia Consulting website: (4 MB)


  • Scholarship Search Tool

    Scholarship Search Tool

    CareerOneStop, an organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, has produced a searchable database for college scholarships. The database allows users to search from more than 7,000 scholarships, fellowships, loans, and other financial aid opportunities.

    Users can search by keyword, State, award type, education level, or affiliation restrictions, such as scholarships available only to veterans or people with disabilities. The scholarship search tool is one of many tools available to students, job seekers, businesses, and career professionals on the CareerOneStop website.

    The scholarship search tool is available here:

    For more information about CareerOneStop, visit its website:

  • Youth Advice for Foster Parents

    Youth Advice for Foster Parents

    Youth Success NYC, a resource network for youth in care, offers youth the opportunity to express their feelings about many aspects of the out-of-home experience. A prominent section of the Youth Success NYC website features stories written by teens in foster care. One recent story contains practical advice for foster parents with a particular focus on children's need for stability, protection, and acceptance. Tips and recommendations included the following:

    • Make your home a place where a child feels safe and secure.
    • Introduce your child the neighborhood, local stores, transportation, etc.
    • Help your child open up and listen to what he or she has to say.
    • Include your child in your family life and be supportive of his or her relationships with the biological family.
    • Encourage your child's independence and respect his or her different beliefs.

    Simple Tips for Foster Parents is available on the Youth Success NYC website:

  • AAP Intercountry Adoption Brochure

    AAP Intercountry Adoption Brochure

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) produced a brochure for parents of children adopted from countries outside the United States. The brochure is designed to provide adoptive parents with important information regarding their child's health.

    A list of infectious diseases and other recommended screenings, tips for evaluating the child's health upon arrival at home, and information about immunization records are just a few of the topics covered in the brochure. The AAP Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care and the AAP Section on Adoption and Foster Care provided the information for the brochure.

    A Healthy Beginning: Important Information for Parents of Internationally Adopted Children is available on the American Academy of Pediatrics website:  (95 KB)

  • Service Needs Girls Involved With the Justice System

    Service Needs Girls Involved With the Justice System

    A new publication from the National Girls Institute (NGI) examines the current training, technical assistance, and informational needs of State, Tribal, and local entities serving girls and their families. For the study, NGI representatives conducted 64 "listening sessions" across the country with groups of at-risk girls or girls involved with the justice system, their parents or caregivers, and key professional and community stakeholders.

    Open-ended questions were used to solicit data about the following key areas of concern:

    • Needs for priority training and technical assistance to improve the response to girls involved with the justice system
    • The resource and information needs of girls, parents, and key stakeholders
    • The supports, practices, policies that are currently working for girls, parents, and key stakeholders
    • Practices, policies, systems, structures, services, and programs that are ineffective and/or harmful

    The report describes the information collected from the listening sessions, provides recommendations for policy and practice improvements, and offers suggestions for further research.

    The National Girls Institute is a federally funded partnership between the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The project was funded by a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Voices From the Field is available on the National Girls Institute website: (3 MB)

  • Tips and Tools for Online Safety

    Tips and Tools for Online Safety

    A website sponsored by Tech Parenting Group,, educates users on how to safely navigate social media, cellphones, and other digital communication tools. The site's resources include tips and guidance for teens, parents, and educators. A broad spectrum of topics is addressed in the Safety Tips & Advice section, including:

    • Putting a stop to cyberbullying
    • The importance of using strong online passwords
    • Cellphone safety
    • Tips for using GPS location-sharing tools

    A Parents' Guide to Facebook and a guide to Google+ are also available. These guides inform parents about how the social media sites work and the features and capabilities their children have access to when using these online tools. Users of will also find tips available in Spanish, articles from outside resources about safely using the Internet, and links to the website's Facebook and Twitter accounts.

    Visit the Connect Safely website from Tech Parenting Group here:

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 child welfare and adoption through March 2013 include:

    March 2013

    • 2012 Baccalaureate Program Directors Annual Conference
      The Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, Inc.
      March 6–10, Myrtle Beach, SC
    • CornerHouse Advanced Forensic Interview Training
      March 13–19, Minneapolis, MN

    April 2013

    May 2013

    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:

  • PA Child Welfare Resource Center Training

    PA Child Welfare Resource Center Training

    The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, offers a series of online curricula divided into two categories: Foundation training and Specialized and Related training. Among the courses in the suite is a training for supervisors pertaining to compliance with the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Child and Family Services Review.

    Each of the research-based workshops are developed by department staff to promote the implementation of the Pennsylvania Standards for Child Welfare Practice and Child and Family Services Review Outcomes. Each online course includes power points, handouts, content, guides, and appendices. The courses include the following: