This issue of CBX features resources related to the issue of youth homelessness and ways to mitigate the challenges children and youth involved with child welfare face during times of financial insecurity. Read a message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg about the importance of practicing positivity when engaging with children and youth and how the Lakota tribe implements this principle of being acutely mindful of the language they use around their children. This issue also includes valuable resources for professionals and the families they serve.
- Choose to Practice Positivity
Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg
This month we will celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, which is a time to honor Native American culture and contributions to American society. Indigenous means “originating in a particular place.” There are 574 federally recognized Indigenous tribes throughout our nation. Indigenous people were here first. There is a disproportionate number of Native children in foster care and Native families entangled in the child welfare system. We must do better. At the Children’s Bureau, we have been steadfast in lifting up the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). We know that foster care should only be a last resort. However, if foster care becomes necessary, we know that Native children deserve to stay in their community and maintain their strong connections to cultural identity.
Last month, I had the opportunity to spend time in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Before I arrived, I began listening to a podcast about the history of the Lakota people. The podcast describes Lakota values regarding how children are treated. Children are seen as gifts from the creator and are nurtured and cared for by the entire community. One of the narrators said, “The father’s brothers were all fathers to the child...and the mother’s sisters were all mothers to the child.” In the Lakota community, everyone had responsibility for the healthy development of a child. This reminded me of the phrase we often hear: “It takes a village to raise a child.” It truly does. The Lakota values are intentional, purposeful, and carefully communicated through oral history. They are not only intellectually observed but they are practiced in daily life. ICWA acknowledges that Native children have a right to remain in their community and stay connected to their culture. When we remove a child from their community, we take them away from the important intangibles—that which we cannot necessarily see—and we separate them from their guiding cultural principles.
My brief immersion into Lakota life led me to reflect on how we support children and families in our field. I learned that one of the Lakota principles—one of their practices—was that children were never degraded. They took special care to say only positive things about a child in that child’s presence. I thought about what a difference that could make in child’s life. I imagined what that could do for a child’s self-esteem, their belief in themselves, and how it might impact the kind of adult they would become. I wondered whether it was possible to create a generation of children who were never degraded. We would have to believe it was possible. This Indigenous People Day, we can learn from the Lakota people. We can make the conscious decision today to adopt that one Lakota principle and live life in a way that is acutely mindful of the language we use around our children. We can choose positivity. What would it cost?
- Homelessness and Housing Instability Among LGBTQ Youth
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ) youth are overrepresented among young people experiencing homeless and housing instability. These housing issues in turn increase LGBTQ youth's risk of mental health and other challenges compared with their LGBTQ peers who have stable housing. The Trevor Project published a report, Homeless and Housing Instability Among LGBTQ Youth, which explores the complex connection between LGBTQ youth, homelessness, and mental health challenges. It also details the challenges of collecting data on the housing status of LGBTQ youth as well as the impact of COVID-19.
Data were collected through an online survey that targeted youth on social media. Questions measured the rate of housing instability, related mental health outcomes, and other factors associated with housing instability. The data showed that 28 percent of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability, with much higher rates (44 percent) for Native/Indigenous LGBTQ youth. Additionally, 28 percent of LGBTQ youth who experienced housing instability and 35 percent of LGBTQ youth who were currently experiencing homelessness reported a suicide attempt in the past year compared with 10 percent of youth who had not experienced housing instability.
The report also provided recommendations for preventing and addressing LGBTQ youth homelessness based on the survey data and perspectives from housing advocates. Potential areas of improvement include the following:
- Implementing strong antidiscrimination policies to prevent LGBTQ youth homelessness
- Increasing funding for low-barrier housing programs
- Reimagining shelter services
- Improving data collection on LGBTQ youth homelessness
- Creating antipoverty economic policies to lessen economic burdens of low-income families
The full data and recommendations are available in the report.
- Homeless in Foster Care: What Would Really Keep Foster Youth From Sleeping in Offices
A webinar from Fostering Media Connections, "Homeless In Foster Care: What Would Really Keep Foster Youth From Sleeping in Offices," features a conversation about recent reports suggesting a pattern of children and youth sleeping in child protective services office buildings, hotels, and caseworker cars. The panelists discuss how youth enter these situations in the first place, what barriers to placement exist, and how this complex issue could be solved. To do so, they considered the following questions:
- When in the life of a case could we intervene to avoid not having a placement for the child or youth?
- What are the supports families need to care for complex children?
- What are the systemic changes needed to solve this complex problem?
Children and youth not having a safe place to stay after an emergency or removal is a complicated issue that will take a nuanced, comprehensive solution. The panelists suggest that we should reframe this problem from being about difficult children and youth, which can lead to assuming they need "fixing," or a scarcity of foster families to being about the fact that there are too many children and youth in foster care.
Leveraging the resources in communities to help families find support and strength before a crisis occurs can help mitigate the problem of not having a placement for children and youth after emergencies or removals. The webinar also presents ideas about using the following as starting points for solutions:
- Reforming mandated reporting
- Viewing parents as partners who want to do the work
- Examining the intersection between child welfare and juvenile justice
- Creating a flexible system that provides holistic support to families
It also talks about how agency and community leaders should be aware that offering support is not doing more harm to a disadvantaged community (e.g., more policing in areas with a majority of diverse families) as well as be aware of the impact of historical trauma and economic inequities as a result of structural racism and decades of social and economic policies.
Watch the 1-hour webinar in its entirety for a deeper look into these questions and possible solutions.
- I Am Here: Vital Document Legal Hotline for Youth
Youth who are experiencing homelessness are a vulnerable population that needs tailored supports. Often, youth need documents, such as birth certificates, state identifications, or Social Security cards, to access those services. Youth who are experiencing homelessness, however, may not have access to these vital documents and need help navigating the legal processes to obtain them. The National Network for Youth provides a nationwide hotline to help youth struggling with homelessness obtain these vital documents.
More information is available on the National Network for Youth website.
- Young People's Lived Experiences With Safety Net Programs
A report from the Urban Institute, Young People's Lived Experiences With Safety Net Programs: Insights From Young People and Youth-Serving Organizations, details the second phase of a research project that examines how young people interact with safety net programs. The first phase of research dealt with key barriers and available supports, and the second phase took a deeper look at those issues through the voices of those with lived experience so policymakers, agencies, and other stakeholders can utilize their wisdom and change systems to better meet their needs.
The following are key challenges young people face in accessing safety net programs:
- Programs not reflecting young people's needs
- Difficulty in knowing what benefits exist and how to access them
- Complicated application processes
- Lack of recognition of the developmental- and life-stage realities of young people
- Insufficient acknowledgment of mental health issues
The following are key actions that young people and staff identified to address those challenges:
- Simplify access and provide navigational support.
- Empower and support young people in decision-making.
- Replace punitive approaches with support and minimized burden.
- Make fundamental structural changes in how young people are supported.
In addition to these challenges, young people with diverse identities (e.g., Black, Latino, Indigenous) face significant inequities in accessing the resources and opportunities they need to create a stable foundation for their future. The report provides context for the multiple ways structural racism impacts diverse youth and families and shapes the structure of safety net programs—including how these programs frequently do not address the root of inequities and barriers to success.
To learn more about the earlier phases of this project and how safety net programs can help youth meet their basic needs, explore the Urban Institute's Young People and the Safety Net project page.
Spotlight on National Adoption Month
Spotlight on Creating a More Equitable Child Welfare System
News From the Children's Bureau
In this section, find the latest news, resources, and publications from the Administration for Children and Families, the Children's Bureau, and other offices within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as a listing of the latest additions to the Children's Bureau website.
- Runaway and Homeless Youth and Relationship Violence Toolkit
Many runaway and homeless youth have experienced trauma in the form of intimate partner violence (including domestic, dating, and sexual violence). For this reason, recognizing and understanding the intersection of runaway and homeless youth and intimate partner violence is important for creating meaningful services and effective intervention and prevention strategies for both homelessness and relationship abuse and in creating partnerships between the programs working with youth at risk.
The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, a resource of Family and Youth Services Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, created the Runaway & Homeless Youth and Relationship Violence Toolkit to help professionals working with runaway and homeless youth and domestic and sexual assault victims. The toolkit includes information and resources from local collaborative projects funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau and includes resources on the following:
- Key terms and definitions
- Finding common ground between services for runaway and homeless youth and victims of intimate partner violence
- Sex trafficking of minors
- The runaway and homeless youth and domestic and sexual violence fields
- Building partnerships
- Building services
- Measuring success
- Practice tools
This toolkit is meant to be an ever-evolving resource for professionals in both fields, and new tools, tips, best practices, curricula, and other materials will be added as they are developed.
Visit the Runaway & Homeless Youth and Relationship Violence Toolkit to learn more about the importance of addressing the impact of intimate partner violence on at-risk youth and ways to mitigate the trauma associated with it.
- CB Website Updates
The Children's Bureau website hosts information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, federal reporting, and much more.
Recent additions or updates to the site include the following:
- Title IV-E Programs Expenditure and Caseload Data
- Federal Inter-Agency Work Group on Child Abuse & Neglect
- State-Specific Foster Care Data 2020
- Children’s Bureau Regional Program Managers
- Supplemental Funding Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for the CBCAP and CAPTA State Grant Programs: IM-22-03
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new.
- Expanded Child Tax Credit and Affordable Connectivity Program Supports Families in Need
On September 12, 2022, the White House hosted a virtual back-to-school workshop highlighting two programs to support families: the expanded Child Tax Credit, which provides payments to eligible families with children; and the Affordable Connectivity Program, which helps eligible families access high-speed internet.
The Child Tax Credit was expanded on March 11, 2021, when President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Act. As a result of the expansion, many American families will be eligible to receive $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17 years old and $3,600 per child under the age of 6. If families have not yet filed taxes to receive their full 2021 Child Tax Credit, there is still time. The deadline is October 17. Families MUST file a tax return to receive the full Child Tax Credit.
To learn more about eligibility requirements and how to apply for the Child Tax Credit, visit ChildTaxCredit.gov.
In addition to the Child Tax Credit, the White House also created the Affordable Connectivity Program, which gives eligible households $30 per month off their internet bills. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers.
To deliver maximum cost savings to families, the Biden-Harris Administration has secured commitments from 20 leading internet providers to offer eligible households a high-speed internet plan for no more than $30 per month. Eligible families who pair their Affordable Connectivity Program benefit with one of these plans can receive high-speed internet at no cost.
To learn more about the Affordable Connectivity Program, eligibility requirements, and how to apply, visit Get Internet - The White House.
- Supporting Families Experiencing Homelessness: Strategies and Approaches for TANF Agencies
Federal programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) can help mitigate the financial difficulties faced by low-income families by giving states, tribes, and local jurisdictions the ability to apply for block grants that give them a wide latitude to provide an array of supports and services to people currently or at risk of experiencing homelessness.
The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contracted with Abt Associates and its partner, MEF Associates, to conduct a study to evaluate how states and localities are currently using TANF funds to support families experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The brief, Supporting Families Experiencing Homelessness: Strategies and Approaches for TANF Agencies, answers the following research questions:
- To what extent are TANF agencies across the country using TANF funds to serve and support families experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness?
- What approaches and strategies are TANF agencies using to serve these families?
- What do those findings mean for TANF policymakers and leaders from continuums of care (regional, state, or local planning bodies that coordinate housing, services, and funding for those experiencing homelessness)?
For the study, researchers conducted a two-phase scan of TANF agency practices in 2018 and 2019. First, the researchers conducted a systematic document review of 25 state TANF plans as well as an online survey of all state and territory TANF administrators and a sample of three regional or county TANF administrators in each state. Next, they further examined sites in five communities to gain indepth information about how TANF programs use TANF and maintenance-of-effort funds to help families experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.
The report noted the following findings and implications:
- Local TANF agencies often focus on helping families experiencing homelessness in response to state policy guidance.
- TANF agencies should consider tradeoffs between operating a housing assistance program and providing funding to local organizations with more expertise.
- Local homeless service providers, continuums of care, and public housing agencies are key partners in the effective implementation of programs that use TANF funds to serve families experiencing homelessness.
- TANF agencies should consider fully integrating employment services and job training with any housing assistance funded by TANF. More consideration for how these housing-focused programs can benefit from existing TANF resources may help strengthen and streamline case management efforts.
- TANF agencies should consider braiding their funding with other public and private funding streams to amplify their ability to help families experiencing homelessness.
- Continuums of care can offer expertise on supporting families experiencing homelessness by providing knowledge and training to TANF staff.
The brief also provides considerations for TANF administrators and continuums of care leadership as well as profiles of sites from Atlanta, GA; Boulder County, CO; Mercer County, NJ; Nashville, TN; and Shasta County, CA.
To learn more about how states are developing and implementing TANF programs and services, read the brief, Supporting Families Experiencing Homelessness: Strategies and Approaches for TANF Agencies.
This section features resources and updates from the Children's Bureau's technical assistance partners to support practices and systems that improve the lives of children and families.
- Division X Technical Assistance: Young Adults Leading Change
Written by the Division X Technical Assistance Team
The COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice, among other challenges, changed the world as we knew it just over 3 years ago. These events challenged families, individuals, and communities across the country, particularly youth and young adults in and transitioning from foster care. In late 2020, Congress passed the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act (Division X) and resources and flexibilities were granted to states, territories, and tribes to serve those disproportionately affected. In partnership with the Children’s Bureau, the Division X Technical Assistance project has worked over the past year to address current and longstanding challenges, collect lessons learned and innovations, and support states and territories in sharing power and centering the expertise of youth and young adults to ensure successful transitions to adulthood. All we do and have done (including this and a previous article) has been directed and led by young adults with lived and professional experience in child welfare.
Over the past year, we’ve challenged ourselves and the field to meaningfully partner with those with lived experience by sharing power; leading with lived expertise; promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion; and seizing opportunities for innovation to ensure all youth and young adults transition to healthy, productive adults. Together with the Children’s Bureau, the child welfare field, and partners like the Capacity Building Center for States, we are capturing and sharing promising strategies and best practices and modeling inclusion throughout our work. From products and newsletter development (find previous issues of the DX Learning Corner here), dissemination activities, events including “Building Sustainable Change With Youth and Young Adults,” and technical assistance directly to jurisdictions, youth and young adults are leading every step of the way.
One of the hallmarks of this unique opportunity has been the partnership with the Children’s Bureau’s regional offices. Regions have leaned into meaningful partnerships with young leaders and as a result centered their perspectives to serve as an additional technical assistance resource to states, territories, and tribes. The Division X consultants have facilitated state and tribal peer-to-peer conversation, reviewed Annual Program and Services Reports, consulted on programmatic and systemic areas, and developed recommendations on key areas of interest and need, such as pregnant and parenting teens and supports for youth at risk of trafficking as well as ways to enhance equity and access for all youth served by child welfare. The Division X technical assistance team also developed products to share lessons learned and successes that include practical tools and tips, all intended to help organizations begin or continue to work toward better supporting all youth and young adults.
As we move into the last few weeks of this 1-year effort, we are reflecting on the impact that truly shifting the power dynamic has had on us, staff, the client, and customers with whom we have worked. We look forward to sharing the results of a robust evaluation effort, which was developed, executed, and produced by a team with lived expertise, promulgating our lessons learned and demonstrating to the field the impact of partnering with and empowering youth and young adults.
Division X Technical Assistance is funded by the Children’s Bureau to partner with child welfare agencies and enhance their youth engagement programs and initiatives. For more information about the Division X Technical Assistance effort and to access current and forthcoming newsletters, event recordings, and resources and information, visit the Division X Technical Assistance website.
- October Is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Since 1989, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has observed October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. During this special initiative, NCTSN acknowledges that domestic violence affects people from all walks of life, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality and can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and even death. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations, last a lifetime, and take its toll on families, leading them to become involved with the child welfare system.
NCTSN created a webpage that contains helpful resources on domestic violence for parents and caregivers, children and teens, mental health providers, child welfare workers, law enforcement professionals, educators and school staff, and policymakers. The webpage features factsheets (e.g., Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event, Children and Domestic Violence: How Does Domestic Violence Affect Children), videos (e.g., "Cops, Kids, and Domestic Violence"), webinars (e.g., "Addressing Perpetration of Intimate Partner Violence in Families Affected by Substance Use"), and more.
To learn more about National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and to access NCTSN's resources on the subject, visit NCTSN's National Domestic Violence Awareness Month webpage.
- Prioritizing Youth Voice: The Importance of Authentic Youth Engagement in Case Planning
Youth involved with the child welfare system should be considered to be the experts on their own lives. As such, it is important to include youth experience and voice into the plans for their future. Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, released a bulletin, Prioritizing Youth Voice: The Importance of Authentic Youth Engagement in Case Planning, to help child welfare professionals understand the key concepts of youth engagement and learn strategies for including youth in their own case planning.
Youth engagement has been associated with numerous benefits, including helping youth develop skills such as reasoning, decision-making, self-regulation, self-esteem, leadership, and professional development. In addition, giving youth the opportunity to speak on their own behalf can help them gain a sense of empowerment and agency, help with healthy brain development, help them attain protective factors, improve outcomes, ensure youth receive appropriate services, and encourage positive system change.
The bulletin provides child welfare professionals and others working with youth with information about the following strategies for engaging youth:
- Promoting normalcy by allowing youth to participate in age-appropriate activities, such as athletics, extracurriculars, learning to drive, sleepovers with friends, getting a job, and dating
- Supporting young people's interests
- Celebrating small and large accomplishments
- Talking to youth in care about their feelings
- Swapping casework visits with casual outings to help young people feel more comfortable
- Being mindful of perceived stigma
- Remembering that even youth with "uncomplicated" case plans need support
- Partnering with other sectors
- Letting youth decide who they want at family team meetings
- Providing different options for engagement
- Safely utilizing social media and technology
- Being aware of caseworker turnover
- Providing closure if leaving the job
- Providing youth with opportunities outside of requirements
- Preparing youth for transitioning out of care or permanency
- Emphasizing the importance of youth advocacy while youth are still in the system
- Connecting youth with peer support systems and peer-led programs
In addition to describing the above strategies, the bulletin also delves into the rights of youth in care, key concepts for engaging youth, prioritizing youth engagement at the agency level, and more.
To learn more about how to effectively engage youth in case planning, read the bulletin, Prioritizing Youth Voice: The Importance of Authentic Youth Engagement in Case Planning.
- Child and Family Services Reviews Round 4 Resources
Round 4 of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) is expected to launch in fiscal year 2023. To prepare states for this process, the CFSR Information Portal has compiled resources and information about planning for, conducting, and participating in the CFSR process; analyzing and understanding the results; and planning for program improvement and continuous quality improvement.
The portal contains information on the CFSR round 4 process; instruments, tools, and guides; statewide data indicators; CFSR technical bulletins; and program improvement planning tools. The site also includes videos and transcripts of round 4 national calls that were hosted by the Children's Bureau in preparation for round 4.
In addition to the CFSR Information Portal, the Children's Bureau has a webpage that provides information on the upcoming round 4 process that includes general information about the CFSR process; guidance for site selection proposals, conducting stakeholder interviews, and onsite reviews; and templates and videos.
- Updates From the Children's Bureau's Training and Technical Assistance Partners
The Children's Bureau funds several technical assistance centers to provide professionals with tools to better serve children, youth, and families.
The following are some of the latest resources from these partners:
Child Welfare Information Gateway
- From Complaint to Resolution: Understanding the Child Welfare Grievance Process
- Stepparent Adoption
- Permanency With Relatives and Kin [Webpage update]
Visit the Information Gateway website for more.
Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative
- Center for States
- Center for Tribes Tribal Information Exchange
Visit the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative website for more.
Children's Bureau Learning & Coordination Center (CBLCC)
- "Transforming Experience Through HOPE" [Learning module]
- “Laying the Groundwork: Paid Family Leave as a Prevention and Promotion Strategy” [Digital Dialog]
Visit the CBLCC website for more.
- "Decreasing Racial Disparity in Permanency: A Conversation With Tatenda Perry" [Article]
- “Understanding, Engaging, and Supporting Native Families” [Webinar]
- “Peer Support Matters: Strategies to Incorporate and Elevate Those With Lived Experience” [Webinar]
Visit the AdoptUSKids website for more.
National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN)
- "Contact After Adoption or Guardianship: Child Welfare Agency and Family Interactions" [Dataset]
- "National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) - Outcomes Survey, Cohort Age 17 in FY2017, Waves 1–3 (Complete)" [Dataset]
Visit the NDACAN website for more.
National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI)
- “Overrepresentation of Black Children in Child Welfare” [One-page summary]
- “Engaging Emerging Leaders as a Retention Strategy” [Webinar]
- American Indian/Alaska Natives Curriculum Content Evaluation Guide
Visit the NCWWI website for more.
Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development (QIC-WD)
- Share your workforce questions to inform our National Webinar Series
- “The Child Welfare Workforce Crisis – What We’re Hearing From the Field” [Blog post]
- “A Quick Guide to Workforce Analytics for Child Welfare Agencies” [Blog post]
- Umbrella Summary: Employee Fit
Visit the QIC-WD website for more.
National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW)
- Disproportionalities and Disparities in Child Welfare
- "Understanding Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, and Family Recovery: A Guide for Child Welfare Professionals" [Curriculum]
- Key Considerations for Applying an Equity Lens to Collaborative Practice
- Disrupting Stigma: How Understanding, Empathy, and Connection Can Improve Outcomes for Families Affected by Substance Use and Mental Disorders
Visit the NCSACW website for more.
James Bell Associates
- Capacity Building Service Strategies: A Review of the Literature
- Design for the Cross-Center Evaluation of the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative, 2020–2025
- Strengthening Communities: A Qualitative Assessment of Opportunities for the Prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences in the Wake of the Opioid Crisis
Visit the James Bell Associates website for more.
Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse
- The Review Process: Navigating Timeline Challenges
- How Does the Prevention Services Clearinghouse Determine Which Studies Are Reviewed?
- How Does the Prevention Services Clearinghouse Rate the Design and Execution of Studies?
Visit the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse website for more.
In this section, we highlight recent studies, literature reviews, and other research on child welfare topics.
- Study Explores Coping Strategies of Mothers With Few Economic Resources
An exploratory study from the Urban Institute aimed to increase understanding of the supports that mothers with few economic resources use to provide for their families. The study examined the range of positive, active coping mechanisms that women with children under the age of 5 with few economic resources use to address caregiving challenges, including formal and informal supports and strategies, and whether community-based organizations can facilitate mothers’ positive, active coping strategies.
The study promoted a participant-centered perspective by utilizing a pool of 20 interviewees and a social network analysis approach. Using a series of research questions about coping mechanisms, caregiving challenges, and community-based organization supports, researchers gathered information about the positive, active strategies mothers with very young children and few economic resources used to meet their caregiving and related needs.
The following were the key findings:
- Mothers with few economic resources often use several positive and creative coping strategies.
- While the mothers were resilient, many were on the verge of crises, such as homelessness.
- Food, health, child care, and housing benefits were present but sporadic. Most mothers struggled to afford rent and child care.
- Government assistance was often not the primary coping strategy.
- Conditions out of the family's control often created unique challenges.
The report concludes with recommendations for strategies that fill the gaps in the support networks of these women. This includes partnering women with organizations that offer service integration and navigation support, which can be especially helpful to women balancing several complex resources. The report also recommends supports that address mental health care.
For more information, read the report, Understanding Coping Strategies of Mothers With Low Income: How Organizations Can Reduce Isolation and Improve Supports.
- Online Database Compiles State Data on Maltreatment, Foster Care, Kinship Care, and Adoption
An updated online resource from Child Trends, State-Level Data for Understanding Child Welfare in the United States, provides state and federal data on child maltreatment, foster care, kinship care, and adoption from foster care. The resource is designed to help policymakers, advocates, researchers, and reporters understand the number of children and youth who come in contact with the child welfare system and why. States can then use the information to improve their child welfare systems.
Data sources for the resource include the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, Child Trends’ Child Welfare Financing Survey, and the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The resource also features a companion guide designed to help states use the data and provide an overview of the current state of child welfare in the country.
This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other resources that provide evidence-based strategies or other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.
- Casey Family Programs Brief Explores How Economic Supports Improve Family Well-Being
A recent issue brief from Casey Family Programs, How Do Economic Supports Benefit Families and Communities?, explores how economic supports can improve family well-being. Economic supports can allow families to fulfill basic necessities, such as housing, food, and clothing. An increasing number of studies show that improving families’ access to adequate and effective economic supports can prevent family separation, decrease time to permanency, decrease the risk of subsequent abuse or neglect, and enhance child and family well-being. The brief acknowledges that child welfare agencies are not in a position to eradicate poverty but that they can help drive community-based efforts to address families’ basic needs, which can lead to keeping children safe and families together. Some of these efforts may include housing supports, food assistance, financial supports, employment assistance, early care and education services, legal services, and medical and behavioral health care. Improving access to these supports likely requires a coordinated approach from multiple systems as well as partnerships between child welfare agencies and other public and private organizations.
For more information, including additional information about the different forms of economic support, go to How Do Economic Supports Benefit Families and Communities?
- CBX Survey Launches!
Throughout Children’s Bureau Express’ 22-year history, we have strived to provide subscribers with the most valuable resources and tools geared toward improving the lives of children and families involved with the child welfare system.
And now we are asking for reader feedback.
We want to know what you think about our content, topical coverage, format, style, number and timing of issues, display, and more.
Please click on the survey link to complete this brief questionnaire. We value your opinion!
- Reducing Homelessness Among Young People Transitioning From Foster Care
Written by the Capacity Building Center for States
Where does a young person go when they turn 18? For many, the answer is nowhere—they continue living at home with their families until they wish to move out. Unfortunately, for many young people in foster care the answer to this question is also “nowhere,” since an estimated 20 percent of young adults in foster care become homeless the moment they are emancipated at age 18. Nationwide, the data show that an estimated 50 percent of the homeless population spent time in foster care (National Foster Youth Institute, n.d.).
Risk factors for youth homelessness among all young people include lacking a high school diploma; identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, or other identities; and having a low household income (Chapin Hall, 2017). Young people in foster care face additional risk factors for becoming homeless, including a high number of foster care placements, a history of running away from placements, and time spent in congregate care (Ross & Selekman, 2017).
The following activities can inform policy and practice changes to help you partner with young people to plan for their posttransition housing needs.
Build Authentic Relationships With Young People
Agency staff should work to build authentic relationships with the young people they serve so that those young people have a safety net in case they find themselves temporarily without housing or resources or if their other relationships fail to support them. Without authentic relationships, some young people may perceive that the system does not care or is unable to meet their needs, and they may choose not to return to extended foster care, even when given the option to do so.
Having authentic relationships with young people means encouraging them to lead their own transition planning, listening to their needs, and ensuring the resulting plans reflect their preferences for housing and other services. It also means listening to young people even if what they say is difficult to hear (e.g., a description of the ways the system has failed them, critiques of their time in the foster care system) and responding with appropriate actions and follow-up discussions. Such conversations should occur regularly.
The resources in the Capacity Building Center for States' Having the Normalcy Conversation series and Youth Engagement Blueprint series present strategies, information, and tools to help agencies develop authentic relationships with the young people they serve.
Engage in Realistic Transition Planning
When collaborating with young people on their transition plans, agencies should take special care to plan for the “gap”—the period of time between a young person exiting foster care and when they can expect to be approved for housing or other social services.
Using data-based estimates for how long it can take to be approved for housing vouchers and understanding the availability (or lack) of affordable housing in your location is a good place to start. Agencies and young people should begin thinking early on about the resources available to cover young people’s housing needs during the gap and revisit the question frequently as the young person approaches 18.
The Center for States’ Embracing a Youth Welfare System series offers information and tools to help agencies evaluate their level of service provision (including housing) for young people transitioning from care.
Train Staff and Hire Young Adults With Lived Experience
An agency culture that prioritizes the needs and insights of young people and families is vital to improving young people’s experiences in the child welfare system. All agency staff, from leaders on down, should be trained and grounded in a family-serving culture that prioritizes listening to the voices of those with lived experience and expertise and incorporating their insights into policy and practice (Center for States, 2019).
Hiring young adults with lived experience to serve as full-time or part-time staff is an important part of that effort because those with lived experience offer a wealth of knowledge, skills, and expertise that can benefit young people and families.
The Center for States’ Becoming a Family-Focused System series can help agencies assess and improve their agency culture and climate to better partner with young people and families.
Coordinate With Other Youth-Serving Systems and Community Partners
Working with other youth-serving systems and organizations can help agencies form networks of providers to plan for coordinated services after young people transition from care. These include the following:
- Local, state, or federal housing agencies
- Higher education institutions
- Medical assistance providers
- Individual landlords and local management companies
Coordinating with youth-serving community and tribal organizations can also help develop a network to assist young people once they transition. Start building organizational relationships early and familiarize young people with their procedures and available services so that these are not unfamiliar elements during an already challenging time in their life.
Although youth homelessness is indeed a challenge for young people transitioning from foster care, agencies can partner with young people to proactively plan for their posttransition housing needs and create a stronger support system that young people can access when they need it.
Center for States. (2019). Becoming a family-focused system: Strategies for building a culture to partner with families. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau. https://capacity.childwelfare.gov/states/resources/strategies-for-building-a-culture-to-partner-with-families
Chapin Hall. (2017). Missed opportunities: Youth homelessness in America. https://voicesofyouthcount.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ChapinHall_VoYC_1-Pager_Final_111517.pdf
National Foster Youth Institute. (n.d.). Housing and homelessness. https://nfyi.org/issues/homelessness/
Ross, C, & Selekman, R. (2017). Analysis of data on youth with child welfare involvement at risk of homelessness. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/report/analysis-data-youth-child-welfare-involvement-risk-homelessness
- Strengthening Kinship Care and Prioritizing Equitable Support for Kinship Caregivers
Written by the Capacity Building Center for States
When she was 9, Anntesha began living with her grandparents. Then, due to a lack of resources, she and her younger sister had to leave their grandparents’ home and enter the foster care system. Because of this experience as a child, Anntesha later stepped up as the relative caregiver for her own niece and nephews when they were removed from their home. According to Anntesha, “Once they were placed with me, I realized stepping into this new role required a lot of support and the process wasn’t easy. Most kinship caregivers say, ‘Yes,’ first and figure out the challenges as they go.”
The benefits of kinship care are clear.
When children and youth cannot safely remain at home with their parents, moving in with relatives or close family friends can minimize trauma and safeguard connections to their family, community, and cultural roots. Compared with children in foster care, those living with kin caregivers experience more stability with fewer disruptions; have better well-being, mental health, and behavioral health; feel more connected to siblings and community; and have higher rates of legal permanency (Eun et al., 2021). Children in kinship care have even better outcomes when their caregiver families get services and supports like kinship navigator programs for financial and legal assistance, housing, and health services (Generations United, 2021).
Prioritizing kinship care can help mitigate some of the challenges of an inequitable system by maintaining children’s relationships with not only their parents, siblings, and extended family but also within their community and culture. Preserving connections within historically disenfranchised communities sustains cultural traditions and history, gives children and youth a sense of belonging and cultural identity, and builds a broad network of support (Hopkins, 2020).
To make an unforeseen situation workable, kin caregivers need resources and supports tailored to their specific needs. Unlike traditional foster parents, they have no formal training for their new, unanticipated role. Most kin caregivers are unaware of the resources available to them to cushion some of the additional responsibilities and costs associated with caring for a child and are unprepared to negotiate the bureaucracy to access the supports and services that will set them up for success (Johnson, 2021).
What can child welfare agencies do?
To begin, agencies can involve people with lived experience in kinship care throughout a continuous quality improvement (CQI) process to understand, dig into, and address inequities in kinship programs. Use the CQI process to examine current kinship care practices and policies, locate gaps in support, and identify where to focus resources. Examine both formal and informal kinship care arrangements to develop a deeper understanding of the trends in out-of-home placement and barriers to permanency. To improve kinship care support, agencies can do the following (Generations United, 2021; Administration for Children and Families, 2022):
- Expand data collection to include children who were diverted from the foster care or child welfare system
- Collect and disaggregate racial and ethnic data and tribal affiliation
- Use an equity-assessment tool and process to review and revise policies with people from disenfranchised, underserved communities
- Collaborate with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and housing agencies, kinship support organizations, school systems, and aging networks to assess inequities among kinship family supports and services
- Assess how the collaborative can strengthen kin caregiver connections to resources, benefits, support groups, and peer support
- Facilitate coordination with legal representation for kin caregivers to navigate the court system when seeking guardianship or custody
- Include kin caregivers and young adults raised in kin care in assessing the current situation and in deciding on solutions
- Provide information on the foster parent licensing process to kin caregivers with children in foster care
- Increase kin caregiver awareness of available resources and support through kinship navigator hotline and resource websites
- Find out what resources and supports were most helpful to kin caregivers
- Hire people with lived experience in kinship care to provide services and supports to new kin caregivers and families as trainers, advocates, and navigators within kinship care programs
Anntesha’s niece and nephews were reunified with their father, and she began to advocate for families as a kinship navigator. According to Anntesha, “My hope for the system is to understand how valuable kinship caregivers are and to see the extra support that is needed. As caregivers, we want what’s best for the parents and children. We may need a bit of extra support, but ultimately when children cannot be with their parents, they should be placed with family.”
The following Capacity Building Center for States resources provide additional kinship care and racial equity information and family stories:
“Supporting Caregivers Through Kinship Navigator Programs” (Children's Bureau Express, Vol. 22, No. 8)
It’s All Relative: Supporting Kinship Care Discussion Guides and Video Series (Video and discussion guides)
"It's All Relative: Supporting Kinship Connections" (Recorded webinar and discussion guides)
Advancing Racial Equity in Child Welfare: Child Welfare Virtual Expo (CWVE) 2021 (Webpage with videos and discussion guide)
“Anntesha’s Story” [Video]
Administration for Children and Families. (2022). Equity in action: Prioritizing and advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities [ACF-IM-IOAS-22-01]. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/policy-guidance/equity-action-prioritizing-and-advancing-racial-equity-and-support-underservedhttps://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ACF-Equity-Action-Plan-February-2022.pdf
Generations United. (2021). State of grandfamilies Report 2021: Reinforcing a strong foundation: Equitable supports for basic needs of grandfamilies. https://www.gu.org/app/uploads/2022/02/2021-Grandfamilies-Report_V14.pdf
Hopkins, M. (2020). Family preservation matters: Why kinship care for Black families, Native American families, and other families of color is critical to preserve culture and restore family bonds [Blog post]. Juvenile Law Center. https://jlc.org/news/family-preservation-matters-why-kinship-care-black-families-native-american-families-and-other
Johnson, R. (2021). Disrupt disparities: Kinship care in crisis. AARP, Asian American Federation, Hispanic Federation, NAACP New York State Conference, & New York Urban League. https://kincarecoalition.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/disrupt-disparities-kinship-care-in-crisis-3-21.pdf
This section of CBX presents interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials, that can be used in the field or with families.
- Tips for Prospective Adoptive Parents Waiting to Be Matched
A blog post from AdoptUSKids provides prospective adoptive parents with advice on how to make the most of the time they will spend awaiting a match with their future child. The matching process can be a lengthy and emotional one for families. The following actions can help families feel supported and maintain their sense of purpose as they wait:
- Find support. Ask your caseworker for advice and connect with other parents who are going or have already gone through the adoptive process.
- Learn about parenting resources. To prepare for life as an adoptive parent, explore the resources and services available through the agency and community, such as financial assistance and respite care.
- Know what you can change. . . and what you can’t. Ask yourself if you have certain expectations for the child with whom you hope to match. For example, are you open to adopting a teen or sibling group? According to many adoptive families, a “good fit” often depends on the connection made between the child and adoptive family, not a child’s age.
- Believe in yourself. Acknowledge your concerns and vulnerabilities. Parenting for all types of parents and families can be overwhelming sometimes. Seek support from nonjudgmental family and friends and take care of your physical and mental health.
- Build new parenting skills. Educate yourself on child development and parenting a child with a history of trauma. Ask your caseworker and other adoptive parents for information on parenting classes.
- Find positive ways to anticipate your child's needs. Learn about the schools and fun activities in the community. Dedicate time to preparing your home and include a welcoming space specifically for your future child.
To learn more, read “While You Wait: Preparing to Be Matched.”
- Tips for Emergency Foster Care Parents
Emergency foster care is a critical and immediate service provided by child welfare systems to keep children safe until a more long-term care solution can be arranged. Children who enter emergency care often do so in a fragile state, having experienced trauma and struggling to cope. Being an emergency foster parent is a rewarding job, but it’s important to understand the challenges and expectations associated with this service.
According to an article by TFI, emergency foster care providers should be able to do the following:
- Respond with little or no notice. Be prepared. You and your home should be ready at a moment’s notice—day or night—to receive a child in need of emergency care.
- Care for a traumatized child. Be patient, provide a stable living environment, and help the child feel wanted and loved.
- Get supplies. Many children in need of emergency care often arrive with only the clothes on their back. Plan ahead and stock up on basic items that a child (and you) may need. Consider creating or searching online for a checklist of things to include.
- Seek information. From the moment a call for emergency care is received, take notes and collect and keep track of important forms and information.
- Communicate with your agency. Keep the agency informed of your availability and any other personal or family needs or concerns pertinent to your role as an emergency care provider.
TFI is a private, not-for-profit organization providing foster care services and care for children and families in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.
The article, "5 Tips for Emergency Foster Care Parents," is available on the TFI website.
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.
Upcoming conferences and events on child welfare and adoption include the following:
2022 International Virtual Conference [Virtual]
"Advancing EDI for a More Perfect Union" [Webinar]
“Addressing Family Violence & Abuse Training” [In-person and virtual]
Native American Fatherhood & Families Association
Mesa, AZ, October 4–6
National Latinx Conference
Latino Social Workers Organization
Seattle, WA, October 6–8
28th Annual Prevent Child Abuse Illinois Statewide Conference
Prevent Child Abuse Illinois
Springfield, IL, October 13–14
Annual Education Conference
American Public Human Services Association
Spokane, WA, October 16–19
Together for Families Conference [Virtual]
Center for the Study of Social Policy, Families Canada, & National Family Support Network
"Advancing EDI for a More Perfect Union" [Webinar]
November 1, 8, and 15
18th Annual "Fatherhood Is Leadership" Conference
Native American Fatherhood & Families Association
Mesa, AZ, November 2–4
Strengthening Families Conference [Virtual]
Family Education and Support Services
“Race & Racism: How Are Children of Color Doing in Our Child Welfare Systems?” [Webinar]
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
2022 Annual CQI Conference
Children and Family Research Center
Champaign, IL, November 15–16
“Living the Protective Factors” [Online training]
Be Strong Families
ZERO TO THREE LEARN Institute
ZERO TO THREE
San Diego, CA, December 7–8
“Integrating Race, Power, Privilege & Perspective Into Child Protective Services” [Webinar]
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
OJJDP National Tribal Youth Conference
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Tribal Youth Resource Center
San Diego, CA, December 14–15
- Free Curriculum Provides Training About Parenting a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma or Loss
The National Training and Development Curriculum (NTDC) is a new, free training curriculum that provides potential foster or adoptive parents with the information and tools needed to parent a child who has experienced trauma, separation, or loss. The training also provides families with access to information and resources so they can continue building skills once they have a child in their home.
The NTDC includes three parts:
- Self-assessment: A discovery tool that helps families learn about themselves in the context of the characteristics and competencies required when parenting children who have experienced trauma, separation, or loss
- Classroom-based training: Shared, in-person learning facilitated by an experienced professional team that can also be adapted for a virtual audience
- Right-time training: An ongoing training tool that provides families with access to resources and information once they have a child in their home
The curriculum was funded through a 5-year cooperative agreement with the Children’s Bureau that was led by Spaulding for Children in partnership with other agencies. It was evaluated in seven pilot sites and four private agencies.
For more information, including a short overview video of the curriculum, visit the NTDC website.