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March 2013Vol. 14, No. 2Spotlight on the Impact of Parental Incarceration

The number of children with one or more incarcerated parents has increased steadily in recent years, and the trauma of this parental separation can lead to a number of negative outcomes. This month, CBX highlights research on reunification outcomes among incarcerated parents and their children in foster care, characteristics of imprisoned parents, and the benefits of contact visitation.

Issue Spotlight

  • NRC on Children and Families of the Incarcerated

    NRC on Children and Families of the Incarcerated

    Recent data show that there are approximately 2 million children in the United States that have at least one parent in prison or jail. Parental incarceration can adversely affect the family unit and child development and has substantial implications in the child welfare field. The National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated (NRCCFI) at the Family and Corrections Network (FCN) is dedicated to raising awareness about the needs of these children and families and the programs, policies, and practices that serve and advocate for them.

    The NRCCFI website is organized into the following sections:

    • Resources provides NRCCFI and partner resources, including links to searchable, online libraries; factsheets, books, films, and FAQs; a directory for U.S. and international programs that work with children and families of the incarcerated; notes and transcripts from conferences and trainings; and a national calendar of events.
    • Research and Review provides information and specific research in three areas: the characteristics of children of incarcerated parents, effective programs and services, and the variety of ways children and families are affected by parental incarceration.
    • Policy and Practice highlights many of the projects that NRCCFI participates in and examines the policy and advocacy initiatives, promising practices, and evidence-based practices that address this area of interest.
    • Products and Publications lists the resources NRCCFI has available for purchase. These items are designed for professionals who work with children and families of the incarcerated.
    • Training and Technical Assistance provides information and links to a number of onsite and telephone trainings for professionals and programs that serve these children and families.

    The NRCCFI online library provides resources for parents and caregivers, as well as child welfare, health, criminal justice, and other related service providers and professionals. Impact of Parental Incarceration adapted from Responding to Children and Families of Prisoners: A Community Guide, is designed to aid professionals working with children and families of incarcerated parents. It broadly discusses the feelings of loss and hopelessness many youth experience and suggests that maintaining positive contact and communication with an imprisoned caregiver, when appropriate, has beneficial effects on a child's ability to manage the crisis. It also highlights the risk factors and stigma associated with having an incarcerated family member.

    For more information on NRCCFI and to access the resources for parents and professionals in the online libraries, visit:

    Impact of Parental Incarceration is available directly: (84 KB)

  • Contact Visits With Incarcerated Parents

    Contact Visits With Incarcerated Parents

    The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) reported that over 25 percent of the children in the State's custody in 2010 had incarcerated parents. The publication Connecting Children With Incarcerated Parents examines the plight of children who have an imprisoned parent, the importance and benefits of keeping these children connected with their separated parent, and the innovative approaches and best practices New Mexico uses to preserve meaningful family connections.

    CYFD efforts are guided by best practice, which dictates that children should be cared for and kept informed, have access to necessary services, and, when it is in the best interests of the child, should be able to maintain contact with their incarcerated parent. Studies have shown that parent-child visits, particularly contact visits that allow a child to touch his or her parent, can substantially decrease the negative effects of parental incarceration. Adverse reactions to the trauma of separation can manifest in aggressive behavior and acting out that, without proper intervention services and support, can lead to additional negative outcomes—delinquency, incarceration, family instability, economic hardship, school failure, poor health, and more. When contact visits are not possible, best practice encourages communication via phone, video conferencing, letter writing, and pictures. Maintaining contact during this type of separation has also been associated with reduced rates of recidivism by the parent.

    The bulletin discusses the importance of collaboration between CYFD, the Department of Health, the Human Services Department, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), the school system, and the courts to effectively provide services to and improve outcomes for children with incarcerated parents. It also defines the roles and responsibilities of each player in the collaborative planning effort. The bulletin concludes with a Bill of Rights that was developed by the San Francisco Partnership for Incarcerated Parents after consultation with youth who have experienced this form of separation.

    Connecting Children With Incarcerated Parents, collaboratively published by the Corinne Wolfe Children's Law Center at the University of New Mexico School of Law, CYFD, the New Mexico Children's Court Improvement Commission, the New Mexico Citizens Review Board, the New Mexico CASA Network, and Advocacy Inc., was updated in 2011 and is available on the Corinne Wolfe Children's Law Center website: (268 KB)

    Additional Child Protection Best Practices Bulletins are available here:

  • Parental Incarceration and Foster Care Reunification

    Parental Incarceration and Foster Care Reunification

    Incarcerated parents face myriad obstacles in meeting the requirements of their child welfare case plans within designated timeframes, including access to services and parent-child visits. Their inability to comply with court-ordered obligations may affect reunification. A recent article in Social Work in Public Health highlights a study that examined reunification outcomes among parents who were incarcerated during the examination period and parents who were not incarcerated at the time.

    The study is a secondary analysis of data gathered as part of a previous study on reunification services, which was funded by the California Social Work Education Center. Each case was followed from when the child entered out-of-home care in 2004 until one of three events occurred: (1) the end of data collection in 2007 or 2008, (2) the child and parent were reunited, and/or (3) another form of permanency was achieved. Data were gathered from reports from social workers updating the courts on parents' progress and service participation.

    Visits between children in foster care and their biological parents have shown to improve reunification outcomes. However, visits among incarcerated parents and their children are often complicated due to distance or prison visitation policies. Likewise, lack of access to other reunification services, such as drug treatment programs, often prohibits parental compliance with case plan requirements.

    Results of the secondary analysis study showed that: 

    • Roughly 40 percent of incarcerated mothers and fathers fully met visitation orders, compared to nearly 70 percent of nonincarcerated mothers and 60 percent of nonincarcerated fathers.
    • Incarcerated mothers were half as likely as nonincarcerated mothers to reunite with their children.
    • Incarcerated fathers were only one-third as likely as nonincarcerated fathers to reunite with their children.
    • Incarcerated mothers took roughly 5 months longer to reunite with their children than nonincarcerated mothers.
    • Incarcerated fathers took about 3 months longer than nonincarcerated fathers to reunite.

    The authors suggest that incarceration is a significant deterrent to reunification, specifically because imprisonment often hinders parents from participating in services or visits. Suggestions for policy and practice are also included in the article.

    "Reunifying From Behind Bars: A Quantitative Study of the Relationship Between Parental Incarceration, Service Use, and Foster Care Reunification," by Amy D'Andrade and Melanie Valdez, Social Work in Public Health, 27, is available for purchase:

  • Children on the Outside

    Children on the Outside

    By 2007, 53 percent of the 1.5 million people in U.S. prisons were the parents of one or more minor children, meaning that more than 1.7 million minor children had an incarcerated parent. The impact of parental incarceration has been equated to the pain and trauma of losing a parent to death or divorce. A new white paper by Justice Strategies presents the findings of focus groups with children of incarcerated parents, which shows the impact of parental loss on the children's sense of safety and stability, economic security, and sense of connectedness.

    The study included eight 2-hour focus groups with 8 to 12 participants, in addition to 18 structured interviews with children of incarcerated parents, parents currently behind bars, caregivers, and caseworkers and counselors who assist reentering parents. Children expressed their loss of attachments and ability to trust, a lack of a sense of place in the world, and other indicators including the undermined sense of economic security and safety. 

    Part one of the report presents the findings from the focus groups and interviews. Part two of the report offers the authors' recommendations for policymakers and other public stakeholders on reducing the number of parents sentenced to prison in the first place and reducing the pain experienced by children of incarcerated parents. The authors point to the costs and benefits of drug treatment support in lieu of incarceration, noting that imprisonment for crimes driven by substance abuse disorders is often less effective than alternatives. The authors also offer a comparison of incarceration policies in Alabama and New York, the latter of which the authors consider a drug-reform State. 

    Children on the Outside: Voicing the Pain and Human Costs of Parental Incarceration, by Patricia Allard and Judith Greene, is available on the Justice Strategies website: (1 MB)

  • Characteristics of Imprisoned Mothers and Fathers

    Characteristics of Imprisoned Mothers and Fathers

    The number of children with an incarcerated parent has climbed steadily in recent years, and these children often struggle with issues that include emotional and psychological disorders. As prevention interventions are developed to help this at-risk population, the characteristics of their incarcerated parents are important factors to consider. A recent study examined the differences between incarcerated mothers and fathers, including differences between their families, as well as implications for prevention interventions.

    The authors note that the developers of child- and family-focused prevention programs face obstacles when designing content without knowing what is different about this population of families. The study included 359 incarcerated parents (54 percent of whom were women and 41 percent of whom were minorities) of children ages 3 to 11. Participants had been previously involved in a longitudinal study of a prison-based parent education program.

    While the study discovered a number of differences between mothers and fathers, a variety of similarities also were found, including the following:

    • Participants were roughly the same age, about 32 years old.
    • Participants had approximately the same educational attainment; roughly 30 to 40 percent had neither graduated from high school nor earned the high school equivalency.
    • Participants had about the same number of children, an average of three, with a mean age ranging from 7 to 8.
    • Participants had similar family backgrounds; nearly 70 percent had one parent who had been arrested, and 60 to 70 percent had an incarcerated parent.

    Significant differences also existed among participants:

    • Only 56 percent of mothers had been employed, compared to 76 percent of fathers.
    • Nearly half (45.6 percent) of the families with incarcerated mothers were living in poverty prior to incarceration, compared to one-third (31 percent) of families with an incarcerated father.
    • Inmate fathers were more likely to have longer criminal history backgrounds, including involvement with the juvenile justice system, than inmate mothers (70 percent compared to 47 percent).

    The authors suggest the differences between incarcerated mothers and fathers are important to consider not only in the development of parenting programs, but also in the development of programs to help these parents reenter society.

    "Characteristics of Incarcerated Fathers and Mothers: Implications for Preventive Interventions Targeting Children and Families," by Jean Kjellstrand, Jennifer Cearley, J. Mark Eddy, Dana Foney, and Charles Martinez Jr., Children and Youth Services Review, 34, is available for purchase here:

  • State Prison Visitation Policies

    State Prison Visitation Policies

    While research shows that visitation with friends and family members can help prison inmates maintain community connections that can lead to reduced recidivism and improved outcomes, there is no uniform policy for prison visitation across the States. In a new report, Prison Visitation Policies: A Fifty State Survey, researchers Chesa Boudin, Trevor Stutz, and Aaron Litman from the Yale University Law School, collected and analyzed visitation policies and regulations from all 50 States and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Their analysis shows that visitation policies regarding the length and frequency of visitation allowed, approving and screening visitors, and monitoring of visits vary considerably from State to State and even across institutions within a State.

    Some States have policy directives addressing visits by children of inmates, and these policies can range from ones that prohibit toys in the visiting room to those that promote child-friendly visiting rooms, including toys, games, and rule enforcement sensitive to children. Many States offer some form of extended daytime visit, and some offer overnight family visits, although there is no consistent length of time allotted for an "extended" visit. "Family" in some States includes only children or only spouses (and sometimes domestic partners), while in other States family includes all immediate family members and legal guardians. For example, Nebraska allows overnight visits only in one women's facility and only for children under age 6. South Dakota provides weekend-long visits for incarcerated mothers and their children.

    The report also looks at recent developments in some States to utilize virtual visitation techniques, such as videoconferencing or video telephones, to extend visitation opportunities between inmates and family members who live far from the prison or children who may be intimidated by in-person visits.

    Prison Visitation Policies: A Fifty State Survey is available from the Social Science Research Network:

    Recent Issues

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    Spotlight on Reunification

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  • May 2024

    Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

    Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

News From the Children's Bureau

The tenth and final article in our second Centennial Series highlights the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. We also feature a special issue of the Journal of Family Strengths honoring CB's centennial.

  • 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!

  • President Signs Universal Accreditation Act

    President Signs Universal Accreditation Act

    On January 14, 2013, President Obama signed the Universal Accreditation Act, requiring all intercountry adoption service providers to comply with Hague regulations. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs, the new law will go into effect on July 14, 2013.

    The Universal Accreditation Act will provide families adopting children from other countries assurance that all intercountry adoption service providers comply with the same ethical standards, regardless of the country from which they adopt. More information is available through the press release on the Bureau of Consular Affairs' website:

    Access the full-text legislation: (198 KB)

  • Journal of Family Strengths Celebrates CB

    Journal of Family Strengths Celebrates CB

    The Journal of Family Strengths (formerly, Family Preservation Journal) honored the Children's Bureau centennial with a special issue focused on the Bureau's 100-year history of work strengthening families and protecting the nation's children. Among other topics, articles are focused on the Bureau's efforts to promote family engagement and the impact of title IV-E training on the outcomes of children and families who receive child welfare services.

    The article "Developing a Framework for Child Welfare Supervision" highlights the findings from a 5-year Children’s Bureau-funded project at the University of Iowa School of Social Work in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Human Services to improve recruitment and retention of workers in public child welfare. The University of Iowa's training project developed, implemented, and evaluated a curriculum for all supervisors and midlevel managers.

    The article describes the framework for child welfare supervision, how the framework supports strength-based, culturally competent family-centered practice, the 5-year implementation process, and evaluation results regarding knowledge gain and rates of worker retention. Additional lessons learned from model replications are also presented.

    The Journal of Family Strengths is an open-access, peer-reviewed online journal produced by the CHILDREN AT RISK Institute in partnership with the Center for Family Strengths at the University of Houston-Downtown and the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library.  

    The article, "Developing a Framework for Child Welfare Supervision," by Miriam Landsman and Lisa D'Aunno, is available here:

    Journal of Family Strengths, Special Issue: Centennial of the Children's Bureau is available here:

    Related Items:

    As part of the Children's Bureau's centennial celebration, the seventh of eight topical webinars took place on February 21. A transcript and presentation slides for "Taking Risk With Risk: Examining the Conflict Between Children's Rights and Parents' Rights in Child Welfare," will soon be available on the Children's Bureau's centennial website:

    The final historical and topical webinars will take place later this month. Visit the centennial website for updates and registration links.

  • Centennial Series: Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act

    Centennial Series: Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act

    This is the tenth and final article in our second Centennial Series, CB Decade-by-Decade. These articles 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 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 outlined safety, permanency, and well-being as the central focus for child welfare and brought about great changes in the field. Among ASFA's most meaningful provisions was the legal recognition that kinship care and relative placements are acceptable permanency options. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351) built on this foundation and made significant investments in preserving family connections for children in out-of-home care. The Children's Bureau continues to play an important role in helping States and Tribes implement the law, strengthen families, and move more children from foster care to permanency.

    The Fostering Connections Act was signed into law on October 7, 2008, and amended titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act. Among other provisions, it extended eligibility for title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance payments to age 21 and provided the option for federally recognized Tribes to directly operate title IV-E programs. One of Fostering Connections' most significant moves to improve permanency outcomes and well-being for children in care was an investment in kinship care.

    The act requires States to notify relatives that a child has entered foster care "within 30 days after the removal of a child from the custody of the parent" and to "exercise due diligence to identify and provide notice to all adult grandparents and other adult relatives of the child." Guardianship assistance payments were authorized under title IV-E for children whose relative had assumed legal guardianship. Over 5 years, $75 million was allocated for the implementation of four program models: Kinship Navigator programs, family finding, family group decision-making (FGDM), and residential family treatment (Hertz, 2012).

    The $5 million for Kinship Navigator programs—information and referral systems to help children in foster care connect with relatives—also provided services to caregivers supporting children at risk of entering foster care. The kinship care community saw the Fostering Connections Act as a new era in child welfare, one that promotes family care. Previous Federal child welfare laws permitted just 10 percent of discretionary funding from the Older American's Act's "Caregiver Support Program" for kinship caregivers. That funding, however, only supported caregivers who were older than 55 (Wallace 2010). 

    Kinship care provides a number of benefits for children, biological parents, and other family members. In addition to lessening the burden on the child welfare system due to a shortage of traditional foster care homes, kinship care allows children to maintain relationships with parents or siblings while living safely with family. Children living in kinship care also experience fewer placement changes and greater stability (Hertz, 2012).

    By April 2009, the Children's Bureau had initiated a number of activities to help States and Tribes implement the Fostering Connections Act, including instruction for title IV-E agencies to submit a title IV-E plan amendment to opt into the guardianship assistance program. To date, the Bureau has published eight Program Instructions, providing guidance to States and Tribes on implementing the Fostering Connections Act. To help Tribal communities strengthen child welfare systems and services and to connect Tribes with training and resources, the Bureau funded the National Resource Center for Tribes. In 2012, the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe in Washington State became the first Tribe granted the right to apply for child welfare funding and manage its own child welfare services.

    In September 2009, the Bureau awarded 24 Family Connection discretionary grants to public child welfare agencies and private nonprofit organizations. Of the 36-month grants ranging up to $1 million per year, six were focused on Kinship Navigator programs, four focused on intensive family finding, five grants funded residential treatment programs, and one grant was designated for FGDM. A second Family Connection grant cluster awarding funds to seven programs to test the effectiveness of FGDM was announced in September 2011. The Bureau funded seven more Family Connection grants in 2012 for projects that will examine the effectiveness of Kinship Navigator programs and the collaboration between child welfare and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.

    Increased financial support to kinship caregivers is a possible factor in the increase in kinship care since 2008. Out of the 463,000 children in foster care as of September 30, 2008, 24 percent were living with relative foster families. Of the 400,540 children in foster care as of September 30, 2011, 27 percent were living with relative foster families (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012).

    More information and resources for States and agencies pertaining to Fostering Connections is available on the Children's Bureau-funded National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections' website:

    Also, see the article "Fostering Connections Factsheets" in this issue to learn about the Training and Technical Assistance Coordination Center's Fostering Connections factsheet series to help States and Tribes implement provisions of the law. 


    Hertz, K. (2012). Information Packet: Kinship care and the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. Retrieved from (611 KB)

    Wallace, G. (2010). Kinship navigators: The new child welfare system. Common Ground. Retrieved from (121 KB)

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). The AFCARS report: Preliminary FY 2011 estimates as of July 2012 (19). Retrieved from (300 KB)

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). The AFCARS report: Preliminary FY 2008 estimates as of October 2009 (15). Retrieved from (353 KB)

Training and Technical Assistance Update

Updates from CB's T&TA Network this month include a blog entry focused on a Pennsylvania family-centered home visiting program and a factsheet series to help States and Tribes implement provisions in the Fostering Connections Act.

Children's Bureau Grantee Updates

Every spring, ACF recruits new grant reviewers. Find out how to become a grant reviewer, and read a new site visit report about the Denver's Village program.

  • Funding Opportunity Announcement Change

    Funding Opportunity Announcement Change

    The Children's Bureau has canceled the following discretionary grant funding opportunity forecast for fiscal year (FY) 2013:

    • Partnerships To Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing for Youth Involved in the Child Welfare System (HHS-2013-ACF-ACYF-CA-0599)

    A new forecast is available:

    Information about planned FY 2013 funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) is available on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Grants Forecast website:

    To find the Children's Bureau's FOA forecasts, go to the forecast website and enter the title or Funding Opportunity Number (FON) in the search box. Please check the forecast site regularly, as forecasts are subject to change.

  • Apply to Be a Grant Reviewer

    Apply to Be a Grant Reviewer

    Each spring, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recruits reviewers and panel chairpersons for its grant programs, including those administered by the Children's Bureau. Grant reviewers convene to receive training and then review grant applications, spending 1 week reading, evaluating, discussing, and making recommendations on grant proposals. Grant reviewers and chairpersons, including students, receive compensation for their time, as well as valuable experience in the Federal grant review process.

    To apply, visit:

  • Site Visit: Denver's Village

    Site Visit: Denver's Village

    In 2008, the Children's Bureau awarded eight 5-year grants for its Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in the Foster Care System grant cluster. One of those grants was given to Denver Human Services to plan and implement Denver's Village: Wrapping Families with Community Support. Other project partners include Fresh Start, Lowry Family Center, Sisters of Color, Denver Indian Family Resource Center, and the YMCA. Additionally Denver's Village works with multiple businesses and faith- and community-based organizations throughout Denver. The University Of Denver Graduate School Of Social Work is conducting the project evaluation.

    Denver's Village has four primary components:

    • Recruitment and retention. Denver's Village utilizes Community Based Recruitment Teams (CBRTs) to increase the number of resource families available for placement. The project divided Denver into four areas, with each having its own CBRT, and a fifth CBRT serves the Native American community throughout the city. A Community Outreach Worker (COW) coordinates each CBRT and serves as a liaison between the project and the community. The COWs work with families, community residents, faith-based and community organizations, and businesses to build partnerships, establish community and DHS supports for families, and develop recruitment and retention activities and events.
    • Permanency and concurrent planning. The project has several initiatives to promote permanency and concurrent planning, including the following:
      • Permanency-decision making (PDM) to help guide decision-making regarding the certification and approval of kinship care, foster, and adoptive homes for children who have been in out-of-home care for more than 90 days
      • An expedited adoption project to address permanency needs for children in cases where termination of parental rights has occurred but legal permanency has not been completed
      • Extreme recruitment efforts for children who are free for adoption, including "fosterware" parties and the distribution of fliers, bookmarks, and other items with the child's information
      • Permanency roundtables to determine what actions are needed to achieve permanence for children, particularly those who have been in care for 12 months or longer
      • Intensive family finding and support to help place children with relatives or kin
    • Data. Denver's Village utilizes data that are available through existing systems to guide its approach, and it also has developed the Denver Child Placement Database to track current and potential resource families and help caseworkers manage their interactions with those families.
    • Agency cultural shift. Denver's Village undertook several initiatives to achieve an agency cultural shift that supported improvement in the recruitment of resource families, the inclusion of resource families in workgroups and decision-making, and the agency's response to families who contact DHS.

    Over the course of the project, DHS has become more comfortable with community members and organizations playing a crucial role in the recruitment of resource families. DHS had previously viewed recruitment as an internal activity with only occasional community assistance, but DHS now realizes that community organizations can successfully and independently conduct recruitment activities. Additionally, the COWs give community members, youth, resource families, and other organizations opportunities to take leadership roles, which helps build sustainability for the initiative.

    For more information about this project, contact Margaret Booker, Program Director, The full site visit report will soon be posted on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

    Denver's Village: Wrapping Families With Community Support is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award 90CO1037). This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.

Child Welfare Research

CBX points to research on the causal relationship between economic downturns and child abuse, the impact of Head Start on the development of school readiness outcomes, and the promotion of well-being through treatment foster care.

  • Head Start's Impact on School Readiness

    Head Start's Impact on School Readiness

    Children living in nonparental care are at a higher risk for developmental problems, poor cognitive and psychosocial functioning, and lower levels of achievement and school engagement. According to a recent study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, more than 50 percent of children ages 3–5 in out-of-home care attend center-based early education programs, and 17–19 percent are enrolled in Head Start. The authors of the study examined the effect of Head Start on the development of school readiness outcomes for children in nonparental care.

    Nonparental care is defined in the study as care provided by a primary caregiver who identifies as someone other than a biological, adoptive, or stepparent. Data for the study were gathered from the Head Start Impact Study. The authors examined 253 3- and 4-year-old children who were living in nonparental care during one or more of the first three waves of data collection. The most common nonparental primary caregiver was a great-grandmother (66 percent). Children were examined at the end of the Head Start year and 1 year later, and outcomes were compared to a control group of children living in nonparental care who were not enrolled in Head Start. The effects of Head Start on a child's school readiness was measured by preacademic skills, teacher-child relationships, and externalizing behavior problems.

    Children enrolled in Head Start experienced more positive school readiness outcomes at the start of preschool than children not enrolled in Head Start. Results showed a statistically significant impact on children's preacademic skills and teacher-child relationships but only marginally significant effects on behavioral problems. The authors note that positive teacher-child relationships can serve as a protective factor for this vulnerable child population.

    "School Readiness in Children Living in Non-Parental Care: Impacts of Head Start," by Shannon Lipscomb, Megan Pratt, Sara Schmitt, Katherine Pears, and Hyoun Kim, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34, is available for free download:

  • Treatment Foster Care and Well-Being

    Treatment Foster Care and Well-Being

    Treatment foster care is a strengths-based, evidence-informed, and trauma-sensitive method for caring for maltreated youth through assistance and supervision from specially trained foster parents and clinical staff. These specialized treatments have been shown to effectively promote social connections and other positive outcomes. Treatment foster care is a State-authorized treatment plan, not a placement, and a new report outlines how the principles of treatment foster care can promote well-being.

    The report profiles two programs, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland and Anu Family Services in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Kennedy Kreiger Institute's Therapeutic Foster Care program treats children and youth in foster care who have experienced complex trauma and have a variety of developmental disorders and medically fragile conditions. Anu Family Services aims to be the last placement prior to permanence and employs Darla Henry's 3-5-7 Model focused on grief work to help youth achieve well-being.

    Many agencies that provide treatment foster care follow the principles of Program Standards for Treatment Foster Care developed by the Foster Family-Based Treatment Association (FFTA) to promote consistency of practice across the States. The authors advocate for national standards for treatment foster care, claiming that without a uniform Federal definition, the quality of services from State to State will continue to vary substantially. In addition, Medicaid rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) concerning services, qualifications of programs, and outcomes for youth would allow States to reimburse programs for clinical services to youth through wraparound services and systems of care.

    Beyond Safety and Permanency: Promoting Social and Emotional Well-Being for Youth in Treatment Foster Care was published by the FFTA and is available on its website: (216 KB)

  • Economic Downturns and Child Abuse

    Economic Downturns and Child Abuse

    While previous studies have established that family economic circumstances are a predictor of child abuse, few researchers have examined the extent to which this relationship is causal. A recent study sought to establish causality within this relationship by reexamining the link between family economic conditions and child abuse and factoring in the amount of time that children spend with each parent.

    The  authors hypothesized that unemployment among women may reduce incidences of child abuse and neglect by increasing the amount of time that children spend with their mothers as opposed to fathers, given that fathers are more likely to abuse their children. In contrast, disproportionate rates of unemployment among men should increase rates of child abuse. The researchers used California county-level abuse data from 1996 through 2009 along with various unemployment indicators to test their hypotheses. 

    The study found that overall economic conditions were not related to child abuse rates. However, when the researchers examined gender-specific effects, they uncovered significant findings. Specifically, male layoffs increased instances of abuse whereas female layoffs decreased rates of abuse. The authors discuss the results and conclude the paper by proposing mechanisms through which economic conditions might affect child abuse.  

    "Economic Downturns and Child Abuse," by Jason M. Lindo, Jessamyn Schaller, and Benjamin Hansen is available on Michigan State University's Department of Economics website: (1 MB)

  • Engaging Kin and Reasonable Efforts

    Engaging Kin and Reasonable Efforts

    An article in the Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy focuses on the definition of "reasonable efforts" as it is used in the child welfare field and suggests that kinship engagement should be a key part of the reasonable efforts determination. The authors define the term as "a judicial finding that is required to be made during certain pivotal court hearings once a child has been removed from the child's home or is at risk of removal." However, because there is no definition for the term in Federal law, the courts must ultimately determine what is considered "reasonable."

    The authors suggest that finding and engaging a child's extended family during the child welfare process is a necessary component of the reasonable-efforts mandate. However, few State statutes include locating and involving nonoffending parents and other relatives as part of reasonable efforts. Referring parents to agency and community services is a typical approach to meeting the reasonable-efforts requirement provided by Federal law. Services alone are often not sufficient to meet this requirement, as most of the provided services are not evidence-based and are often ineffective.

    The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 mandates that relatives must be notified within 30 days of a child's removal from his or her home. The article's authors suggest that identified relatives should be contacted immediately upon the child's removal in order to provide the family with support, encouragement, and assistance as they try to meet case plan requirements. Furthermore, the authors note that family-finding efforts can be used to meet reasonable-efforts standards; thus, if these searches are initiated early on, they can be used as evidence in reasonable-efforts assessments. 

    The article concludes with suggestions for different approaches for finding and engaging a child's family members.

    "Unlocking Reasonable Efforts: Kinship is Key," by Rose Marie Wentz and Kelly Beck, Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, 99, is available here: (905 KB)

Strategies and Tools for Practice

  • Evidence-Based Treatments for Child Trauma

    Evidence-Based Treatments for Child Trauma

    The fall 2012 issue of the Virginia Child Protection Newsletter (VCPN) focuses on evidence-based treatments for childhood trauma. The issue explores various evidence-based treatments, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), and The Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI). Each treatment is accompanied, when applicable, with  available training materials, such as websites and print publications.

    The 20-page issue also features a spotlight article on a community-based learning collaborative (CBLC) and describes how a CBLC is designed to bridge any gaps between a best practice and what is currently offered in the field. The impact of trauma on children and information about how child welfare workers can offer trauma-informed services are also discussed in the issue.

    The Virginia Child Protection Newsletter is published by James Madison University through a contract with the Virginia Department of Social Services and is available on the university's website: (1 MB)

  • LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care

    LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care

    There are more than 400,000 children in foster care across the United States; however, the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in care remains unknown. It is thought that the LGBTQ population is disproportionately represented in foster care. A recent episode of In the life, produced by In The Life Media, highlights the challenges faced by LGBTQ youth in foster care.

    The video offers compelling firsthand accounts of the foster care experiences of seven LGBTQ youth. Their struggles range from a lack of acceptance and peer approval to a sense of being lost in a series of unstable and unsupportive placements. Common elements in all the stories include biological family rejection, subsequent retraumatization in care, and the hope for a better future.   

    Foster Care's Invisible Youth aims to give voice to these difficult experiences in the hope of making foster care and child welfare more responsive to the needs of LGBTQ youth. The video is available on YouTube:

  • Federal Adoption Tax Credit

    Federal Adoption Tax Credit

    Two documents from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provide information to individuals on how to qualify for and claim the adoption tax credit for certain adoption expenses.

    The first document, Adoption Benefits FAQs, explains the adoption credit for tax year 2011, including which expenses are qualified adoption expenses, who is an eligible child, when to claim the credit, which forms to complete, and what supporting documentation is required. The information was last updated in August 2012.

    This document is available on the IRS website:

    The second document, March 2012 Adoption Credit Phone Forum Questions and Answers, provides further details on when certain expenses are allowable for the adoption credit for tax years 2011, 2012, and 2013. It also provides the maximum credit amounts and income limitations for those tax years, as well as specific requirements for domestic special needs adoptions and intercountry adoptions. The information in this document was last updated in October 2012.

    This document also is available on the IRS website:


  • Drug Abuse Prevention Guide

    Drug Abuse Prevention Guide

    The U.S. Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of Education revised the publication Growing up Drug-Free: A Parent's Guide to Prevention. The user-friendly guide provides parents with strategies for communicating with their children about the risks of using drugs and alcohol.

    The publication's first section explores the myths and facts about drug abuse. Another section lists the many drugs commonly used by youth today, along with the risks and side effects. Other important information includes:

    • Possible developmental problems caused by drug use in children who begin to use substances at an early age
    • Protective factors that can help children stay drug free
    • The signs of substance abuse and resources for seeking treatment
    • Personal stories from parents who have lost children to drugs and alcohol
    • A how-to section for families with substance abuse issues

    Growing up Drug-Free: A Parent's Guide to Prevention is available here: (4 MB)

  • <em>Family Guide to Child Protection</em>

    <em>Family Guide to Child Protection</em>

    The Minnesota Department of Human Services, the State agency responsible for investigating reports of child abuse and neglect, released a new guide, Family Guide to Child Protection. The guide walks readers through the child welfare process from the time when a report of child abuse and neglect warrants a response by the agency.

    The guide describes Minnesota's two approaches in accepted reports, family assessments and investigations. A family assessment approach is used when a report has been screened in but does not indicate serious threats of immediate harm. An investigative response is the approach used when reports indicate immediate or severe danger. For each response, the guide outlines steps taken by social services staff and describes typical outcomes. 

    Family Guide to Child Protection is available on the Minnesota Department of Human Services' website:

    Related Item

    Other State-specific guides are available via Child Welfare Information Gateway's State Guides and Manuals Search. Simply choose your State, "child protection" in the topic field, and select "parents" in the audience field.


  • Youth Credentials Tool

    Youth Credentials Tool

    By 2018, more than two-thirds of the projected 47 million job openings will require some postsecondary education or training, according to a study based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Youth can improve their chances of finding  good-paying jobs by attaining credentials that employers desire.

    The Employment and Training Administration's (ETA) Division of Youth Services in the U.S. Department of Labor has launched Credentials for Youth: Success in the 21st Century. The tool provides youth with a step-by-step process for attaining credentials in occupations that are in high demand. The four steps include:

    • Finding high-demand occupations using Labor Market Information (LMI)
    • Finding promising occupations for youth served by Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs
    • Determining occupations with pathways to career advancement
    • Discovering credentials needed for identified promising occupations

    The Credentials for Youth tool also offers examples of programs already helping youth attain credentials in Georgia, California, and Indiana.

    Credentials for Youth: Success in the 21st Century is available 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.