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September 2022Vol. 23, No. 7Spotlight on Kinship Care

This issue of CBX highlights kinship care and how placing children in need of out-of-home care with relatives can help them maintain connections to family, community, and culture. This month's message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg features the lived experience of a kinship caregiver that addresses the importance of providing support to families who take in the children of relatives. This issue also includes valuable resources for professionals and the families they serve.

Issue Spotlight

  • New Grandfamilies and Kinship Support Network Formed

    New Grandfamilies and Kinship Support Network Formed

    The Administration for Community Living (within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and Generations United have partnered to form the new Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network. Funded by a 5-year cooperative agreement, the network is the first national technical assistance center focused on supporting government agencies, kinship navigator programs, and nonprofit organizations in states, tribes, and territories to work across jurisdictions to improve supports and services for grandfamilies and kinship families. The network will also have a diverse steering committee composed of the nation’s leading experts on kinship and grandfamilies, including caregivers from the GRAND Voices Network.

    The network will include collaborations between Generations United, the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, USAging, ZERO TO THREE, and Child Trends to help increase the capacity of states, territories, tribes and tribal organizations, nonprofits, and other community-based organizations to support kinship families and grandfamilies. The network will also provide technical assistance to enable peer learning, integrate subject-matter expertise into solutions, and develop and document best-practice models of collaboration across jurisdictions.

    For more information and to sign up for access to the network, visit the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network webpage on the Generations United website.

  • Genia Newkirk's Story

    Genia Newkirk's Story

    When children and youth require out-of-home care, placement with family, known as kinship care, should be our first approach. Kinship care allows children to maintain connections with their families, friends, and communities and preserves their cultural identity. This National Kinship Care Month, I’m amplifying the voice of Genia Newkirk and her story of caring for her brother’s daughter, Nadia, and the importance of supporting kinship caregivers by providing them with the resources they need to ensure the best outcomes for the children in their care.—Aysha E. Schomburg, Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau

    ___________________________________________________________________________________

    I became a kinship caregiver after finding out my brother had a little girl—Nadia—in foster care, which spurred me into action. Nadia had been in four foster homes after being removed from her mother’s care. Even though we’d never met before, I knew taking Nadia in and caring for her was something I had to do. But I didn’t really know how to make it happen. After doing some research on my own, I made my way through North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services’ process and became a licensed foster caregiver in about 6 months. I became Nadia’s guardian in September 2019, when she was 6 years old. Caring for Nadia has changed me. It’s transformed me into really having a heart for children from various walks of life. It’s made me curious about a child’s potential. What is waiting in this child that could possibly bloom into something wonderful? Prior to coming to live with me, Nadia wasn’t in a structured environment where she was disciplined with love. It’s been transformative for me to see how she’s changed. 

     

    There is a belief that kinship caregivers can rely on family members for assistance. That is not true in my case. Unfortunately, my family has been unable to step in to offer a helping hand. With that being said, I would like to see the same resources that are offered to foster families extended to kinship families. Resources like respite, stipends, and peer support aren’t always available to us. Just because we’re relatives doesn’t mean we don’t need the same resources. For instance, Nadia is going through growth spurts. While in foster care, the need was met when Nadia grew out of her clothes. When those needs arise now, the kinship caregiver is the sole resource. There is no one to call. There is no one to lean on. There is a distinct difference between the availability of resources for foster and kinship families in my state. While I am clear that foster children are the state’s responsibility, why does providing for children equitably differ between foster and kinship families?   

     

    Nadia couldn’t understand that the conditions with her mother were unsafe. I would love to access a support group and therapy to help Nadia process her emotions. Can there be someone there to help us walk through this? It would be great to have a kinship liaison who works to facilitate building the familial bond and assist with working through the new relationship that now exists between the family members. Kinship caregivers need access to crisis-management services. That means workers need to be more available. Kinship caregivers should also have access to their children’s basic needs like food and clothing. Help with family visits and training is needed badly, too. Ultimately, support kinship caregivers in such a way that they know, without a doubt, that their community is behind them. 

     

  • Speaking of Change: How Can Kinship Care Advance Racial Equity in Child Welfare?

    Speaking of Change: How Can Kinship Care Advance Racial Equity in Child Welfare?

    Amara's Kinship Program has a second installment in its Speaking of Change webinar series. This webinar, "Speaking of Change: How Can Kinship Care Advance Racial Equity in Child Welfare," seeks to break down common assumptions and misconceptions about foster care and adoption by sharing stories of people engaged in child and family welfare. Community members from King County, WA, discuss kinship care and how supporting kin caregivers is a necessary step toward racial equity within child welfare.

     

    Kin caregivers who are Black and Native American/Alaska Native face additional challenges compared with their White counterparts due to systemic racism, historical trauma, and a complex history of legal and social factors that continue to impact diverse families. It is important to keep kinship care at the forefront of discussions and options and to create support systems to ensure the success of long- and short-term kin caregivers.

     

    To learn more, watch the full webinar, "Speaking of Change: How Can Kinship Care Advance Racial Equity in Child Welfare."

  • Reimagining Permanency: The Struggle for Racial Equity and Lifelong Connections

    Reimagining Permanency: The Struggle for Racial Equity and Lifelong Connections

    A series of articles in Family Integrity and Justice Quarterly, "Reimagining Permanency: The Struggle for Racial Equity and Lifelong Connections," discusses the importance of maintaining familial relationships in the wake of out-of-home care, the need for permanency, and the damage that severing ties with family means to children and youth involved with child welfare, especially children of color. In addition to being overrepresented in foster care, Black children also face higher rates of poor outcomes—including being less likely to be adopted and more likely to age out of foster care.

     

    The article emphasizes familial connections and the benefits of these stable relations as a "buffer" against the negative effects of adverse life experiences and asks readers to reexamine the preference for adoption over other, more flexible and connected options, such as guardianship. Relational permanency can help maintain vital familial, lifelong connections. Additionally, it describes how youth in foster care have stepped forward to challenge what permanency means and how the Children's Bureau has met with youth to learn how they value relational permanency.

     

    The article walks readers through the child welfare laws and policies enacted during the 1990s and explains how these perpetuated biases against Black families and mothers. It also calls attention to how, despite the outpouring of apparent support for Black lives during the summer of 2020 and the suspension of many child welfare services, parental-rights terminations continued. Throughout the article, the authors ask readers to question how the adoption and foster care systems are working for families and the role humanity plays in foster care.

     

    "Reimagining Permanency: The Struggle for Racial Equity and Lifelong Connections" is available in the winter 2022 issue of Family and Integrity Justice Quarterly.

  • Benefits of Kinship Placement

    Benefits of Kinship Placement

    The American Bar Association (ABA) developed a tool for lawyers to use in trial or during their appellate arguments to help them advocate for kinship placement. Benefits of Kinship Placement includes information and resources that counsel may be able to include in their clinical summaries or to provide to experts, social workers, or any workgroup or committee in their jurisdiction. Counsel for parents and children who support kinship care can use this resource to advocate for and help caregivers obtain the benefits, supports, and services they need to be successful.

     

    This resource provides talking points that include key takeaways and background information to educate those involved in the court about the benefits of kinship care and the issues that kin caregivers face and help counsel persuade judges and child welfare agencies to place children with kin. The talking points cover the various outcomes that tend to be better for children placed with kin compared with those who are not and include multiple citations or short summaries of specific resources.

     

    Links are also provided to legal resources regarding kinship placements; research that supports advocating for appropriate services and resources to support kin caregivers; general recommendations for creating a kin-first culture; examples of the types of support services kin caregivers need to be successful; and cultural, racial, and ethnic considerations.

     

    Benefits of Kinship Placement is available on the ABA website.

    Recent Issues

  • March 2024

    Spotlight on Diversity and Racial Equity in Child Welfare

    Spotlight on Diversity and Racial Equity in Child Welfare

  • February 2024

    Spotlight on Child Welfare Data and Technology

    Spotlight on Child Welfare Data and Technology

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.

Training & Technical Assistance Updates

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.

Child Welfare Research

In this section, we highlight recent studies, literature reviews, and other research on child welfare topics.

  • Drug Testing Brief Provides Practice Tips for Child Welfare Workers and Supervisors

    Drug Testing Brief Provides Practice Tips for Child Welfare Workers and Supervisors

    The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare released part 2 of a series of briefs on drug testing in child welfare. The first brief in the series was written for child welfare administrators and policymakers and highlights key steps to consider when developing drug-testing policies for child welfare practice. The second brief, Drug Testing for Parents Involved in Child Welfare: Three Key Practice Points, outlines drug-testing practice considerations for child welfare workers and supervisors when implementing drug testing in their practice.  

     

    The brief includes three key practice points designed to help child welfare workers consider drug testing using an engagement approach that promotes family well-being and recovery:

     

    • Drug testing is just one tool used to guide case planning and permanency decisions with families affected by substance use disorders (SUDs).
    • Drug testing can provide caseworkers with opportunities to discuss a parent’s substance use and motivate them to follow their case plans and engage in treatment.
    • A strengths-based, motivational approach to engagement supports the well-being of children and families.

     

    Key takeaways include the following:

     

    • Drug test results alone cannot identify an SUD.
    • Drug test results alone cannot determine if a parent is abstinent or in recovery.
    • Early identification and treatment of SUDs are critical for successful outcomes.
    • Caseworkers should base decisions on facts and not assumptions about parents.
    • Motivational interviewing can enhance engagement and retention in SUD treatment.
    • Restricting family time should never be used as a punishment.

     

    The series of briefs aims to highlight the importance of agencies and workers understanding the benefits and limitations of drug testing in child welfare. Agencies risk relying too heavily on drug test results when making decisions about child placement, and drug testing can be expensive and limited in terms of determining child risk and safety.

     

    Read the full brief, Drug Testing for Parents Involved in Child Welfare: Three Key Practice Points for more information.

     

    Related Item

     

    To learn more about part 1 of the series, visit the Children's Bureau Express article "Brief Explores Drug Testing in the Child Welfare System," found in the July/August 2022 issue (Vol. 23, No. 6).

  • Brief Explores Tie Between Economic Hardship and Child Abuse in AAPI Families

    Brief Explores Tie Between Economic Hardship and Child Abuse in AAPI Families

    A recent article in the International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice, "Child Maltreatment in Asian American and Pacific Islander Families: The Roles of Economic Hardship and Parental Aggravation," examines the relationship between economic hardship and parental aggravation and child maltreatment among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families. (Parental aggravation is a caregiver's perceptions and experiences of strain and intolerance toward caring for a child.)

     

    The study explored three types of child maltreatment—physical assault, psychological aggression, and neglect—in a sample of 146 AAPI children. To measure the occurrence of maltreatment, the researchers asked participants whether (1) they used punishments such as spanking, pinching, shaking, slapping, and hitting with a hard object in order to determine the presence of physical aggression; (2) whether they shouted, yelled, or screamed at their child or threatened to spank them (but did not actually do so) in order to determine the presence of psychological aggression; and (3) they neglected their child's basic need for food, shelter, medical care, education, and proper supervision in order to determine the presence of neglect.

     

    Findings demonstrated that economic hardship was positively associated with psychological aggression and physical assault, while aggravation in parenting was positively associated with neglect. This suggests that AAPI parents are more likely to use certain forms of child maltreatment when they experience specific stressors, according to the study.  The findings are in line with other research demonstrating economic hardship increases family stress, which can lead to harsh parenting and child maltreatment. In addition, parenting is a constant responsibility, and when parents become stressed, they may have difficulty performing parenting activities and display negative attitudes toward their children.

     

    The study notes that child maltreatment in the AAPI community is relatively understudied compared with other racial and ethnic groups and that more research is needed about parental stress contributing to maltreatment, specifically among AAPI families.

     

    For more information, read the full research article, “Child Maltreatment in Asian American and Pacific Islander Families: The Roles of Economic Hardship and Parental Aggravation.”

Strategies and Tools for Practice

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.

  • CBX Survey Launches!

    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!

  • Toolkit Provides Guidance for Child Welfare Professionals Supporting Children and Youth During and After Natural Disasters

    Toolkit Provides Guidance for Child Welfare Professionals Supporting Children and Youth During and After Natural Disasters

    Child Trends released A Toolkit for Child Welfare Agencies to Help Young People Heal and Thrive During and After Natural Disasters, which is designed for child welfare professionals looking to support young people during and after natural disasters. About 14 percent of children and youth have experienced at least one natural disaster by the age of 18.  Although the toolkit was not tested with children and youth during a pandemic, it may still be useful during and after pandemics given that natural disasters and pandemics have a number of similar challenges.

     

    The toolkit includes three sections:

     

    1. Recommendations for child welfare professionals to prepare for and respond to natural disasters
    2. An overview of trauma-informed care and other methods to promote healing and resilience after natural disasters
    3. Interventions to support children and youth who experience a natural disaster

     

    In addition, the toolkit includes the following:

     

    • Resources for incorporating youth, program, and community voices in disaster planning
    • A summary of evidence on trauma, healing, and resilience during and after natural disasters
    • Tools for implementing trauma-informed care
    • Strategies to promote culturally responsive care
    • Guidance for partnering with community service providers

     

    The intended audience for the toolkit is frontline caseworkers and administrators, as well as community partners, looking to promote healing and resilience. The toolkit can also be integrated into agency disaster plans.

     

    The toolkit, which was developed by Child Trends with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, is available on the Child Trends website.

  • September Is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

    September Is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

    September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month. During this time, it is important to acknowledge those affected by suicide, raise awareness, and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services.

    Many times, children and youth come into the care of the child welfare system with trauma as a result of adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse and neglect. Research indicates that youth involved with child welfare have higher rates of suicide ideation and attempts than their peers who are not, especially for male, African American, and LGBTQ+ youth. In addition, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24.

    The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a service of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has a webpage dedicated to providing parents and caregivers, children and teens, mental health providers, educators and school staff, and policy makers with important resources that focus on topics such as childhood traumatic grief, understanding child suicide for military parents, suicide among refugee children and youth, how to deal with the death of a caregiver, helping teens with traumatic grief, and more, as well as materials available in Spanish.

    SAMSHA also has a Help Prevent Suicide webpage that provides important information about suicide; where and how to find help; resources from SAMHSA, federal agencies, and other sources; and more. In addition, SAMHSA also has a Suicide Prevention Resources webpage for American Indian and Alaska Native communities that provides organizations, articles, and other resources that they can use to strengthen suicide prevention efforts.  

    Visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and SAMHSA websites for more information.

     

Resources

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.

  • How Parents Who Are Incarcerated Can Support Their Children's Education

    How Parents Who Are Incarcerated Can Support Their Children's Education

    An article from Corrections Today, the professional membership magazine of the American Correctional Association, provides information and guidance for families touched by parental incarceration on how to best support their children’s academic needs and improve educational outcomes.

    According to the article, 2.7 million children in the United States are impacted by parental incarceration—a factor that is regarded as one of the most profound adverse childhood experiences. The challenges associated with having an incarcerated parent permeate every aspect of a child’s life, particularly at school where feelings of isolation and shame can impede interactions with peers and teachers and hinder children’s educational opportunities and success. 

    To help parents who are incarcerated achieve a more active role in their children’s education, the article offers tips on how to plan and participate in parent-teacher conferences, expectations for parents, and topics for discussion.

    Although the article’s information is geared toward parents and families, schools and other child-serving systems may also find this beneficial in their work.

    For more information, read “Getting the Most Out of Parent-Teacher Conferences With Incarcerated Parents,” in Corrections Today.

  • Guide Helps Current and Former Youth in Care Pursue Postsecondary Education

    Guide Helps Current and Former Youth in Care Pursue Postsecondary Education

    For many young adults exiting foster care, the dream of going to college is just that—a dream. Often, youth aging out of the system lack the information and skills needed to pursue postsecondary education and employment. A spring 2022 guide from the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation (AFFCF) aims to address these challenges by providing youth currently and formerly in foster care and those who support them with information and resources to help them reach their educational goals.

    The 27-page guide is organized into four main sections that use colorful and engaging infographics and photos and a question-and-answer format to address the following questions:

    • What are my options after high school or getting my GED?
    • How will I pay for my education?
    • How will I pay for my living costs?
    • Who can I turn to for support?

    The guide includes a variety of appendices on topics such as scholarships and resources for undocumented students.

    AFFCF is a nonprofit organization that works to build self-esteem and empower children and youth in foster care by funding a myriad of athletic, educational, and social activities for youth in foster care; through the Keys to Success program, which empowers older youth on the verge of aging out of foster care through individualized career planning, education, and employment services; and by offering postsecondary scholarship program funds to help cover the tuition and fees associated with attending higher learning institutions.

    To learn more, visit the AFFCF website and read Dream It, Learn It, Do It: What's Your It? An Education Guide for Youth Currently and Formerly in Foster Care.

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.