- Do You Have What It Takes to Be a CFSR Reviewer?
The Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) are the most ambitious and thorough examination of State child welfare services ever conducted. The process requires a team of dedicated and knowledgeable reviewers, including Federal and State agency staff and consultant reviewers. To obtain consultant reviewers, the Children's Bureau recruits and trains qualified consultants with appropriate child welfare experience. Read more about the CFSR process below to see if you might be interested in applying to become a reviewer.
To prepare for a 4-day Onsite Review, reviewers spend time reading the Statewide Assessment, State Policy Submission, and other documents. The onsite days are long—often 12 to 16 hours—as reviewers conduct focus groups and interviews, review case records and other documents, participate in group meetings and briefings, and complete necessary instruments and final summaries. While the work is arduous, it also can be rewarding, as reviewers learn about promising practices that have been implemented or progress that a State has made in its placements or services.
To maintain the high standards that have been set for the CFSR process, the Children's Bureau continually seeks qualified reviewers interested in serving on the CFSR teams. Reviewers receive substantial training and are compensated for their time, travel, and expenses. Those who meet the qualifications and receive training are expected to participate in multiple reviews.
Successful reviewers will have an excellent command of Federal practice expectations, to include family-centered practice, community-based services, individualizing services that address unique needs of children and families, and strengthening parental capacity to protect and provide for their children.
Interested? If you have the above-mentioned background and experience, you may qualify to serve as a consultant reviewer on the CFSR teams. In addition, individuals who are multilingual are encouraged to apply. To find out more about the requirements and application process, visit the Children's Bureau website:
As one reviewer commented, "Despite the fact that I have more than 30 years as a child welfare practitioner, I am amazed that participation on CFSR reviews allows me to continue to examine my own values and principles about child protection, permanency, and well-being. Each review re-energizes my passion for our work."
- North Carolina's PIP Kick-Off
What happens when a State's Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) is completed? It doesn't mean that the work is over. In fact, the end of the onsite CFSR sets off the beginning of another process—the Program Improvement Plan or PIP—a customized plan developed by each State with the support of the Children's Bureau to address child welfare issues brought to light by the CFSR. Once the PIP is developed and approved, it serves as a State's road map for continual improvement in child welfare over the next several years. But PIP development requires considerable planning and collaboration among a number of stakeholders. This can begin even before the receipt of the Final Report. To facilitate this process in the second round of the CFSRs, the National Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI) has helped a number of States launch their PIP process with a 1-day kick-off event.
North Carolina's PIP Kick-Off was in the planning stages soon after the CFSR Onsite Review in March 2007. Candice Britt, North Carolina's CFSR Coordinator in the Division of Social Services, knew the State's CFSR results and began to make "laundry lists" of North Carolina's child welfare strengths and challenges. Meeting with other State staff and drawing on information from the preliminary CFSR report, Britt and her team identified five themes to be addressed in North Carolina's PIP:
- Child, youth, and family involvement
- Interagency collaboration
- Cultural competency
- Court involvement
More than 75 stakeholders attended North Carolina's PIP Kick-Off in May 2007, including representatives from Federal and State agencies, county departments of social services, Tribes, the courts, universities, family and parent groups, and workers from the related fields of education, domestic violence, and mental health. Many were part of the pre-existing North Carolina Collaborative for Children, Youth and Families (the Collaborative). While morning presentations of the CFSR results confirmed issues that State administrators had noted in the past, it was the first time many stakeholders heard about the issues from Federal representatives and other non-State workers.
In the afternoon, participants self-selected into smaller groups to discuss the five themes. Co-facilitators from various stakeholder groups helped to keep the discussions on target. These discussion groups were critical to the eventual development of the PIP, because all of the groups met at least three more times after the kick-off event to make and review recommendations and provide feedback for the final document.
North Carolina's final PIP document reflects the collaboration and stakeholder involvement that were integral to the PIP process. Built around the five themes, the document outlines key concerns as well as strategies for addressing these concerns using a systems of care approach and an emphasis on family engagement.
Commenting on the PIP Kick-Off, Britt notes that, "Our ongoing relationships with our stakeholders, particularly the Collaborative, were key to the success of the event. By actively seeking leaders from different groups, we helped communicate a message of shared responsibility and partnership for the children and families of North Carolina."
Many thanks to Candice Britt, M.S.W., who supplied the information for this article.
- NRCOI PIP Kick-Off materials:
- North Carolina Division of Social Services and links to the State's CFSR and PIP documents:
- The Collaborative:
- From the CFSR Team: The Second Round of the CFSRs
By Don Adams, Federal CFSR Team
The second round of onsite Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) began in March 2007, and they are expected to be completed in Federal fiscal year 2010. It has been exciting to participate in a renewed partnership with the States in an effort to improve child welfare services across the nation, and it is encouraging when States use the CFSR process as a focal point for this improvement.
Although no analysis of the second round CFSR findings has been completed thus far, several trends have been noted. (These trends are purely observational, and therefore cannot be considered as conclusive or definitive.)
- Family involvement. Concerted efforts are being made by many child welfare agencies to improve family involvement in case decision-making and planning. More success is being realized with mothers, whereas progress has been less successful with fathers and/or noncustodial parents. The meaningful inclusiveness of youth in case planning is inconsistent but is becoming more of a focus for child welfare agencies. Another encouraging area is that increasing numbers of States are working more intensely with incarcerated parents. Other efforts to become more family-friendly include the use of family group decision-making, diligent searches for absent parents, relative searches, and family-friendly case plans.
- Safety of children. Increasingly, States are addressing the safety of children through (1) standardized tools in the initial and ongoing assessments of risk and safety as well as at critical points of cases, (2) community involvement in the development and implementation of safety planning, and (3) supervisory oversight in decision-making.
- Partnerships and shared responsibility. In many States, communities have assumed more responsibility and partnered with agencies to improve child welfare practice. This is especially true of courts, some of which have reexamined, revamped, and streamlined practices to enhance the safety, timely and appropriate permanency, and well-being of children.
- Data quality. States have realized the benefit of capturing data to determine their current and improved performance in child welfare. To this end, many States have developed or enhanced their internal quality assurance system to measure the implementation of good child welfare practice as promoted by the CFSRs.
Thus far, the second round of CFSRs confirms that child welfare is a challenging and complex field where there is an ongoing need for improvements in outcome and systemic factor performance. The CFSR process continues to spotlight good child welfare practice and the importance of partnering to develop and monitor realistic goals that will move practice forward.
- New Mexico's Ice Breakers for Foster and Birth Parents
New Mexico completed its most recent Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) early in the second round, and the Final Report notes a number of promising child welfare practices across the State. One of the most innovative practices is the use of "ice breaker" meetings between foster and birth parents. Designed to encourage the sharing of information about the child in foster care, the facilitated meetings can lead to a better placement experience for the child and, ideally, better adjustment for the adults involved.
An ice breaker meeting occurs as soon as possible after a child is taken into custody—generally, within 2 work days. In most offices across the State, the meeting is set up and facilitated by a foster parent liaison, who is a former foster or adoptive parent. When the birth and foster parents meet at the agency, the facilitator guides the discussion, keeping the focus on the child and his or her needs. For instance, the birth parent can provide information about the child's personality, likes and dislikes, routine, bedtime habits, allergies or medications, favorite toys, special activities, and academics. In return, the foster parent can offer information about who else lives in the foster family, where the child will sleep, and regular activities in the foster home. The facilitator ensures that the discussion does not stray into other issues but stays centered on the child's needs. The meeting also offers the foster and birth parents the opportunity to see each other as adults who share a common concern about the child.
Future meetings and contact depend on the individual circumstances of the case. In some cases, there are more facilitated meetings between parents, or there may be contact during drop-offs for visitation. Foster and birth parents may write notes or have phone calls. Having had the ice breaker meeting often makes it easier for future contact and the sharing of parenting information.
The early anecdotal evidence regarding the success of the ice breakers is overwhelmingly positive. Children make a better adjustment when their foster parents know as much as possible about them. Older children are more comfortable knowing that their foster and birth parents have met and feel that their loyalty is not being put to the test while they live with a foster family.
The ice breakers are considered for every case, although they are not implemented in cases in which the birth parents are not interested or are too angry or aggressive to be helpful participants. All foster parents receive training for the ice breakers. While a few foster parents were resistant to the experience at first and seemed to have a difficult time making the connection with birth parents, they have come to see the advantages that the meetings have for the children and their adjustment.
Commenting on the success of the ice breakers, Maryellen Bearzi, Administrative Deputy Director for the Protective Services Division of the Children, Youth and Families Department, said: "Ice breakers provide an early and critical opportunity for family engagement by recognizing their strengths and focusing on what matters most to all of us—the safety and well-being of the child."
Many thanks to Linda McNall, Regional Manager for the Protective Services Division of the Children, Youth and Families Department in New Mexico, who provided the information for this article.
- South Dakota's Case Planning Approach
South Dakota participated in its second Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in May 2008, and one of the outstanding strategies identified through the review was the State's revamped approach to case planning. Leaving behind an incident-based process that gave families little opportunity for active participation, South Dakota worked with the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services (NRCCPS) to develop and implement a new model focused on safety management and designed to promote family participation. Over the last several years, the State has trained supervisors and family services specialists in the new model, building up a network of expertise across all regions of the State.
The new model for case planning focuses on safety threats and is family-driven. When a report of possible maltreatment is received, a family services specialist conducts an Initial Family Assessment, working with the family to determine if there are immediate safety threats and, if so, to develop a protective plan. The case is then transferred to case management for the Protective Capacity Assessment (PCA)—a four-step case planning process with focused outcomes and services designed to address the specific conditions in the home threatening the child's safety. The four steps include:
- Preparation, in which staff learn about the family
- Introduction, in which the caseworker helps the family understand the PCA process
- Discovery, which is a mutual process of exploring and identifying what must change to enhance diminished caregiver protective capacities
- Case planning, involving the development of the behavior outcomes, along with a plan of activities and treatment services leading to the case plan finalization
Throughout the process, parents help decide how to best keep their children safe. Family services specialists encourage parent engagement through techniques that include reflective listening, reframing, and empowerment, and they pose questions to promote parental self-determination, such as:
- What do you see as the problem?
- What needs to be done to keep your children safe?
- Who else in your family or community should be involved?
- What would work best for you?
The resulting case plan is written to include parents'—and sometimes, children's—own words. For instance, a parent's goal may be, "I'm not gonna lose my cool anymore!" Using the exact words of parents validates their participation and strengthens their investment in the plan.
The new approach is already showing positive results, according to Merlin Weyer and Pamela Bennett of the State's Department of Social Services and the CFSR team. Parents in the child welfare system recognize the new model, and most appreciate the spirit of partnership that it offers them. Bennett, along with regional members of the workgroup, has spent considerable time in educating and sharing information about the new model with stakeholders such as treatment providers. Staff are enthusiastic about the process because it has given them tools and a solid framework for helping families. Finally, the latest data on reunification and maltreatment recurrence indicate that the PCA model is having positive results for children and families. According to Weyer, "The PCA allows us to work with families earlier on the real behaviors that are causing their children to be unsafe. We're not just checking off parents' class completion—we're actually working with parents toward specific behavioral goals, and that's producing positive results for children."
Bennett takes a broad view of the success: "The new case plan model is really just one part of South Dakota's larger systems change effort in child welfare. We're not there yet; we're still improving, but we know we're on the right track with this process."
Many thanks to Merlin Weyer, Assistant Division Director, and Pamela Bennett, Program Specialist, of the Division of Child Protection Services of South Dakota's Department of Social Services, who provided the information for this article.
- Promising Approaches From States' CFSRs
Strategies for improving child welfare systems continue to emerge from States' Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs). The Children's Bureau website lists many of these promising approaches both by State and by topic, ranging from addressing disproportionality in Texas to providing dental care for children in foster care in North Carolina to improving agency-court collaboration in Louisiana. Check the website often for updates.
- From the CFSR Team: Court and Agency Collaboration
By Bill Stanton, Federal CFSR Team
The second round of reviews is an exciting time for the Children's Bureau. The National Review Team has worked diligently since the first round of CFSRs ended in March 2004 to improve the review and program improvement processes. We have worked closely with State child welfare agencies and courts to ensure that the courts are an integrated part of the review process. Two consultant judges, Judge Rideout and Judge Jones, have been visiting the chief justices, child welfare directors, and presiding judges in the largest metropolitan areas to discuss the importance of court involvement. In addition, I have become more involved in assisting Children's Bureau staff and States with ensuring courts are more effectively involved throughout all stages of the CFSR process. The following are some examples of improved processes:
- Statewide Assessments. In one State, after the Statewide Assessment was developed, the agency and courts determined what they would need to improve and formed a committee to start working on the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). They reported that they did not need to wait for the Onsite Review to inform them where to start planning for improvements. They felt that children and families in their State were too important to wait for the CFSR Final Report.
- Onsite Review. A chief justice in one State instructed the State's Court Improvement Program (CIP) director to find at least three judges who would be willing to be onsite reviewers for the CFSR. In another State, judges who had been onsite reviewers presented their experience at the State's annual judicial conference. These judges noted that the process opened their eyes to the challenges that the child welfare agencies face each day. So far in the second round of CFSRs, we have seen 11 judges, 28 CIP staff, and 18 other court-related staff participate as onsite reviewers.
In each State that has had an Onsite Review, the CIP director has worked closely with the Children's Bureau to develop a State court summary. This summary is given to the onsite reviewers prior to the review so that they have an understanding of how the court system operates in that State. This enables the reviewers to have a rich discussion with court personnel during the stakeholder interview.
- PIP Development. We also have seen a dramatic increase in collaboration between courts and agencies during the PIP development process. In many States, the CIP is co-leading focus groups with the agency staff for PIP development. In other States, judges, attorneys, and staff from the Administrative Office of the Courts participate in the development of PIP goals and strategies. In addition, members of the Collaborative (made up of representatives from the National Center of State Courts, National Council of Juvenile Court Judges, and the National Resource Center on Judicial and Legal Issues) pool their resources and expertise to provide technical assistance to a limited number of States in development of State PIPs.
Increasing State agency collaboration with the courts runs through much of our work at the Children's Bureau - the CFSRs, the CIP, our training and technical assistance efforts, and through our work with the Collaborative. The Children's Bureau is proud and honored to see the increased level of collaboration between the courts and the agencies throughout the CFSR process and looks forward to this continued partnership.
Spotlight on Creating a More Equitable Child Welfare System
Spotlight on Child and Family Services Review, Round 4
News From the Children's Bureau
- Online Degree Program Helps Rural Social Workers
Earning an advanced degree can be difficult when the nearest university is hundreds of miles away. In an effort to make higher education more accessible to Texas's rural child welfare workers, Texas State University-San Marcos School of Social Work developed one of the first entirely web-assisted M.S.W. programs in the country. The program allows child welfare workers to pursue an advanced degree without leaving their jobs or families and to complete the degree in 4 years, on a part-time basis.
Using the same curriculum and the same instructors that are used on campus, the program employs web-based teaching platforms, such as TRACS, that allow the use of video-teleconferencing, electronic chat rooms, and other distance learning resources to facilitate an interactive and productive online educational environment. The university's Department of Instructional Technology provides technical support to ensure the programs run smoothly and that both instructors and students are comfortable with the technology through ongoing training and assistance.
The first cohort of students to enroll in the online M.S.W. program included 22 full-time child protective services workers, all of whom had B.A. degrees in fields other than social work. Grant funds paid for the tuition of 15 of the students. The web-assisted students participated in a focus group to identify strengths and weaknesses of the program and the impact of the program on their lives. Based on recent evaluations, students and school faculty alike reported a number of benefits from the online program, including the flexibility that the technology gave them.
The School of Social Work has learned a number of lessons about developing and implementing an online M.S.W. degree program:
- Child welfare agency support should be sought and maintained so that students feel supported by their agency and the university.
- Web-based students should have the same access to resources as students on campus.
- Students seeking an online degree must be self-motivated and need to consider the strain that maintaining their full-time job and performing schoolwork may place on their personal life.
- Team projects, "cyber lounges," and instructors' virtual office hours can help to combat the isolation students may feel.
By offering the online degree program, the school hopes to continue building strong relationships with public child welfare agencies and rural communities. The school also seeks to incorporate new technology that can facilitate effective distance learning; for instance, staff are currently considering creating CDs or podcasts to provide learning opportunities to workers driving long distances between home visits.
Additional information can be found on the Texas State University School of Social Work website:
For more information, contact the co-principal investigator:
Dr. Mary Jo Garcia-Biggs
School of Social Work
Texas State University-San Marcos
Health Professions Building, Room 163
San Marcos, TX 78666-4616
This project is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0126, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Training for Effective Child Welfare Practice in Rural Communities. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.
- Effective Training Systems for Child Welfare Agencies
Building Effective Training Systems for Child Welfare Agencies, an updated guide from the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI), provides an analytic framework for child welfare agencies and Tribal leadership working to implement training systems. The guide discusses how Federal funding requirements shape training systems and which items in the Child and Family Services Reviews are used to assess training. The guide also covers:
- Principles, indicators, and evidence of a mature training system's services and products
- Life cycle of a training system's structure
- Strategies for developing a mature training system
- Training system assessment process and tool
The guide was written by Susan Kanak, Maureen Baker, Lori Herz, and Susan Maciolek and is available on the NRCOI website:
Also from the NRCOI, the spring/summer 2008 issue of Child Welfare Matters focuses on systemic reform in the context of a systems of care approach. The lead article explores the core values of the systems of care approach and describes some of the goals agencies should strive for when committed to systemic reform. Other articles explore the reasons why agencies should consider a systems of care approach and child welfare perspectives on systems of care.
Download the newsletter from the NRCOI website:
http://muskie.usm.maine.edu/helpkids/rcpdfs/cwmatters7.pdf (PDF - 178 KB)
- The Roundtable
The latest issue of The Roundtable, the electronic newsletter published by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Adoption, focuses on collaboration in adoption practice. The lead article, by Debra E. Emerson, looks at Operation Push in Texas, which aims to increase adoption and retention rates through stakeholder collaboration. Other articles in the newsletter explore State-church collaboration, collaborative community strategies to remove barriers to timely adoption, elements that contribute to successful collaboration, and Project Family Ties.
Subscribe to The Roundtable:
- Cultural Competency Training in California
A project to develop cultural competency training for California's frontline child welfare workers and supervisors has provided training to approximately 800 workers who serve more than 20,000 Spanish-speaking families throughout the State. The 3-year project was funded through a grant from the Children's Bureau (for the program announcement, see http://tinyurl.com/6ats6b). Begun in 2004 by the California Institute on Human Services at Sonoma State University, the Cultural Competency for California's Child/Family Professionals (C4) project had four overarching goals:
- Provide social workers with culturally relevant skills and strategies to improve communication with Spanish-speaking families
- Teach social workers how to create linkages to improve families' access to culturally appropriate services
- Follow up trainings with technical assistance to help workers implement new skills
- Disseminate a competency-based training curriculum at the county and State levels
The C4 project began with a statewide needs assessment, research, and literature review. After this preliminary work was completed, a staff of instructional designers, an evaluator, and a trainer worked with a 12-member advisory board that included cultural competency experts from agencies and universities. This board helped in the review and testing of the newly developed curriculum. After pilot testing, training was administered at three sites throughout the State, four times a year. The training modules covered:
- Strategies for overcoming language barriers in working with Hispanic/Latino families
- Culturally competent safety/risk assessment
- Community resource mapping skills and comprehensive case planning
Training fliers, a project website, and word of mouth helped promote the popularity of the free trainings. In fact, the number of requests for training was too great to address, so project staff shared the curriculum with regional training academies. Staff also did an adapted training with juvenile justice workers in one county.
Preliminary evaluations using pre- and posttests of knowledge, self-assessment, and a satisfaction questionnaire with participants showed promising results, including improved knowledge scores and self-perceptions of knowledge, a high rate of knowledge use, and a very high level of satisfaction. Key informant interviews also will be included in the final evaluation.
The continuing requests for this cultural competency training indicate that there is still an enormous need throughout the State to help child welfare professionals in their work with Spanish-speaking families. The C4 project staff suggest that their model could be replicated in other counties, and they also see a need to provide similar cultural competency training to professionals in related disciplines.
For more information about the C4 project, contact the project director:
Diane Nissen, Ph.D.
Rural Training Project
5880 Commerce Blvd., Suite 207
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
Cultural Competency for California's Child/Family Professionals (The C4 Project) was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0129, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Field Initiated Training Projects for Effective Child Welfare Practice With Hispanic Children and Families. 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.
- New AdoptUsKids BlogChild welfare professionals and parents interested in adoption-related topics can share information on the AdoptUsKids blog. The ongoing conversation is moderated by Kate Kirkpatrick, National Family Network Coordinator for the Collaboration to AdoptUsKids. Blog visitors are encouraged to post comments and link their websites to the blog. Since its inauguration in early May, the blog has generated an exciting response from hundreds of readers.
For Spanish-speaking professionals and parents interested in adoption, there is now a Spanish-language blog:
- Reports on Grantee Site Visits Available Online
Children's Bureau Discretionary Grants promote research and program development in specified areas of child welfare by funding many projects around the country. Recent efforts have focused on such areas as the development of training models to improve the recruitment and retention of child welfare workers, training for rural child welfare workers, and cultural competency training for those who work with Hispanic children and families. Staff from the Children's Bureau Division of Research and Innovation visit all the grantees in selected "clusters" during the funding period to check on their progress and learn about any preliminary results.
Reports from these site visits are now starting to be made available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website. The reports are presented in a tab format that includes:
- Project description
- Site visit highlights
- Lessons learned
- Attachments of other documents and resources
The first site visit reports posted were from the "Developing Models of Effective Child Welfare Staff Recruitment and Retention Training" projects. Although the funding period for these 5-year projects is just now coming to an end, site visits made in 2006 and 2007 highlight early successes and innovative strategies of each grantee. A number of the grantees developed curricula and training materials early in the funding period; by the time of the site visits, they already were implementing training and beginning to collect evaluation data.
The site visit reports will be of interest to other Children's Bureau grantees, as well as to States and agencies looking for information on the latest innovative strategies and promising practices in child welfare. More reports are being added, so check the website often for updates:
Children's Bureau Express last wrote about the Recruitment and Retention grantees in "Developing Models for Workforce Recruitment and Retention" (July/August 2008).
- New From Information Gateway
Child Welfare Information Gateway serves as the clearinghouse for the Children's Bureau. The Information Gateway website is frequently updated with original publications as well as links to other sites, resources, searches, and databases. The most recent original publications posted on the site include the following:
- Differential Response to Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect
Differential response is a child protective services practice that allows for more than one method of initial response to reports of child abuse and neglect. A new issue brief examines the topic of differential response and presents findings of evaluations of differential response systems.
- Parenting a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused: A Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents
This factsheet is designed to help resource parents cope with children in their care by educating themselves about sexual abuse, establishing guidelines for safety and privacy in the family, and understanding when and how to seek help if needed.
- Child Abuse and Neglect General Information Packet
The update includes factsheets about child abuse and neglect, prevention strategies, and statistical information about the prevalence of child abuse and neglect. Directories of Federal clearinghouses, hotlines, State agencies, and organizations that disseminate information on family and domestic violence and substance abuse also are included.
- Differential Response to Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect
- New! On the Children's Bureau Site
The Children's Bureau website carries information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, Federal reporting, and much more. The "New on Site" section includes grant announcements, policy announcements, agency information, and recently released publications.
Recent additions to the site include:
- State Child Welfare Legislation 2006—Describes State legislation related to child welfare issues enacted during calendar year 2006, including citations and summaries of specific child-welfare laws in each State
- Child Welfare Outcomes 2002-2005: Report to Congress
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new!
- New Child Welfare Outcomes Report Released
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released Child Welfare Outcomes 2002-2005: Report to Congress, the seventh in a series of reports designed to inform Congress, the States, and the public about State performance on delivering child welfare services. The Child Welfare Outcomes report provides information about State performance on seven national child welfare outcomes related to the safety, permanency, and well-being of children involved in the child welfare system. The outcomes reflect widely accepted performance objectives for child welfare practice.
The first six Child Welfare Outcomes reports presented data for each State regarding 12 measures developed by the Department to assess State performance relevant to the seven national child welfare outcomes. The current report includes data on the 12 original outcome measures as well as four composite measures (including 15 individual measures) recently developed for the second round of the Child and Family Services Reviews that began in March 2007.
Highlights of the recent report include:
- Of the States submitting data for all 4 years, 64 percent demonstrated an improvement in performance on the measure of maltreatment recurrence.
- The majority of children in all States who were legally free for adoption at the time of exit from foster care in both 2004 and 2005 were discharged to a permanent home.
- In 2005, many States that had a relatively high percentage of children reunified in less than 12 months also had a relatively high percentage of children reentering foster care in less than 12 months.
- In 2005, many States that had a high percentage of reunifications occurring in less than 12 months also had a high percentage of adoptions occurring in less than 24 months.
- States were generally effective in achieving placement stability for children in foster care for less than 12 months, but placement stability declined dramatically for children in foster care more than 12 months.
The report can be found on the Children's Bureau website:
- Evaluating Child Welfare Training in Public Agencies
A national study of public child welfare agencies examined how agencies conduct training and use evaluation data to improve training outcomes. Interviews were conducted with representatives from 48 States and counties. Questions focused on such topics as the State's experience with federally funded child welfare training projects, successes and challenges of providing training, administrative supports, plans for future training, and training evaluation.
The study found substantial variation among agencies conducting training evaluations and using evaluation data. In most cases, there were no standard procedures to evaluate effectiveness or organizational supports beyond the initial training session. In addition, available evaluation data were not always applied uniformly and with the same results. The study notes that the Child and Family Services Reviews have prompted States to increase data collection efforts on training outcomes. Overall results point to the need for an effective and uniform assessment of child welfare training to promote sustained change in practice that results in improved organizational outcomes.
"Evaluating Child Welfare Training in Public Agencies: Status and Prospects," by Mary Elizabeth Collins, appears in Evaluation and Program Planning, Volume 31(3), and is available for purchase online:
- Indicators of Child Well-Being
Indicators of child and family well-being are a valuable resource for agencies and child welfare professionals working to improve the lives of children, families, and communities. Two resources by the Forum on Child and Family Statistics and the Annie E. Casey Foundation provide updated indicators and background data drawn from State, Federal, and community agencies.
The Forum's America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being online report provides an accessible compendium of indicators drawn from official statistical data. The indicators are organized by topic and must meet certain criteria for inclusion, including the impact they have on the lives of children, families, and communities; how they fluctuate and show trends over time; and whether or not they are easy to use and understand. Report indicators are divided among seven domains, including Family and Social Environment, Economic Circumstances, Health Care, Physical Environment and Safety, Behavior, Education, and Health.
Among this year's findings were a decline in childhood deaths from injuries but increases in the adolescent birth rate and in the percentage of low-birthweight newborns.
The Forum on Child and Family Statistics is a working group of 22 Federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to children and families. The report is available on the Forum website:www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/index.asp
The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count 2008 Data Book provides 10 updated indicators that measure overall child well-being and strategies to address negative outcomes. Key indicators include Low-Birthweight Babies, Infant Mortality, Child Death Rate, Teen Death Rate, Teen Birth Rate, High School Dropout Rate, Number of Disconnected Youth, Percentage of Children Whose Parents Lack Stable Employment, Child Poverty Rate, and Percentage of Children Living in Two-Parent Families. Most recently, comprehensive State-level data on children and families in the largest racial and ethnic groups have been added.
The 2008 book shows that children have experienced several areas of improvement (including child and teen death rates and the high school dropout rate). Several areas show worsened outcomes (including low-birthweight babies and children in poverty). The latest databook also includes an essay, "A Road Map for Juvenile Justice Reform," which discusses developments in the nation's juvenile justice systems.
Access the Kids Count 2008 Data Book or other databook features on the Annie E. Casey website:
- Foster Children's Legal Representatives Work to Expedite Permanency
Many children younger than age 12 in foster care in Palm Beach County, FL, are provided legal representation through the Foster Children's Project (FCP), a program supported by the Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County and the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County. A new report from the Chapin Hall Center for Children, Expediting Permanency: Legal Representation for Foster Children in Palm Beach County, presents an evaluation of FCP's impact on the nature and timing of foster children's permanency outcomes and juvenile court milestones. The legal representatives in the program filed motions on behalf of children, filed petitions for termination of parental rights, recruited adoptive homes, attended staffings and case plan meetings, and provided advocacy and support to the children. These activities were intended to keep cases moving through the system to permanency.
The findings show that children represented by FCP had a significantly higher rate of exit to permanency than children not served by FCP. There were higher rates of adoption and long-term custody among FCP children. Results suggest that FCP's efforts to individualize children's court-approved case plans served to clarify the basis of, and thus expedite, court decisions concerning parent and agency compliance with parents' case plan requirements. The study also discusses possible disadvantages of the program, reactions of social workers, and implications for other jurisdictions seeking to expedite permanency though juvenile court reforms, including the provision of representation to children.
The report, by Andrew E. Zinn and Jack Slowriver, is available for download from the Chapin Hall website:
- Child Maltreatment and Healthy Marriage
A new policy brief from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) explores childhood maltreatment and its impact on the potential for a healthy, lasting marriage later in life. Many studies have documented the experience of childhood traumas such as sexual abuse and severe physical abuse and their association with negative marital outcomes, most notably by affecting intimacy and personal relationship skills. The long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect often are the same factors that serve as barriers to forming and maintaining a healthy marriage, such as:
- Substance use and mental health problems
- Low educational attainment and unemployment
- Poverty and homelessness
- Unintended pregnancy
- Risk for intimate partner violence
For some children, their experience with the child welfare system may add to their risk factors. Unstable foster care placements, inadequate levels of services, or aging out of the system without a permanent adult connection may place children at risk for developing attachment issues that affect their ability to form healthy relationships in adulthood.
Findings are discussed in terms of the development of healthy marriage policies and programs that consider the unique needs of individuals who have experienced child maltreatment. In particular, the brief promotes a Marriage-Plus policy approach, which provides marriage education in conjunction with economic and other support services that vulnerable families need to promote protective factors that can improve a couple's relationship and prevent maltreatment when children are present.
"Healthy Marriage and the Legacy of Child Maltreatment: A Child Welfare Perspective," written by Tiffany Conway and Rutledge Q. Hutson, is available for download on the CLASP website:
www.clasp.org/publications/marriage_brief_12.pdf (PDF - 96 KB)
- Updates From the CEBC
The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse (CEBC) provides a database of up-to-date information on evidence-based and commonly used child welfare practices. The database now includes programs in new topic areas of Child Welfare Initiatives, such as the following:
- Alternative Response
- Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol
- Family to Family
- Structured Decision Making
- Subsidized Guardianship
Other programs have been added in the topic areas of Higher Level of Placement, Substance Abuse, Motivation and Engagement, Parent Training, and Trauma Treatment for Children.
To find reviews and ratings of child welfare programs and to sign up for email alerts of website updates, visit the CEBC website:
- Working With Refugee Children and Immigrant Families
The Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS) website offers two new resources for child welfare workers helping immigrant children and families.
The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) Caseworker's Toolkit for Children in Federal Custody is a toolkit for foster care caseworkers helping children in the Federal custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement Division of Unaccompanied Children's Services (ORR/DUCS). Developed by the Children's Services Department of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services, the materials are designed to ensure that SIJS-eligible children receive the assistance and case monitoring they need during the SIJS application process.
The documents in the toolkit include a flowchart of the SIJS process, descriptions of the roles of the people and professionals involved in the process, a description of the Federal and State agencies interacting with SIJS-applicant children, a summary of the typical application forms and accompanying fees, frequently asked questions, and an annotated list of useful resources for helping children and their caseworkers and attorneys understand and explain legal matters of relevance.
The toolkit is available on the BRYCS website:
Raising Children in a New Country: An Illustrated Handbook is designed to help agencies working with immigrant families by providing newly arrived parents with the basic information they need to know about U.S. law and parenting practices. The book is targeted to workers helping newcomer parents with low levels of English proficiency or low literacy levels. It is available for download on the BRYCS site:
www.brycs.org/documents/RaisingChildren-Handbook.pdf (PDF - 1,426 KB)
- Dialog With Native Youth
Building Brighter Futures in Indian Country: What’s on the Minds of Native Youth? reports on the findings of a focus group meeting held in June 2007 in Shelton, WA, that brought together youth, ages 10 to 17, from 20 Tribes across the United States. Sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the meeting gave youth the opportunity to discuss the issues that affect Native American youth, their families, and their communities. The goals of the focus group were to encourage open dialog among this population and assist the Federal Government in creating strategies and programs responsive to the needs of youth in Indian country.
The meeting was part of OJJDP's Tribal Youth Program, which works to reduce risk factors for delinquency, provide support for court-involved youth (including those in foster care), improve the Tribal juvenile justice system, and provide prevention and treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems.
The full report is available on the OJJDP website:
http://www.ojjdp.gov/typ/download/223353.pdf (PDF - 689 KB)
- Housing for Youth Who Age Out of Foster Care
More than half of the youth who age out of foster care are soon homeless or experience housing instability. A recent article in Child Law Practice explains the different types of Federal programs and other resources that may offer housing or funding for housing to these young adults. These include:
- The Chafee Foster Care Independent Living Program
- The Transitional Living Program for Homeless Youth
- Section 8 vouchers
- Public housing (some jurisdictions create a preference for aged-out youth)
- Specialized housing for those with substance abuse or mental disabilities
The information provided about these programs, including population served and eligibility criteria, may help these youth and youth advocates plan in advance to meet housing needs.
"Seeking Shelter in Tough Times: Securing Housing for Youth Who Age Out of Foster Care," by Dale Margolin, appeared in Child Law Practice, Volume 27(5), and is available online:
- The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation
The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation partners with organizations across the United States that serve young people from low-income families ranging in age from 9 to 24. The foundation focuses on those organizations that help youth improve educational skills, prepare for employment and self-sufficiency, and avoid high-risk behaviors. While the foundation does not accept proposals, interested organizations can complete a web-based Youth Organization Survey Form about their organization and goals for the foundation to consider.
To read more about the foundation and to access the survey form (listed under Grantee Portfolio), visit the website:
- Finding Resource Families
The July issue of North Carolina's Practice Notes focuses on finding families for children in foster care. The online newsletter offers a number of articles on the practice of recruitment and retention of resource families in the State, including the importance of tracking and evaluation, using a regional approach, and specific recommendations for agencies to increase their parent recruitment.
Practice Notes is published by the North Carolina Division of Social Services and the Family and Children's Resource Program. The current issue is available online:
- Young Adult Outcomes for Former Foster Youth
Outcomes for young adults who received foster care services from Casey Family Programs are the focus of a new study that examines how these youth compare with other foster youth and young adults in the general population. The Casey Young Adult Survey: Findings Over Three Years presents a summary of data collected by the Casey Young Adult Survey (CYAS).
The CYAS is an annual cohort study conducted every year between 2004 and 2006 of 19-, 22-, and 25-year-olds who received foster care services from Casey Family Programs. A total of 557 youth were interviewed to obtain data about a number of outcome domains, including whether they were living independently, the incidence of homelessness, their physical and mental health, educational attainment, employment and finances, relationship and social support, community involvement, and criminal justice involvement.
Overall, the findings show that youth in the Casey cohort lag behind their peers in the general population. The results were similar to other foster care follow-up studies in most outcome domains, including rates of homelessness, symptoms of mental health disorders, GED completion, dependence on public assistance, and involvement with the criminal justice system. On the other hand, in the areas of education, employment, health insurance coverage, and drug use, youth in the Casey cohort fared better than most other former foster youth.
The report, by Anne Havalchak, Catherine Roller White, and Kirk O’Brien, includes a discussion of methodology, recommendations for more effective practice, and references. It is available for download on the Casey Family Programs website:
- The Role of the Court in Achieving Timely Permanency
The role of different court personnel in achieving permanency for children in foster care is the focus of the July 2008 issue of the Judges' Page Newsletter. Articles from experts in the field discuss the role of judges, the child's attorney, the child's court-appointed special advocate (CASA) or guardian ad litem, the parent's attorney, and foster youth. Other articles feature court-based programs with innovative practices to expedite permanency for children in foster care, including some model court programs and Tribal and State cross-jurisdiction hearings.
The Judges' Page Newsletter is a publication of the National CASA Association in partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. It is available online:
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.
- Culturally Sensitive Social Work Practice With Native Americans
Child welfare training on working with Native Americans has traditionally focused on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and meeting its requirements, that is, "the letter of the law." A new curriculum, The Other Side of ICWA: A Cultural Journey to Fairness and Equity, is intended to address "the spirit of the law" and those concerns missing in traditional training that are essential for successful implementation of ICWA.
Developed by the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC), the training is intended for child welfare social workers, supervisors, managers, contract agency staff, and other professionals such as advocates, attorneys, and judges working with Native American youth and communities. The materials are designed to help participants understand the importance of trust and relationship-building and the effects of the historic and collective trauma on the Native American experience. Class activities are designed to help participants build culturally sensitive communication and needs assessment skills through increased awareness and attention to cultural traditions, values, and support systems.
The curriculum includes a trainer's guide, participant's manual, background material, handouts for class exercises, and a glossary of terms. All materials are available for download on the CalSWEC website.
- Curriculum for Court Personnel on the Benefits of Open Permanency
The Family Connections Project of Adoptions Unlimited, Inc., has developed a training manual to help judges and other court personnel understand the benefits of permanency plans that support the desire of foster youth to maintain connections to birth family members. Making the Case for Ongoing Connections Between Youth and Those Who Matter to Them—Before Permanency and Beyond provides detailed guidelines for setting up and delivering audience-specific education to legal and court personnel about the benefits of open permanency arrangements. It is one component of a comprehensive curriculum that has been developed to train legal professionals, caseworkers, foster/adoptive parents, and youth in understanding the importance of maintaining family and other important relationships when youth move to permanent families or other supportive situations. The curriculum was developed under an Adoption Opportunities grant funded by the Children's Bureau.
The Family Connections Project is a partnership among the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and two private agencies, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and Hull House. Additional information about this project is available on the website of the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Adoption.
The training manual, written by Peggy Slater, is available for download on the same site:
Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through December 2008 include:
- Seventh North American Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome
National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome
October 5–7, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
- 2008 Alliance National Conference
The Power of Purpose/The Purpose of Our Power
Alliance for Children and Families
October 28–30, Baltimore, MD
- Council on Social Work Education 54th Annual Meeting
Social Work Policy and Practice: Linking Theory, Methods, and Skills
Philadelphia, PA, October 30–November 2
- NAEHCY 20th Annual Conference
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
October 31–November 3, Arlington, VA
- 2008 Conference on Differential Response in Child Welfare
The American Humane Association
Columbus, OH, November 12–14
- Eighth National Structured Decision Making Conference
Weaving SDM Into Practice
The Children's Research Center
November 12–14, Sacramento, CA
- Time and Effort: Perspectives on Workload Roundtable
The American Humane Association and Consortium on Workload
Santa Fe, NM, December 3–5
- 23rd National Training Institute
Connecting Science, Policy, and Practice: Improving Outcomes for Infants and Toddlers
ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families
Los Angeles, CA, December 4–7
Further details about national and regional adoption and child welfare conferences can be found through the Conference Calendar Search feature on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:
- Seventh North American Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome