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June 2024Vol. 25, No. 5Spotlight on Reunification

This edition of CBX spotlights the importance of supporting family reunification. In honor of Pride Month, we also provide resources about youth in child welfare who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, Two-Spirit, or other gender or sexual identity (LGBTQIA2S+). Read a message from Commissioner Rebecca Jones Gaston about the need to appropriately serve and support LGBTQIA2S+ children in foster care. Additionally, this issue includes valuable resources for professionals and the families they serve.

Issue Spotlight

  • A Message From Commissioner Rebecca Jones Gaston

    A Message From Commissioner Rebecca Jones Gaston

    Written by Commissioner Rebecca Jones Gaston

    On April 29 of this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule on the Designated Placement Requirements Under Titles IV-E and IV-B for LGBTQI+ Children. The final rule requires title IV-E and title IV-B agencies to have sufficient placements designated to meet the needs of children and youth in foster care who are LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or other gender or sexual identity) and necessary services to support their well-being. 

    Recognizing the vital role of kin caregivers in the child welfare system, the final rule clarifies that title IV–E and title IV–B agencies should improve access to kinship care as they implement the requirements of this regulation. Children who enter foster care because of familial conflict regarding their LGBTQI+ status or identity may have a supportive relative who is willing to serve as a kin caregiver. And, under the rule, foster care providers, including kin, can receive training and services to designate them as supportive of LGBTQI+ children currently in their care.

    Nearly 1 in 3 (or approximately 30 percent) of older children in foster care identify as LGBTQI+. Youth in foster care who identify as LGBTQI+ are more likely to experience the following than their non-LGBTQI+ peers:

    • Be placed in congregate care settings
    • Report maltreatment while in the foster care system (Cooper et al., 2014)   
    • Experience homelessness

    The final rule represents a vital step toward safety, permanency, and well-being—foundational priorities of the Children’s Bureau. When children cannot safely remain with their own families, they deserve a supportive foster care placement free of harassment, mistreatment, or abuse.

    We must continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of LGBTQI+ youth. By creating supportive environments and providing needed resources and services, we can help ensure that LGBTQI+ youth and young adults can thrive and reach their full potential.


    Cooper, K., Kastanis, A., Nezhad, S., & Wilson, B. (2014, August). Sexual and gender minority youth in foster care: Assessing disproportionality and disparities in Los Angeles.

  • The ABCs of Reunification

    The ABCs of Reunification

    Written by Jennifer Lee, Children’s Bureau National Foster Care Specialist

    Remember when understanding something was as simple as ABC? As children, the way we learn about and understand the world starts with grasping the ABCs. What if we took those lessons out of the traditional classroom and applied them to child welfare? Reunification is one of the foundational goals of child welfare practice—to bring families back together. During National Reunification Month this June, let’s look at the importance of reunification through the lens of the ABCs by Acknowledging that all families deserve an opportunity for reunification, Believing that families can achieve this goal, and Committing to a culturally responsive approach to reunification.

    A - Acknowledge: All families deserve an opportunity to reunify, regardless of their past challenges or circumstances. Acknowledging this fundamental principle of equitability is essential in the reunification process. It requires recognizing that every family has inherent worth and dignity, and that reunification is a right that should be afforded to all families. By acknowledging this truth, we affirm our commitment to fairness and justice in the child welfare system.

    B - Believe: Believe that all families have functional strengths for the reunification journey. Hope is the cornerstone of reunification, and believing in the potential of families to overcome obstacles and thrive is paramount. It involves recognizing and amplifying families' voices, strengths, and resources. Belief is contagious. When we nurture a culture of hope and optimism, we help families envision a future where they can reunify and flourish together.

    C - Commit: Commit to a culturally responsive approach to reunification. As child welfare professionals, our commitment goes beyond cultural awareness to celebrating the intersecting identities that shape each family. We recognize that race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression affect an individual’s worldview, experiences, and relationships. By committing to a culturally responsive approach that prioritizes family ties and kin, we acknowledge the systemic inequities and biases that affect underserved communities and work toward dismantling them.

    Think about the opportunities you have to Acknowledge, Believe, and Commit during June and beyond. Grounded in the simplicity of the ABCs is the absolute ability to transform lives and create an environment where every child, youth, and young adult is nurtured and encouraged to thrive within their family and community.

  • Reunification From Foster Care: A Guide for Parents

    Reunification From Foster Care: A Guide for Parents

    For many parents, the process of reuniting with their children who are in foster care can be overwhelming. A recently updated factsheet from Child Welfare Information Gateway provides parents with guidance for the reunification process. Reunification From Foster Care: A Guide for Parents walks parents through the essential steps they will take to navigate the reunification process. This guide is designed to educate and empower parents with the knowledge and support they need for successful family reunification.

    The factsheet highlights the collaborative nature of this journey and introduces the team that will support parents throughout the process, including caseworkers and resource parents. A cooperative relationship between the biological and resource parents can significantly affect the ease of transition for the child returning home.

    It also strongly emphasizes the importance of parents understanding their rights within the foster care system, empowering them to advocate effectively for themselves and their children. Other aspects covered include what to expect while the child is in foster care, what a case plan might include, the critical importance of maintaining quality family time, and the significant role parents play in the reunification process.

    After reunification, families may encounter different challenges. Parents can read about what they might expect after reunification as they welcome their child back into their home and adjust to being together again. The factsheet also connects parents with national parent and family organizations, offering additional support networks and resources.

    Access Reunification From Foster Care: A Guide for Parents on the Information Gateway website.

  • The Importance of Father Engagement in Family-Centered Reunification

    The Importance of Father Engagement in Family-Centered Reunification

    In January 2024, the National Quality Improvement Center on Family-Centered Reunification (QIC-R) presented a webinar, "Building a Culture of Father Engagement to Enrich Family-Centered Reunification," which focused on the importance of including fathers in the child welfare system.

    The webinar reviews the history of father involvement in child welfare, acknowledging how perspectives and approaches have shifted over time. The presenter, Child Welfare Consultant Chauncey Strong, discusses the significant role that fathers play in the family dynamic and the benefits of their engagement in the reunification process. The webinar also explores the challenges and successful strategies associated with effectively engaging fathers. This includes a discussion about cultural and systemic barriers that can complicate father engagement.

    Participants from various QIC-R sites also shared how their agencies are working to better integrate fathers into their programs, aiming to create a more family-centered approach. The webinar emphasizes the necessity of including fathers and the positive outcomes associated with their involvement.

    The recorded webinar and the PowerPoint presentation are available online for those interested in the details of the discussion or in implementing similar strategies in their practices.

  • How Child Welfare Agencies Can Support Reunification

    How Child Welfare Agencies Can Support Reunification

    The American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law hosted a webinar, "What Child Welfare Agencies Can Do to Support Reunification," on resource and foster caregivers' roles in the reunification process. The session focused on how child welfare agencies can facilitate and strengthen the connection between foster caregivers and parents—a relationship that is pivotal in supporting family reunification.

    Featuring examples from the Oregon and Georgia Departments of Human Services, the webinar explored practices agencies can adopt to enhance this partnership, emphasizing the importance of supporting family time and maintaining children's connections with their families. By fostering these relationships, agencies not only support the emotional well-being of children in foster care but also improve the chances for successful family reunification.

    The webinar also explored the parents' perspective, included recommendations for improving practice and the Parents Supporting Parents model, and offered insights and concrete strategies for child welfare professionals and those interested in the dynamics of foster care and family reunification. The recorded session and the accompanying PowerPoint presentation are available, providing resources for implementing these practices effectively within child welfare agencies.

    Recent Issues

  • July/August 2024

    Spotlight on Youth, Authentic Youth Engagement, and Lived Experience

    Spotlight on Youth, Authentic Youth Engagement, and Lived Experience

  • May 2024

    Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

    Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

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.

  • Scoping Review Explores Research on LGBTQ Youth and Caregivers in Child Welfare

    Scoping Review Explores Research on LGBTQ Youth and Caregivers in Child Welfare

    Individuals who identify as members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) community are prevalent in child welfare, with LGBTQ youth being overrepresented in care and an increasing number of LGBTQ people becoming foster parents. A scoping review published in Child and Family Social Work examines research on child welfare practice with LGBTQ youth, caregivers, and foster caregivers.

    The review is anchored in the following research questions:

    • What is known about the practices of child welfare services toward LGBTQ youth and caregivers?
    • What is known about LGBTQ foster parents?

    Forty-five studies published between 2000 and 2021 met the inclusion criteria, with the majority taking place in the United States and after 2014. The included studies are organized into three theme categories: LGBTQ youth in contact with child welfare services, foster parents, and child welfare practice from an LGBTQ perspective.

    While the review shows that published literature about LGBTQ youth and caregivers is increasing, it also shows there are relatively few empirical peer-reviewed studies on the topic. The findings indicate that LGBTQ youth are disproportionately represented in child welfare and have an increased risk for adverse health outcomes compared with non-LGBTQ youth. However, there are limited data on the number of LGBTQ youth in the system and no studies estimate the number of foster parents who identify as LGBTQ.

    The review highlights several areas where more research is needed, including research on the following topics:

    • Caseworker attitudes, knowledge, and experiences working with LGBTQ individuals
    • Non-LGBTQ foster parents of LGBTQ youth
    • Interventions to support LGBTQ youth
    • Transgender and intersex people within child welfare
    • The intersection of being LGBTQ and seeking health care

    More information is available in the review, "What is Known About the LGBTQ Perspective in Child Welfare Services: A Scoping Review."

  • Considerations for Linking Child Welfare and Medicaid Data

    Considerations for Linking Child Welfare and Medicaid Data

    Historically, states have not linked their child welfare and Medicaid data, despite many children involved with child welfare being eligible for Medicaid. A recent project from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation; the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation; and RTI International explores the benefits of connecting this data.

    The Child and Caregiver Outcomes Using Linked Data (CCOULD) project began in October 2019. Its goal was to provide technical assistance to states in linking child welfare case-level data and Medicaid administrative claims of children and their caregivers. A recent research brief provides lessons learned from the project based on the experiences of two states, Kentucky and Florida. Both states created linked datasets covering 2016 through 2021, with Florida's including 80 percent of children who had been in contact with child welfare and Kentucky's including 81 percent.

    The brief highlights lessons learned in four categories:

    • State recruitment and short- and long-term sustainability of the linkage project: Florida and Kentucky joined the project following a robust recruitment effort, which took longer than anticipated, according to the report. In the future, linkage efforts could focus on highlighting the value of linking data to states.
    • Data availability, consistency, and quality: Agencies may not have data dictionaries or user guides for their data and infrastructure. There was also a lack of data on caregivers and title IV-E prevention services.
    • State and federal regulations related to data linkage and sharing: States may benefit from clarifying regulations, improving data sharing, and following federal guidance.
    • Linkage methodology: The CCOULD project used a common data model and was able to link most children and caregivers using Social Security numbers. However, the linkage of parents to children was challenging because of a lack of family identifiers in Medicaid claims.

    To explore the lessons learned in more detail, read the full research brief, Linking Child Welfare and Medicaid Data: Lessons Learned From Two States.

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.


In this section, we present interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials, that can be used in the field or with families.

  • Summer Ideas for Youth in Foster or Adoptive Homes

    Summer Ideas for Youth in Foster or Adoptive Homes

    It's June—the start of summer and, for many school systems, the beginning of summer break. While this is an exciting time for many children, youth, and families, summer can be a daunting season for new foster and adoptive parents who may face a variety of unknowns and challenges.

    A blog post from AdoptUSKids seeks to address some of this uncertainty with information and guidance for foster and adoptive parents on engaging and caring for children and youth during the summer months. The article explains how transitions in schedule can affect children who have experienced trauma and follows with an overview of some general options and considerations related to child care, summer camps, family vacations, and more.

    To learn more, read "Summer Ideas for Kids in Foster Care and Adoptive Homes" on the AdoptUSKids website.

  • Free InReach Platform Matches LGBTQ+ People With Verified Supports

    Free InReach Platform Matches LGBTQ+ People With Verified Supports

    All people deserve access to the resources and support they need to thrive. However, until recently, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or other gender or sexual identity (LGBTQ+) facing persecution or discrimination did not have a safe and comprehensive resource platform in reach.

    Now, InReach—the world's first digital resource platform that matches the LGBTQ+ community with the affirming help it needs—fills this critical information gap. InReach is a free comprehensive one-stop-shop website and mobile app created by and for the diverse LGBTQ+ community. It provides on-demand access to safe and independently verified resources spanning a wide range of service types, including medical care; mental health care; legal help; food, housing, and shelter; education and employment; community support; spiritual support; trans-focused services; transportation; and more.

    To learn more about InReach, including its current and future capabilities, visit the InReach website.

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.