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News From the Children's Bureau

  • National Web-Based Broadcasts Address CFSR Issues

    National Web-Based Broadcasts Address CFSR Issues

    An ongoing series of Web-based broadcasts by the National Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning (NRCFCPP) addresses issues raised by the Federal Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs). The next broadcast will take place January 29, on the topic of using the Breakthrough Series Collaborative as a methodology for providing technical assistance to States in response to their CFSRs. The first program in this series, "Concurrent Planning: Strategies for Implementation" is currently archived on the NRCFCPP website (, and a second archived Web cast, "Achieving Permanence for Children: Pioneering Possibilities for Placement Stability" will be available within the next few weeks.

  • National Court Improvement Catalog

    National Court Improvement Catalog

    The new National Court Improvement Catalog (, developed by the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues, is a resource for State court systems working to improve child abuse and neglect litigation. Organized by State and by topic, the catalog includes materials--such as judicial forms, reports, studies, videotapes, program evaluations, and project summaries--submitted by State Court Improvement Projects across the country.

  • President Signs Adoption Promotion Act of 2003

    President Signs Adoption Promotion Act of 2003

    On Tuesday, December 2, 2003, the President signed into law the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003 (H.R. 3182). The legislation enacts the President's proposal to extend the Adoption Incentive Program another 5 years and focus greater attention on finding adoptive families for older children in foster care.

    "[This] act of Congress strongly affirms our national commitment to adoption and will encourage adoption in every part of our land," the President remarked at the signing.

    For fiscal year 2004, the bill authorizes $43 million in performance-based incentives to States that are successful in increasing the number of children adopted from foster care. The bonus program, first created as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, has contributed to the substantial increase in adoptions in recent years--from 31,000 in fiscal year 1997 to approximately 51,000 in fiscal year 2002.

    Despite recent progress, many children are still in need of adoptive families. At the end of fiscal year 2002, 532,698 children remained in foster care, and 116,653 of the children in foster care had adoption as their permanent placement goal. About half of the children waiting to be adopted are over the age of 9. Today, national data show that a child over the age of 9 is more likely to remain in foster care through his or her 18th birthday than to find an adoptive home.

    The Adoption Promotion Act of 2003 will help change that statistic by encouraging States to focus greater effort on finding adoptive families for children ages 9 and older. The Adoption Incentive Program will now include a targeted bonus for States successful in increasing the number of older children adopted from foster care, as well as continue to recognize overall progress in increasing adoptions from foster care.

    Related Items

    The President's remarks at the signing of H.R. 3182 can be viewed on the White House website at

    For complete text of the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003, go to getdoc.cgi?dbname=108_cong_bills&docid=f:h3182enr.txt.pdf.

    A statement by Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), on Senate passage of the Adoption Promotion Act can be found on the HHS website at

    For more information about H.R. 3182, see "New Bill Aims to Increase Adoptions of Older Children in Foster Care" in the October 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

  • Culturally Competent Practice With Urban Indian Children and Families

    Culturally Competent Practice With Urban Indian Children and Families

    Note: The development of this training curriculum was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant # 90CT0057. This is the first in a new series of articles highlighting successful Children's Bureau Discretionary Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.

    A few years ago, a survey of Illinois child welfare workers revealed most either hadn't heard of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) or didn't know what it was, despite a significant Native American population in that State (73,000 people claimed some degree of Native Ancestry in the 2000 census). Since 1999 the Loyola University School of Social Work has collaborated with the Native American Foster Parents Association and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to address this problem. Together, they created a comprehensive training curriculum to prepare child welfare professionals for culturally responsive practice that is in compliance with ICWA.

    The curriculum was developed through an extensive needs assessment process that included interviews, focus groups, a literature review, and extensive input from community leaders and national experts. The final curriculum consists of four interrelated modules:

    • Review of Native American history
    • Overview of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978
    • Overview of Native American cultural values and practices
    • Practice competencies for culturally responsive child welfare work

    More than 600 child welfare professionals and social work students have received the training to date. Evaluations of knowledge gained and participant responses to the trainings have been overwhelmingly positive.

    One key to the project's success is the high level of Native American community involvement at all stages, from planning to implementation. Each training is presented by a team that includes a Native American trainer and a seasoned professional DCFS trainer. Trainees find this approach helps make the Illinois Native American population more "real" for them. Other keys to the project's success are the strong commitment to collaboration among key players and the high quality of the training materials themselves. The corresponding training video, "The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978: An Act of Conscience," received the 2003 Indian Summer Festival Film and Educational Award of Distinction Video Image Award and a Bronze Telly Award.

    For more information about the project or how to obtain a copy of the curriculum, contact:

    Maria Vidal de Haymes, Ph.D.
    Loyola University Chicago, School of Social Work
    820 N. Michigan
    Chicago, IL 60611
    (312) 915-7020

  • HHS Honors 30 Groups, Individuals for Adoption Excellence

    HHS Honors 30 Groups, Individuals for Adoption Excellence

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced 30 Adoption Excellence Award winners in early November. Given annually since 1997, the awards honor States, local agencies, private organizations, courts, businesses, individuals, and families for their accomplishments and efforts to increase the adoptions of foster children.

    "The Adoption Excellence awards are an important way to recognize outstanding achievement in providing stable, loving homes for children in foster care," said Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary for Children and Families. "In this season of giving thanks, we are proud to demonstrate our sincere appreciation for the promise of a better life these honorees have given these children. It is a privilege to salute them."

    The award winners were chosen by a committee representing nonprofit adoption agencies, child welfare and adoption advocates, adoptive parents, foundations, the business community, and State and Federal offices.

    Winners were recognized in the following categories:

    • Increased adoptions
    • Increased permanency for children with special needs
    • Support for adoptive families
    • Public awareness
    • Individual and/or family contributions
    • Philanthropy
    • Judicial or child welfare system improvement

    The full press release with information about each awardee can be found on the HHS website at

  • Independent Living Conference

    Independent Living Conference

    Registration information will be available in early January for the 2004 Pathways to Adulthood National Independent Living/Transitional Living Conference, scheduled to take place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 13-15, 2004. The annual conference, sponsored by the Children's Bureau and the Family and Youth Services Bureau, is coordinated by the National Resource Center for Youth Development (NRCYD). For more information, visit the NRCYD website at

Child Welfare Research

  • Positive Father-Child Involvement Found Among Early Head Start Families

    Positive Father-Child Involvement Found Among Early Head Start Families

    A study of fathers of newborns involved in the Early Head Start program found fathers were involved with their children in multiple positive ways, despite difficulties that included parenting stress, financial problems, and symptoms of depression. Conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., in conjunction with the National Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project, this study focused on the involvement of 108 fathers during the first 14 months of their children's lives.

    The study found:

    • Fathers often participated in prenatal activities with the mother, and were usually present at the birth or visited the child in the hospital shortly thereafter.
    • Fathers often participated in caregiving activities such as diapering, as well as play activities.
    • Participation in prenatal activities and presence at the child's birth were positively associated with participation in father-child activities during the course of this study.
    • The fathers' positive experiences with their own fathers were related to more frequent father-child activities.

    The study also found more than one-half of the fathers reported high levels of parenting distress; moreover, parent-child dysfunctional interaction scores increased over time. In addition, while the proportion of fathers who reported providing frequent caregiving increased over time, the proportion of mothers who reported that fathers provided frequent caregiving decreased. Reasons for these discrepancies are unclear.

    Although these findings are not generalizable to all low-income families, the results have implications for Early Head Start and similar programs. For example, the researchers suggest fathers should be encouraged to become involved in their children's lives even before birth, and mothers should be encouraged to support fathers in their parenting roles.

    Additional data were collected when the children were 24 and 36 months of age. Future analysis of these data may provide greater insight into the impact of fathers on their children's development. A copy of this report can be obtained on the Mathematica website at

    Related Items

    The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently released a report indicating programs designed to increase child support payment and parenting involvement by non-custodial fathers are often successful in their goals. A copy of the report can be obtained on the ACF website at responsible_fatherhood_programs.pdf.

    For additional information about the role of fathers, see the following articles in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

    • "New Training Curriculum Helps Involve Fathers in Their Children's Lives" (October 2003)
    • "Literature Review Explores Non-Custodial Fathers' Involvement in Child Welfare" (April 2003)
  • Open Adoption Increasingly Common Among Private U.S. Adoption Agencies

    Open Adoption Increasingly Common Among Private U.S. Adoption Agencies

    Private U.S. adoption agencies steadily increased their provision of fully disclosed (open) adoptions as standard agency practice between 1987 and 1999, according to a recent article in Adoption Quarterly (Volume 6, Number 3). Confidential adoptions decreased in frequency during the same period. Mediated adoptions (in which non-identifying information is shared between the adoptive and birth parents using the agency as an intermediary) remained the predominant arrangement among the agencies surveyed.

    The article, "The Impact of Openness on Adoption Agency Practices: A Longitudinal Perspective," presents results of a longitudinal study based on interviews with staff of 37 agencies in 16 States. Staff were interviewed at three points in time (1987-89, 1993, and 1999) about their current practices, attitudes about openness in adoption, and any changes that may have taken place since the previous interview. Due to agency closings and staff availability, staff at only 24 of the agencies were interviewed at all three points in time.

    Changes in the adoption options offered by surveyed agencies were driven primarily by the demands of birth mothers for greater openness, as well as competition from private or independent adoptions. By final data collection in 1999, however, most agencies in this sample had changed their perspective from viewing the birth mother as the primary client to viewing the adopted child as their primary client.

    Implications for agency practice discussed in the article include:

    • Contrary to what was once thought, openness has not decreased the need for agency services overall. It has increased the need for some services in particular (e.g., education and mediation).
    • Agencies must adequately prepare adoptive and birth parents for openness. Staff also should be prepared to be involved in adoption as a lifelong process.
    • Agencies will need to be mindful of and plan for changes in staffing, workload, and resource management that accompany the provision of more openness-related services.
    • Many agencies have become increasingly aware of the need to involve birth fathers in open adoption arrangements, which may require agencies to facilitate different openness arrangements for each birth parent.

    The article may be retrieved online at

    Related Items

    For more about open adoption, see the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse publications, "Openness in Adoption: A Bulletin for Professionals" ( and "Cooperative Adoptions: Contact Between Adoptive and Birth Families After Finalization" ( Also see "New Findings From Longitudinal Study Show Adoption Openness Results in Greater Birth Mother Satisfaction" in the February 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

  • Time Spent in Home Visits Related to Personality Traits of Mothers and Staff

    Time Spent in Home Visits Related to Personality Traits of Mothers and Staff

    Research indicates home visiting relates to better outcomes for families (see Related Items), but few programs actually provide the prescribed amount of home visiting time. Until now, reasons for the discrepancy between prescribed and actual home visits have been unclear. Now a recent study has found personality traits of both mothers and home visitors may impact the amount of time spent in home visits. These findings may have implications for hiring and training of home visiting staff.

    The study of a home visiting program for at-risk families involved in Early Head Start concluded "maternal negative emotionality" (being prone to such traits as anxiety, anger, and pessimism) was related to higher total home visit minutes per month. Conversely, "maternal positive emotionality" was related to lower total home visit minutes per month. Among home visitors, negative emotionality was related to lower total home visit minutes per month.

    The authors offered several potential explanations for these findings:

    • Mothers with negative emotionality may be perceived by home visitors as having greater needs, and therefore as requiring more home visiting time.
    • Mothers with positive emotionality may be perceived by home visitors as having fewer needs, and therefore as requiring less home visiting time.
    • Home visitors with negative emotionality (i.e., individuals prone to anxiety and pessimism) may have difficulty coping with the difficult life circumstances of program participants and may therefore interact with program participants less.

    Both the mother's and home visitor's negative emotionality were related to the mother's positive perception of her relationship with the home visitor. As mentioned earlier, the mother's negative emotionality may result in more home visiting time, which may in turn have a positive impact on the mother's perception of her relationship with the home visitor. Mothers may interpret a home visitor's negative emotionality as an expression of empathy, which again may positively impact her perception of their relationship. Relationship quality was not found to be related to home visit time.

    The study can be found in Volume 31, Issue 6 of the Journal of Community Psychology. It can be accessed online from Wiley Periodicals at

    Related Items

    The CDC Task Force on Community Preventive Services released a report in October recommending that home visits be considered for families at risk (including families with low birth-weight infants or single, young, or low-income mothers). The recommendation was based on a finding that home visits by trained personnel may reduce the incidence of child maltreatment by as much as 40 percent. More information on this report can be obtained on the CDC website at

    For additional information about home visiting programs, see "Home Visiting Programs Help Reduce Child Maltreatment" in the April 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

Strategies and Tools for Practice

  • Keys to Success for State Program Improvement Plans

    Keys to Success for State Program Improvement Plans

    For the past two years, State child welfare agencies have been engaged with the Children's Bureau in implementing the Federal Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs), a new initiative to help States assess child welfare administration, practice, and results for children and families. This approach begins with a statewide assessment, followed by an intensive onsite review. Many States are now engaged in the next stage of this process, the development and implementation of a program improvement plan (PIP) based on the review findings.

    A new report from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), Improving the Performance and Outcomes of Child Welfare through State Program Improvement Plans, explores some of the most important themes emerging in State PIPs and takes a close look at PIPs from five States--Alabama, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Vermont.

    The paper identifies the following key features of effective PIPs:

    • Making priorities. A strategic, targeted approach to program improvement is more effective than an all-encompassing checklist.
    • Communication. Concerted, constant, and careful communication within child welfare agencies and extending outside the agencies will ensure the plan is more than an exercise in paper and process.
    • Statewide scope of reform. For purposes of political support from State legislatures and governors, and for true equity for children, no part of the State should be left behind in the move to improve outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system.
    • Stakeholder commitment and cross-system collaboration. PIPs can better ensure lasting improvement through involvement of other agencies and citizens of communities that child welfare agencies serve.
    • Innovation. PIPs should open doorways to carefully crafted experiments that push beyond the traditional boundaries of child welfare so that States' methods of responding to families reported for child maltreatment and providing care for children in need of protection will produce the intended results.
    • Self-direction. The States most likely to achieve their PIP aims are those that embrace program improvement as an agency-wide cause, independent of outside requirements.
    • Leadership. Development and implementation of PIPs is best achieved by those who are enthusiastic, committed, and thoughtful. A knowledge of child welfare policy and practice, continuity, and longevity also contribute to effective PIP leadership.

    Improving the Performance and Outcomes of Child Welfare through State Program Improvement Plans is available on the CSSP website at

    Related Items

    For more about the CFSR/PIP process, see "ACYF Commissioner Speaks on CFSR Challenges, Encourages States' Plans for Improvement" in the December 2002/January 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

    Additional background information about the CFSR process and individual States' results can be found on the Children's Bureau website at

  • Strategies for Funding Comprehensive Mental Health Services for Children

    Strategies for Funding Comprehensive Mental Health Services for Children

    A recent report by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law offers practitioners, attorneys, and advocates suggestions for using Medicaid and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to obtain services and supports for children with emotional and behavioral disorders. Teaming Up explains the benefits and limitations of each program and provides real-life examples of attempts (both successful and unsuccessful) by families and advocates to use these programs to get children the services they need.

    IDEA entitles children with disabilities to a free appropriate public education, emphasizing special education and related services designed to meet children's unique needs. The Medicaid program (Title XIX of the Social Security Act) provides public health insurance to indigent families and, at each State's option, to "medically needy" individuals who meet less stringent income criteria.

    Some of the topics covered in the report include:

    • Schools as an ideal venue to identify emotional or behavioral disorders and intervene with mental health services.
    • Boundaries of IDEA and how to extend them, both systemically and individually.
    • How to decide what type of evaluator is the best choice to assess a child's needs.

    Teaming Up is available on the Bazelon Center's website at or by calling (202) 467-5730.

    Related Item

    A report by the General Accounting Office estimates in fiscal year 2001 parents placed more than 12,700 children in child welfare or juvenile justice systems so they could receive mental health services. Agencies say reducing costs, improving access, and expanding the range of mental health services for teens could help reduce the need for some child welfare or juvenile justice placements. Several Factors Influence the Placement of Children Solely to Obtain Mental Health Services (report number GAO-03-865T) can be found on the GAO website at


  • Elements of Effective Solutions

    Elements of Effective Solutions

    Answers to America's most pressing problems crop up in communities all across the country. The challenge is to capture these solutions and share them. A new publication from the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, What Makes a Solution? Lessons and Findings from Solutions for America, identifies common features of effective community-based programs addressing issues in five policy areas, including children, youth, and families. The report highlights research findings from 19 sites in major cities, smaller urban areas, and rural communities.

    The report finds successful solutions to any community problem are characterized by one or more of the following features:

    • Making connections. Solutions for America are, above all, about making connections: between different citizens, between individuals and groups, between public and private community stakeholders, between resources and needs.
    • Changing minds. Successful solutions may involve reorienting how community stakeholders think about a problem, changing the minds of clients by giving them new skills or new information, or transforming people's attitudes toward themselves, toward their fellow citizens, and toward their communities.
    • Thinking small. The programs featured in the report solve problems block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, family by family. They also focus on prevention, emphasizing efficiency and leverage, so small solutions can help solve large problems.
    • Doing democracy. The solutions explored in the report emphasize inclusion, deliberation, and participatory decision making by diverse groups of elites as well as by everyday citizens.

    To download a copy of the report, go to the Pew Partnership website at For a print copy, email

  • Children, Families, and Foster Care

    Children, Families, and Foster Care

    The Winter 2004 issue of the Future of Children Journal explores issues surrounding the foster care system. The issue is due to be released in January.

    Features include:

    • Safety and Stability for Foster Children: A Developmental Perspective (Brenda Jones Harden, Ph.D.)
    • Safety and Stability for Foster Children: The Policy Context (MaryLee Allen, M.S.W. and Mary Bissell, J.D.)
    • Meeting the Challenges of Contemporary Foster Care (Sandra Stukes Chipungu, Ph.D. and Tricia Goodley, Ph.D.)
    • Family Reunification from Foster Care (Fred Wulczyn, Ph.D.)
    • When Children Cannot Return Home: Adoption and Guardianship (Mark Testa, Ph.D.)
    • The Evolution of Kinship Care Policy and Practice (Rob Geen, M.A.)
    • Providing Better Opportunities For Older Children in the Child Welfare System (Ruth Massinga, M.S. and Peter J. Pecora, Ph.D.)

    Published twice per year, the journal offers comprehensive, cross-disciplinary articles focusing on issues related to children. For more information, visit the Future of Children website at

  • National Parent Leadership Month Toolkit

    National Parent Leadership Month Toolkit

    Parents Anonymous® Inc. will launch the first ever National Parent Leadership Month in February 2004. This initiative will include a series of National, State, and local activities to recognize, honor, and celebrate parents for their leadership roles in their homes and communities. To help partners organize activities and outreach opportunities, Parents Anonymous® Inc. has developed an extensive online toolkit.

    The toolkit, designed for use by both staff and parent leaders, contains resources to assist organizations in educating neighbors, colleagues, the media, and public officials about National Parent Leadership Month. Contents include:

    • An overview of parent leadership
    • Key campaign messages for National Parent Leadership Month
    • Tips for identifying potential partners
    • Suggestions for community activities
    • Guidelines for selecting and preparing parent leaders to be spokespersons
    • Tips and tools for requesting proclamations
    • Tips and tools for working with the media
    • Sample newsletter articles and Web copy

    The purpose of National Parent Leadership Month is to raise public awareness about the important roles parents play in shaping the lives of children and families; expand opportunities for parent leaders to participate in meaningful parent leadership activities; recognize individual parent leaders whose contributions make a positive difference to their families and communities; build successful partnerships between parent leaders and professionals to strengthen and support families and communities; and highlight how parent leadership is a vital child abuse prevention strategy.

    Copies of the toolkit can be accessed on the Parents Anonymous® Inc. website at If you are planning to celebrate National Parent Leadership Month or if you have any questions, please contact Meryl Levine, M.S.S.A., at (909) 621-6184, Ext. 220, or by email at

    Related Item

    For more about parent leadership, see "Developing a Parent Leadership Team as an Innovative Parent Leadership Strategy" in the August/September 2002 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

  • Sustainability Planning Workbook

    Sustainability Planning Workbook

    The Finance Project ( created the Sustainability Planning Workbook to help program developers and community leaders develop a comprehensive plan to sustain a wide range of promising community-based initiatives.

    The workbook helps community leaders:

    • Structure an effective planning process.
    • Consider a wide range of fiscal and nonfiscal resources, identify their initiative's strengths and weaknesses, and establish benchmarks.
    • Develop a vision and measure progress toward that vision.
    • Create a strategic financing plan.
    • Build organizational capacity and community support.
    • Develop and write a sustainability plan, and use the plan to generate support, assist in fundraising efforts, and guide future decision-making.

    The workbook comes with numerous tools and worksheets to assist users through the planning process. The Sustainability Planning Workbook is available for $125 by contacting the Finance Project at (202) 587-1000 or

    Related Item

    For more about the Finance Project, see "New Publications on Funding and Sustainable Strategies for Child and Family Initiatives" in the October 2002 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

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.

  • Conferences


    Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through April 2004 include:

    January 2004

    • 18th Annual San Diego Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment (Chadwick Center for Children and Families; January 26 through 30, San Diego, CA)

    February 2004

    • National Network for Youth Symposium 2004 (February 22 through 25, Washington, DC)
    • "Children 2004: Vision, Action, Results" (Child Welfare League of America; February 23 through 25, Washington, DC)
    • 2004 Black Administrators in Child Welfare Annual Conference "Rebuilding the Village" (February 29 through March 2, Arlington, VA)
    • "A System of Care for Children's Mental Health: Expanding the Research Base" (Research and Training Center for Children's Mental Health; February 29 through March 3, Tampa, FL)

    March 2004

    • 20th National Symposium on Child Abuse (National Children's Advocacy Center; March 16 through 19, Huntsville, AL)

    April 2004

    • 22nd Annual Conference "Putting Our Minds Together to Leave No Indian Child Behind" (National Indian Child Welfare Association; April 4 through 7, Denver, CO) 
    • 2004 Pathways to Adulthood National Independent Living/Transitional Living Conference (Children's Bureau and Family and Youth Services Bureau; April 13 through 15, Washington, DC)
    • Putting it Together Seminar (Independent Living Resources, Inc.; April 20 through 24, Raleigh Durham, NC)
    • 7th National Child Welfare Data Conference "Making IT Work: Systems, Data, Policy and Practice" (National Resource Center for Information Technology in Child Welfare; April 21 through 23, Arlington, VA)

    Further details about national and regional adoption and child welfare conferences can be found in the Conference Calendar on Child Welfare Information Gateway: