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February 2009Vol. 10, No. 1Spotlight on Partnerships and Collaboration

Learn more about what States and agencies are doing to establish partnerships and collaborations with other agencies, the courts, the education system, and other groups to support better outcomes for children and families.

Issue Spotlight

  • Connecting to Improve Education for Children in Foster Care

    Connecting to Improve Education for Children in Foster Care

    A California collaboration among representatives of the child welfare and public education fields as well as former foster youth, policymakers, legal system representatives, researchers, health-care providers, and advocates has produced a report identifying ways to reverse systemic failings in education that create an achievement gap for foster care students. The report includes recommendations and implementation strategies to connect agencies, groups, or individuals that might not otherwise come together to help the State's 74,000 children and youth in foster care.

    The Stuart Foundation convened the California Education Collaborative for Children in Foster Care (the Collaborative) specifically to identify and address ways that the child welfare, education, and court systems could partner to improve educational outcomes for foster care students. To facilitate their research and planning, members of the Collaborative formed workgroups that focused on three areas of need: school readiness, school success, and data sharing across agencies and systems.

    The resulting report, compiled over several years, draws from a number of products, projects, and events conducted by the Collaborative, including:

    • A review and critique of relevant research literature, including evidence-based school interventions that might reduce educational problems
    • Focus group discussions with educators exploring specific barriers, information gaps, and ways the fields of education and child welfare can work together
    • A survey of teachers regarding their experiences with foster youth in their classrooms
    • Regional meetings with public education and child welfare players at the county level

    The report's recommendations reflect the workgroup structure of the Collaborative.

    • School readiness recommendations focus on such areas as training for parents, professional development, early intervention, and education rights.
    • School success recommendations focus on such areas as school stability, interventions, and supports for students and teachers.
    • Recommendations around data sharing focus on the issues of technologically feasible ways to share information while safeguarding privacy. The report notes that State funding has allowed several counties to establish secure databases that permit authorized agencies to access crucial placement, health, and educational records for children in foster care.

    A final section of the report offers implementation strategies for introducing many of these systemic changes in a time of financial constraints.

    Ready to Succeed: Changing Systems to Give California's Foster Children the Opportunities They Deserve to Be Ready for and Succeed in School is available on The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning website: (1,935 KB)

  • Interagency Collaboration Improves Child Welfare Services

    Interagency Collaboration Improves Child Welfare Services

    A new issue brief describes the benefits of interagency collaboration in the context of a system of care approach designed to deliver better services for children and families. "Interagency Collaboration" is the third report in the series A Closer Look, which summarizes findings from nine grant communities funded through the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care initiative.

    According to the issue brief, child welfare administrators have long recognized the need for a broad, coordinated effort by public and private agencies and organizations to strengthen and support families involved in the child welfare system. The first round of the Child and Family Services Reviews confirmed this need, pointing out service gaps and areas where interagency collaboration could support better outcomes for children and families.

    Based on the experiences of the nine grantee communities engaged in the systems of care initiative, the issue brief identifies several essential elements of interagency collaboration:

    • Governance structures that stress an overall vision, planning, practice, and accountability
    • Management structures that promote collaboration within and between organizations
    • Monitoring and evaluation processes that deliver regular feedback
    • Open and regular communication

    In addition, the brief cites the following challenges in developing effective interagency collaboration: limited funding resources, time constraints, and staff turnover. The report offers examples of effective strategies that communities use to face these challenges (for example, gathering all relevant partner agencies to create a common plan, reducing duplication and gaps in services). Examples from the grantees illustrate how these strategies have been put into action. These solutions have implications for administrators and stakeholders seeking to implement new policies that expand the collaborative relationships developed within their system of care.

    The series is produced by the National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center for Systems of Care. The complete issue brief is available to download for free on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website: (3,024 KB)

    Related Item

    To read about one of the specific systems of care grantees, see "Family Organizations Promote Systems Change in Child Welfare" in this issue of CBX.

  • Sharing Data Between the Court and Child Welfare Systems

    Sharing Data Between the Court and Child Welfare Systems

    Progress toward developing effective data sharing between the courts and child welfare agencies and the benefits of data sharing are explored in a new report released by the New York State Unified Court System, Division of Court Operations. In the report, Building Bridges: The Case for Data Sharing Between the Court and Child Welfare Systems, authors Paul Drezelo and Amelia Lepore discuss the need for interagency collaboration in the development of information systems that can communicate directly with one another. Potential benefits of data sharing include:

    • Systems interoperability (direct electronic communication between agency systems) that supports enhanced efficiency, faster service delivery, improved communication, standardized practice, and improved data validity
    • Increased capacity for evidence-based evaluation and enhanced decision-making
    • Reinforced partnerships between the courts and child welfare agencies

    The report provides examples of specific projects in New York that illustrate these benefits, as well as some of the challenges that agencies and courts have addressed. A New York Court Improvement Project is described that will compile and disseminate county-by-county data indicators to provide benchmarks for child safety, timeliness of permanency, child well-being, and due process.

    Building Bridges: The Case for Data Sharing Between the Court and Child Welfare Systems is available online: (602 KB)

    Related Item

    The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funded the Strengthening Abuse and Neglect Courts Act (SANCA) pilot projects to demonstrate the benefits of enhancing State court systems' capacity to implement automated data collection and case-tracking systems and to use such systems to evaluate court performance. To read about the SANCA projects, go to:

  • Family Organizations Promote Systems Change in Child Welfare

    Family Organizations Promote Systems Change in Child Welfare

    Family organizations are demonstrating that families can be effective partners in child welfare systems change. The Kansas Family Advisory Network (KFAN) is an organization that exemplifies this kind of partnership. Established as part of the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration project for the State of Kansas, KFAN's mission is to impact and influence child welfare policy and practice by creating collaborative relationships in the community.

    KFAN is composed of family partners, family partner groups (organizations in which at least 51 percent of the members are family partners), and community partners and agencies. The goals of KFAN are to establish, engage, educate, support, and sustain family involvement in child welfare and promote collaboration and partnerships among birth parents and other caregivers including, but not limited to, foster resource parents, adoptive parents, relatives, child welfare services, social service practitioners, law enforcement, court services, policymakers, and society at large. This broad collaboration helps service providers view families as partners in the process of child welfare systems change. As Ruth Heitsman, President of KFAN puts it, "This whole view of 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' is a concept that has to be overcome when you're talking about relative care."

    Ms. Heitsman explains that she and Angela Braxton, Vice President of KFAN, knew that it was critical for the family partners to join together throughout the State and become an organization that would be sustainable after the systems of care grant ended. "As long as we kept working in our own little world, our own circle, that would never happen," explained Ms. Heitsman.

    Formerly the Kansas Family Advisory Council, which began in 2005, the current KFAN entity received its State of Kansas Articles of Incorporation in 2007. In November 2008, KFAN obtained 501(c)(3) status, making it the first nonprofit group of its kind in Kansas. This important accomplishment underscores the importance of KFAN's work and the involvement of families in child welfare systems.

    KFAN's many accomplishments in just a short time include:

    • Planning a national Family Summit for the nine systems of care grant sites
    • Creating a Child and Family Services handbook
    • Providing a family voice in the development of two Family Navigator (family-to-family mentoring) pilots in Cherokee and Reno Counties
    • Assisting in a parent leadership conference
    • Developing Partnership and Leadership Strategies (PALS) training to encourage and assist with collaboration between practitioners and family partners

    KFAN's current activities focus on advancing the systems of care principles of family and youth involvement, community-based services, individualized strengths-based care, interagency collaboration, cultural competency, and accountability. Additionally, KFAN is developing and distributing literature, developing and supporting existing and new Family Advisory Councils in Kansas, and serving as family representatives to policy development groups.

    Ms. Heitsman stresses the difference that KFAN is making in the field of family involvement in child welfare. "We have to realize it's not about the past, it's about the future. It's about what we can change to help kids in the future and families in the future, not changing what has already happened."

    For more information, please visit the project website:

    Many thanks to Ruth Heitsman, President of KFAN, and Angela Braxton, Vice President of KFAN, who provided information for this article.

    Related Item

    To read more about the nine systems of care grantees, see "Interagency Collaboration Improves Child Welfare Services" in this issue of CBX.

  • Improving Mental Health Outcomes for Abused and Neglected Infants

    Improving Mental Health Outcomes for Abused and Neglected Infants

    Child welfare specialists recognize that infants and toddlers placed in out-of-home care often have special mental health needs resulting from the trauma of abuse and neglect. A new publication provides guidance for collaboration among the professionals—judges, court personnel, child welfare professionals, and infant mental health specialists—who have responsibility for ensuring the well-being of maltreated children under age 3 and their families.

    In the publication Courts, Child Welfare and Infant Mental Health: Improving Outcomes for Abused/Neglected Infants and Toddlers, authors Betty Tableman and Nichole Paradis draw upon models of court-community partnerships developed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, and ZERO TO THREE to provide guidelines for how judges working with child welfare, community mental health, and other community partners can put in place a "Maltreated Infants Court" to take into account the social and emotional needs of the infant/toddler within the judicial process.

    The model provides particular focus on the specialized role of the infant mental health specialist who has responsibility for assessing the parent and infant/toddler and their interactions. In concert with other involved professionals, the infant mental health specialist makes recommendations to provide a comprehensive intervention (including parenting education) with the infant/toddler and the parent together, where appropriate.

    The publication includes a sample court report, a list of resources, and recommendations for training and supervision for mental health specialists taking on this specialized role.

    Courts, Child Welfare and Infant Mental Health: Improving Outcomes for Abused/Neglected Infants and Toddlers was published by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health. Ordering information is available on the association's website:

  • Partnering to Provide Housing for Children and Youth

    Partnering to Provide Housing for Children and Youth

    Information and resources that support partnerships between child welfare and public housing agencies are the focus of a new website launched by the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW). NCHCW is working to support collaborations at the local, regional, and State levels in order to better assist families when the primary barrier to reunification with their children in foster care is the lack of affordable, safe, decent, and permanent housing. The Center is also working with agencies that serve foster youth to help youth who are aging out of foster care develop plans for achieving housing stability.

    NCHCW supports these partnerships on three levels:

    • Educating policymakers about the need for housing subsidies and services for homeless families and youth
    • Developing relationships between homeless services and child welfare agencies
    • Cross-training frontline workers to work together to prevent homelessness and child maltreatment

    Resources on the site include links to legislation and policy, a model of partnership between child welfare and affordable housing agencies, training materials, and a bibliography of research reports.

    Recent Issues

  • May 2024

    Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

    Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

  • April 2024

    Spotlight on National Child Abuse Prevention Month

    Spotlight on National Child Abuse Prevention Month

News From the Children's Bureau

This month's CBX brings news about a number of Children's Bureau initiatives, including the AdoptUsKids photolisting successes, the release of the Court Performance Toolkit, launch of the Implementation Centers, and many new resources available through the T&TA Network.

  • AdoptUsKids Website Adoptions Exceed 10,000

    AdoptUsKids Website Adoptions Exceed 10,000

    AdoptUsKids began the new year with an exciting announcement: More than 10,000 children in foster care photolisted on the AdoptUsKids website have been placed for adoption. Launched in 2002, the photolisting allows families considering adoption to learn more about specific children in foster care. Since that time, more than 20,000 prospective families from across the country have registered on the website to begin the adoption process, and more than 24,000 children's pictures and mini-biographies have been posted on the website.

    Data on the 10,000-adoptions milestone include promising information about those children who may have faced additional barriers to permanency. For instance, more than 60 percent of the children were at least 10 years old, 47 percent were African American, and 20 percent were siblings adopted together.

    The photolisting website is just part of a comprehensive campaign to publicize the benefits and joys of adoption from foster care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau and the Ad Council introduced a series of public service announcements (PSAs) in 2004 to increase public awareness about children in foster care and their need for loving, permanent homes. The PSA tagline, "You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent," has appeared in numerous print, television, and radio ads, making the point that children need loving families—not perfection. For the past 2 years, the ads have focused on the adoption of teenagers, adding the phrase, "There are thousands of teens in foster care who would love to put up with you."

    The PSAs and photolisting website are all part of the Children's Bureau's mission to raise public awareness about the 496,000 children in foster care, especially the 130,000 awaiting adoption, many of whom are older children and teens. Currently, there are more than 4,000 children's photos and biographies on the AdoptUsKids website.

    For more information:

  • NSCAW Research on Child Welfare Populations

    NSCAW Research on Child Welfare Populations

    The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) released four new research briefs analyzing outcomes for different populations involved with child welfare. The briefs focus on infants, adolescents, and caregivers of young children. Each draws from the longitudinal data collected by NSCAW to study the safety, permanency, well-being, and receipt of services by children, youth, and families who have been investigated for maltreatment by child protective services.

    From Early Involvement With Child Welfare Services to School Entry: Wave 5 Follow-Up of Infants in the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (No. 10) examines outcomes for 962 children ages 5 to 6 who were younger than 1 year when they first came into contact with the child welfare system. The study found that most of the children were in good physical health and demonstrated typical social and cognitive skills. In addition, 77 percent were living at home either with biological parents or kin; however, many of the children's caregivers did not access the services they needed to address issues arising from domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health problems, placing children at greater risk for repeat maltreatment.

    Adolescents Involved With Child Welfare: A Transition to Adulthood (No. 11) focuses on the needs of 620 young adults ages 18 to 21 who were involved in investigations of maltreatment when they were 12 to 15 years old. The study found that these young adults fared similar to their peers in several ways, including social support, living arrangements, contact with biological families, and employment. However, many fared worse in other areas, including poor health and obesity, lower academic achievement, domestic violence, mental health, and poverty. In addition, very few reported having received services. The brief suggests that more support services would help them transition successfully to adulthood.

    Depression Among Caregivers of Young Children Reported for Child Maltreatment (No. 13) explores the rates of depression among 1,244 mothers of children younger than 5 years old who were reported to the child welfare system. At any given time, 37 percent of these caregivers had experienced symptoms of depression in the previous 12 months. In addition, more than 46 percent experienced at least one major depressive episode at some point, a rate that is almost triple the national estimate. The brief considers the child welfare system's role in addressing caregivers' mental health needs to reduce the risk of maltreatment.

    Need for Adoption Among Infants Investigated for Child Maltreatment and Adoption Status 5 to 6 Years Later (No. 14) examines the characteristics of and length of time to adoption for 962 children ages 5 to 6 who were younger than 1 year when they first came into contact with the child welfare system. The study found that 61 percent of eligible infants were adopted. However, many infants in the study experienced multiple placements, with 39 percent still awaiting a permanent placement. The brief also discusses racial/ethnic minorities, children with special needs, developmental problems of adopted children, and the characteristics of birth and adoptive families.

    All four research briefs can be found on the NSCAW website:

  • From the Associate Commissioner's Office

    From the Associate Commissioner's Office

    The change in Administration brings with it leadership changes here at the Children's Bureau. As we await the appointment of the new Associate Commissioner, Joe Bock has been named as the Acting Associate Commissioner. I have been the Deputy Associate Commissioner since 2002 and have been with the Children's Bureau for over 12 years.

    With every Administration and leadership change, the Children's Bureau's mission has never changed. We remain committed to working with States and Tribes to implement and improve services to vulnerable children and families. In my role as Acting Associate Commissioner, the Children's Bureau staff and I will continue to work toward our mission of achieving safety, permanency, and well-being of children through partnerships with States, Tribes, and communities. As in the past, we hope that you find this month’s edition of Children's Bureau Express informative.


    Joe Bock
    Acting Associate Commissioner

  • Updates From the T&TA Network

    Updates From the T&TA Network

    The Children's Bureau T&TA Network members continue to produce exciting resources to help States and Tribes improve outcomes for children and families in their child welfare systems. Some of the latest products are highlighted here:

    • The National Quality Improvement Center (QIC) on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System published its first quarterly newsletter. The newsletter includes information about the work of the QIC and its first four funded pilot projects, which will focus on helping fathers become more responsible and involved with their children.
    • Child Welfare Information Gateway developed the Child Welfare Workload Compendium, an online searchable database of State and local child welfare workload initiatives that provides information and tools for improving workload management. The Compendium was developed in collaboration with the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement, the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services, and the National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology. Public child welfare managers, administrators, policymakers, and others dealing with workload management can search the database by State, category, date, or keyword to find a variety of workload resources, including studies, caseload standards, legislation and policies, and reports.
    • The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement offers teleconferences each month on current child welfare topics. Upcoming teleconferences will focus on practice in rural areas, building systems of care, agency/court collaboration, and more. Many are offered as webinars, and all are free to participants.
    • The National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues has a redesigned website that offers links to consultation, training, and technical assistance on all legal and judicial aspects of the child welfare system.
    • The Collaboration to AdoptUsKids has produced a manual on respite care as part of its Answering the Call publication series. Taking a Break: Creating Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Respite in Your Community outlines steps for developing respite care programs and provides guidelines on funding, forms, checklists, and evaluation. (1.95 MB)
    • The FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention now offers an online learning center with continuing education and professional development opportunities for prevention professionals. The courses are accessible 24 hours a day, and many meet the accreditation standards for various organizations.


  • Parent Education for Migrant Families

    Parent Education for Migrant Families

    Migrant and seasonal agricultural workers and their families often face poverty and acculturation difficulties that can result in negative health, education, and juvenile justice outcomes for their children. In an effort to reduce family conflict and improve parent-child relationships, the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (YVFWC) provides Spanish-language parenting classes to low-income migrant families in Washington State. The classes help parents develop nonpunitive discipline skills, deal with the stressors of acculturation, improve family communication, and understand U.S. child abuse and neglect laws.

    YVFWC uses the "Los Niños Bien Educados" curriculum, a program developed by the Center for the Improvement of Child Caring in southern California. "Los Niños" is not a translation of an existing program, but rather was developed specifically to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking immigrant families in the western United States. The curriculum builds on the cultural strengths and traditions of these families. Three-hour classes are offered twice a week for 6 weeks at a local community center, with 20 to 25 parents enrolled in each session. Two certified instructors teach the curriculum using interactive class discussions and role-play activities; they encourage parents to practice skills at home with their children and report back on their experiences. Instructors also refer parents to community services whenever possible to help families meet their basic needs. The services the program provides and the social support network the classes create among attendees have proven to be beneficial to otherwise isolated rural families.

    Staff identify several strategies that contribute to the program's overall success:

    • Offering snacks and developmentally appropriate child care during class encourages parents' continued attendance.
    • Employing a full-time coordinator increases the recruitment, engagement, and retention of families in the program.
    • Providing committed, well-trained instructors improves outcomes for enrolled families.
    • Creating partnerships with other community service providers contributes to the program's sustainability.

    Recent evaluations suggest the program has been successful in many areas. In a 2-year period, more than 75 percent of migrant parents attended at least 8 of 12 classes. A large majority of parents reported positive outcomes in the following areas: improved family communication, elimination of punitive discipline techniques, improved access to support services, and increased satisfaction with their child's behavior. In addition, more than 65 percent of children whose parents enrolled in the program showed measurable behavioral improvements.

    The program is currently undergoing a retrospective analysis dating back to its creation in 1993. Staff plan to continue improving evaluation efforts with the long-term goal of classifying their curriculum as an evidence-based practice for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

    For more information, contact:
    Lisa Campbell-John
    Community Health Services, Program Operations
    PO Box 190
    518 W. 1st Avenue
    Toppenish, WA 98948

    The Spanish Language Parenting Education Program is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CA1731, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Grants to Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Migrant Programs for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Programs. 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.

    Related Item

    Read reports from other Children's Bureau site visits by going to the Site Visit Report Discretionary Grant webpage on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

  • New! On the Children's Bureau Site

    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:

    Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new!

  • Implementation Centers Offer New Services to States and Tribes

    Implementation Centers Offer New Services to States and Tribes

    The Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) Network is expanding to include a number of new organizations that will provide additional information, training, technical assistance, research, and consultation to support States and Tribes in their efforts to improve their child welfare systems. Five of these new organizations are regional Implementation Centers (ICs) that will facilitate peer-to-peer networking across State and Tribal child welfare systems, host regional forums, and support systems change projects. The goal is to help States and Tribes follow through with long-term systems change that will result in improved outcomes for children and families.

    During this fiscal year, each IC will hold at least one regional forum to let States and Tribes know about the IC resources and upcoming activities, increase knowledge about systems change, and formalize peer-to-peer relationships across geographic areas within the region. Later, each IC will enter into mutually binding agreements with several States and/or Tribes within its area to develop and implement long-term plans for sustainable child welfare systems change. These projects may focus on systems change in areas such as organizational culture, administration, or direct practice with children and families. The projects will be guided by a systems of care framework and principles from the Child and Family Services Reviews. During its 5-year cooperative agreement, each IC will offer intensive technical assistance, also drawing on the resources of the Children's Bureau and its full T&TA Network.

    States and Tribes can request information about upcoming IC activities:

    Future issues of CBX will highlight other new members of the T&TA Network.

  • New Toolkit Measures Court Performance in Child Welfare

    New Toolkit Measures Court Performance in Child Welfare

    The Children's Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) have collaborated to produce the Toolkit for Court Performance Measures in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases to help dependency courts institute a system of performance measurement. The Toolkit provides practical, comprehensive guidance on how to undertake performance measurement to improve child and family outcomes of safety, permanence, and well-being and move toward more efficient and effective dependency court operations. Three leading court reform organizations—the American Bar Association, the National Center for State Courts, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges—provided technical support, and 12 pilot sites in which the Toolkit was tested also provided critical feedback and input. The Toolkit is designed to help courts:

    • Establish their baseline of current practices
    • Diagnose what areas of service delivery they need to improve
    • Make improvements to their operations
    • Track their efforts
    • Identify, document, and replicate positive results

    The Toolkit includes five components:

    • The Key Measures booklet outlines nine measures key to determining court performance in child abuse and neglect cases. The booklet discusses the goal of each measure, data requirements, calculation and interpretation, and important related measures.
    • The Implementation Guide describes how to set up a performance measurement team, assess capacity, prioritize measurement needs, and plan data collection activities.
    • The User's Guide to Nonautomated Data Collection explains how to use specific instruments to measure court performance.
    • The Technical Guide describes all 30 court performance measures for child abuse and neglect cases and explains the goals and purpose of each measure.
    • The Guide to Judicial Workload Assessment is designed to help courts establish their baseline practices; diagnose what they need to improve; and use that information to make improvements, track their efforts, and identify, document, and replicate positive results.

    This publication series may be ordered in its entirety or as individual publications. Visit the OJJDP website to download or order any of the Toolkit components:

Child Welfare Research

CBX reports on two research studies of different child welfare populations: siblings in foster care and former foster youth in community colleges.

  • Community Colleges Reach Out to Foster Youth

    Community Colleges Reach Out to Foster Youth

    Community colleges can provide a wide range of educational opportunities to former foster youth because of their affordability and accessibility. These 2-year colleges can help underprepared students ready themselves for a 4-year institution or provide the technical skills needed for rapid career entry. Even with these advantages, many former foster youth face barriers in attending community college. A recent report from the Research & Planning Group for California Community Colleges explores how community colleges can best provide educational opportunities to current and former foster youth.

    Researchers surveyed former foster youth attending community colleges and conducted a series of interviews and site visits at 12 community colleges throughout California. Results revealed some of the challenges that youth and colleges face:

    • Colleges have scarce services and limited and/or untrained staff to assist former foster youth.
    • Students need help with housing, transportation, and financial resources.
    • Colleges need a way to identify foster youth easily.
    • No college has a system in place to assess the effectiveness of its interventions and monitor outcomes for former foster youth.

    Citing successful approaches to serving current and emancipated foster youth, the report makes recommendations to improve personal and educational outcomes for students. These include:

    • Building a collaboration between public and private sectors to expand opportunities and promote best practices
    • Developing a tracking system to monitor youth outcomes
    • Educating and training staff to increase awareness of available services
    • Building a broad network of support for foster youth within the college
    • Using a team and/or case management approach to tailor service provision to student needs

    The report, Serving Former Foster Youth in California Community Colleges: Successes, Challenges, and Recommendations, was written by Darla M. Cooper, Pamela Mery, and Elisa Rassen and includes a discussion of methodology, a glossary, and survey results. It is available for download on the Research & Planning Group website: (361 KB)

  • Siblings Placed Together Reunify Faster

    Siblings Placed Together Reunify Faster

    While the child welfare field has long recognized that most children in foster care fare better when placed with siblings, a recent study published in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services shows that siblings placed together in foster care actually reunify faster than siblings placed apart. Researchers Vicky N. Albert and William C. King studied 602 children in foster care in Nevada who had at least one sibling in long-term foster care. The study differentiated among the 401 siblings placed completely together, the 99 placed apart, and the 102 placed "partially together" (i.e., some of the siblings in a family were placed together but at least one was placed separately). Researchers also compared relative and nonrelative placements and how these affected reunification patterns.

    The findings confirmed that siblings placed together were more likely to reunify than siblings placed in different foster homes. This trend increased over time, especially after the first year. In addition, results suggest that prior to the eighth month and after the twelfth month in care, siblings placed together with relatives returned home faster than those placed completely apart. The rate of reunification for siblings placed partially together most resembled that of siblings placed completely together.

    Implications for practice, including the need to recruit, train, and reimburse foster families willing to foster sibling groups, are discussed.

    "Survival Analyses of the Dynamics of Sibling Experiences in Foster Care" was published in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, Vol. 89(4), and is available online:

Strategies and Tools for Practice

Read about a unique State program that uses paralegals to help workers, find out about a new application for Family Group Conferencing, and catch up on the latest uses of technology in child welfare.

  • Using Technology to Improve Child Welfare

    Using Technology to Improve Child Welfare

    The technology blitz of the past decade offers many new possibilities to child welfare professionals in a variety of areas, including day-to-day practice with families, tracking and evaluating data, training, and collaboration. A recent issue of the journal Child Maltreatment focuses exclusively on how technology can be used in child maltreatment prevention, intervention, and research. The 11 articles examine technologies from cell phones to the Internet to telemedicine.

    Several articles focus on the use of simple technologies to promote child abuse prevention and help parents refrain from dysfunctional parenting practices:

    • "Cell Phones and the Measurement of Child Neglect: The Validity of the Parent-Child Activities Interview" (Jennifer Burke Lefever et al.)
    • "Expanding the Reach of Preventive Interventions: Development of an Internet-Based Training for Parents of Infants" (Edward G. Feil et al.)
    • "Txt u ltr: Using Cellular Phone Technology to Enhance a Parenting Intervention for Families at Risk of Neglect" (Kathryn M. Bigelow, Judith J. Carta, and Jennifer Burke Lefever)
    • "Parent-Focused Child Maltreatment Prevention: Improving Assessment, Intervention, and Dissemination With Technology" (Shannon Self-Brown and Daniel J. Whitaker)

    Free article abstracts and full-text articles (for purchase) from this special issue of Child Maltreatment, Volume 13(4), are available on the Sage Publications website:

  • Family Group Conferencing With Immigrant Families

    Family Group Conferencing With Immigrant Families

    Family Group Conferencing (FGC) can be an important tool for engaging the extended family members of an immigrant child involved with the child welfare system. In FGC, the caseworker brings together a broad group of family members to create a plan for the child's safety, permanency, and well-being. FGC is based on the principle that a child's extended family and community offer significant resources for the child, and their collaboration with the agency may result in the best outcome for the child. A recent issue brief from the American Humane Association outlines the benefits of FGC in cases in which families straddle international borders.

    In this issue brief, authors Michelle Howard and Lara Bruce note that FGC can be effective in engaging far-flung family members and encouraging permanent connections when certain key components are in place:

    • Collaborative relationships must be established among State, Federal, and community entities, in the United States and abroad. For instance, some border communities in California and Texas have international liaison offices to promote information sharing with Mexico.
    • There must be stakeholder buy-in for the process, including from practitioners, and practitioners may need to examine personal biases regarding the advantages of growing up in the United States versus other countries.
    • Practitioners must plan for communication and language barriers and other cultural competence issues.
    • A variety of funding options should be explored, including international organizations and consulates.

    The issue brief includes a case study of a 15-year-old boy who was transported across the Mexican border into the United States at age 10 and separated from his Mexican family for 5 years. An FGC coordinator was able to work with health and human services agencies, the Immigration and Naturalization Services, and California's International Liaison Office to locate the family and arrange FGC to help formulate the best plan for the youth.

    The issue brief, Using Family Group Conferencing to Assist Immigrant Children and Families in the Child Welfare System, is available online: (199 KB)

    Also, the American Humane Association has a webpage of resources on child welfare and immigration:


  • Paralegals Promote Permanency

    Paralegals Promote Permanency

    Pennsylvania has initiated a unique program that frees up time for both caseworkers and attorneys in child welfare agencies, focuses new resources on finding relatives for children in foster care, and, most importantly, expedites permanency for many children. How do they do it? The State's Legal Services Initiative (LSI) Program allows counties to place a trained paralegal within their child welfare agency to support caseworkers and attorneys in addressing legal barriers to permanency.

    Pennsylvania's Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN), through the prime contractors Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries and Family Design Resources, are responsible for hiring and training the paralegals, but counties play a critical role in the final selection of a paralegal who will best fit their team. Once in place, paralegals handle between 50 and 100 cases at a time, taking their direction from their LSI coordinator, county solicitor, and agency liaison.

    One of the great benefits of this system is the variety of tasks that paralegals can perform. While they can't give legal advice or perform traditional casework duties, they can take care of much of the administrative paperwork that accompanies child welfare cases. For instance, paralegals can:

    • Prepare termination of parental rights (TPR) cases by handling petitions, hearing notices, scheduling, and witness preparation and assisting the attorney in court
    • Conduct diligent searches for missing relatives of children in foster care, using training and materials developed through an LSI committee
    • Help caseworkers implement concurrent planning (e.g., while a caseworker pursues reunification, a paralegal can work on an alternative goal)
    • Track cases through an electronic case management system available to LSI paralegals and their supervisors (especially useful for TPR cases)
    • Promote collaboration among counties through a statewide network of paralegals doing similar work

    Since the launch of the program in 2002, counties with LSI paralegals in their child welfare division have seen significant improvements in the time required to achieve permanency for children. Recent statistics from the project show that the time between a child's goal change and TPR has been reduced an average of 35 percent, and delays between TPR and finalization have been reduced an average of 30 percent. Attorneys feel better prepared for court because of the paralegals' work, and caseworkers have more time to spend with their clients because they are freed from a great deal of paperwork.

    LSI paralegals are currently placed in 15 counties throughout Pennsylvania, and 4 more counties may join the program before the end of the fiscal year (FY). Natalie Witt-Washine, an attorney and director of the program, notes that the success of the current program has led to a potential greater expansion through a State contract for FY 2009-2010.

    One of the resources that has grown out of the program is the LSI Diligent Search Packet, designed to help paralegals, agency workers, and others find missing relatives for children in foster care. As part of a recent redesign, the new 2008 Diligent Search Packet now includes sections on international searches and the Indian Child Welfare Act, as well as enhanced information about online searching and resources. The packet can be downloaded for free: (882 KB)

    For more information on Pennsylvania's paralegal program for child welfare agencies, visit the website at or contact Natalie Witt-Washine at


  • Website Update for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Website Update for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome

    The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) recently updated its website to provide more comprehensive information on SBS for parents and professionals. SBS is the leading cause of death from abusive head trauma. Common triggers are frustration or stress when a child is crying, and perpetrators in these cases are most often parents or caregivers.

    The National Center on SBS provides resources to professionals who work with SBS cases and offers training and prevention programs for parents. The Center's Period of PURPLE Crying® program is the first evidence-based SBS prevention program. This online training is designed to educate parents about the crying patterns that infants experience and the need to use coping techniques to avoid frustration. The program also educates parents about the dangers and sometimes fatal consequences of shaking a child.

    To learn more about the National Shaken Baby Syndrome Center, visit the updated website:

  • Guidance on Child Visitation With Caseworkers and Families

    Guidance on Child Visitation With Caseworkers and Families

    Child Visits With Caseworkers

    Findings from the first round of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) showing a relationship between positive outcomes for children in foster care and regular visits from a caseworker have prompted States to improve practice in the area of caseworker visits. A new publication, Visiting Children in Foster Care: Messages From the Practice Field, provides detailed guidance on how to conduct these visits.

    Based on a review of the literature, protocols from other States, and input from practitioners in the field, the article provides age-appropriate guidelines for practice, including:

    • Legislative requirements
    • Arranging visits and establishing relationships
    • Best practices in engagement
    • Preparing for reunification
    • Visiting adolescents with a history of disruptive placements
    • Preparing older youth for independence
    • Documenting visits

    The article was published in the Summer 2008 issue of Practice Notes, a newsletter published by the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. It can be found on the university website: (441 KB)

    Child Visits With Family Members

    The Court Improvement Training Academy (CITA) in Washington State has developed some resources related to providing visitation for children with their families while in out-of-home care. In a video presentation, Best Practices in Dependency: Planned, Purposeful, and Progressive Visitation, Rose Wentz, a consultant for the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning, discusses how to have safe and successful visits. She covers the Federal legal definition of visits, best practice standards, the connections a child needs while in care, and a four-step decision-making process for developing a visitation plan to meet a child's needs and enable parents to improve parenting skills.

    In the publication An Overview of Washington State Child Welfare Law Relating to Visitation, CITA Director Tim Jaasko-Fisher provides an overview of case and statutory law in Washington State related to visitation in juvenile dependency cases. This resource can be used to locate legal authority related to various issues that may arise when considering visitation plans.

    CITA is a project of the University of Washington School of Law. It is funded by the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts with money provided through a Federal Court Improvement Program training grant. The visitation resources can be found on the CITA website:

  • Grants for Mentoring Programs

    Grants for Mentoring Programs

    The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has announced funding opportunities for initiatives that will assist in the development and maturity of community programs offering mentoring services to high-risk populations of youth who are underserved due to location, shortage of mentors, physical or mental challenges, or other situations. National organizations, including community- or faith-based organizations, are eligible. The deadline for application is February 25. To find out more about eligibility requirements and to access the application, visit the OJJDP site:

  • New Resources on Citizens Review Panels Website

    New Resources on Citizens Review Panels Website

    The University of Kentucky (UK) College of Social Work maintains the National Citizens Review Panels website, which contains resources from each State's Citizens Review Panel (CRP), including annual reports, training materials, and other useful information. CRPs consist of citizen volunteers who conduct federally mandated evaluations of each State's child protective services agency.

    New to the website is the National Citizens Review Panel Directory, which provides a brief description of and contact information for each State's CRP. The presentation, Overview of Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act Citizen Review Panels, also is available for users to download. Finally, visitors to the website may view the results from two UK College of Social Work surveys of CRP members and program coordinators.

    For more information, visit the National Citizens Review Panels website:

  • Sharing Family Strengths Activity Booklet

    Sharing Family Strengths Activity Booklet

    The Sharing Family Strengths activity booklet is now available from Family & Children's Service (FCS), a nonprofit organization in Minnesota that provides skills training in parenting, anger management, and conflict resolution. Based on FCS's Minnesota Family Strength Project, this booklet was created as a learning tool for families.

    After interviewing more than 2,000 families, it was determined that strong families possess the following: communication, health, time together, spirituality, support, respect, unity, cultural traditions, and an extended sense of family. This booklet explores each family strength and provides activities such as a word search and creating a family tree and family crest. Families also can use the booklet to help them identify their own strengths.

    For more information on FCS or to download or order a free copy of the Sharing Family Strengths activity booklet, visit:{D87F43FF-2EBD-4F73-A798-6E8729E5010A}

  • Opportunities for Former Foster Youth

    Opportunities for Former Foster Youth

    Older foster youth and former youth may be eligible for the following two opportunities:


    The Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) is now accepting applications for scholarships for the 2009-2010 academic year. Scholarships are available to eligible former foster youth who are pursuing postsecondary education. To qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:

    • Have been in foster care for one consecutive year at the time of their 18th birthday or high school graduation OR have been adopted or taken into legal guardianship out of foster care after their 16th birthday OR have lost both parents to death before age 18 and not been subsequently adopted
    • Be accepted into or enrolled in an accredited postsecondary program (university, college, community college, or vocational/technical institute)
    • Be under age 25 on March 31, 2009

    For more information, visit the OFA website:

    Summer Internships

    The FosterClub is recruiting current and former foster youth (ages 18 to 24) for its summer leadership and internship program, FosterClub All Stars. Youth will be selected to spend the summer traveling, making presentations, and helping other children and youth in foster care. Applications are due March 1, 2009.

    For more information, visit the FosterClub 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.

  • Families in Society Offers CE Courses

    Families in Society Offers CE Courses is an online continuing education (CE) program provided by Families in Society and its publisher, the Alliance for Children and Families. The website offers 144 courses within 21 categories relating to child welfare; family preservation; casework practice with child, teenage, or older adult clients; adoption and foster care; and more. Courses are accredited with many national and State organizations. Titles include:

    • Developing Spiritual Competency With Native Americans
    • Older Adults as Foster Parents for Children
    • Fostering Creativity in Clinical Social Work Practice

    Social workers, professional therapists, counselors, and other health professionals can earn CE credits at this site. Exams and scoring are provided online. Visit the CE4Alliance website for more information and to register for courses:

  • Conferences


    Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through May 2009 include:

    March 2009

    April 2009

    May 2009

    • NFPA 39th Annual Education Conference
      Focus on the Future . . . Love a Child

      National Foster Parent Association
      May 4–8, Reno, NV

    • Eighth Annual National Citizen Review Panel Conference
      May 20–22, Jackson Hole, WY

    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: