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November 2017Vol. 18, No. 8Spotlight on National Adoption Month

November's CBX highlights the National Adoption Month 2017 initiative, as well as other resources for professionals working to help children and youth find forever homes.

Young parents holding a baby

 

 

Issue Spotlight

  • Subsidies for Private Agencies Increase Adoption Rates For Older, Special Needs Children

    Subsidies for Private Agencies Increase Adoption Rates For Older, Special Needs Children

    According to a recent study, subsidies should be created to accelerate the adoption of older and special needs children from foster care and enable private contracting of this work for best results. The study analyzed the impact of public and private interventions in adoption services, as well as government adoption subsidies in all 50 states between 1996 and 2010, and considered variables such as attributes of the adopted child, adoptive parents, the state, and the adoption process. As described in the article "Privatization and Subsidization of Adoption Services From Foster Care: Empirical Evidence," the results led the authors to conclude that adoptions conducted through a private agency for young and healthy children were not as efficient as those conducted through a public agency. However, when cases involved older children and those with special needs, privatization resulted in improved and accelerated services. The study also found subsidization to be particularly successful for older children and children with special needs, while it was not a factor in the adoption of healthy babies.

    The authors suggest limiting subsidies, however, to those adoptions that have historically proven more challenging (i.e., the adoption of older children and those with specific medical or mental health concerns). They also caution that contracting out adoption services is only appropriate when ample competition exists among agencies because that provides contractors with greater motivation to excel.

    "Privatization  and Subsidization of Adoption Services From Foster Care: Empirical Evidence," by Joseph Deutsch, Simon Hakim, Uriel Spiegel, and Michael Sumkin (Children and Youth Services Review, 78), is available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190740916305795.

  • November Is National Adoption Month

    November Is National Adoption Month

    According to Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System data, in 2015 there were over 12,000 youth between the ages of 15 and 18 in foster care waiting to find permanent homes. Too often, teens age out of foster care with little to no stable support system or family. This year's National Adoption Month is focused on identifying and preparing families for teenagers. Building capacity at the local level is essential to providing teens with the best chance of identifying a permanent family.

    The National Adoption Month 2017 website features tools and resources aimed at increasing the adoption of older youth currently in foster care. The website includes a section dedicated to providing adoption- and permanency-related resources and tips for families, including families considering adoption and families who have adopted. The website also supports child welfare professionals in preparing families for adoption and talking with older youth who may feel they are too old to be adopted. Youth, families, and professionals can also visit the website to do the following:

    • Watch and listen to personal stories and share examples of older youth in foster care finding permanent families through adoption
    • Learn ways to help involve, support, and empower older youth in foster care to prepare and plan for their future
    • Read the tip sheet Talking With Older Youth About Adoption for help talking with older youth about adoption and the importance of family

    National Adoption Month, funded each November by the Children's Bureau, is a partnership between AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway.

    Visit the National Adoption Month website throughout November and beyond at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/?utm_source=november&utm_medium=cbx&utm_content=home&utm_campaign=NAM17.

  • Construct of "Ideal" Adoptive Families in Online Foster Adoption Photolistings

    Construct of "Ideal" Adoptive Families in Online Foster Adoption Photolistings

    About one-quarter of the more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States are waiting to be adopted into permanent families. However, according to a recent Adoption Quarterly article, adopting a child through the foster care system is still considered by some to be the "third best" way to form a family, following natural birth and private adoption. Further, there are often barriers to adopting from foster care, such as children having case goals of reunification or kinship adoption, that keep these children from finding permanent homes with adoptive families.

    The article, "'A Family for Every Child': Discursive Constructions of 'Ideal' Adoptive Families in Online Foster Adoption Photolistings That Promote Adoption of Children From Foster Care," examines the narratives written by child welfare workers for photolistings in www.afamilyforeverychild.org. The authors discuss the importance of understanding how child welfare professionals depict potential permanent families, especially in light of the cultural assumption that families with biological ties are superior. The study highlighted in the article focuses on relational dialectics theory, which is described as how particular meanings are socially constructed and sustained through the competition of discourses for dominance in a given culture.

    The authors found that simply using "forever family" can help undercut the notion that family is always based on biological ties as well as emphasize the permanent nature of the adoption. In addition, including awaiting children's perspectives may prove beneficial in encouraging adoption from foster care.

    "'A Family for Every Child': Discursive Constructions of 'Ideal' Adoptive Families in Online Foster Adoption Photolistings That Promote Adoption of Children From Foster Care," by Lindsey J. Thomas and Kristina M. Scharp (Adoption Quarterly, 20), is available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10926755.2016.1263261.

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News From the Children's Bureau

We highlight a brief from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation that focuses on developing a better understanding of the needs, views, and experiences of low-income fathers and ways that responsible fatherhood programs can be strengthened as well as the latest updates to the Children's Bureau website.

  • CB Website Updates

    CB Website Updates

    The Children's Bureau website hosts information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, federal reporting, and much more.

    Recent additions to the site include the following:

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

  • Views and Experiences of Low-Income Fathers in the PACT Evaluation

    Views and Experiences of Low-Income Fathers in the PACT Evaluation

    A recent brief produced by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services focuses on the Parents and Children Together (PACT) multicomponent evaluation that includes a study of four responsible fatherhood programs awarded grants in 2011. The purpose of the evaluation was to develop a better understanding of the needs, views, and experiences of low-income fathers in order to help shed light on ways that responsible fatherhood programs can be strengthened. Part of the evaluation included a qualitative study involving three rounds of in-depth interviews with low-income fathers enrolled in responsible fatherhood programs about their experiences with the child support system.

    The brief explores three main themes:

    • The challenges that economic instability poses to fathers in meeting their child support obligations
    • Fathers' experiences in requesting modifications to make their child support obligations align better with their financial situations
    • Fathers' views of the disconnection between paying child support and having access to their children

    The fathers included in the study were typically nonresident, African-American fathers with high rates of unemployment and financial instability. These fathers also faced challenges such as low levels of education, employment, and income, as well as involvement with the criminal justice system. At the time of enrollment in the study, 44 percent of the fathers had children by multiple mothers, and 58 percent had a formal child support order.

    The following are findings of the study about the fathers:

    • Most had difficulty supporting themselves because of lack of employment.
    • Some were actively engaged in seeking better employment.
    • Some were afraid of the consequences of noncompliance with a child support order.
    • Some were frustrated that not all of their support was going to their children.
    • About half of those seeking a modification to their support obligations were successful in obtaining it.
    • They felt there was a disconnect between financially supporting their children and having limited access, which they felt was unjust.  
       

    To read the brief, Providing Financial Support for Children: Views and Experiences of Low-Income Fathers in the PACT Evaluation, go to https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/pact_financial_support_brief_to_opre_1_23_2017_508.pdf (1,440 KB).

Child Welfare Research

Read about a recent brief from the Center for the Study of Social Policy that focuses on improving outcomes for young fathers and their children and families as well as a report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative that discusses how child welfare systems have a significant opportunity to improve outcomes for young people by letting adolescent brain research inform their work with youth.

  • Changing Child Welfare Practice to Improve Outcomes for Young Fathers and Children

    Changing Child Welfare Practice to Improve Outcomes for Young Fathers and Children

    A recent brief from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) recommends changes in child welfare practice to improve outcomes for young fathers and their children and families. The report from CSSP's Expectant & Parenting Youth in Foster Care Learning Collective highlights the important role fathers play in a child's life and notes that fathers under the age of 26 who are involved in the child welfare system face significant barriers to assuming fatherhood responsibilities and privileges.

    The brief points to the following challenges faced by young fathers:

    • Difficulty in simultaneously navigating the transition to adulthood and learning how to parent
    • Inadequate child welfare resources to support them, their children, and families
    • Lack of information and understanding regarding their needs
    • Insufficient cross-system collaboration to support them and their families

    The brief notes that in the 2007-2010 Child and Family Services Reviews, no state agency met the required standards for father assessment, engagement, visitation, or service provision. The brief attributes this to casework overload, limited resources, the difficulty of working with two parents who may not be cohabitating, and the perception that young fathers are not interested in being involved. To address these shortcomings, the brief recommends the following steps:

    • Promote a father-inclusive organizational culture by creating a father-friendly atmosphere through changes to agency forms, materials, and physical spaces (e.g., provide diaper changing tables in men's bathrooms, display positive images of young fathers from diverse backgrounds, recruit male staff).
    • Require the identification of young fathers as early as possible during pregnancy to establish paternity and promote involvement.
    • Create a father-focused practice by issuing guidance that removes barriers to fatherhood engagement and promotes positive father involvement in children's lives.
    • Ensure young fathers have the ability to visit with their children frequently by prioritizing family time.
    • Require the exploration of coparenting for young fathers.
    • Offer father-focused services that are both developmentally and trauma-informed.
    • Require the involvement of incarcerated young fathers in case planning, including facilitating contact and visits with their children.
    • Support young fathers who are domestic violence offenders to reengage with their children, unless it is unsafe for the child or mother.

    The brief, Changing Systems & Practice to Improve Outcomes for Young Fathers, Their Children & Their Families, is available at https://www.cssp.org/pages/body/Changing-Systems-Practice-Young-Fathers.pdf (6,760 KB).

  • Using Adolescent Brain Research to Inform Child Welfare Practice, Improve Youth Outcomes

    Using Adolescent Brain Research to Inform Child Welfare Practice, Improve Youth Outcomes

    A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative finds that child welfare systems have a significant opportunity to improve outcomes for young people by letting adolescent brain research inform their work with youth.

    The report includes an overview of the latest research on adolescent brain development and its implications and provides overall strategies for professionals, caregivers, and systems on how to navigate this impressionable time in a youth's life, including the following:

    • Be consistent in relationships with young people, emphasizing compassion and a positive outlook regarding their future and abilities
    • Be clear and honest about expectations and consequences if those expectations are not met
    • Help youth deal with the loss of relationships, whether it be caseworkers lost to turnover or peers lost as a result of a move
    • Celebrate big and small achievements
    • Talk with young people about what is going on in the brain and help them understand the changes they are going through
    • Have empathetic conversations about any real or perceived racism or discrimination they might have faced
    • Encourage the novelty experiences young people crave, such as going to new places and learning to drive 

    The report also includes several examples of successful state and local programs that support youth as they transition into adulthood, such as the Youth Circle Program in Hawaii, which supports transition planning, and Florida's Keys to Independence Program, which helps provide youth in foster care access to driver's education and the opportunity to earn a driver's license.

    The report, The Road to Adulthood: Aligning Child Welfare Practice With Adolescent Brain Development, is available at http://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-theroadtoadulthood-2017.pdf (3,200 KB).

Strategies and Tools for Practice

This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other instruments that provide either evidence-based strategies or other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.

  • Positive Youth Development Toolkit

    Positive Youth Development Toolkit

    Positive youth development (PYD) is an approach based on understanding adolescent brain development in order to implement juvenile justice strategies that reduce recidivism and promote positive outcomes for youth involved in the justice system as they move on to become successful members of the community. PYD focuses less on a youth's past actions and more on his or her future potential and comprises six concepts that can be linked to positive outcomes: competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution. 

    This toolkit, produced by the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, is designed to support juvenile justice organizations in creating an organizational- and program-delivery framework based on PYD. The toolkit includes a description of PYD, examples of successfully implemented PYD approaches, and a discussion on positive youth outcomes. It also includes strategies for putting PYD into practice, building and maintaining momentum, and assessing and monitoring the progress of PYD programs as well as an appendix with additional resources.

    Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators Toolkit: Positive Youth Development is available at http://cjca.net/index.php/blog/1002-cjca-positive-youth-development-toolkit.

  • Law Enforcement, Mental Health Professionals Partner to Help Troubled Youth Get Treatment

    Law Enforcement, Mental Health Professionals Partner to Help Troubled Youth Get Treatment

    A recent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) webisode discusses evidence-based strategies and collaborative efforts among law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, and youth advocates to help youth with antisocial behaviors access mental health therapy and avoid entry into the juvenile justice system.

    The webisode explores the changing role of law enforcement as it relates to negative and potentially dangerous behaviors in children, youth, and young adults. Rather than treating outbursts as crimes that warrant immediate arrest, law enforcement agencies are looking at how police officers can support troubled youth by understanding and recognizing mental health disorders and helping them access treatment.

    The webisode points out that approximately 50 to 75 percent of the 2 million children and youth in the U.S. juvenile justice system meet the diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder. It also notes that more than 600,000 youth are placed in juvenile detention centers each year and that youth with mental health disorders need supports to keep them out of that system.

    The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended crisis intervention training (CIT) for law enforcement professionals to help them prevent violence, avoid unnecessary arrests, and improve access to mental health services. The webisode looks at developments related to CIT and the shift in law enforcement and community perceptions.

    The webisode features Dr. Gary Blau, SAMHSA's chief of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch; Christopher McKee, police captain, CIT coordinator, and school resource officer supervisor, Suffield, CT; Nyamuon Nguany, regional coordinator, Youth MOVE Maine; and Joyce Burrell, Prince George's County (MD) System of Care (former deputy commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services).

    "Diverting to Treatment: Community Policing and Supporting Youth With Mental Health Needs" is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xy4_M-faun8.

Resources

This section of CBX provides a quick list of interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials that can be used in the field or with families.

  • Helping Primary Caregivers of Youth Manage Serious Behaviors, Avoid State Custody

    Helping Primary Caregivers of Youth Manage Serious Behaviors, Avoid State Custody

    Illinois has issued a guide for primary caregivers of youth with serious behavioral problems to help prevent custody relinquishment and their entry into the child welfare system. The guide explains Illinois' Specialized Family Support Program (SFSP), a collaborative interagency effort to help caregivers address challenging behaviors and retain custody of their youth.

    SFSP provides an intensive 90-day program of crisis services for youth who are ready to leave treatment from a psychiatric hospital but whose parents or guardians are reluctant to take them back home for fear they will harm themselves or another family member. SFPS provides parents and guardians with support services-including case management, assessment and support, and mental health services—to prevent their teens from entering child welfare custody.

    The guide outlines program eligibility, the referral process, requirements for parental (or guardian) participation, what caregivers can expect from SFSP, a list of available services, how to access therapeutic support services or what to do in the event of a mental health crisis, the role of the interagency clinical team, and how to file grievances and make appeals.

    To participate in SFSP, parents or guardians must sign an agreement allowing the youth to return home with them and complete all available applications for public assistance (e.g., medical assistance, social security benefits, supplemental security income, other state behavioral programs).

    The guide, Specialized Family Support Program (SFSP): Guide for Parents or Guardians, is available at https://www.illinois.gov/hfs/SiteCollectionDocuments/SFSP_ParentGuide.pdf  (379 KB).

  • New Guidance on Helping Public Housing Residents With Employment, Economic Security

    New Guidance on Helping Public Housing Residents With Employment, Economic Security

    The Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a hands-on guidebook for family self-sufficiency (FSS) coordinators and staff that work with public housing residents and their families involved with the Housing Choice Voucher program as well as HUD-assisted multifamily developments. The purpose of the guidebook is to support these professionals in helping residents of public housing to overcome barriers to employment and financial security.

    The FSS program is part of a broader HUD effort to help residents of public housing make progress toward economic stability. The new guidebook provides nonbinding guidance on how to run an effective FSS program. It draws from program evaluation evidence and other research on how to help clients increase their earnings and build assets, as well as lessons learned from workforce and financial empowerment programs.

    Administering an Effective Family Self-Sufficiency Program: A Guidebook Based on Evidence and Promising Practices is available at https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/FSS-Program-Guidebook.pdf (2,571 KB).

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

    Conferences

    Upcoming national conferences and events on child welfare and adoption include the following:

    November

    • 2017 CQI Conference: In Pursuit of Quality: Data Literacy
      University of Illinois School of Social Work
      November 7-8, Champaign, IL
      http://cqi.cfrc.illinois.edu
    • Together We Can Conference
      Pelican Center for Children & Families
      November 7–9, Lafayette, LA
      http://www.latwc.com

    December

    January

  • Implementation of California's Continuum of Care Reform

    Implementation of California's Continuum of Care Reform

    The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC) has produced a webinar to provide child welfare agencies with an understanding of how the CEBC can help address and implement California's Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) core services.

    CCR is a series of reforms to child welfare and provides the statutory and policy framework to ensure that the services and support provided to a child and his or her family are tailored toward meeting the ultimate goal of maintaining a stable and permanent family. The main principles of CCR include providing all children with a committed, nurturing, and permanent family that will prepare them for a successful transition into adulthood; valuing the experience and voice of children and their families in assessment, placement, and service planning; and making sure children do not have to change placements to get the services they need.

    The webinar focuses on three main learning objectives:

    • How to effectively use the CEBC website to identify and access information on relevant programs for addressing California's CCR core services, including trauma-informed care, home-based mental health care, residential therapeutic programs, and child and family training approaches
    • How to access additional tools and resources for implementing evidence-based practices that address CCR's core services
    • How to identify best practices and strategies for cross-system collaboration between child welfare and behavioral health systems

    The webinar "Implementation of California's Continuum of Care Reform" is available at http://www.cebc4cw.org/cebc-webinars/cebc-sponsored-webinars/implementation-of-california-s-continuum-of-care-reform.