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May 2021Vol. 22, No. 5Spotlight on National Foster Care Month

This issue of CBX spotlights National Foster Care Month 2021. Read about what's new on the National Foster Care Month website and find resources highlighting foster caregivers' experiences with both formal and informal supports and trainings; the experiences of children in foster care with special health-care needs; and a series of webinars that focus on how Black communities, communities of color, and families living in poverty are overrepresented in the foster care system. The issue also includes recent resources and articles for child welfare professionals and the families they serve.

Issue Spotlight

  • Foster System Webinar Series

    Foster System Webinar Series

    A series of four webinars is available from the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. These webinars focus on how Black communities, communities of color, and families living in poverty are overrepresented in the foster care system and the aspects of the social systems that contribute to this. The series includes the following webinars:

    The webinars explain how the foster care and intersecting systems disproportionately affect families of color and those living in poverty. They also provide a look back at the history of the various systems and their components, such as mandated reporting and juvenile courts, to show system parallels and how their histories currently impact policies and families.

    This series presents ideas to reimagine what support and accountability look like, how to create the conditions families need to thrive, and how to break down silos to turn these systems into a supportive network that strengthens everyone involved. The webinars also address the assumptions of how systems are supposed to work compared with the reality of how they do work.

    The webinars are free to view, and slides are available for all four.

  • Children and Youth With Special Health-Care Needs in Foster Care

    Children and Youth With Special Health-Care Needs in Foster Care

    A brief published by Child Trends explores the prevalence of children and youth with special health-care needs (CYSHCN) within the foster care system as well as the experiences of CYSHCN and their families. CYSHCN can have differing experiences in care and varying reasons for entering care, as well as worse permanency outcomes than their peers without special health-care needs. Their families may have difficulty accessing needed health-care services or navigating the health-care system. This could stem from administrative delays, incomplete medical histories, or not having the training and support necessary to understand the special health-care needs of their child. 

    Almost a quarter of children in out-of-home care are diagnosed with an identified special health-care need, although the proportion varies widely across states. Understanding the differences in diagnoses and experiences based on race/ethnicity, gender, and age is crucial to ensuring that children receive appropriate services. The following are some key findings from this comparison:

    • Children and youth of color were more likely to have been identified as having a special health-care need.
    • Lack of access to quality health-care providers may compound the trauma experienced by CYSHCN.
    • CYSHCN experience different challenges to permanency than their peers in care without a special health-care need.

    Read Children and Youth With Special Health Care Needs in Foster Care to learn more.


  • Meeting the Informal and Formal Support Needs of Foster Caregivers

    Meeting the Informal and Formal Support Needs of Foster Caregivers

    An article in Children and Youth Services Review, "Fostering Healthy Families: An Exploration of the Informal and Formal Support Needs of Foster Caregivers," looks at the different kinds of supports foster caregivers need as well as their formal service and training experiences. It also explores the challenges foster families face and how informal networks provide them with support. Data were collected through a series of focus groups and interviews from participants in North Carolina.

    Participants expressed their stress and the strains on their relationships, fears about the foster care system, and ways that formal support networks can provide better support for them by providing information, adoption support, and trainings that focus on what foster caregivers will encounter in the real world. The article also includes examples that address the concerns discussed in the study and that help boost supports and resilience in foster families.


  • A Message From Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg

    A Message From Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg

    For this month's message from Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg, we feature an interview conducted by Joshua Christian Oswald, youth engagement coordinator intern at the Children's Bureau. Joshua's interview with Associate Commissioner Schomburg kicks off National Foster Care Month and discusses this year's theme, "Foster Care as a Support to Families, Not a Substitute for Parents." Visit the National Foster Care Month website for more resources featuring this special initiative.

    Joshua: What does the theme, "Foster Care as a Support to Families, Not a Substitute for Parents," mean to you, and what does it highlight for you?

    Associate Commissioner:  Parents are first responders, and as first responders they answer the call every day. That's why, to me, every month is National Foster Care Month. However, it is important that we carve out the month of May to express our gratitude to the dedicated foster parents who have provided safe, loving, and temporary, homes to children and families in need. I'm putting emphasis on temporary because many years ago, when my job was to recruit foster parents, I learned that the most successful foster parents were those who embraced their role as temporary coparents. Those who were doing the best work—where children were experiencing the shortest time to reunification with their families—were usually either kinship parents or foster parents who also supported the birth parents in achieving reunification with their child and helped a family get back on track. Sometimes, helping the family included the whole family—mom, dad, children, and even aunts, uncles, and grandparents. In a perfect world, there would never be a need for foster care, but we know that there may be times when a family needs support. However, I know of foster parents who provided such extraordinary love and support that the family became stronger and the foster parent became part of the extended family! This is the gold standard.

    Joshua: Foster care is meant to be temporary, yet for far too many young people it isn't. We need a child welfare system that is geared toward primary prevention, limits the use of foster care, and more quickly helps families when their children do need to be temporarily placed in foster care. I have heard many young people with lived expertise ask the system, "Why didn't you help my parents?"

    Since being appointed as the Associate Commissioner, I know you have begun working on the Thriving Families, Safer Children: A National Commitment to Well-Being initiative. How do you see this initiative intersect with the theme of National Foster Care Awareness Month?

    Associate Commissioner: Thriving Families, Safer Children has, in a fairly short period of time, galvanized 23 jurisdictions to begin thinking seriously about a world where the focus is on child and family well-being and prevention. When I think about Thriving Families, Safer Children and National Foster Care Month at the same time, I consider how the foster care system can turn the mirror on itself and ask, "Are we doing everything we can to help families whose children are NOT in foster care?" I would challenge the system to look at where it is investing its resources. Will a look at the budget reveal that there is investment in prevention? Has there been an investment in helping communities innovate around what primary prevention means to them? In New York City, there are family enrichment centers to support families who are not necessarily involved in foster care. This is a primary prevention strategy that aligns with Thriving Families, Safer Children because it acknowledges that we need to support families before child protection is called and proves that the foster care system can invest in this strategy and that it can be successful. There are similar examples throughout the country. Thriving Families, Safer Children can seize the opportunity that National Foster Care Month  presents to challenge jurisdictions to examine their resources and make the shift toward giving communities what they say they need to thrive.

    Joshua: We know you are a passionate advocate and have been tapped to be a leader in addressing the President's Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. From your career journey responding to racial disparities and inequities, how do you think we can we advance racial equity during National Foster Care Month?

    Associate Commissioner: The first thing we need to do is call it out. The child welfare system is steeped in racism and the certain communities—Black, Brown, LGBTQ+, and disabled—are being treated unfairly. Most of us know this—but what are we doing about it? National Foster Care Month is an opportunity to highlight all things foster care. We can celebrate the strides and accomplishments, but we must also acknowledge who we have failed. We are in the midst of a time in this country where a lot of attention is being paid to systemic racism. Guess what? The foster care system is not excused. After we acknowledge that racism and bias have roots deep in the child welfare system, we must take action to address the inequity. So as for advancing racial equity during National Foster Care Month—don't just talk about it, act upon it.

  • May Is National Foster Care Month

    May Is National Foster Care Month

    This year's National Foster Care Month (NFCM) theme, "Foster Care as a Support to Families, Not a Substitute for Parents," highlights the ways the child welfare system and the legal community can authentically engage youth in permanency planning and support the development of meaningful connections to promote a child welfare system that truly strengthens families. This includes information about how all professionals involved with child welfare can authentically engage youth in court and a look at how strong connections with family, friends, and child welfare professionals—and the use of virtual tools in recent months—can be supportive factors for youth aging out of care and help youth maintain connectedness.

    As in past years, the NFCM website is dedicated to offering an array of resources and tools aimed at addressing the unique needs of children in foster care; improving placement stability; and strengthening relationships between birth families, children and youth in foster care, and child welfare agencies.

    The NFCM 2021 website features the following:

    • A message from Taffy Compain, the national foster care specialist at the Children's Bureau 
    • The Reflections: Stories of Foster Care series, which features narrative stories from caseworkers, youth, and families about their experiences with foster care
    • A new Take Action section (scroll to the bottom of the page) that provides access to state and local proclamations, explores NFCM events happening around the country, and highlights examples of how some child welfare agencies are helping foster care act as a support to families
    • New resources that support this year's theme as well as reflect the past year's challenges

    This year's website also includes a host of enhanced web features and resources for the field as well as outreach tools for individuals and organizations to use to help spread awareness at the state and local levels and to amplify a unified campaign message across new audiences. 

    On Thursday, May 20, 2021, from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, the Children's Bureau, in partnership with the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative and Child Welfare Information Gateway, will host a virtual event, "Stories From the Field: Practical Strategies for Engaging Young People," to highlight how the child welfare system can actively support families. Participants will hear how child welfare agencies are using strategies from the Administration for Children and Families Information Memorandum on youth and family engagement to support planning and improvement efforts; examine strategies to support meaningful youth engagement at the individual and practice level, the peer-to peer-mentoring level, and the system level; and learn how shifting to a mindset of meaningful youth engagement can alter agency culture to improve outcomes for children, youth, and families.


    Recent Issues

  • April 2024

    Spotlight on National Child Abuse Prevention Month

    Spotlight on National Child Abuse Prevention Month

  • March 2024

    Spotlight on Diversity and Racial Equity in Child Welfare

    Spotlight on Diversity and Racial Equity in Child Welfare

News From the Children's Bureau

We feature a new blog from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation that shares findings from its research, evaluation, and data-collection efforts; information about funds available to youth who are or were formerly in foster care; and a brief listing of the latest additions to the Children's Bureau website.

Training and Technical Assistance Update

Read about a new supplement to the Diligent Recruitment Navigator tool that supports agencies' efforts to recruit, develop, and support foster, adoptive, and kinship families through the lens of the Title IV-E Prevention Services Program and a listing of some of the latest resources from the Children's Bureau's training and technical assistance partners.

Child Welfare Research

We highlight an article about how child protective services data can predict placement disruption and an article that delves into how the use of trauma-informed practices within the justice system can mitigate youth violence and recidivism.

  • Spotting the Early Signs of Placement Disruptions in Foster Care

    Spotting the Early Signs of Placement Disruptions in Foster Care

    Placement stability is a key indicator of success in foster care. Recognizing this, child welfare professionals have been increasingly looking at ways to identify when children and youth are at risk for placement disruption, which often results in negative outcomes and poses risks to short- and long-term well-being. In a recent study by Vanderbilt University, researchers examined how child protective services data can predict placement disruption.

    The study's sample included 8,853 youth ages 5 to 19 in state custody in Tennessee between July 2012 and June 2017. All participants were assessed using the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment, a youth evaluation tool used by several states. In the study, researchers used CANS data, demographic characteristics, and placement information of participants to draw conclusions about predictors of placement disruption. Placement disruption was defined using the duration of the first placement and the number of lifetime placements.

    An examination of the data indicated that children in foster care experienced a high degree of disruption. Although about one-fifth (21 percent) of the children had only one placement, 29 percent had two placements, and 22 percent had three placements. As hypothesized, children displaying internalizing problems (such as anxiety or self-harm behaviors), externalizing problems (such as substance use or delinquency), school difficulties, child relationship problems, and/or affect dysregulation (i.e., anger and/or emotional control issues) had a shorter length of first placement and a greater number of lifetime placements.

    Researchers concluded that CANS data and other data collected by child welfare professionals as part of standard practice can be used to identify children and youth who may be at risk of placement disruption and to implement effective interventions.

    For more information, refer to "Predictors of Placement Disruptions in Foster Care" in Child Abuse & Neglect.


  • A Systematic Review of the Impact of Trauma-Informed Treatment on Youth Violence and Recidivism

    A Systematic Review of the Impact of Trauma-Informed Treatment on Youth Violence and Recidivism

    A vast majority of youth involved in the juvenile justice system have experienced at least one traumatic childhood event. Children and youth involved with child welfare often come into the system as victims of previous or ongoing trauma. Trauma exposure is a known risk factor for juvenile justice involvement, committing violence, and subsequent involvement in the adult criminal justice system. A systematic review in Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice provides an overview of the use of trauma-informed treatment in juvenile justice settings.

    In summarizing prior studies on the relationship between trauma, violence, and delinquency, the article presents the following information:

    • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are linked to an increased risk of delinquency in adolescence and throughout the life course.
    • ACEs have both indirect and direct effects on juvenile recidivism.
    • ACEs are associated with adolescent interpersonal and self-directed violence.
    • There is evidence that many delinquent youth have impaired cognitive function due to early trauma.

    The article notes that while there is extensive research on the benefits of treating adolescents with a trauma-informed approach, there is little research about the impact of trauma-informed treatment on justice-involved youth, or whether trauma-informed treatment reduces youth violence or recidivism. The authors conclude that further research is necessary to evaluate trauma-informed interventions at each stage of the juvenile justice system and to identify the most effective interventions to treat trauma and reduce recidivism.

    To learn more, read "Much to Do About Trauma: A Systematic Review of Existing Trauma-Informed Treatments on Youth Violence and Recidivism."


Strategies and Tools for Practice

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

  • Webinar Provides Insights on the Opioid Crisis' Impact on the Child Welfare System

    Webinar Provides Insights on the Opioid Crisis' Impact on the Child Welfare System

    Parental drug use is one of the leading reasons children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care. A new webinar shares research on the negative impacts of the opioid epidemic on child welfare-involved families and strategies for how to address this crisis.

    Panelists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, and ICF discuss practices child welfare professionals can utilize to prevent family separation and help families struggling with drug use. They also share ways to optimize the Title IV-E Prevention Services Program, as amended by the Family First Prevention Services Act.

    The webinar also presents a series of findings related to prevention, trajectories of substance use and stigma, the impact on caregivers, and COVID-19-related impacts, including the following:

    • Polydrug use is common.
    • The challenges that affect systems of care also affect families.
    • Families are dealing with multiple issues and stressors.
    • It is important for families to have a safe place to turn.
    • Peer mentors can play an important role.
    • There is a need for improved communication among systems of care.

    View the webinar, "Strengthening Families Struggling With the Opioid Crisis," to learn more.


  • Reducing Reliance on Institutional Care Placements for Children in the Child Welfare System

    Reducing Reliance on Institutional Care Placements for Children in the Child Welfare System

    Research shows that children and youth experience better outcomes when they are placed in more family-like settings rather than institutional care. A report by the Children's Bureau found that 41 percent of children placed in institutional care had no documented clinical or behavioral need to warrant the placement. The National Center for State Courts published a report, Every Kid Needs a Family: Safely Reducing Reliance on Institutional Care Placements for Children in the Child Welfare System, that explores the role that the legal system plays in placing children and how legal professionals can reduce placement in institutional care.

    This report provides judges, attorneys, advocates, and other professionals involved in child welfare and the legal system with information to assist them in making better placement decisions, such as what constitutes a quality placement, what circumstances might require institutional placement, and what practices and strategies they can incorporate into the decision-making process. It also includes case studies as examples of these principles in practice.

    Judges can find guidance to help them with their placement decision-making, including how they can take the following steps:

    • Use their leadership role to influence positive change in the use of institutional care placements for children in the child welfare system
    • Hold other stakeholders accountable to quality practice standards that reflect proper assessment in individual cases
    • Communicate and collaborate with the child welfare agency and service providers to ensure their community has access to a sufficient level of family-based placement options
    • Establish process and outcome measures to monitor their placement decisions
    • Ensure the court system implements the letter and spirit of the Family First Prevention Services Act in approving placements

    The executive and legislative branches can benefit from the following suggestions to guide reform efforts:

    • Prohibiting the placement of children younger than a specified age or prohibiting placement of children under a specified age with defined exceptions
    • Developing enhanced admission criteria or facility requirements for children under a specified age
    • Requiring justification for residential placement
    • Requiring prior supervisory or departmental approval for residential placement
    • Developing case plans and placement criteria that specify the purpose of the placement, the length of stay, and regular review
    • Mandating the closure of facilities or limiting the capacity of institutional care placements
    • Implementing explicit funding restrictions
    • Implementing better oversight and administration of psychotropic medications for children in congregate care
    • Improving state oversight and licensing of residential facilities
    • Creating three-branch task forces on residential care
    • Limiting approval of rates for additional facilities or additional capacity


  • Engaging Youth as Advocates for Themselves and Others

    Engaging Youth as Advocates for Themselves and Others

    A message from Children's Bureau's National Foster Care Month lead, Taffy Compain, in partnership with the Capacity Building Center for States

    Youth with lived expertise in foster care are critical advocates for themselves, for other youth, and for systems and policy change. In honor of National Foster Care Month (NFCM), we encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the different ways you can engage youth as advocates. Imagine the impact on a young person when her attorney reinforces her voice in court, a former student helps a current one meet college challenges, or youth leadership efforts contribute to changing legislation.

    This year's NFCM digital stories highlight youth and the people who have nurtured their advocacy skills at the individual practice level, peer level, and system level. The inherent value of engaging youth and families is easy to understand. After all, who knows youth needs better than youth? Whose voice should be prioritized in case decisions? Who can best help another navigate complicated systems? And whose expertise is most relevant in shaping those systems to improve child welfare outcomes?

    Consider the importance of relationships as a foundation for advocacy. Authentic relationships between professionals—including caseworkers, attorneys, and court-appointed special advocates—and the youth they serve may open the door to advocacy at all levels.

    The following examples of youth advocacy in action are excerpted from the 2021 NFCM digital stories.

    Individual Level

    Medina and Andrea describe their attorney-client relationship and Medina's emerging voice as she began to advocate for herself with Andrea's support and trust.

    "Andrea was there for me without judging, without hesitation. No matter how angry, sad, or depressed I was, she was always there. Once I saw I could really trust her, I started opening up more. I was able to voice what I wanted, and she would advocate for that in court. We always had a plan, and she had my back every step of the way."—Medina, former youth in foster care

    "Before court hearings, we would meet to talk about what was happening and what she should expect. I would remind her of my role to advocate, fighting for what she thought was best for her and representing that position in court. I think that started to show her a different way she could express herself. When she had to testify in court, she was prepared. She had developed her own voice."—Andrea, attorney

    Peer Level

    The University of Arizona's Fostering Success program supports students who have experienced foster care or housing insecurity by building a community of peers and helping members navigate financial aid, higher education, foster care, mental health services, and much more. Fostering Success community members are paired with peer mentors, each of whom is a former student in the program. Peer mentors work one-on-one with students, helping them overcome barriers and capitalize on their strengths (D. Carrillo, personal communication, January 31, 2021).

    Sarah, a Fostering Success peer mentor, describes her experience mentoring Nic and his newfound passion for peer advocacy.

    "When I met Nic, he was in high school and didn't seem to have anyone encouraging him to attend a university...I met with him and helped him understand what it would take to attend the university and that I believed he could do it. When he became a student, I provided a lot of support, especially with navigating financial aid and scholarships. I've tried to be a consistent support to him no matter what he was going through and his biggest fan when he's doing awesome. We have a lot in common outside our experiences in foster care, and I'm grateful to have built such an amazing friendship with someone who wants to carry on the mission of being a peer mentor for others."

    Systems Level

    New Mexico Child Advocacy Networks (NMCAN) engages youth to lead child welfare advocacy efforts in the state. Youth Leaders have successfully advocated for the first U.S. tax credit to businesses for hiring youth currently or formerly in foster care, optional extended foster care to age 21, college tuition waivers for transition-age youth, expanded Medicaid, and more (NMCAN, n.d.).

    Micaela, an NMCAN youth leader, describes her first policy advocacy experience, nurtured through her relationship with Arika, the NMCAN director of policy and advocacy.

    "Every morning started with a burrito and coffee and a ride extremely early in the morning. Once we got to Santa Fe, we would sit in committees and hear other bills as we waited for our bill. Arika taught me how the process worked and that it would be the same for our bill. I felt like I was getting my foot in the door. If I can understand all of that, I could understand other being at the capitol, learning about the process, seeing how my advocating could make a difference, I became really interested in it. I started paying attention to the news and national bills, something I never thought I would do."

    Visit Reflections: Stories of Foster Care on the NFCM website to hear directly from these and other pairs of professionals and youth about working together toward better outcomes for children, youth, and families engaged with the foster care system.


    New Mexico Child Advocacy Networks. (n.d.). Advocate.


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.

  • Tips for Foster Parents Who Work Full Time

    Tips for Foster Parents Who Work Full Time

    "Can I be a foster parent if I work full-time?" The creator of the A Fostered Life blog and podcast, Christy Tennant Krispin, is asked this question all the time. During a weekly foster parent coaching call, she interviewed a single woman who was a foster parent for over 10 years while also working full time as a teacher. This former foster parent shared her experience and offered tips to help other parents who work full time be able to successfully foster and help the children in their care thrive. A subsequent blog post, "8 Tips for Foster Parents Who Work Full-Time," outlined the following tips addressed in the coaching call:

    • Choose an age demographic that complements your schedule.
    • Consider opening your home to siblings.
    • Involve your support system.
    • Maintain a structured life, especially at bedtime.
    • Find ways to free up your time, such as hiring a house cleaner and having groceries delivered.
    • Find before-school activities, such as running clubs, and limit excess after-school extracurricular activities since family visitation and other required meetings often occur in the afternoons.
    • Take some vacation days for your own mental health.
    • Get to know the school principal and staff well and communicate with them often.


  • Talking With Teens About Their Adoptions

    Talking With Teens About Their Adoptions

    A recent brief by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.), a national nonprofit that focuses on mental health services for the foster care and adoption community, discusses the challenges inherent in adolescence that may be compounded for youth who are adopted, such as identity formation and open communication with parents. It also provides adoptive families with guidance about speaking with teens about their birth parents.

    The brief presents several relatable examples of youth and adoptive parents facing these challenges with a focus on two areas—identity formation and making the decision to (or not to) search for birth parents. Recognizing that teens may have strong feelings about their adoptions and often find it difficult to share these feelings with others, the article provides tips for and emphasizes the importance of parents taking the lead in these discussions.

    To learn more, read Birth Parents on Their Mind: Search and Reunion.

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.