We highlight the 2016 National Foster Care Month initiative, one youth's foster care story, a brief on promoting normalcy for youth in care, a study examining public resources and policies addressing homelessness among youth aging out of care, and more.
- Preventing Homelessness Among Youth Aging Out of Care
Over 20,000 youth exit or "age out" of foster care each year once they reach the age of maturity in their particular State. Many of these young people may not have the supports and assistance they need to successfully transition to adulthood, and they may find it particularly difficult to secure safe and stable housing. A study by Mathematica Policy Research and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago examined public resources and policies that address homelessness among youth aging out of care.
Conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Policy Development and Research and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, the study relays the following key findings:
- Stable housing is important yet elusive for youth aging out of foster care. Researchers estimate that 11 to 36 percent of youth who age out of foster care become homeless, and 25 to 50 percent experience unstable housing arrangements.
- Policies and programs offer few housing opportunities for youth exiting foster care. HHS and HUD each offer some key programs and policies to support youth exiting foster care; however, communities must often combine Federal funding with State, local, and private funding to develop housing programs for transitioning youth.
- HUD's Family Unification Program (FUP) has promise for supporting youth but is not widely applied to this population. Less than half of all public housing authorities administering FUP are serving youth, instead directing this form of rental assistance to families involved in child welfare.
- Public housing authorities are not serving more youth largely because public child welfare agencies are referring relatively few or no young adults to them.
Access the report Housing for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care and other background materials on HUD's website at https://www.huduser.gov/portal/youth_foster_care.html.
- Reflections on a Life in Foster Care
KQED Radio, an NPR-member radio station owned by Northern California Public Broadcasting, featured an interview with Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of the Youth Law Center, a public interest law firm that works to protect children in the U.S. foster care and justice systems. In the interview, Ms. Rodriguez shares her experiences and lessons learned as a young person who spent time in both foster care and juvenile justice institutions in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ms. Rodriguez talks about how she was placed in group homes as a young teen and was never placed with a family. She discusses how the lack of parental care and nurturing affected her life as a young person and how it continues to impact her as an adult and as a parent. Ms. Rodriguez also shares some of what she has learned about the difficulties foster parents can face in working effectively with the child welfare system, noting that foster parents often leave the system because of barriers such as long waits to get licensed, not receiving adequate information about the child or children placed in their care, and difficulties in accessing medical care for the child and receiving a child's full medical history. When there are not enough foster parents available to care for the children in the child welfare system, children may be robbed of the chance to have a nurturing adult in their lives.
Calls from listeners were also featured and included the following:
- A foster parent requested assistance on how he could better advocate for the child in his care and ensure the child's needs are being met appropriately.
- A court-appointed special advocate (CASA) shared how a child's positive vs. negative experiences in out-of-home care environments can affect his or her behavioral issues.
- A staff member from a group home discussed the qualities a group home needs to do good work for children.
Ms. Rodriguez also discussed reforms to legislation that are moving the field away from long-term group homes, as well as the importance of including foster parents as vital contributors to a child's team of advocates, talking to children and youth about what they need, and doing everything possible to ensure children have safe and stable childhoods.
Listen to the complete interview on the KQED Radio website at http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201512111000.
- Reducing Rates of Psychotropic Medication Prescription
Children and youth in foster care are disproportionately prescribed psychotropic medications as compared to their peers not in care. A brief from the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) examines the conditions and systemic factors that have led to this phenomenon, identifies promising interventions, presents case studies of State interventions, and offers policy strategies ranked by potential impact and ease of implementation.
The brief begins by giving some background on the problem of overmedication of children and youth in care, citing a Government Accountability Office report that indicates children in foster care are prescribed psychotropic medications at a rate 2.7 to 4.5 times higher than their peers who are not in care, as well as other studies showing the rate to be closer to 3.5 to 11 times higher. In 2011, Congress passed the Child and Family Improvement and Innovation Act, which required States to apply for particular Federal child welfare grants to create protocols for the use and monitoring of psychotropic medication prescribed to children in care. NCYL conducted interviews with child welfare administrators, medical directors, and other parties involved in improving oversight of psychotropic medication use in foster care in a number of States and discovered several shared approaches, including the following:
- Utilization of Medicare claims data, pharmacy claims data, and/or electronic medical record systems to identify providers who prescribe above established thresholds and to flag children who receive potentially dangerous drug combinations and/or dosages
- Prior authorization/hard edit processes requiring review of certain prescriptions and/or drug combinations
- Second opinions/specialist consultation
- Provider feedback, training, and corrective action
- Enhancement of auxiliary psychosocial services
The brief concludes by offering general guidelines for States looking to address the issue of overmedication of youth in care, including the following:
- Develop thorough data collection, analysis, and dissemination processes.
- Use this data to inform provider education processes and specialist consultation triggers.
- Develop prior authorization, second opinion, and provider outreach processes independent of data collection mechanisms.
- Identify creative and cost-effective means to expand access to and utility of psychosocial interventions among foster youth.
To read the brief Curbing the High Rates of Psychotropic Medication Prescriptions Among Children and Youth in Foster Care, visit the NCYL website at http://youthlaw.org/publication/3405/.
- Cortez's Story: One Youth's Foster Care Experience
This month, we share Cortez's story, a young person who experienced foster care throughout his childhood and youth. His experiences speak to the challenges faced by many of our nation's children and youth in finding safe and permanent homes. Cortez's story is a powerful reminder that we should all take the time to consider what each of us can do to enhance the lives of children and youth in care. The 2016 National Foster Care Month website shares more real-life stories of children, youth, and families related to reunification that can help child welfare workers, managers, training staff, and others gain perspective and engage audiences in a variety of settings. Access the stories at https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/reallifestories/.
How did you come into contact with foster care?
Cortez: My biological mother gave birth to me while she was incarcerated in West Virginia.
What was your experience like in care? How long were you in care? Do you have any siblings and, if so, were you placed together?
Cortez: This is sort of a trick question for me. All my life, I had been in care. It was not a case where the child was taken out of their parent's home and placed into care. I started out in care, at day one. So for me, there was no "standard" to live by; whatever was placed in front of me was the "norm." I always tell people that I was in care for 21 years. Although I was adopted for about 4 of those years, I still felt as if that counts. I did not like the woman I was adopted by; I did not feel as if she treated me with care and that's how I felt in every other foster home, except one, so I count that as being "in care." My biological mother has six children. The three youngest, including myself, were placed in some of the same homes and even adopted by the same lady. Other than that, we were not placed together, and we didn't meet our three older siblings until I was 12. Later on in life, I searched for my biological dad's family.
Did your caseworker discuss your permanency plan with you? What were the primary goals of your plan? Did your caseworker talk to you about plans for adoption or reunification with your birth family?
Cortez: Out of the many caseworkers that I had growing up, I can only remember two of them sharing my permanency plan with me. One, I think, thought I was mature enough to understand it, and the other knew I wasn't having it any other way. At one point in time, one of the primary goals in my plan was to find a foster home that could be permanent; I didn't want to be adopted again. Later on in life, one of the goals on my plan was for me to graduate high school. It was a rough period of time for me, then. When I was able to move in with my aunt and uncle at 12, my caseworker asked if I'd want to be adopted by them. I told her I'd need some time before that was an option again. My aunt and uncle were the only ones that were financially capable of taking care of me.
What were your foster parents like? What kind of supports did they provide while you were under their care?
Cortez: My last two foster parents (two separate homes) were probably the most supportive ones I've ever had. The first of these two (at 14 years old) really did want the best for me and two of my siblings who she fostered as well. She fed us, talked to us about our days, and asked what we wanted out of life. We were the ones who messed up that home. I believe it was too much for us to handle, especially because we were all teenagers and used to a life that she did not approve of. The second of the two was the first man that we have ever lived with, besides our biological aunt's husband. He was a single man with five other children he was responsible for. I was 16 when I moved into his home, and I was already set in my ways. Needless to say, we did not get along. I was rarely in the home. After school, I'd work 7 hours every day. The only thing he did that helped make me who I am today was doubt me.
Did your foster parents and birth parents have contact with each other? Did they work together toward a permanency/reunification goal for you and your birth family?
Cortez: My birth parents had no contact with my foster parents, except for when my biological aunt had custody of me. Nothing was ever done to move forward that had anything to do with the word "permanent."
Were you able to reunite with your family? How did that come about, and what did it mean to you?
Cortez: Yes. When I moved in with my biological aunt, I was able to spend some time around my family. When I was placed in a group home, I was told that I would have to go back to another foster home. After spending a year in that group home, I was comfortable, and I did not want to go live with more strangers. So I asked my caseworker to look for my biological family to see if anyone would be willing to take me. Finally, after months of looking and meetings, I was able to move into my aunt's home.
What did you want in terms of permanency for yourself?
Cortez: What person under the age of 15 who has never known permanency or stability could tell you what they wanted? I think the question you should be asking is, what did you want to change that you were going through?
- Promoting Normalcy for Youth in Care
Having normal and healthy life experiences and milestones, such as forming positive relationships and participating in positive activities, are important for young people's successful development into adulthood. For youth in foster care, it can often be difficult to have normal life experiences in the way their peers not in care may have. Youth in care may not have supportive relationships with parents, siblings, or other family members, and requirements and restrictions from the child welfare system may make it difficult for them to participate in extracurricular and social activities, such as sleepovers and participation in afterschool teams. A recent brief from the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores how child welfare can help promote normalcy for youth in care and shares insights from youth in and formerly in care.
The brief focuses on an indepth discussion of what normalcy means and how it can impact youth development. Topics addressed include the following:
- The importance of normalcy to the overall healthy development of youth in foster care
- How youth view normalcy and foster care (what they wish for, the barriers they face, and their recommendations)
- Suggestions for how to leverage the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (Strengthening Families Act) to help improve child welfare systems and create a more supportive and normal environment for youth
- Strategies from the field that can serve as examples
The brief includes information on the Strengthening Families Act and its provisions meant to promote the following normalcy components for youth in care:
- Ensuring more age-appropriate or normal growing-up experiences for young people in foster care, including the implementation of the "reasonable and prudent parent" standard that allows caregivers to make more daily decisions for youth in their care
- Eliminating Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) as a permanency goal for children under age 16 and adding requirements if older youth have a permanency goal of APPLA
- Engaging all young people in their case planning beginning at age 14
Also included are a "Normalcy Activity Checklist for Young People in Foster Care" and appendices featuring excerpts from three States' normalcy guidelines. Access the brief, What Young People Need to Thrive: Leveraging the Strengthening Families Act to Promote Normalcy, on the Annie E. Casey website at http://www.aecf.org/resources/what-young-people-need-to-thrive/.
Child Welfare Information Gateway's new Normalcy for Youth In Foster Care webpage is now live. Find resources on how to support and promote typical childhood experiences for youth in foster care at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/resources-foster-families/parenting/normalcy/.
- Supporting Permanency Through Placement With Relatives
A recent post in the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare's (CASCW's) Child Welfare Policy blog explores a Minnesota benefit program meant to promote the placement of children in out-of-home care with relative custodians and reduce prolonged stays in foster care.
In 2013, Minnesota passed Northstar Care for Children, a program that aimed to level the disparities related to benefits and assistance available for foster care, adoption, and relative custody. Before the program was passed, relative custodians and adoptive parents received less assistance than did foster parents, and there was concern that these disparities were affecting the permanency outcomes for Minnesota's children in care. Northstar Care for Children equalized assistance levels across the three programs for children ages 6 and older.
Northstar Kinship Assistance, a component of the program, replaced the previously existing relative custody assistance to provide benefits for children whose relatives become their permanent legal and physical custodians. Northstar Kinship Assistance and the previous program differ in several ways, including that the previous program was dependent on available State funding, while Northstar Kinship Assistance funding is already factored into the State budget. Also, Northstar Kinship Assistance does not require children to meet special needs criteria, and the family's gross income does not determine eligibility. Other eligibility criteria include the following:
- The child must meet citizenship and immigration requirements (or the prospective relative custodian must, if the child does not meet these requirements).
- Background study requirements must be met for the prospective relative custodian.
- The child must have lived with the prospective relative custodian while the same was licensed to provide child foster care for 6 consecutive months (unless given an exemption).
The blog post goes on to describe some additional eligibility criteria and offers other resources for more information. To read the entire post "Supporting Permanency of Children in Foster Care Through Relative Placement," by Heidi Ombisa Skallet, visit the CASCW website at http://cascw.umn.edu/policy/supporting-permanency-of-children-in-foster-care-through-relative-placement/.
- May Is National Foster Care Month
Family reunification is the preferred permanency option in child welfare, and it is the most common goal for children and youth in out-of-home care. In fact, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, 51 percent of children who exited foster care in fiscal year 2014 were reunited with their parents or primary caretakers. The 2016 National Foster Care Month (NFCM) initiative focuses on family reunification with the theme "Honoring, Uniting, and Celebrating Families." This year's initiative website offers resources and tools for child welfare professionals, birth parents, foster parents and caregivers, youth, and more to help all parties in a child's life work toward and support the reunification process. The resources and tools include the following:
- A new For Parents page designed to help parents learn more about the child welfare system and what to expect during the reunification process
- A For Communities page that offers information on how to become a foster parent and highlights other ways to contribute to the positive development of children and youth in foster care
- New Real-Life Stories of children, youth, and families that connect real-life scenarios to important practice issues
- Updated outreach tools to Spread the Word and raise awareness about NFCM, including new content for email signature blocks and graphics for social media pages
- A new NFCM Facebook Campaign Page that allows the foster care community to promote local events, make new contacts, and share stories
The Children's Bureau, together with Child Welfare Information Gateway and other partner organizations, promotes NFCM each May and raises awareness about the important roles everyone can play in the lives of children and youth in care. Explore the 2016 NFCM website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/.
Spotlight on National Adoption Month
Spotlight on Creating a More Equitable Child Welfare System
News From the Children's Bureau
Read a report on the Family and Youth Services Bureau's Street Outreach Program and a synthesis of findings from the Children's Bureau's Child Welfare - Education System Collaborations to Increase Educational Stability grants.
- Behavioral Economics Intervention
A report from the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) reviews findings from an intervention implemented by the OPRE-sponsored Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, which focuses on how behavioral sciences tools can be used to help deliver more effective programs aimed at improving the well-being of low-income families and individuals. Developed in collaboration with California's Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), the intervention aimed to increase the number of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients who "reengaged" in Los Angeles County's welfare-to-work program.
In 2013, according to the report, some parents with young children in California were exempted from participating in the Los Angeles County welfare-to-work program. However, due to changes in State policy, this exemption ended in 2013. While attempts were made to reengage these parents in the program, about half of the parents did not attend mandatory reengagement appointments. DPSS and BIAS worked together to create additional materials to send to participants to attempt to reschedule reengagement appointments. The new materials consisted of simplified notices and two behaviorally informed and personalized notes that were sent to different groups of participants:
- A notice highlighting the losses they might face by not attending the reengagement appointment
- A notice highlighting the benefits they might receive by attending
In addition, there was a control group that did not receive additional information. Results found that participant engagement in the program increased for those who received a behaviorally informed notice, and the notices indicating losses participants would face by not engaging in the program increased positive engagement at 30 days by 4.4 percentage points.
To read more, access Framing the Message: Using Behavioral Economics to Engage TANF Recipients on the OPRE website at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/resource/framing-the-message-behavioral-economics-to-engage-tanf-recipients.
- Families Affected by Parental Incarceration
Child Welfare Information Gateway published a new bulletin for professionals that provides an overview of the intersection of child welfare and parental incarceration. While most children whose parents are incarcerated remain in their homes, some become involved to some degree with child welfare while their parents are incarcerated. The bulletin describes the characteristics of incarcerated parents and their children, addresses how the Adoption and Safe Families Act may affect this population, and discusses the effect of parental incarceration on families. There is a focus on working with families affected by parental incarceration, including discussion of the following topics:
- How to locate incarcerated parents
- Case planning and reunification
- Visiting and other contact
- Programs for incarcerated parents and their children
- Working with caregivers
- When parents are detained or deported for immigration issues
The bulletin includes additional resources for more information and a knowledge checklist to help professionals prepare to work with incarcerated parents and their families. Access Child Welfare Practice With Families Affected by Parental Incarceration on the Information Gateway website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/parental-incarceration/.
- Support Services for Homeless Youth
Adolescence and young adulthood is a time for youth to begin exploring what it means to grow into an adult and gain increased independence with time. However, youth still need support and guidance during this critical period to help keep them on a positive track and avoid negative and dangerous situations. This can be a challenging time for youth who do not have strong support systems in their lives, as they may find themselves at increased risk of experiencing negative outcomes, such as homelessness. The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), which sits within the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), administers the Street Outreach Program (SOP), which aims to help get homeless youth off the streets by funding grantees that build relationships between street outreach workers and homeless street youth; provide support services to help youth find stable housing; offer drop-in center allowing youth to access showers, food, referrals to health and mental health care; and facilitate access to other social services for homeless youth.
A new report by FYSB and ACYF's Office of Data, Analysis, Research, and Evaluation shares findings from a study that evaluated the service utilization and needs from a subset of homeless street youth being served by a cohort of 11 SOP grantees funded in fiscal year 2010. Data was collected in 2013 from a group of 656 homeless youth ages 14 to 21 who participated in computer-assisted personal interviews and focus groups, and an additional 217 youth who participated in focus groups only. Key findings include the following:
- 54.4 percent identified as male, 45.6 as percent female, two-thirds identified as heterosexual, 20 percent identified as bisexual, 9.9 percent identified as gay or lesbian, 6.8 percent identified as transgender, and 4.1 percent identified as "something else."
- The most commonly reported reason for becoming homeless the first time was being asked to leave by a parent or caregiver (51.2 percent), followed by being unable to find a job (24.7 percent), being physically abused or beaten (23.8 percent), or problems in the home due to a caretaker's drug or alcohol abuse (22.6 percent).
- 24.1 percent said that they had "agreed to be sexual" with someone in exchange for money, and 27.5 percent had "agreed to be sexual" with someone in exchange for a place to spend the night. One-fifth (20.3 percent) of the participants reported having a sexually transmitted infection at some point in their lives.
- 60.8 percent had experienced at least one types of victimization while homeless (e.g., sexual assault, beaten up, assaulted or threatened with a weapon, robbed).
The youth interviewed identified the kinds of services they felt would be most helpful in addressing their basic and immediate needs. These included access to safe shelter, education, employment, transportation, clothing, and laundry facilities. However, they also shared that they were unable to access shelter services for reasons such as shelters being full, not knowing where to go, or not having access to transportation to shelters. The report addresses some recommendations and research and practice implications of the study's findings, including the following:
- Need for investment in more and more flexible shelter options.
- More intensive interventions and supports are needed to help prevent youth from becoming homeless.
- Appropriate interventions should target and help further develop the protective factors a youth has as well as identify factors a youth is lacking, for future research.
To access the complete report, Administration for Children and Families Family and Youth Services Bureau Street Outreach Program: Data Collection Study Final Report, visit the FYSB website at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/fysb/data_collection_study_final_report_street_outreach_program.pdf (3 MB).
- Child Welfare and Education System Collaboration Synthesis
In 2011, the Children's Bureau funded 10 projects through Child Welfare - Education System Collaborations to Increase Educational Stability grants. The goals of the 17-month infrastructure-building grants were to support collaborative initiatives among State, local, or Tribal child welfare agencies and education systems to improve educational stability and permanency outcomes for youth in foster care ages 10 to 17 years. A new synthesis published on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website discusses findings that the grantees included in their final project and/or evaluation reports.
Grantees focused on organizational-level activities intended to coordinate systems and encourage knowledge transfer across the systems. Examples of key program interventions and activities include service integration procedures, training, development of oversight committees and leadership teams, improved data-sharing capabilities, and designated staff to work with youth in foster care. The projects shared several common evaluation challenges, such as difficulty in accessing certain kinds of data (e.g., baseline and child-specific data), and difficulty in obtaining information from stakeholders and collaborative partners. Overall, however, evaluations suggest some improvements in communication and collaboration among child welfare, education, and system partners.
To learn more about the projects and to read the synthesis, visit the Information Gateway website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/management/funding/funding-sources/federal-funding/cb-funding/cbreports/edcollaborations/.
- 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:
- National Quality Improvement Center on Tailored Services, Placement Stability and Permanency for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Children and Youth in Foster Care, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CW-1126 - A funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to establish one National Quality Improvement Center that will conduct 4–6 projects in partnership with State child welfare systems to produce a dedicated system of successful supports and interventions that specifically support the permanency and stability of LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CW-1126
- Foster/Adoptive Parent Preparation, Training and Development Initiative, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CO-1122 - An FOA modification extending the closing date to extended to May 13, 2016: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CO-1122
- State and Tribal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Implementation Partnership Grants, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CT-1123 - An FOA to support the creation of effective practice model partnerships between State courts and/or Court Improvement Program, State public child welfare agency, and a Tribe, group of Tribes, or Tribal consortia, including both the Tribal child welfare agency and Tribal court for effective implementation of ICWA: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CT-1123
- Grants to Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Migrant Programs for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Programs, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CA-1119 - An FOA to support community-based efforts to develop, operate, expand, enhance, and coordinate initiatives, programs, and activities in Tribal and migrant communities to prevent child abuse and to strengthen and support families: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CA-1119
- National Quality Improvement Center for Preventive Services and Interventions in Indian Country, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CA-1175 - An FOA to award a 5-year cooperative agreement to establish a Quality Improvement Center on the prevention and intervention of child abuse and neglect in American Indian/Alaska Native communities: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CA-1175
- Standing Announcement for Tribal Title IV-E Plan Development Grants, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CS-1176 - An FOA to solicit proposals for one-time grants to Tribes, Tribal organizations, or Tribal consortia that are seeking to develop a plan to implement a title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance, and, at Tribal option, guardianship assistance program: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CS-1176
- Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CT-1178 - An FOA to establish, via the awarding of a cooperative agreement, one Quality Improvement Center to conduct a multisite demonstration project that will address pervasive workforce challenges in child welfare: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CT-1178
- IM-16-01 - This Information Memorandum (IM) informs State title IV-E agencies and Tribes about the publication of the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rule Making and where to submit comments: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/im1601
- Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rule Making on the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS): https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/04/07/2016-07920/adoption-and-foster-care-analysis-and-reporting-system
- Annual Report to Congress on State Child Welfare Expenditures reported on the CFS-101 (2015): http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/cfs-101-report-to-congress-2015
- South Carolina Title IV-E Report Addendum 2015: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/monitoring/title-ive-reviews/state-reports-pips
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb.
Find a brief examining the child welfare field's use of congregate care, a study on the challenges faced by children whose parents have been incarcerated, and more.
- Adoption Medicine and the Health of Adopted Children
An article in the National Council for Adoption's Adoption Advocate discusses the importance of adoption medicine to the health and well-being of children who have been adopted. The article defines adoption medicine as a practice that addresses the special health, behavioral, and developmental needs of adopted children. The field's specialists can leverage their expertise to help adoptive families and children throughout the entire adoption process. The article describes how specialists can help families through each stage of adoption, including the following:
- Preadoption consultations: Specialists can help families understand the lists of medical terms and conditions prospective adoptive parents must review before making a final decision to adopt.
- Reviewing the adoption file: Specialists can help review a child's adoption file to help families determine the suitability of a particular adoption placement.
- Postadoption care: Specialists can provide guidance and assistance with issues such as caring for newborns, children adopted from foster care, and children adopted through intercountry adoptions.
The brief also discusses when an adopted child may need to be referred to other specialists (e.g., substance-exposed infants, children with developmental delays), and it includes an appendix with additional resources and materials to help primary care providers care for adopted children.
Access "Adoption Medicine: Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Adopted Children," by Emily Todd, Adoption Advocate, 92, 2016, at https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/publications/2016/02/adoption-advocate-no-92.
- Reducing the Use of Congregate Care
In order to provide more children and youth in out-of-home care with stable, home-like placements, the child welfare field is moving away from the use of congregate care for long-term placements when possible and appropriate. A policy brief from the Chadwick Center and Chapin Hall examines the field's current use of congregate care, evidence-based practices that can help prevent youth placement in congregate care, the needs of youth who may require intensive interventions, variations in available treatment options, and States' use of congregate care.
Using data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW II), the brief examines the population of youth placed in congregate care as compared to those placed in other out-of-home settings (e.g., kinship care or other foster care). The brief goes on to identify mechanisms for reducing congregate care use—specifically, evidence-based interventions to target youth's needs and services and supports for youth's home-based caregivers. Key findings include the following:
- Some States rely heavily on congregate care as a first placement, suggesting the need for capacity building for foster homes.
- Youth placed in congregate care and therapeutic foster homes have significantly higher levels of internalizing and externalizing behaviors than those placed in traditional foster care (suggesting that increased access to services that effectively address internalizing and externalizing behaviors are essential to safely reducing the use of congregate care).
- Compared to youth whose clinical needs are met through therapeutic foster care, youth placed in congregate care are more likely have externalizing problems (suggesting that strategies for serving these youth in home-based setting should focus on preparing those homes to respond by deescalating difficult behaviors).
Noting that States may use congregate care differently, the brief provides a number of recommendations for reducing the use of congregate care, including the following:
- Differentiate intensity of treatment from restrictiveness of placement.
- Incentivize increasing capacity for skilled and/or specialized home-based placement.
- Support access to evidence-based interventions designed to help stabilize placements and/or enhance clinical outcomes for youth in foster and kin placements.
- Enhance access for child welfare systems to technical assistance for selecting and successfully implementing evidence-based practices.
- Develop funding streams that support flexibility in the delivery and intensity of outpatient services.
Access the brief, Using Evidence to Accelerate the Safe and Effective Reduction of Congregate Care for Youth Involved With Child Welfare, at http://www.chadwickcenter.org/Documents/CC_Research_vF.PDF (537 KB).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, and the Children's Bureau published a brief on the use of congregate care in the child welfare system. Access it at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/congregate-care-brief.
- Challenges for Children With Incarcerated Parents
Having a parent in prison adds trauma to the lives of children who may have already experienced more hardship than children whose parents have not been in prison. These traumas can lead to toxic stress in children, with many negative outcomes. A new study from Child Trends describes the effects of having a parent in prison. The authors used data from the National Survey of Children's Health, a representative sample of children under 18 in all 50 States.
According to the study, about 5 million U.S. children have had a parent in jail or prison, but there is limited research on interventions to help these children. The study found four general characteristics of children with parents in prison. The children are likely to be Black, poor, have parents with low education, and live in rural areas. The percentage of Black children with a parent in prison is nearly twice as high as the percentage of White children with an imprisoned parent. Children in families at or below the poverty level were three times as likely to have a parent in prison. If a child's parents had only a high school education or less, the children were 41 percent more likely to have a parent spend time in prison. A larger percentage of children in rural areas have a parent who spent time in prison, compared with children in metropolitan areas.
Children who had a parent in prison also had more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and more school problems than other children. The ACEs included living with a person who had a problem with substance abuse, parents divorced or separating, domestic violence, violence in their neighborhoods, and living with an adult who was mentally ill. Elementary school children (aged 6 to 11) were less engaged in school, had more problems with school, and had more emotional problems if one of their parents had been jailed. Middle-school youth and teens (aged 12 to 17) whose parent had ever been in prison also had more problems in school.
This report concludes with a short description of programs for children with imprisoned parents in four States and Washington, DC, and an online toolkit for professionals and family members. Promising practices include:
- Increasing communication between the child and the imprisoned parent
- Making in-person visits to the parent in prison more child friendly
- Helping children of incarcerated parents overcome social stigma by providing strength-based and nonjudgmental environments
The report notes the need for more research and evaluation in this area. Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children?, by David Murphey and P. Mae Cooper, is available on the Child Trends website at http://www.childtrends.org/?publications=parents-behind-bars-what-happens-to-their-children.
- First 5 Ventura County's Parent Survey Evaluation
Social Policy Research Associates published an evaluation report on a parent survey analyzing First 5 Ventura County (F5VC), a Los Angeles, CA, community-based organization advocating for the health and well-being of children ages birth to 5 years. The survey was sent to approximately 7,000 F5VC participants to examine the program's progress in promoting three primary outcomes of focus: access to health care; kindergarten readiness; and knowledge of child development, resources, and parenting.
The report provides some background on the survey, methods and approach for analysis, and key characteristics of survey respondents, such as the following:
- Child gender and age. Fifty-two percent of the child population served is male, and 48 percent is female. Infants and toddlers comprised the majority of the F5VC child service population at 64 percent.
- Race/ethnicity. The racial and ethnic composition of the child participant population was predominantly Hispanic/Latino (76 percent), followed by White (15 percent) and multiracial (4 percent).
- Language spoken at home. The majority of the child service population spoke a language other than English at home (61 percent). The top three languages spoken at home included Spanish (55 percent), English (39 percent), and Mixteco (3 percent).
The study concluded that F5VC participants are making good overall progress in the three key outcome areas, with particularly strong results in the areas of children's access to health care and health insurance, parent confidence, and parent knowledge of child development. It also identified some areas in need of further improvement, including the following:
- Support for stronger literacy practices at home
- Increased encouragement and support around oral health
- Potential need for greater community-building efforts to reduce parent isolation
- Increased support for preschoolers who are not reaching developmental milestones
The report's appendices include the survey that was sent to parent participants, data sources and analysis approach, characteristics of core service populations, and services administered by program type. Access the report, First 5 Ventura County Evaluation Report: Findings From the 2015 Parent Survey, at http://www.first5ventura.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/First-5-Final-Report.pdf (1 MB).
This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other instruments that provide evidence-based strategies and other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.
- Competency-Based Workforce Development
The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) published a report on the use of competency models to help guide agencies in the recruitment, selection, preparation, and retention of child welfare professionals. Competency models focus on the knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other key characteristics an individual needs to be successful in particular jobs at different levels, such as caseworker, supervisor, and manager.
The report describes the benefits of using a competency-based approach in recruiting staff, which include the following:
- Provides clarity by setting clear expectations about the knowledge, skills, and attitudes relevant for a particular job
- Offers consistency by articulating a common framework and language for communicating and implementing a workforce development system
- Supplies connectivity to workforce development components such as education and professional preparation, recruitment, screening, job descriptions, and training, as well as a connection from behaviors to outcomes and from the present to a desired future state
The report gives a brief history of competency-based approaches, discusses competencies within a workforce development framework, and details a workforce development framework developed by NCWWI to address the specific issues related to child welfare work. The report also provides a comparison of competency models currently in use in child welfare agencies across the country and discusses next steps and implications for agencies, such as the following:
- Convene a workgroup and select a model.
- Adapt the model to the agency.
- Disseminate the model and integrate into all agency aspects (e.g., recruitment, performance management).
- Monitor the use of the model and make modifications as necessary.
Access Competency-Based Workforce Development: A Synthesis of Current Approaches, by Charmaine Brittain and Freda Bernotavicz, on the NCWWI website at http://ncwwi.org/files/Workforce_Development_Process/NCWWI_Competency_Synthesis.pdf (514 KB).
- Special Initiative: Mental Health Awareness
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of Americans affected by mental health conditions. Highlighted each year by Presidential Proclamation, this initiative month aims to reduce the stigmas that are often associated with mental health issues, increase awareness and understanding of these issues, provide support for those affected by mental health issues, and advocate for appropriate care. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime, and one in five children ages 13–18 have or will have a serious mental illness. Learn about how NAMI, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization, can help you raise awareness about mental health on its 2016 National Mental Health Awareness Month website at https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Raise-Awareness/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Month.
May 5, 2016, is also National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. Each year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) dedicates a day in May to raising awareness about the importance of children's mental health and to show that positive mental health is essential to a child's healthy development from birth. Children and youth involved with child welfare are particularly at risk of suffering mental health issues. Children who have suffered maltreatment can experience intense trauma, which may affect many aspects of their lives and last well into adulthood. Learn more about how SAMHSA can help you raise awareness about the importance of children's mental health during this initiative day, and every day of the year, by visiting its website at http://www.samhsa.gov/children/national-childrens-awareness-day-events/awareness-day-2016.
Child Welfare professionals working with children, youth, and families facing mental health issues may be interested in the following resources:
Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Developing a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System (issue brief)
- Parenting a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma (factsheet for families)
- What Is Child Welfare? A Guide for Behavioral Health/Mental Health Professionals (factsheet)
- Mental Health Facts: Children and Teens (infographic)
https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/Children-MH-Facts-NAMI.pdf (4 MB)
- OK2TALK, an online community for teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- Creating Trauma-Informed Systems (webpage)
- Early Childhood Trauma (webpage)
- Physical Abuse (webpage)
- Caring for Every Child's Mental Health (webpage)
- Understanding Child Trauma (webpage)
- Developing a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System (issue brief)
- Delinquency Prevention Pilot
Youth involved with child welfare are often at higher risk of becoming involved in delinquent offenses and of subsequent involvement with the juvenile justice system. While California's Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had an existing program focused on youth already dually involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, DCFS and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) worked to develop an assessment to help identify children and youth involved with DCFS at risk of delinquency and juvenile justice involvement. A NCCD report addresses background information on the project, successes and challenges related to implementation, an initial evaluation of the program's effectiveness, and recommendations for improving implementation.
The assessment was piloted by four DCFS offices as part of the Delinquency Prevention Pilot (DPP). According to the report, evaluators were not able to come to definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of DPP due to limitations in service delivery and outcome data (e.g., services provided and required, how many youth were arrested after enrollment in DPP services) and challenges related to implementation fidelity. However, the following are some key lessons learned:
- The commitment of Los Angeles County DCFS was vital to the success of the DPP.
- Effectiveness was affected by changes in leadership; limited access to required resources; and access to objective data related to education, mental health, and substance use status.
- In order to track service delivery and examine the effectiveness of those services on youth outcomes, agencies need to record more comprehensive service and outcome data.
- In order to evaluate a program, the agency needs to commit to continuing the program for a long enough period of time to implement and evaluate implementation through a process evaluation, and allowing time for a sufficient follow-up period (at least 1 to 3 years).
The report's appendices include the delinquency prevention screening assessment and sample DPP practice model. Access the report, A Profile of Youth in the Los Angeles County Delinquency Prevention Pilot, at http://www.nccdglobal.org/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/la_dpp_evaluation_report.pdf (2 MB).
This CBX section 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.
- Understanding Trauma: A Guide for Youth
Youth M.O.V.E. National, a youth-led organization promoting awareness around youth issues, developed a guide to help youth understand trauma, how stressful events can affect youth's health and well-being, and how youth can work toward processing trauma and asking for help. The guide is presented in a colorful booklet format, and readers are ushered through the content by two characters, Jessie and Hayden—both representing youth advocates. As the characters share their experiences and understanding surrounding trauma, the guide offers information on what trauma is, adverse childhood experiences, the impact of trauma, symptoms and triggers, resiliency, and things youth should keep in mind when looking to start a conversation about their trauma experience.
Access A Guide for Youth: Understanding Trauma on the Youth M.O.V.E. website at http://youthmovenational.org/images/downloads/YouthTraumaGuideUnderstandingTrauma_OnlineFinal.pdf (965 KB).
- An Overview of Transition Systems
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD for Youth) created a tool to help youth, youth services professionals, and other caring adults ensure that youth with and without disabilities make a successful transition into adulthood. The tool provides basic definitions of what "transitioning" means, as well as what "systems" are. It offers sections with information on 11 different systems a youth may encounter during his or her transition: developmental disabilities, education, foster care, health care, housing, juvenile justice, mental health, postsecondary education, social security, transportation, and workforce development. Each section describes how that particular system works, the people and places usually involved, relevant policies and programs, and information on eligibility criteria for services within each system. The tool also includes a "My Transition Truths" worksheet to help youth evaluate how much they know about each system, their experiences with each, and how they feel the systems could be improved.
Access Transition Truths: An Overview of Transition Systems on the NCWD for Youth website at http://www.ncwd-youth.info/transition-truths.
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.
Upcoming national conferences on child welfare and adoption through August 2016 include:
- 2016 National Title IV-E Roundtable
Utah State University
June 1–3, Salt Lake City, UT
- 15th Annual National Citizen Review Panel Conference
Arizona Citizen Review Panels & Arizona State University Center for Child Well-Being
June 6–9, Glendale, AZ
- Adoption Initiative Conference (9th Biennial)
June 9–11, Montclair, NJ
- When Words Matter: Emerging Issues in Forensic Interviewing
Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center
June 21–23, Atlantic City, NJ
- 24th Annual APSAC Colloquium
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC)
June 21–25, New Orleans, LA
- 2016 National Association of Social Workers National Conference
"Leading Change, Transforming Lives"
National Association of Social Workers
June 22–25, Washington, DC
- FFTA 30th Annual Conference on Treatment Foster Care
Foster Family-Based Treatment Association (FFTA)
July 10–13, New Orleans, LA
- 2016 COA Conference: The Power of Collaboration
Council on Accreditation (COA)
July 17–19, New York, NY
- NCJFCJ's 79th Annual Conference
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)
July 17–20, Monterey, CA
- 2016 CWLA National Conference
"Advancing Excellence in Practice and Policy: What Works for Families Affected by Substance Use"
Child Welfare League of America (CWLA)
August 1–3, Orange County, CA
- 2016 North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) Conference
August 3–6, Nashville, TN
- 28th Annual Crimes Against Children Conference
Dallas Children's Advocacy Center & Dallas Police Department
August 8–11, Dallas, TX
- 20th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
"Building Community, Building Hope"
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect
August 31–September 2, Washington, DC
Further details about national and regional child welfare and adoption conferences can be found through the Conference Calendar Search feature on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at http://www.childwelfare.gov/calendar/index.cfm.
- 2016 National Title IV-E Roundtable
- Comprehensive Services for Incarcerated Fathers and Their Families
The Urban Institute hosted a webinar highlighting the importance of collaboration among community-based, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations, as well as other community stakeholders in supporting fathers and families affected by incarceration. The webinar focuses the Community-Centered Responsible Fatherhood Ex-Prisoner Reentry Pilot Projects (Fatherhood Reentry), funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance. These projects aimed to partner with community-based organizations, justice and governmental agencies, businesses, academic institutions, and other service and treatment providers to help provide these fathers and their families with comprehensive support services. The Urban Institute offers an evaluation of the projects, and the webinar presentation addresses the following topics:
- The importance of partnerships
- Types of partnerships and their opportunities and challenges
- Strategies for building, maintaining, and sustaining partnerships
To view the webinar, "Effective Partnerships for Family-Focused Reentry Services," and access webinar materials, such as agenda, speaker biographies, and speakers' presentations, visit the Urban Institute website at http://www.urban.org/events/effective-partnerships-family-focused-reentry-services.