This month, CBX spotlights data integration in child welfare, with a solid introduction on the topic, as well as examples from across the country of the innovative ways jurisdictions and organizations are beginning to share, integrate, link, and better use child welfare data.
- From SACWIS to AdoptUsKids' Photolistings
A new AdoptUsKids' initiative, Project Connect, can help States use their SACWIS (statewide automated child welfare information systems) data to post photolistings of children available for adoption outside their State. As described in presentation materials on the National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology (NRCCWDT) website, Project Connect is designed to increase the number of photolistings from States by streamlining the transfer of necessary data from a State's SACWIS to the national photolisting database. The initiative was described in a conference call presentation by AdoptUsKids for SACWIS managers in April 2009.
As a national photolisting site, AdoptUsKids has aided in the placement of more than 10,000 children with permanent families. Currently, there are about 130,000 children in foster care awaiting adoption. According to the presentation, more than 4,000 families registered on the site have completed home studies and are waiting for a child. By streamlining the process for States to use its photolisting service, AdoptUsKids hopes to broaden the pool of families for children who could not be placed in their own States. Project Connect has the potential to provide a number of benefits:
- Children will have a greater opportunity to find permanent families.
- Workers can more easily use the national AdoptUsKids' site and receive increased support for permanency planning decisions.
- States should experience reduced administrative costs and better outcomes on their Child and Family Services Reviews due to increased adoptive placements.
To find out more about Project Connect, access the presentation materials on the NRCCWDT website, including:
- A PowerPoint, "AdoptUsKids—Project Connect" (www.nrccwdt.org/resources/sacwis/docs/AduptUsKidsPowerPoint.pdf [99 KB])
- AdoptUsKids' presentation to SACWIS managers (www.nrccwdt.org/resources/sacwis/docs/AdoptUsKidsSACWISManagersconferencecall.pdf [134 KB])
- A presentation by Tennessee on interfacing the State's data system with AdoptUsKids (www.nrccwdt.org/resources/sacwis/docs/TFACTS_interface_with_Adopt-Us-Kids.pdf [184 KB])
- Improving Court and Child Welfare Data Exchange
Data exchange among child- and family-serving systems can greatly improve outcomes for children and families involved with the child welfare system, and this is particularly true for courts and child welfare agencies. To promote and ease that process, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) is leading the effort to create a Court/Child Welfare National Exchange Template (NET) that sets forth technical specifications for an exchange protocol and data exchange standards.
A task force of State and national court and child welfare professionals helped develop the Court/Child Welfare NET by documenting the business process involved when a child welfare case goes through the courts, identifying typical data exchange points between the two systems, and specifying the data elements necessary to share data efficiently. The Court/Child Welfare NET offers States a framework from which to build a data exchange system that will meet the needs of both the courts and child welfare agencies. States implementing such a system have experienced many benefits, including:
- Less redundant data entry
- Improved coordination of services and court appearances
- A more complete picture of goals and outcomes for families
- Better information for decision-making
- Higher quality data to inform best practices and policy changes
A website for the Court/Child Welfare NET Project offers an overview of the project, process models and technical specifications, and summaries of regional and subcommittee meetings. Interested individuals are encouraged to review the technical documents and provide feedback on the process, terminology used in their jurisdiction, and ideas for improvements. Visit the National Center for State Courts website for more information:
The website also includes an issue brief that describes the development of the Court/Child Welfare NET Project and discusses the experiences of States that have begun planning and implementing court/child welfare data exchange. States have identified challenges in the areas of privacy and confidentiality, information system capacity, and controlling access beyond courts and child welfare agencies. The full issue brief, Can Data Exchange Between Courts and Child Welfare Agencies Improve Outcomes for Children? by Victor Eugene Flango, can be downloaded online:
CBX announced the debut of the Toolkit for Court Performance Measures in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases in the February 2009 issue. See "New Toolkit Measures Court Performance in Child Welfare."
- Linking Data on Children and Incarcerated Mothers
Integrating data across systems can provide new insights into the needs of children in the child welfare system or at risk for involvement. In 2008, the Urban Institute supported data integration efforts at three sites to learn more about the experiences of children whose mothers were incarcerated. Each site linked different data sets, depending on what was available and suited to their analysis. A new publication, Using Local Data to Explore the Experiences and Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents, by Diana Brazzell, reports the findings.
- In Pittsburgh, PA, where the county maintains an integrated data warehouse, researchers linked data from bookings at the county jail, foster care cases, juvenile delinquency allegations, and mental health and substance abuse treatment records. Data analysis indicated that, for incarcerated mothers of children placed in foster care, the number of jail bookings increased steadily in the years before foster care placement, spiked in the year of placement, and continued to rise after placement, suggesting the possibility of a link between incarceration and foster care placement. In looking at outcomes for children in foster care, children whose mothers were incarcerated were more likely than other children to be assigned a placement goal of adoption.
- In Providence, RI, researchers linked incarceration records to birth records, capturing data on children who were and were not involved with the child welfare system. Findings show that children of incarcerated mothers were more likely to face developmental challenges from birth because this group tended to be born to young, unwed mothers who had delayed prenatal care and gave birth to low-birthweight infants.
- In Chicago, IL, where an integrated database on children's services is maintained, researchers linked data on arrests, incarcerations, foster care cases, and allegations of abuse and neglect. In contrast to the Pittsburgh findings, Chicago researchers found that there was no direct relation between foster care placement and the mother's arrest or incarceration for the majority of families. In fact, abuse or neglect was often reported well before any criminal involvement of the mother. Other statistics showed that one-third of the children of women incarcerated between 1990 and 2001 entered foster care at some point.
The author of the report discusses the potential for using administrative data to find out more about children of incarcerated parents, since child welfare and criminal justice data are not normally integrated. Key considerations should include the need to build relationships among data providers, gauge the quality of the data, determine the best method for merging data, address data limitations, and establish a proper chronology of events.
The overlap of the two populations—incarcerated mothers and children in the child welfare system—suggests that these families face multiple challenges. Using multiple data systems for further research could contribute to developing more effective prevention initiatives.
The full report is available on the Urban Institute website:
- Using Data for System Change With Infants and Families
The New York State Council on Children and Families and the New York State Child Care Coordinating Council have produced a set of materials to help early childhood community coalitions use data to improve services for young children and their families. While the materials are geared for early childhood advocates, the process of using data to analyze and implement system change may be applicable to other groups. Using Data to Build Comprehensive Systems for Infants and Families guides users through the steps of (1) assessment, (2) identification of issues, and (3) use of data to build systems and effect change.
The materials include a facilitator's guide, resource guide, and a PowerPoint presentation; they are designed to be presented in four sessions:
- Session 1 focuses on making the connection between data and daily work and includes resources for finding national and local data.
- Session 2 shows how to use data to tell a story. Resources include a manual on organizing and presenting data.
- Session 3 provides information on using data to implement system change and includes resources on evidence-based practice.
- Section 4 relates the story of a New York City project and its resulting report, which used data to educate and bring about change.
The facilitator's guide offers scripts and discussion points for the materials in the resource guide. The resource guide includes a collection of factsheets, handouts, and reports that seek to improve services for children and families by tapping into national, State, and other data resources.
Using Data to Build Comprehensive Systems for Infants and Families, by Cate Teuten Bohn, Mary E. De Masi, Susan Perkins, and Evelyn Efinger, is available from the New York State Council on Children and Families website:
- Promoting the Use of Data in a System of Care
The Jefferson County, Colorado, Systems of Care (SOC) initiative has helped the county's Division of Children, Youth, and Families focus on data use and accountability in child welfare with the development of the Child Welfare Application Timesaver (CAT) system. Funded by the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration project, the county's SOC initiative has aided in reshaping agency practice. The CAT system promotes the importance of data to caseworkers by enabling them to use their time more efficiently, avoid duplication of efforts, and increase timely services for families.
The system is designed to automate the completion and approval routing of county-specific documents, forms, and referrals using case management, client, and provider information extracted from the data tables of the Colorado Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS). Tara Czyzewski, Systems and Design Specialist at the Jefferson County Department of Human Services, explains that the department wanted to increase data use without overloading the workers. They had to convince workers that, "Yes, it will mean an increased workload for data entry [into SACWIS], but it doesn’t have to increase workload overall," Ms. Czyzewski recalls.
Before the CAT system, which was implemented divisionwide by August 2006, there was much duplication of efforts, including completing forms and referrals by hand, entering the same information on multiple forms, and frequently completing the same form multiple times throughout the life of a case. All referrals were forwarded on paper for approval, and they often sat on desks or got lost in the shuffle, delaying services for families. Only later were the data entered into SACWIS in order to abide by State requirements.
While there were clear incentives to integrating data collection, workers still needed some way to be rewarded for entering their data into SACWIS first. Otherwise, this was seen as just an additional step in an already lengthy process. The solution was the CAT system, which:
- Completes automated forms using SACWIS data
- Provides automated electronic workflow (routing and approval)
- Performs electronic scheduling
- Sends email notifications and reminders
- Monitors SACWIS data errors and compliance
One of the keys to the successful development of the CAT system was finding a programmer who understands what the child welfare practice is about and can easily see the big picture. According to Ms. Czyzewski, Jefferson County's programmer, Graig Crawford, "was able to ask some very valuable questions that helped us articulate what we really needed."
The positive outcomes of the CAT system have been numerous. Not only are services to families improved, as referrals are routed more efficiently through the system, but caseworkers now have a better understanding of the benefits of data and are more involved in the process. Ms. Czyzewski explains that, previously, reports and outcomes were looked at only by management, and workers did not see the value or understand the results. "They are now learning more about the SACWIS system . . . they are more involved with providing input on how to make improvements. From management on down, they are all talking about and interested in outcomes."
For more information, please contact Tara Czyzewski at email@example.com.
Many thanks to Tara Czyzewski, Systems and Design Specialist at Jefferson County Department of Human Services, who provided information for this article.
- Children's Bureau Hosts the National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit
On May 27-29, 2009, the Children’s Bureau (CB) hosted the National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit in Washington, DC. More than 430 individuals attended, including researchers, evaluators, State and Tribal child welfare agency administrators, analysts, and caseworkers. Professionals from other service systems also played a vital role in Summit discussions.
CB's vision for the Summit was to engage a variety of stakeholders in dialogue about the current state of evaluation practice in the field of child welfare and to promote cohesive, strategic, and sound approaches for evaluating child welfare systems, projects, and programs. Participants discussed theoretical, methodological, and ethical issues related to testing interventions, transferring knowledge, and implementing change at the individual practice, organizational, and systems levels in child welfare.
The Summit provided a unique opportunity for attendees to hear diverse perspectives, share their own viewpoints, and exchange useful information. Over 100 evaluation and child welfare experts spoke or facilitated discussions at the event. Multiple session formats encouraged participation; they included plenary sessions, moderated panel sessions, workshops, facilitated discussion groups, affinity groups, technical assistance sessions, and poster sessions. In all session formats, presenters and participants engaged in rich discourse about topics covering a broad range of issues, including:
- Designing evaluations that are both rigorous and culturally appropriate
- Making choices about evaluation when resources are scarce and capacity is limited
- Using administrative data to evaluate changes in child welfare practice
- Investigating the effectiveness of implementation and dissemination approaches
- Conceptualizing and evaluating organizational and systems changes
Feedback from participants during and immediately after the event was very positive, and CB is hopeful that conversations initiated at the Summit will inspire further dialogue and collaboration. Participants were encouraged to capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm generated from the meeting. CB is in the process of synthesizing information gained from the Summit and compiling the results of participant surveys to improve evaluation resources for the field and to inform future planning. In addition, a special edition of the journal Child Welfare was announced during the Summit that will focus specifically on child welfare evaluation.
- North Carolina's Practice Notes Champions Data
The most recent issue of North Carolina's Practice Notes focuses on the theme of connecting child welfare practice and data. As the online publication points out, collecting data is just the beginning. Knowing where to find the data and how to use data to effect changes in agency policy, practice, or legislation are the next steps.
Articles in this issue of Practice Notes examine the role of data in agency self-evaluation, supervision, agency culture, and the Child and Family Services Reviews. One article illustrates how a North Carolina county uses both quantitative and qualitative data on the county's foster parent recruitment and retention program to engage community partners.
To read this issue of Practice Notes, produced by the North Carolina Division of Social Services and the Family and Children's Resource Program, go to:
For an example of North Carolina's extensive and accessible child welfare data system, visit:
- What Is Data Integration?
By Lynda Arnold, Director, National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology
With the current emphasis on data to guide and inform decisions in child welfare, data integration is a common term. But what is meant by data integration? If you ask 50 people, you will probably get at least that many different answers. One common definition is "the process of combining data residing at different sources and providing the user with a unified view of these data"; that is, taking data from various sources to be presented in a user-friendly way that will give more information in a broader context. There are currently many efforts in child welfare that are doing just that, and several of these are highlighted in this edition.
Data integration is a priority of the Children’s Bureau's Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) Network. Within this context, data integration also means the integration of data with practice. Data should be used to inform practice—to know when practice is achieving the desired outcomes, identify those practices that are working or not working, and assist decision makers in such crucial areas as resource allocation, technical assistance, and monitoring and reviewing strategies and programs. True data integration occurs when you don't talk about the issues without having data in front of you.
It is essential that when organizations are in the process of making system changes, the data and the systems and processes used to collect data are considered from the very beginning. Linking data indicators and analyses methods with new practices and approaches at the onset will help ensure the fit between evaluation and practice and increase the usefulness of data over time. A priority within the T&TA Network is to assist in improving the use of data throughout the organization to ensure that the organization uses data to inform practice and to plan, manage, and measure results!
Members of the T&TA Network work collaboratively to enhance the use of data from various sources and to integrate data in practice throughout child welfare, including the areas of child protection, foster care, adoption, and preventive and in-home services. The Network can also help the various entities that all touch the lives of children and families to coordinate and share meaningful data about their interventions and progress, including the courts, Tribes, and State and local child welfare agencies. Collaboration within the T&TA Network helps ensure that the organizations served have the benefit of holistic T&TA that integrates practice and data.
Lynda Arnold is also the Vice President, Knowledge Management, at the Child Welfare League of America. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spotlight on Child and Family Services Review, Round 4
Spotlight on Child Welfare Workforce Development
News From the Children's Bureau
CBX links you to the latest information and resources from the Children's Bureau and its T&TA Network, including a model for supervision, a site visit report on supervisor training, guidance on monitoring privatized services, and more.
- A Model and Framework for Supervision
Current child welfare literature emphasizes the pivotal role of supervisors in translating and fulfilling their agency's mission and values. To guide agencies in optimizing supervisory policies and practices, the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning and the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI) have developed an emerging model for child welfare supervision. Building a Model Framework for Child Welfare Supervision is based on a review of current literature, surveys, and consultations with experts, and it offers proven strategies and tools for supporting supervisors.
The report is divided into three sections:
Section One illustrates seven elements of an emerging model of supervision in child welfare:
- Articulating the agency's philosophy
- Identifying supervisors' responsibilities
- Recognizing the importance of building relationships
- Establishing standards for caseload size
- Defining supervisory expectations
- Clarifying expectations for worker evaluations
- Supporting supervisors
Section Two identifies four organizational components required to empower child welfare supervisors to carry out their duties effectively:
- Organizational support
- Clear definitions of supervisors' tasks
- Recruitment and retention of qualified staff
- Ongoing professional development
Section Three includes appendices with useful resources for implementing the report's recommendations, including a literature review, methodology, interview protocols with agency staff, and a sample job description.
The report, Building a Model and Framework for Child Welfare Supervision, by Peg Hess, Susan Kanak, and Julie Atkins, can be downloaded from the NRCOI website:
- Site Visit: STEPS to Youth Permanency Training for Supervisors
The Supervisory Training to Enhance Permanency Solutions (STEPS) curriculum helps supervisors develop techniques to lead, support, and positively engage caseworkers in facilitating foster youths' successful transition to adulthood. Developed by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) in partnership with the Office of Foster Care and Adoption Education and Policy at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the STEPS training program is targeted to DCF social work supervisors, equivalent personnel in other State agencies, and staff of contracted program providers to improve their skills and support for youth aging out of the foster care system. The curriculum was developed with input from DCF staff and other providers, youth, foster parents, and an advisory board that provided expertise and insight throughout the project.
The STEPS curriculum is organized into six 6-hour modules that are delivered over the course of 1 year so participants may apply the skills at work and share their experiences at the next training. The curriculum emphasizes the need for supervisors to use a strengths-based approach when working with their staff and with youth and families. The six modules address:
- Positive youth development
- Community ties and lifelong connections
- Education and workforce
- Mental and physical health needs
- Public safety and the juvenile justice system
- Implications for practice
The final module consists of a facilitated discussion of the need for integrated practice when working with youth. Emphasis is placed on a team-planning and decision-making process that includes the youth, family members, significant adults, professionals, and other "power brokers" whose collaborative efforts can help youth achieve their permanency goals and successfully transition to adulthood. The program also employs a unique assessment tool, the Adolescent Implicit Association Test, to help supervisors identify unconscious biases they may have about youth in care and examine the practice implications of those biases for their work in child welfare.
The six modules of the STEPS curriculum were delivered five times in various regions of Massachusetts, reaching a total of 484 participants, 35 of whom attended all six modules. Several evaluation efforts for the project are underway, including a process evaluation and pre- and posttraining surveys and interviews. Preliminary findings indicate an overall positive trend in participants' responses, with a majority of participants reporting they would recommend the training to their colleagues. Participants also felt the information sharing and open dialog that occurred during training sessions helped stimulate practice improvements within and across units.
To increase the dissemination of lessons learned during the training, all participants received tools and materials to use with their staff. The project also offers a website featuring the entire STEPS curriculum, an updated manual of State-specific resources for youth, an events calendar, information on promising practices, and more. Project staff also are adapting the curriculum to target other professionals who touch the lives of foster youth, including educators, medical and legal professionals, and foster parents.
Visit the project's website:
For more information, contact the project director:
Office of Foster Care and Adoption Education and Policy
University of Massachusetts Medical School
333 South Street
Shrewsbury, MA 01545
Supervisory Training to Enhance Permanency Solutions (STEPS) is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CW1130, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Training of Child Welfare Supervisors in the Effective Delivery and Management of Federal Independent Living Service for Youth in Foster Care. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.
The full site visit report is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:
- New! On the Children's Bureau Site
The Children's Bureau website carries information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, Federal reporting, and much more. The "New on Site" section includes grant announcements, policy announcements, agency information, and recently released publications.
Recent additions to the site include:
- New Final Reports from the second round of the Child and Family Services Reviews (Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming)
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new!
Access the "New on Site" page:
- New Final Reports from the second round of the Child and Family Services Reviews (Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming)
- Monitoring Quality in Privatized Child Welfare Services
A new release from the Child Welfare Privatization Initiatives Project aims to help public child welfare administrators provide more effective monitoring of privatized child welfare services within the context of an agency's overall quality assurance/improvement system.
The paper provides examples of how child welfare agencies in different States have worked collaboratively with providers to develop realistic and constructive approaches to contract monitoring. Chapters cover:
- Developing an infrastructure for monitoring
- Monitoring methods and activities
- Using the information to provide feedback and improve outcomes
This is the sixth and final paper in a technical assistance series. The project was funded in 2006 by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (ASPE). The series is designed to provide information to State and local child welfare administrators who are considering or implementing privatization reforms.
Ensuring Quality in Contracted Child Welfare Services, by Nancy Pindus, Erica Zielewski, Charlotte McCullough, and Elizabeth Lee, is available on the ASPE website:
- Updates From the T&TA Network
The members of the Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) Network, including the National Resource Centers (NRCs), offer a variety of new resources to help States and Tribes achieve better outcomes for children and families in their child welfare systems.
- Child Welfare Information Gateway has posted a new web section on Ethical Practice and Client Rights, with resources on topics such as casework practice, confidentiality, research, and training.
- FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) has posted the 2009 lead entities for allocating CBCAP program funds. Instructions for applying for funds, a list of FAQs, and other information are available.
[Editor's note: this link no longer exists]The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) now features a redesigned website and online tutorials. The NCSACW website has a new look and feel, improved navigation, and easier access to a wide range of information on improving systems and practice for families with substance use disorders who are involved in the child welfare and family court systems. Effective collaboration among the child welfare, substance abuse treatment, and court systems is key to improving the outcomes of children and families affected by substance abuse. To promote cross-system partnerships, NCSACW developed three online tutorials. The tutorials describe each system's practices and procedures and provide key information to help you make better-informed decisions that will ultimately benefit families. The courses are offered free of charge. CEUs and CLEs are also available at no charge.
- The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement hosts a Peer Training Network, which offers a series of teleconferences for child welfare workers and trainers to discuss topics such as evaluation, training systems, organizational effectiveness, and salaries.
- The National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning recently posted two resources of interest. The spring 2009 issue of Permanency Planning Today focuses on family engagement, with articles on family visits, immigrants, the Practice Model Framework, and listening, including one article reprinted from Children's Bureau Express.
www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork/nrcfcpp/downloads/newsletter/ppt-spring-2009.pdf (1,381 KB)
An online map provides access to factsheets about foster care for all 50 States and the District of Columbia. Each factsheet provides State statistics on lengths of stay, reunifications, and comparisons to general populations, as well as information on becoming a foster parent.
- The National Resource Center for Recruitment and Retention of Foster and Adoptive Parents at AdoptUsKids recently announced the release of a new publication in the AdoptUsKids' Answering the Call series. Nuestra Familia, Nuestra Cultura (Our Family, Our Culture): Promoting & Supporting Latino Families in Adoption and Foster Care was designed to help agencies increase their cross-cultural understanding in serving Latino families and children.
www.adoptuskids.org/images/resourceCenter/NuestraFamilia_NuestraCultura.pdf (1,772 KB)
- Child Welfare Information Gateway has posted a new web section on Ethical Practice and Client Rights, with resources on topics such as casework practice, confidentiality, research, and training.
CBX highlights new research on the factors that influence worker turnover in child welfare agencies, the tremendous costs to society of allowing youth to age out of foster care without the necessary supports, and recent statistics on the numbers of children growing up in homes with a substance-abusing parent.
- SAMHSA Reports on Children of Substance-Using Parents
Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) illustrate the breadth of the parental substance use problem. According to SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 1 in 10 children were living in homes with substance-dependent or substance-abusing parents between 2002 and 2007.
The April 2009 issue of The NSDUH Report examines the number of children living with substance-dependent or substance-abusing parents, including biological, step-, adoptive, and foster children under 18 years of age who were living with one or both parents at the time of the survey interview. Data show that more than 8.3 million children (11.9 percent) lived with at least one parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol or an illicit drug during the previous year. Alcohol abuse was more prevalent than drug abuse among parents, and fathers were more likely to be abusers than were mothers. These data highlight the broad need for prevention, support, and intervention services for children and families.
To read the full report, visit the SAMHSA website:
- The Case for Investing in Youth
A recent report funded by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative suggests that investing in youth aging out of foster care would reap benefits not only in humanitarian terms but also in financial benefits to the nation's economy. Cost Avoidance: Bolstering the Economic Case for Investing in Youth Aging Out of Foster Care argues that a "business case" needs to be made to show the economic advantages of a large-scale intervention with this population.
The report looks at three specific areas where youth aging out of foster care traditionally fare more poorly than other youth: education, family formation, and criminal justice. Data show that achieving optimal outcomes in these three areas could translate into more than a $5 billion savings to the economy for each annual cohort of youth leaving care. Specifically:
- One cohort year that does not graduate at the rate of the general population experiences decreased earnings over a working life equal to almost $750 million.
- One cohort year of unplanned parenthood costs more than $115 million.
- One cohort year of costs for a criminal career adds up to approximately $4.8 billion.
The authors discuss the conservative cost of over $5 billion per cohort year as the "cost of bad outcomes," suggesting that improved outcomes—such as better graduation rates, delayed pregnancies, and significant reductions in criminal activity—would produce large-scale savings and a substantial return on public and private investments.
To access the full paper, Cost Avoidance: Bolstering the Economic Case for Investing in Youth Aging Out of Foster Care, by Cutler Consulting, visit the Jim Casey Youth website:
- New Factors in Child Welfare Workforce Turnover
Using a 5-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, researchers from the New York Social Work Education Consortium conducted a survey to identify the causes and correlates of turnover among child welfare workers and supervisors and to develop strategies to improve workforce retention. Their results are published in a recent article in the Journal of Social Service Research.
Researchers sought to determine which of the organizational, personal, and supervisory variables identified in previous studies are most closely associated with employee turnover in urban and rural child welfare settings. In New York, 447 employees from 13 child welfare agencies, including New York City, four upstate counties, and one Native American community, completed a workforce retention survey.
While results from earlier studies indicated that certain organizational and supervisory factors affected turnover, the current study found that career satisfaction was the most important factor, along with dissatisfaction with paperwork.
The article's authors suggest two implications for child welfare administrators that may lead to improved retention:
- Administrators should consider ways to reduce the paperwork and record-keeping burdens on their employees.
- During the hiring process, it may be helpful for administrators to better assess an applicant's interest in a career in child welfare.
The article, "Turnover in the Child Welfare Workforce: A Different Perspective," by Brenda G. McGowan, Charles Auerbach, and Jessica S. Strolin-Goltzman, was published in the Journal of Social Service Research, Volume 35(3), and is available for purchase on the publisher's website:
Two new tools offer child welfare workers guidance in helping suicidal Tribal youth and provide information on States' promising practices in helping youth aging out of foster care.
- Suicide Prevention Among Tribal Youth
Studies show higher suicide rates and attempted suicides among Native American youth compared to the general population. To better prepare Tribal child welfare workers to prevent and respond to suicidal behavior among the youth they serve, the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) recently released a new resource, Ensuring the Seventh Generation: A Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Tribal Child Welfare Programs.
The toolkit includes information on warning signs for suicidal behavior, risk and protective factors, and prevention and intervention methods in the context of working with Tribal communities. Some strategies for child welfare workers to consider when working with youth at risk for suicide are:
- Partner with parents and caregivers to gain valuable insight into a child's suicidal behavior and mental health history.
- Prepare foster parents and other care providers by informing them of the risks of suicide and referring them to community resources for support.
- Mobilize family and community support networks around youth at risk for suicide.
- Understand the cultural protocol for talking about suicide and connect families to faith-based and spiritual leaders for additional guidance.
- Encourage youth to participate in cultural and community activities; studies show youth with a strong cultural identity are less likely to commit suicide.
The toolkit also encourages child welfare agencies to create a suicide crisis response team by assigning a designated response lead and establishing collaborative protocols with other service providers, such as law enforcement, mental health professionals, and school personnel.
Download the toolkit on the NICWA website:
- States' Strategies for Youth Aging Out of Care
The National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators (NAPCWA) now provides a snapshot on its website showing how different States use programs and resources around youth in foster care or those aging out of the public child welfare system. NAPCWA surveyed child welfare directors and designated individuals across the States to collect data related to each State's model programs and practices. The synthesized results of the survey are available on the website organized by issue areas, including housing, education, family/permanency connections, disabilities, health, employment, and more.
Key findings from the survey include:
- In most States, youth aging out of foster care are entitled to some financial assistance for housing-related costs.
- There are a number of strategies to help youth locate and connect with family members.
- A variety of State agencies are involved in partnerships with the goal of increasing opportunities for successful transitions to self-sufficiency.
- State programs provide several employment options to youth and make efforts to assist them in obtaining employment.
- Most States have programs to engage youth in leadership development.
Visit NAPCWA's Youth Aging Out Survey Results webpage:
- Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Children in Foster Care
The spring issue of the Virginia Child Protection Newsletter (VCPN) focuses on the challenges of meeting the mental health needs of children in foster care and at risk of removal. The lead article explores the higher incidence of mental health problems in this population and cites specific needs, including the following:
- Adequate training for child welfare workers
- Coordination between child welfare and mental health systems
- Early screening assessments
- Coordination among providers and birth and foster parents
- Placement stability
- Sufficient number of providers
- Access to financial resources
Another article addresses how foster care is used to access mental health services, citing the plight of some parents who relinquish custody of their children so that the children can obtain necessary mental health treatment. The article cites recent legislation and court cases that may affect these situations and reviews the status of these children in Virginia. This issue of the VCPN also includes a bibliography of resources for effective treatments.
The VCPN is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Social Services and is available on the James Madison University website:
http://psychweb.cisat.jmu.edu/graysojh (1,750 KB)
- Finding Benefits for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) website includes a webpage with valuable information for grandparents raising their grandchildren. This webpage provides information on finding health insurance, securing legal fees and finances, and tuition help. A link to AARP's Foundation Money Management plan is especially useful for grandparents experiencing financial troubles.
The newest addition to this webpage is AARP's Benefits QuickLINK. This tool can help grandparents raising grandchildren find out if they or the children in their care qualify for any of the 15 benefits included in the tool. Examples of benefits include Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Income. The QuickLINK takes about 20 minutes to use and provides tailored information about eligibility for specific public benefits.
To visit the AARP webpage on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, go to:
www.aarp.org/families/grandparents/raising_grandchild (editor's note: this link is no longer working)
To access the Benefits QuickLINK, go to:
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.
- Webinar on Preparing Adoptive Parents
The National Council for Adoption is offering a three-part webinar during July for adoption and foster care professionals titled "Assessing and Preparing Adoptive Parents for the Journey Ahead." Led by adoption expert Jayne Schooler, the webinar will cover:
- Identifying 10 common parental expectations and management strategies
- Understanding trauma-informed assessment and preparation
- Parenting children who have been sexually abused
- Understanding the impact of parenting traumatized children on birth or other permanent children
The course will be offered over three consecutive Wednesdays (July 15, 22, and 29), and participants are eligible to receive continuing education credits.
For more information, visit the National Council for Adoption website:
- Topics for State Trainings Expand
Online State trainings are a convenient way for caseworkers to maintain their knowledge and skills. These trainings often provide another resource for workers in other States as well.
Two States' updated curricula offerings are noted below:
The University of Washington (UW) School of Law Court Improvement Training Academy (CITA) has added four new trainings. The following full-length trainings may be downloaded or viewed directly from CITA's website:
- Adolescent Brain Development
- Representing Youth
- The Impact of Domestic Violence on Youth
- Parenting Intervention in Child Welfare: Creating a Continuum of Care
The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, provides a plethora of online trainings and curricula, which are divided into two categories: Foundation training and Specialized and Related training. Each of the research-based and Pennsylvania-focused workshops was developed by department staff to promote the implementation of the Pennsylvania Standards for Child Welfare Practice and Child and Family Services Review Outcomes. A number of guides, handouts, overheads, and appendices are available for each online course.
The training program has added three new curricula to its website:
- Introduction to Family Group Decision Making (FGDM), Part 1
- Introduction to Family Group Decision Making (FGDM), Part 2
- Solutions to Engaging Families in the FGDM Process
For more information, visit:
Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through October 2009 include:
- 23rd Annual Conference on Treatment Foster Care
Believing in the Magic of Families
Foster Family-Based Treatment Association
August 2–5, Atlanta, GA
- 35th Annual NACAC Conference
North American Council on Adoptable Children
August 13–15, Columbus, OH
- NACC 32nd National Juvenile and Family Law Conference
National Association of Counsel for Children
August 19–22, New York, NY
- 22nd Annual National Independent Living Conference
Growing Pains 2009
Daniel Memorial Institute
September 1–4, Nashville, TN
[Editor's note: link no longer exists]
- Midwest Conference on Child Sexual Abuse
The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Family Sexual Abuse Treatment Center
October 19–22, Middleton, WI
- Mid-Atlantic Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
Maryland Children's Alliance
October 28–30, Ocean City, MD
Further details about national and regional adoption and child welfare conferences can be found through the Conference Calendar Search feature on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:
- 23rd Annual Conference on Treatment Foster Care