This month, we highlight a website exploring tools and resources on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), an information packet on mental health concerns of children in foster care, a practice model for addressing early childhood trauma, and other resources for professionals working with children facing adversity.
- Predictors of Coexisting Mental Health Disorders
An article in the American Psychological Association's Traumatology journal reports on a study that analyzed 1,038 case records and interview data of Casey Family Programs alumni in 13 States to assess prefoster care, foster care, and postfoster care predictors of comorbidity, defined as two and three or more mental health diagnoses. According to the study, childhood behavioral disorders and trauma are predictors of coexisting mental health disorders in foster care alumni and underscore the need for comprehensive mental health assessments for this vulnerable population.
The study found that the trauma-related risk factors for comorbidity were "exceptionally high" among foster care alumni, pointing to National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect statistics showing that more than half of the children in foster care have experienced neglect (53 percent), 15.3 percent have suffered physical abuse, 4.4 percent sexual abuse, and 28.2 percent parental substance abuse. The authors point to several studies showing three or more mental health disorders among foster care alumni, including major depression, panic disorder, alcohol or drug dependence, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders. Results from this study showed that 10.4 percent of all alumni experienced three or more disorders, 9.8 percent had two co-occurring diagnoses, and 20.8 percent had a single diagnosis. PTSD was found to be the most prevalent, occurring in 21.6 percent of alumni, followed by major depression (15.1 percent), social phobia (12.1 percent), panic disorder (11.4 percent), generalized anxiety disorder (9.3 percent), drug dependence (3.8 percent), alcohol dependence (3.7 percent), and bulimia (2.7 percent).
Alumni who reported their foster parents as "helpful" experienced less comorbidity than those who did not. The authors highlight this to emphasize that a quality foster parent-foster child relationship has significant implications for long-term well-being.
"Childhood Behavioral Disorders and Trauma: Predictors of Comorbid Mental Disorders Among Adult Foster Care Alumni," by Lovie J. Jackson Foster, Jonathan Yabes, Kirk O'Brien, Chereese M. Phillips, Joshua Breslau, Elizabeth Miller, and Peter J. Pecora, Traumatology, 21(3), 2015, is available through the American Psychological Association at http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/trm/21/3/119/.
- Emotional, Psychological Well-Being of Children in Foster Care
A new information packet from the National Center for Child Welfare Excellence (NCCWE) at the Silverman School of Social Work explores facts and statistics about the mental health concerns of children in foster care. These children may be particularly vulnerable to mental health challenges due to possible exposure to abuse and neglect, as well as the process of out-of-home care. The author notes that almost 48 percent of children in foster care were found to have "clinically significant" emotional or behavioral problems in a 2004 National Institute of Mental Health survey, and that more than 50 percent of children formerly in foster care cope with mental disorders as adults. It is therefore vital that children in care receive timely assessments so that potentially needed treatment can begin as soon as possible, as well as reassessments following the adjustment to new placements or foster relationships. The packet also emphasizes the importance of appropriate education and training for foster parents.
The packet includes sections on policy and legislation that impact and address the mental health concerns of children in foster care and their access to mental health services, best practices and model programs, and websites and resources for more information.
Access Information Packet: Emotional and Psychological Well-Being of Children in Foster Care, by Shoshana Indyk, on the NCCWE website at http://www.nccwe.org/downloads/info-packs/ShoshanaIndyk.pdf (458 KB).
- Website Explores Adverse Childhood Experiences
What can happen to a child's brain when he or she experiences trauma during childhood? The ACEs Too High news site explores just that. According to the website, adverse childhood experiences, or "ACEs," can harm children's developing brains in ways that can manifest many years later, often causing chronic disease, mental illness, and other issues. ACEs Too High shares the latest news on research and developments related to ACEs in the fields of education, juvenile justice, criminal justice, public health, medicine, mental health, and social services and covering topics that include epidemiology, neurobiology, and the biomedical and epigenetic consequences of toxic stress.
The website focuses on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which measures 10 ACEs types: physical, sexual, and verbal abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member who is depressed or diagnosed with other mental illness, addicted to alcohol or another substance, or in prison; witnessing a mother being abused; and losing a parent to separation, divorce, or other reason. It includes a section where users can calculate their own ACEs scores by answering a series of questions, as well as their resilience score based on 14 protective factors.
Users can also join the ACEs Too High companion social network, ACEs Connection, which aims to help people who are implementing or looking to implement trauma-informed, resilience-building practices in their work, community, or personal lives. A new feature on the website is the "ACEs Primer," a 5-minute video explaining the CDC-Kaiser study.
Visit ACEs Too High at https://acestoohigh.com/ to learn more.
- Children and Traumatic Separation
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network published a factsheet for professionals working with children who have experienced a separation from their caregiver, whether through death or due to other circumstances for varying amounts of time. The factsheet explains that children can often experience traumatic stress as a result of separations depending on the circumstances surrounding the experience. Besides the trauma of a separation due to death, children may become separated from caregivers because of parental incarceration, immigration, parental deportation, parental military deployment, and termination of parental rights.
The factsheet describes challenges children may face when experiencing a traumatic separation. For example, children whose caregivers are still alive may experience complicated feelings surrounding hopes for a future reunion that may or may not be possible, which may affect their ability to cope with and adjust to life in their current situation. Other children may have experienced frightening events, such as a parent being arrested. Information is also provided on possible posttraumatic responses that children may exhibit such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, changes in mood, self-destructive thoughts or actions, as well as other mental and emotional challenges a child may face after a traumatic separation. Finally, tips for working with traumatized children are presented, including suggestions for how to do the following:
- Guide caregivers on how to talk to children
- Address related traumatic experiences
- Help child gain mastery over trauma-related symptoms
- Suggest ways for the child to maintain connections
- Coordinate outside resources and referrals
To read the factsheet Children With Traumatic Separation: Information for Professionals, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website at http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/children_with_traumatic_separation_professionals.pdf (517 KB).
- Practice Model Addresses Complex Trauma
Trauma can mean many things for children. It can mean having a parent or family member incarcerated, experiencing or witnessing violence in their home or community, or living in a home with parents or family members that struggle with mental health or substance use issues. Trauma Smart, a practice model created by the Crittenton Children's Center, seeks to address the wide range of trauma that can affect children's lives.
Currently implemented in Head Start classrooms across 26 counties in the Kansas City, MO, metro area and across Missouri, Trauma Smart focuses on helping all members of a child's community—parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, school staff, etc.—recognize signs of trauma in children and help children cope. The model seeks to do the following:
- Prepare children for social and academic success
- Actively include parents in their child's school experience
- Improve the work environment for teachers and school personnel
- Create practical and enduring change for children, families, and communities
The Trauma Smart website offers users detailed information on the model and outcomes from the field. It also provides tools and resources for parents and caregivers on topics such as how to create routines for children, what to say when a child has a tantrum, tips for self-care, and talking to children about death, as well as resources for professionals in the field.
Learn more on the Trauma Smart website at http://traumasmart.org/.
Spotlight on National Adoption Month
Spotlight on Creating a More Equitable Child Welfare System
News From the Children's Bureau
CBX points to new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations for child welfare information systems. We also join the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law and its national partners in recognizing National Reunification Month, and we highlight an HHS factsheet on health-care coverage for homeless youth and youth at risk of homelessness.
- White House Foster Care and Technology Hackathon
Last month, during National Foster Care Month, the White House, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Think of Us hosted the first White House Foster Care and Technology Hackathon. On May 26 and 27, leaders in the fields of foster care and child welfare, nonprofit organizations, and foster care families and alumni joined in a conversation with leaders from the technology sector to explore ways in which technology could be used to improve the foster care system and the lives of the children, youth, and families the system touches. Child welfare, legal, and technology experts; practitioners; policymakers; and foster care alumni teamed to "hack" current challenges facing the child welfare field by thinking about innovative solutions in response to the following questions:
- How might we prevent unplanned pregnancy among youth in foster care?
- How might we prevent homelessness among youth who have aged out of care?
- How might we create a legal framework for protecting the digital information of children and families in the child welfare system?
- How might we make essential documents constantly available to youth in one touch?
- How might we help pregnant and parenting mothers dealing with substance abuse?
- How might we ensure that we have an ample supply of the most capable, empathetic, resilient families as part of the foster family pipeline?
- How might we get more innovative technology into child welfare agencies?
- How might we empower youth in foster care and alumni with decision-making abilities?
To learn more about the hackathon—including information about the teams that came together to hack each question, indepth information about each challenge being discussed, the potential impact of a technology solution for the challenges, and opportunities Think of Us and the teams explored as possible solutions—visit the Think of Us website at http://thinkof-us.org/white-house-hackathon/.
- 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:
- Guide to Developing, Implementing, and Assessing an Innovation: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/guide-developing-implementing-assessing-innovation
- The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System Supplemental Proposed Rule - Overview: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/afcars-snprm-overview
- The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System Supplemental Proposed Rule - Overview Presentation: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/afcars-snprm-overview-presentation
- Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking - Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/afcars-snprm-faqs
- Michigan AFCARS Assessment Review, 2016: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/michigan-afcars-assessment-review
- PI-16-02 - Program Instruction (PI) to set forth the requirements for recipients of Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect awards for Federal fiscal year 2016, and provide guidance and instructions for the preparation and submission of the application: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/pi1602
- PI-16-03 - PI that provides guidance to States, territories, and insular areas on actions they are required to take to receive their allotments for FFY 2017 authorized under title IV-B, subparts 1 and 2, section 106 of CAPTA, Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP), and Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/pi1603
- PI-16-04 - PI that provides guidance to Indian Tribes, Tribal organizations, and Tribal consortia on actions they are required to take in order to receive their allotments for FFY 2017 authorized under title IV-B, subparts 1 and/or 2, the CFCIP, and the ETV program: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/pi1604
- Grants to Address Trafficking within the Child Welfare Population, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CA-1179 - A funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to solicit proposals for projects that will address human trafficking within the child welfare population: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CA-1179
- Quality Improvement Center on Child Welfare Involved Children and Families Experiencing Domestic Violence, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CA-1184 - An FOA to establish one Quality Improvement Center targeted toward improving the safety, permanency and well-being for families that are pregnant and/or have young children, involved in the child welfare system, and experiencing domestic violence: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CA-1184
- FOA Modification: Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CT-1178 - This published FOA has been modified to clarify the expected funding for all budget periods: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CT-1178
- FOA Modification: Foster/Adoptive Parent Preparation, Training and Development Initiative, HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CO-1122 - This published FOA has been modified with a new closing date, July 11, 2016, as well as other modifications regarding language and other specifications: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/view/HHS-2016-ACF-ACYF-CO-1122
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb.
- Health Services for Homeless Youth
Homeless youth or youth at risk of homelessness may have difficulty accessing services due to unstable housing or low-income situations. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provisions that aim to facilitate access to health and mental health-care coverage can likely put these services within their reach. However, youth may need guidance in assessing their eligibility for and accessing services.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a factsheet that spotlights health-care coverage for homeless youth and youth at risk of homelessness. The factsheet reviews eligibility criteria for Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and subsidized coverage and what services are covered. It includes links to resources for more information and highlights "Things to Know About Applying or Helping Someone Apply":
- For homeless youth, it may be easiest to apply on the phone or using a paper application in order to receive assistance.
- Individuals without a permanent address can use an assister's, trusted friend's, or service provider's address.
- Individuals can apply and be determined eligible at any time throughout the year.
Also included is a chart detailing Medicaid and CHIP income eligibility as a percentage of the Federal poverty level by State. To access the factsheet Health Coverage for Homeless and At-Risk Youth, visit https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/198441/HomelessHealth.pdf (207 KB).
- National Reunification Month
By Mimi Laver, Director, Legal Education, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law
The spring of 2016 is a special time for families and the professionals who support them. During the month of May, we recognized National Foster Care Month with the wonderful theme of "Honoring, Uniting, and Celebrating Families." June is National Reunification Month. While we hope that every day is one in which the child welfare system demonstrates how it values families and their strengths, shining a national spotlight on parents for these two months reminds us where our priorities should be all year long.
According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, reunification is, by far, the permanency option achieved by the most children in the child welfare system. Research has shown that children who are raised by their families have the best long-term outcomes1; therefore, we have a true motivation to return children home as quickly as it is safe to do so. For many families, this is not an easy process. However, when a child is returned home, it is cause for celebration.
National Reunification Month began in 2010 as a single day—June 19 (during Father's Day weekend). It started as a collaboration among a number of national organizations, including the American Bar Association's (ABA's) Center on Children and the Law, Casey Family Programs, National Association of Counsel for Children, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Center of State Courts, the Foster Care Coalition, Rise magazine, and Judge Connie Cohen from Iowa. These partners joined together to let States know that reunification is important and worthy of celebration. In 2012, the initiative's leaders decided to focus on June as Reunification Month.
Since 2010 the following guiding principles have remained central:
- Reunification with family is the preferred outcome for children who must be removed from their homes and placed in foster care.
- For most children in foster care, reunification with their family is their best option for a permanent and loving home.
- Every year, thousands of children are successfully reunified with their families.
- All children need the care, love, security, and stability of family unity—including parents, siblings, grandparents, and other extended family members—to provide a solid foundation for personal growth, development, and maturity.
- Reunification takes work, commitment, and investment of time and resources by parents, family members, social workers, foster parents, service providers, attorneys, courts, and the community.
One of the special aspects of the month was the 2012 addition of honoring Reunification Heroes from around the country. These heroes are parents, lawyers, and case workers who have gone above and beyond in the reunification process. They were nominated by peers, interviewed by ABA staff, and highlighted on the Reunification Month website (http://ambar.org/nrm) as well as on the ABA's Parent Attorney listserv. In 2015, we had a record 11 heroes honored, and the ABA hopes to top last year by honoring many more Reunification Heroes. Nominations for 2016 honorees are now closed, and we look forward to sharing the 2016 Reunification Heroes' stories via articles that will be published during June at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/child_law/what_we_do/projects/nrd/heroes.html.
Another important part of Reunification Month is the State and local events that will happen in June. At least 25 States have conducted at least one event over the last few years, and most of these States have held multiple events. The celebrations ranged from picnics honoring families, to rallies on the steps of State capitols, to substantive forums. For example, each year New Jersey picks an important topic like housing and visitation, creates a video about the topic, and holds a forum for stakeholders during June. Similarly, the Family Defense Center in Chicago has hosted a celebration for the past 5 years in which parents who were involved in the child welfare system share their stories and discuss ways to improve the experience for families. To see a description of past events and to register your celebration, see the Reunification Month website.
Reunification Month, at its core, is about ensuring a focus on keeping children with their families. While we highlight this initiative during June, children and families rely on us all to focus on reunification throughout the year.
1 Doyle, J. J., Jr. (2007). Child protection and child outcomes: Measuring the effects of foster care. American Economic Review, 97(5), 1583–1610. doi: 10.1257/aer.97.5.1583
- Tribal Grants: Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction Program
The Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is soliciting applications for its new Grants to Tribal Governments to Exercise Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction Program (Tribal Jurisdiction Program). Authorized in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, the program aims to encourage the effective partnership of Tribal criminal justice system and victim service providers to ensure victims are safe and offenders are held accountable. Program funds can be used to accomplish the following:
- Strengthen Tribal criminal justice systems to assist Indian Tribes in exercising "special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction" (SDVCJ)
- Provide indigent criminal defendants with the effective assistance of licensed defense counsel, at no cost to the defendant, in criminal proceedings in which a participating Tribe prosecutes a crime of domestic violence or dating violence or a criminal violation of a protection order
- Ensure that, in criminal proceedings in which a participating Tribe exercises SDVCJ, jurors are summoned, selected, and instructed in a manner consistent with all applicable requirements
- Accord victims of domestic violence, dating violence, and violations of protection orders rights that are similar to the rights of a crime victim described in the Federal Crime Victims' Rights Act, consistent with Tribal law and custom
OVW anticipates making 36-month awards in the range of $300,000 to $450,000. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. (E.T.) on June 20, 2016.
To view this solicitation, as well as other OVW solicitations, visit http://www.justice.gov/ovw/open-solicitations.
- Advancing Evidence Base in Family Self-Sufficiency and Stability Policy
Given finite Federal resources and the importance of accountability, there has been increasing movement toward building an evidence base to use in improving the effectiveness of human service programs. The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) offers practical guidance for advancing evidence-based decision-making in a recently published toolkit that describes how to design experiments for evaluating the effectiveness of an intervention or program change in family policy.
The toolkit focuses on "opportunistic experiments (OEs)," or randomized control trials (RCTs) to study the effect of an initiative, program change, or new policy that an agency is planning to implement. This contrasts with traditional RCTs, which typically look at an intervention or program change developed specifically for a research study. OEs often rely on existing data to measure outcomes for existing program participants, making them more cost effective than most RCTs (which must recruit participants and collect new data). The toolkit looks at the various types of OEs, their characteristics, programs that are well-suited to experimentation, case study examples, and how to implement them.
Advancing Evidence-Based Decision-Making: A Toolkit on Recognizing and Conducting Opportunistic Experiments in the Family Self-Sufficiency and Stability Policy Area (OPRE Report #2015-97) was developed by Mathematica Policy Research (under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, OPRE) as part of the OPRE-funded Advancing Welfare and Family Self-Sufficiency Research project. The toolkit can be accessed at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/oe_learning_what_works_toolkit_final_2_b508.pdf (1 MB).
- Permanency Innovations Initiative Training/Technical Assistance Resources
Throughout the Federal Government, there is a push to build an evidence base and use it to improve the effectiveness of human services programs. With this in mind, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) developed the Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII) and, in fiscal year 2010, ACF awarded grants to six organizations to implement and evaluate innovative, evidence-supported interventions that would help children leave foster care in less than 3 years and add to the knowledge base in child welfare.
To support PII grantees, ACF also established the PII Training and Technical Assistance Project (PII-TTAP), which provides training and technical assistance (T&TA) on the implementation and sustainability of the interventions. PII-TTAP created The Development, Implementation, and Assessment Approach, which focuses on best practices in implementation science and builds on work completed with PII grantees. Using the approach as a foundation, PII-TTAP developed three additional products to support child welfare professionals in their roles as managers/administrators and T&TA providers. These products deliver best practices in implementation science, helping organizations develop innovations or adapt existing ones and effectively implement them to ultimately improve outcomes for children and families.
The following resources are aimed at child welfare professionals interested in applying the approach:
- Guide to Developing, Implementing, and Assessing an Innovation - This five-volume PDF series is intended as a reference for individuals and teams as they move through the stages of the implementation process. Each volume includes instructions, quizzes, real-world examples, and tools intended to provide guidance and support for successfully implementing an innovation. The format is accessible and convenient, and the series can be downloaded and printed or used directly on your computer. Access the guide at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/guide-developing-implementing-assessing-innovation.
- Development, Implementation, and Assessment Toolkit - This self-paced website provides virtual T&TA support and includes video hosts, interactive modules, automated tools, interviews with child welfare practitioners, and links to additional resources. The toolkit provides a more intensive transfer of learning and interactive experience than the guide. The toolkit will be publicly available in late 2016.
The following resources are aimed at T&TA providers interested in helping child welfare professionals apply the approach:
- Providing Technical Assistance to Build Implementation Capacity in Child Welfare: A Manual Based on the Development, Implementation, and Assessment Approach - This manual provides guidance to T&TA providers working with agencies or organizations using the approach. The manual includes lessons learned from providing T&TA to PII grantees that can be applied to support other child welfare organizations and grantees. Currently in development, the manual will be distributed in late 2016.
- The Development, Implementation, and Assessment Approach, which is available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/pii-develop-implement-assess-approach.
More information on PII, including the grantees and the PII Approach, is available on the Children's Bureau's website at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/pii-project-resources.
- New Rule for Child Welfare Information Systems
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published regulations for a new case management information system to help State and Tribal title IV-E agencies better develop and support their child welfare programs. The Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS) Final Rule replaces the Statewide and Tribal Automated Child Welfare Information Systems (S/TACWIS), developed in 1993, and addresses the significant changes in child welfare practice and technology that have evolved over the past 23 years.
In contrast to the single comprehensive information systems prescribed by S/TACWIS regulations, the more flexible CCWIS regulations allow agencies to develop smaller systems that are targeted to agencies' needs. Agencies will have greater opportunity to implement innovation and technology to share data between multiple systems and build a "sized-to-fit" application. The final rule's four key provisions are as follows:
- Promote data sharing with other agencies: If practicable, title IV-E agencies should exchange data with other health and human service agencies, education systems, and child welfare courts in order to help coordinate services, eliminate redundancies, improve client outcomes, and improve data quality.
- Require quality data: Title IV-E agencies implementing a CCWIS must develop and implement data quality plans and processes to monitor data quality, as well as address and correct identified problems.
- Reduce mandatory functional requirements: CCWIS only has 14 requirements (as opposed to the minimum 51 requirements prescribed by S/TACWIS regulations). Agencies will be allowed to build functions in the CCWIS or collect needed data through exchanges with other systems.
- Allow agencies to build systems tailored to their needs: Federal requirements for this optional system focus on quality data and exchanges between related information systems, thus allowing agencies to tailor systems to their unique needs rather than functions specified by the Federal Government.
For more information about the CCWIS final rule, including a link to the rule itself, visit the Children's Bureau website at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/research-data-technology/state-tribal-info-systems.
- New Reunification Factsheet for Families
When children are placed in foster care, it can be very stressful for everyone in the family. Families can have lots of questions, and they may feel anxious, worried, or overwhelmed. But foster care is not forever. Children and youth can and do return home to their families. In fact, this is the most common outcome. According to the latest Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System report (PDF - 136 KB), 51 percent of children exiting foster care in fiscal year 2014 were reunited with their parents or primary caretakers. Child Welfare Information Gateway published a new factsheet for families that provides a general overview of the reunification process, including what parents can expect while their children are in foster care, what they can do to help their children return home, and what to expect after children return home. Resources available to help families during and after reunification also are included. Questions and topics addressed include the following:
- What can I expect while my children are in foster care?
- What can I do to help my children come home?
- What will happen as reunification gets closer?
- What can I expect after my children come home?
- What other resources can help me and my family?
Child welfare professionals can share this factsheet with the families they serve to help prepare them to successfully reunite with their children and to spread awareness of the reunification process during 2016 National Reunification Month, and all year long. To access Reunification: Bringing Your Children Home From Foster Care, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reunification/.
- New Diligent Recruitment Resources
The National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment (NRCDR) at AdoptUSKids published two new resources for States and Tribes:
- Diligent Recruitment Planning Tool for Tribes: A Tribal Supplement to the Diligent Recruitment Navigator aims to help Tribal child welfare systems who are looking to develop diligent recruitment plans and programs engage, develop, and support kinship, foster, guardianship, and adoptive families. While the tool highlights key elements and information from the NRCDR's Diligent Recruitment Navigator and offers additional customized content for Tribes, it can be used either as a companion to the full Diligent Recruitment Navigator or on its own. Ideas for discussion questions and people to include in planning discussions are also featured. Access the tool at http://nrcdr.org/_assets/files/NRCDR-org/dr-navigator-tribal-supplement.pdf (100 KB).
- Developing Recruitment Plans: A Toolkit for States and Tribes provides guidance, strategies, examples, and tools for developing data-driven recruitment plans, including ideas for creating short-term plans, targeted recruitment plans focused on particular populations or areas, and comprehensive diligent recruitment plans. The toolkit features topics such as the value of a strong planning process and plan, what a recruitment plan should be, and ways to engage with data, and it offers 10 recruitment-planning worksheets. Access the toolkit at http://www.nrcdr.org/_assets/files/NRCDR-org/developing-recruitment-plans-toolkit.pdf (391 KB).
To view a list of all NRCDR publications, visit http://nrcdr.org/publications.
A new synthesis of the Children's Bureau's work to fund multifaceted diligent recruitment programs for a range of resource families for children in foster care, including kinship, foster, concurrent, and adoptive families, is now available. Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in the Foster Care System is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/management/funding/funding-sources/federal-funding/cb-funding/cbreports/families/.
Find a report on supportive housing programs for child welfare-involved families, a working paper examining the benefits for the social work sector of investing in big data capture, and more.
- Long-Term Benefits of Behavioral Health Services
The Washburn Center for Children, a Minneapolis-based mental health agency, formed a partnership with the University Of Minnesota's Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) to examine the long-term impact of treatment on children receiving Washburn Center services. The Washburn Center works with caregivers to regularly assess a child's functioning in emotions, conduct, hyperactivity, peer relationships, and prosocial skills. A "Total Difficulties" score is then given to determine a child's progress and levels of functioning over time. The Washburn treatment data are connected to records from the educational, child welfare, and juvenile court systems—through CASCW's Minnesota Linking Information for Kids project (Minn LInK)—to give professionals a better understanding of how children are progressing in treatment and functioning in areas such as school and community life.
CASCW conducted a study whose findings revealed that young children with social and emotional behavioral issues experienced significant improvement after receiving Washburn Center services—improvement that extends over the long term to enhanced school performance and community life. Data revealed that in addition to improved symptomology in the targeted behavioral areas, the children who completed treatment at the Washburn Center experienced a measurable advantage on school assessment tests and a reduced rate of posttreatment involvement with child welfare services. Juvenile court involvement rates were, however, similar to those of their peers not receiving treatment.
To access a report on the study, Outcomes of Children Receiving Mental Health Services From Washburn Center for Children, as well as supplemental Minn LInK briefs, visit http://cascw.umn.edu/portfolio-items/outcomes-of-children-receiving-mental-health-services-from-washburn-center-for-children-ml-25/.
- Involving Youth in Foster Care in Court Cases
New data show that youth in foster care want to be involved with their legal proceedings and that courts are able to more effectively intervene on their behalf when they do. The American Bar Association's (ABA's) Center on Children and the Law issued a report, Engaging Youth in Court: A National Analysis, summarizing data collected from seven State judicial assessments in Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington.
Findings show the following:
- Decisions are better informed when youth are present in court.
- Youth want to have a voice in court.
- Most youth report the court experience as positive, even if the decision does not go their way.
- Youth feel as though their voice is heard in court.
- Youth are most concerned about potential placement, school, permanency, and visitation rights.
- Barriers to youth involvement (e.g., transportation issues) are not insurmountable.
The report recommends the following to encourage better youth engagement:
- Youth should be present at dependency court hearings.
- Transportation issues should not be a reason to exclude youth.
- In some cases, youth absence from court is preferable (e.g., if the judge determines it is not in his/her best interest).
- Youth should receive child-friendly hearing notices.
- Youth should be allowed to bring a support person with them.
- Youth should be briefed ahead of a court appearance and debriefed after the hearing as to what to expect, how to act, what's next, etc.
- Judges should engage the youth and explain what is going on in age-appropriate language.
The report is available on the ABA website at http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/child_law/youthengagement/NationalAnalysisFinal.authcheckdam.pdf (563 KB).
- Supportive Housing Practices for Child Welfare-Involved Families
A report by the Urban Institute explores the work of Federal grantees focused on supportive housing programs for child welfare-involved families that is helping to establish practices for identifying at-risk families. The Federal grant—Partnership to Demonstrate the Effectiveness of Supportive Housing—is a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau award to determine the impact of housing and intensive services on families with housing issues. The report analyzes the success of the five demonstration sites—Broward County, FL; Cedar Rapids, IA; Memphis, TN; San Francisco, CA; and the State of Connecticut—in integrating services and changing systems to more strategically identify and support families. The report examines the demonstration sites' similarities and differences midway through the grant work.
The report finds that all five sites have accomplished the following:
- Established multiagency teams to more comprehensively address family needs
- Developed procedures within the local child welfare agency to identify families with housing issues
- Collaborated with local housing agencies to help demonstration families receive rent subsidies
- Created communication channels among agencies that have never worked together before, resulting in expanded services to families in need
The report, Evolution in Programs Offering Supportive Housing to Child Welfare-Involved Families: Services Integration and Systems Change at the Half-Way Point, by Martha R. Burt, Maeve E. Gearing, and Marla McDaniel, is available on the Urban Institute website at http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/2000698-Evolution-in-Programs-Offering-Supportive-Housing-to-Child-Welfare%E2%80%93Involved-Families.pdf (935 KB).
- Harnessing Data to Inform Policy and Practice
A working paper from the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) examines the benefits for the social work sector of investing in big data capture. The paper, Harnessing Big Data for Social Good: A Grand Challenge for Social Work, is part of a series of AASWSW papers analyzing critical social dilemmas of our time through a social work lens.
The paper contends that the social work sector lags far behind others in using big data to its advantage. The authors define "big data" as "the digital byproducts of human activity (e.g., carrying out government functions, delivering services, administering programs, conducting business transactions, communicating through social media, using digital devices)." For instance, whereas business routinely uses consumer data to discern customer preferences, the social sector has not used big data as efficiently and often to improve the effectiveness of social programs.
The authors make the following arguments:
- The demand for evidence-based policy and practice compels the need for big data to inform best practices.
- Data and predictive analytics are increasingly being relied on to support operational decisions and long-term planning.
- The same complex processes that have led to successful human genome mapping hold promise for customized social interventions via big data.
The paper recommends that the social work sector recruit and train social workers who are data savvy and skilled in applying big data for the social good. Harnessing such data will inform practice and policy and help ensure resources will be wisely invested, resulting in enhanced efficacy, transparency, and accountability.
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.
- California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse Website Guides
The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse (CEBC) for Child Welfare aims to help child welfare and related systems and agencies identify and implement evidence-based practices (EBPs) relevant to child welfare. In order to help its diverse audience use available resources most efficiently, CEBC created targeted website information guides intended to introduce the CEBC website to specific audiences and help them navigate the site to find information relevant to their potential interests. The latest guides focus on mental health agencies and family resources. The guides link users to information on the following:
- Vital background information on EBPs
- How to access programs with varying levels of supporting evidence
- How to implement EBPs in real-world settings
- How to access measurement tools with varying levels of supporting evidence
The CEBC is a project of the California Department of Social Services to promote the well-being of children and families served within the child welfare system. Access the CEBC's website guides, which also include guides for professors and students, at http://www.cebc4cw.org/home/using-the-cebc/.
- Extending Public Food Assistance for Youth Aging Out of Care
A recent policy brief from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) recommends measures States can take to prevent older youth who have exited foster care from losing Federal financial assistance for food purchases. Supporting Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Through SNAP, part of CSSP's New Policy Series on Food Security, looks at the implications of food insecurity for older youth aging out of foster care. Because this vulnerable population faces unique challenges with the transition to adulthood, including access to health care and employment, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP—formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) is a critical support.
SNAP benefits for adults without children, or "Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents" (ABAWDs), however, are conditional. Individuals identified as ABAWDs must be employed or participating in some sort of work program for at least 80 hours per month, or their SNAP benefits will be restricted to 3 months in a 36-month period. Because so many youth formerly in foster care lack a high school diploma and suffer from unemployment, they are particularly vulnerable to the time limitations associated with the SNAP work requirements.
The brief notes that States have the ability to use waivers to override the ABAWD provision in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, but that several have chosen to allow the penalty to take effect. As a result, the brief estimates that between half a million and a million low-income individuals will lose their SNAP benefits, including many young adult foster care alumni.
Because food insecurity would be so harmful for this population and further threaten their economic stability and both physical and mental health, the brief suggests several steps that States can take to strengthen SNAP:
- Allocate waivers to former foster youth: All States are allowed to exempt 15 percent of the individuals subject to the time limits, and States have discretion to choose to whom this will apply. States have the authority to categorically exempt all youth formerly in care age 26 and under.
- Promote stability through employment and training: Connect youth formerly in care to employment and training programs to help them both retain their SNAP benefits and become self-sufficient.
- Increase participation through active outreach: Make sure that youth formerly in care know how to access SNAP benefits. Data suggest that only 30 percent of this population receives public food assistance, so active outreach is needed to connect them with this important benefit.
To learn more, access the policy brief at http://www.cssp.org/policy/2016/supporting-youth-aging-out-of-foster-care-through-SNAP.pdf (2 MB).
- Special Initiative: LGBTQ Pride Month
June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Questioning (LGBTQ) Pride Month. LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in foster care, making up a larger percentage of youth in care than in the general youth population. Research found that there are 13.6 percent LGBTQ-identified youth in foster care compared to 7.2 percent in the general youth population, and 5.6 percent transgender youth in foster care compared to 2.25 percent in the general youth population.1
Additionally, these youth face particular challenges in care or treatment that their peers may not. Only 13 States and Washington, DC, have laws that explicitly protect youth in foster care from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.2 Another seven States protect youth against sexual orientation discrimination only.3 Laws aren't the only places where these youth face discrimination—many may experience rejection, hurtful language, and a general lack of support from resource families and/or child welfare workers. The greater bias and discrimination they face can lead to negative outcomes, such as homelessness (56 percent), high levels of depression (six times more likely), or attempted suicide (eight times more likely).4
Parents, resources families, and child welfare professionals can help protect this vulnerable population by providing support and acceptance. Standing together with LGBTQ youth is one of the most valuable protective factors that someone can provide. There are many resources available for youth and concerned adults that provide advice, guidance, and information about mental and behavioral health, education, working with LGBTQ youth and families, and the particular risks these youth and families face.
Resources for LGBTQ Youth in Care
- American Bar Association – It's You're Life Opening Doors: Improving the Legal System's Approach to LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/child/PublicDocuments/its_your_life.authcheckdam.pdf (6 MB)
- Child Welfare Information Gateway – Resources for LGBTQ Youth in Out-of-Home Care
Resources for Child Welfare Workers and LGBTQ Families
- American Psychological Association – Answers to Your Questions About Transgender People, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.pdf (206 KB)
- Child Welfare Information Gateway – Working With Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Families in Adoption
- Child Welfare Information Gateway - Frequently Asked Questions From Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Prospective Foster and Adoptive Parents
- Human Rights Campaign – All Children - All Families: Promising Practices Guide
- Lambda Legal – Getting Down to Basics Tool Kit
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQI2-S) Resource Toolkit
1 Wilson, B.D.M., Cooper, K., Kastansis, A., & Nezhad, S. (2014). Sexual and gender minority youth in foster care: Assessing disproportionality and disparities in Los Angeles. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/LAFYS_report_final-aug-2014.pdf (938 KB).
2 California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington. Gill, A.M. (2015). 2014 State equality index. Retrieved from http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/files/assets/resources/HRC-SEI-2014-FullReportREV.pdf (36 MB).
3 Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Gill, A.M. (2015). 2014 State equality index. Retrieved from http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com//files/assets/resources/HRC-SEI-2014-FullReportREV.pdf (36 MB).
4 Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Supporting your LGBTQ youth: A guide for foster parents. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau.
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.
- App for Youth in Foster Care
The transition from youth into adulthood is a confusing time of life, and youth in foster care who are transitioning may face additional challenges in knowing where to go to access important information they may need as young adults. My JumpVault provides youth with a space where they can securely store and access important information, so that it's always within reach when they need it.
Developed by Five Points Technology Group and designed by youth formerly in foster care, My JumpVault helps youth safely archive personal records like health, employment, and education documentation, and it allows youth to store helpful tips, resources, reminders, photographs, and more via a secure website. Youth can access My JumpVault using their technology of choice, be it laptop, tablet, PC, or smartphone, and there are many options for how to upload information and documents. The app features a dashboard that provides an overview of and links to content areas that include the following:
- My Identification: Allows the user to track progress for and upload multiple identification-related information, such as driver's licenses, birth certificates, social security cards, etc.
- My Education: Allows the user to upload and track important documentation related to his or her education—from a high school transcript, or a GED/diploma, to letters of recommendation and his or her Education and Career Plan.
- My Calendar: Allows the youth and case worker to add events to the youth's calendar and monitor them closely.
- My Rights: Offers youth links to documents and guidance pertaining to his or her rights, enabling self-education in many vital areas that help the youth maintain self-assurance and self-reliance as he or she moves through the foster care system.
Youth can begin using the app at age 14, and caseworkers and Independent Living specialists assisting transitioning youth can access the profiles of youth they serve until they reach age 18, when access becomes more limited, in order to partner with youth in maintaining their important information.
To learn more about My JumpVault, visit http://www.myjumpvault.org/.
- Keeping Military Kids Safe and Sound
Military parents, like all parents, often encounter everyday situations, stressors, and choices that can be dangerous and lead to neglect, such as leaving kids alone in the car, putting too many stuffed animals in a crib, and losing track of kids while multitasking. However, situations unique to military life—like frequent moves, trainings, and deployments—can disrupt routines, make it hard to know when it's okay to leave your child alone, and add parenting challenges.
Smart parenting means keeping military kids safe and sound—but sometimes the risks can be hard for parents to see. Safe and Sound, a resource for military parents from Military OneSource, can help parents identify the common risk factors for child neglect, such as the following:
- Inadequate supervision: Supervision can be the difference between a safe or dangerous situation. Parents should be there for their kids—or make sure someone they trust is there.
- Physical and environmental hazards: Steps toward a safe home are leaps toward child safety. Help parents to start moving forward today.
- Distracted parenting: It's easier for parents to connect with their kids when they find time to disconnect from emails, texts, and games. Help parents be present with their kids.
Safe and Sound offers resources such as childproofing checklists (PDF - 368 KB) and information for finding the State and military installation guidelines or laws military parents need for supervising their kids. Military parents can also find support, whether they are looking for parenting programs on their installation or child care resources in their community.
Parents can visit Safe and Sound at http://militaryonesource.mil/safe-and-sound or call Military OneSource at 800.342.9647 for tips and resources to help them avoid neglectful situations and be the best parent they can be for their military kids. Use #SafeAndSound to share information with other professionals and with military families to help keep military children safe and happy.
- Mental Health Assessment Tools for Runaway, Homeless Youth
The Family and Youth Services Bureau's (FYSB's) National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth posted a collection of screening and assessment tools for professionals serving runaway and homeless youth. Created in consultation with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and its youth workgroup partners, the list provides evidence-based and evidence-informed tools for working with runaway and homeless youth.
Screening and Assessment Tools for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs are designed to help professionals assist youth in securing more stable housing and permanent connections, greater well-being, and opportunities for education and employment. To learn more, visit FYSB's website at http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/screening-and-assessment-tools-runaway-and-homeless-youth-programs.
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 September 2016 include:
- FFTA 30th Annual Conference on Treatment Foster Care
Foster Family-Based Treatment Association (FFTA)
July 10–13, New Orleans, LA
- Child Welfare Virtual Expo: Building Capacity to Address Sex Trafficking and Normalcy
Children’s Bureau & Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative
July 13, online
- 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
- 28th Annual ATTACh Conference
Association for Training on Trauma and Attachment in Children (ATTACh)
September 22–25, St. Louis, MO
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.
- FFTA 30th Annual Conference on Treatment Foster Care
- Trauma-Informed Child Welfare
The Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC) is offering 0.4 continuing education units upon successful completion of a training that provides an overview of the most current trauma-focused, evidence-based treatments and tools for child welfare workers and child protective services professionals. The 4.5 hour training aims to help participants do the following:
- Identify risk factors and consequences for children exposed to violence and trauma
- Summarize basic information about evidence-based, trauma-focused tools and treatment
- Describe the role of child welfare professionals as brokers and advocates
- Identify strategies for effective collaboration with mental health professionals
- Identify strategies for engaging families in treatment
Trainings must be requested at least 135 days prior to the event date, with a minimum of 30 participants. To learn more about this training, Increasing Effectiveness of Child Welfare Workers for Child Victims of Trauma, and about how to request a training for your organization, visit the OVC TTAC website at https://www.ovcttac.gov/views/TrainingMaterials/dspChildWelfareWorkers.cfm.