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November 2004Vol. 5, No. 9Spotlight on National Adoption Month

Issue Spotlight

  • November Is National Adoption Month-Join In!

    November Is National Adoption Month-Join In!

    Join the Children's Bureau and its partners in celebrating National Adoption Month 2004!

    The theme for this year's National Adoption Month is "Answering the Call--You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent." This theme builds on the Collaboration to AdoptUSKids' national recruitment campaign, Answering the Call.

    There are many ways to join in the celebration:

    • Encourage local television, radio, and print media outlets to run the free public service announcements developed by the Ad Council. These ads encourage families to step forward to be foster and adoptive families by realizing they "don't have to be a hero to be a hero" (
    • Check out the recruitment and marketing toolkit, developed by The Collaboration to AdoptUSKids. This downloadable toolkit provides ideas and resources to help promote and celebrate a month of adoption events ( Adoption_Month_Toolkit_04.pdf). (Editor's note: Link no longer active)
    • Get involved with your State's Recruitment Response Team to help respond to inquiries generated by the national recruitment campaign. For more information or to find your State team, contact Mary Lou Edgar, Fulfillment Director, The Collaboration to AdoptUSKids; phone/fax (302) 475-1103; cell (302) 545-3361;
    • Ask local public officials and legislators to sign a proclamation for National Adoption Month or National Adoption Day--a day when hundreds of children around the country will have their adoptions finalized in local courts and jurisdictions (
    • Get involved with a local court that is holding a National Adoption Day celebration.
    • Go to the National Adoption Month website ( to learn more about the children waiting for adoptive families, how to adopt, and how professionals can further their recruitment efforts.
    • Consider whether your family--or a family you know--could adopt one of the 129,000 children currently waiting for families in the nation's foster care system.
    • Celebrate with local foster/adoptive families. Hold a family appreciation potluck or awards ceremony.

    Find more ways to celebrate--one for each day in November--on the Adoption Month calendar ( (Editor's note: Link no longer active)

    National Adoption Month is celebrated throughout the United States during the month of November. The Collaboration to AdoptUSKids and the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, both services of the Children's Bureau, collaborated to create this year's National Adoption Month website.

  • HHS Awards Adoption Bonuses to States

    HHS Awards Adoption Bonuses to States

    On October 14, 2004, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced the awarding of $17,896,000 in adoption bonuses to 31 States and Puerto Rico. The funding comes from the Adoption Incentives Program and is given to States that were successful in increasing the number of adoptions from the public child welfare system over the number of adoptions in 2002.

    This is the first time that bonuses have been given to States and territories since the program was revised and strengthened in December 2003. The bonuses go to State child welfare agencies for a variety of child welfare and other related services including adoption and adoption-related services.

    "Adoption is a wonderful option for families and must be promoted by all levels of government," said Secretary Thompson. "The Federal bonuses we are announcing reward States that have worked hard to help children--particularly older children--in the child welfare system find loving, adoptive homes."

    The Adoption Incentive Program, which was revised and strengthened last December by the Bush Administration, for the first time adds a focus on the growing proportion of children aged 9 years old and above who are in dire need of adoption before they "age out" of foster care. Two key changes that strengthen States' adoption and child welfare services are:

    • An additional bonus of $4,000 to States for each child aged 9 and above adopted from the public child welfare system. This bonus is on top of the current $4,000 provided for each child and on top of the $2,000 bonus for each special needs child adopted.
    • The threshold to receive incentives has been reset based on the number of adoptions in FY 2002, making States that reached their highest number of adoptions in the earlier years of the program more likely to qualify for a bonus.

    "President Bush has worked hard to increase the number of adoptions so more children can grow up in safe, stable, and loving homes," said Dr. Wade F. Horn, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families. "Today's grants continue this Administration's efforts to promote adoption from the foster care system so no child will be left behind."

    Currently, there are 129,000 children in the public child welfare system waiting to be adopted. Of this number, approximately 50,000 children each year are placed into adoptive families. Approximately 19,000 children "age out" of the foster care system without ever having the opportunity to be adopted. The adoption bonus is in addition to a website previously launched by at the recruitment and retention of adoptive families for children in the foster care system.

    For a complete list of HHS adoption bonuses, go to

    Related Item

    For more information about the Adoption Incentive Program, read "President Signs Adoption Promotion Act of 2003" in the December 2003/January 2004 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

  • Angels in Adoption™ Awards Announced

    Angels in Adoption™ Awards Announced

    The annual Angels in Adoption™ Awards Gala was held on September 23, 2004, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. Actress Jane Seymour, PGA golfer Kirk Triplett, and NBA executive Pat Williams were among the 170 people from across the nation honored at the awards banquet hosted by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI).

    This annual event boasts the most congressional participation of any child welfare event in the nation. Every member of Congress is encouraged by CCAI to [select] an individual, family, or organization from the member's home State who has made a significant contribution to changing the lives of children in need through adoption and foster care. National Angel Awardees--including Seymour, Williams, and Triplett--are chosen by the congressional directors of CCAI, namely, Senators Landrieu and Craig and Representatives Camp and Oberstar, for their advocacy on a national scale.

    CCAI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising congressional and public awareness about the tens of thousands of foster children in this country and the millions of orphans around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic need for families. The Angels in Adoption Program, CCAI's public awareness campaign, was established in 1999.

    For additional information on the Angels in Adoption Program, visit the CCAI website at:

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News From the Children's Bureau

  • New National Child Welfare Resource Center Contracts Announced

    New National Child Welfare Resource Center Contracts Announced

    The Children's Bureau recently announced the award of contracts for the operation of seven National Child Welfare Resource Centers (NRCs). Through the establishment of these NRCs and an emphasis on coordination of efforts and evidence-based practice, the Children's Bureau hopes to further assist States, tribes, and other public agencies in their delivery of child welfare services to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families.

    The 5-year cooperative agreements were awarded as follows:

    • Organizational Improvement--University of Southern Maine
    • Child Protective Services--ACTION for Child Protection
    • Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning--Research Foundation of CUNY on behalf of Hunter College of CUNY
    • Data and Technology--Child Welfare League of America
    • Legal and Judicial Issues--American Bar Association for Justice and Education
    • Special Needs Adoption--Spaulding for Children
    • Youth Development--University of Oklahoma

    These seven NRCs will function as a network to provide training and technical assistance to State, local, tribal, and other public child welfare agencies and family and juvenile courts in order to build capacity to address Federal requirements administered by the Children's Bureau. A major focus of these training and technical assistance efforts will be States' conformity with the outcomes and systemic factors outlined in the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) and with the development and implementation of States' Program Improvement Plans.

    Along with the award of these cooperative agreements, the Children's Bureau will make some modifications in the management of the NRCs to address some of the concerns that arose from the first round of CFSRs. Four major management changes will be made:

    1. The NRC on Organizational Improvement will serve as the single point of entry for all States and tribes to request onsite training and technical assistance from all NRCs.
    2. All NRCs will work with the Training and Technical Assistance Coordination Committee, which will be composed of Federal staff (including Project Officers, CFSR National Review Team members, and Regional and other staff).
    3. All NRCs will work with AdoptUSKids, the Children's Bureau Clearinghouses, and other members of the training and technical assistance network.
    4. The NRC on Organizational Improvement will evaluate the results of technical assistance provided by all seven NRCs.

    The award announcements can be found on the Children's Bureau website at

    Related Item

    The Children's Bureau also announced the award of two additional cooperative agreements: The NRC for Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (awarded to the Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project, Inc.) and the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program (six organizations funded, with the largest grant to Spaulding for Children), as well as Discretionary Grants in the following categories:

    • Child Welfare Training (M.S.W., Hispanic, B.S.W.)
    • Demonstration Projects in Postadoption Services and Marriage Education
    • Field-Initiated Service Demonstration Projects in the Adoption Field
    • Recreational Services for Children Affected by HIV/AIDS
    • Previous Abandoned Infant Comprehensive Service Demonstration Projects
    • New Start Local Comprehensive Support Services Projects
    • Family Support Services for Grandparents and Other Relatives Providing Caregiving for Children of Substance Abusing and/or HIV-Positive Women

    These announcements also can be found at

  • Regional Forums to Focus on a Shared Vision for the Neediest Youth

    Regional Forums to Focus on a Shared Vision for the Neediest Youth

    Leaders from State agencies on workforce investment, education, juvenile justice, and foster care have been invited to participate in the launching of a new vision for youth at three regional conferences sponsored by the Department of Labor in partnership with the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Justice. The focus of "A Shared Vision for Youth" will be on collaborative approaches to prepare the neediest youth, including those aging out of the foster care system, for success in a demand-driven economy. This focus will be carried out through:

    • Promoting collaboration among partners in labor, education, human services, and justice systems for serving youth
    • Understanding the Department of Labor's New Youth Vision for funded programs
    • Enhancing knowledge of promising practices that model effective collaboration and improved outcomes for youth
    • Assessing the challenges State partners will face in implementing the shared vision, as well as the support they will receive from government agency partners

    The regional forums are one of several activities planned by the Department of Labor in partnership with the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, led by Children's Bureau Associate Commissioner Susan Orr, to implement the new shared vision and to prepare youth from the foster care system for employment.

    The forums are scheduled to take place in Philadelphia (November 9-10), Chicago (November 15-16), and Phoenix (December 13-14). Invitations were mailed to State leaders. More information is available on the forums' website at (This link is no longer available.)

Child Welfare Research

  • Client-Worker Relationship Is a Factor in Parenting Behaviors

    Client-Worker Relationship Is a Factor in Parenting Behaviors

    According to a study published recently in the journal Research on Social Work Practice, a good client-worker relationship can have a positive impact on parents' discipline and emotional care of their children.

    This study was conducted using 100 families formerly involved with the child welfare system in Long Beach, CA. Of these families, 45 percent were from a family preservation (FP) program and 55 percent were from a traditional family management casework program (FM). Researchers used the Parent Outcome Interview to measure children's academic adjustment, children's conduct, physical child care, discipline and emotional care of children, children's symptomatic behavior, parents' coping, and parents' relationship with the social worker. Findings from the study included:

    • Higher scores in discipline and emotional care were related to parents' perceptions of their relationship with the caseworker as positive.
    • There was a somewhat weaker association between client-worker relationship and the physical care of children and parent coping.
    • There were no associations between client-worker relationship and child outcomes (i.e., academic adjustment, children's conduct, or children's symptomatic behavior).
    • Ability to openly communicate and frequency of visits were predictors of a good client-worker relationship.
    • FP clients, who have more frequent visits with their caseworkers, were generally more satisfied with their worker than FM clients.

    Based on these findings, the authors conclude that the client-worker relationship can directly impact parents' actions but not a child's outcomes. In addition, they suggest that relationship-building between caseworkers and families should be a priority for child welfare agencies and training programs.

    The full article, "Is the Client-Worker Relationship Associated with Better Outcomes in Mandated Child Abuse Cases?," is available in the September 2004 issue of Research on Social Work Practice (

  • Postadoption Services Improve Family Stability and Functioning

    Postadoption Services Improve Family Stability and Functioning

    In a study of efforts to support New York State's TANF-eligible families after adoption, parents reported a significant positive impact of postadoption services on their families' happiness and ability to stay together. The study, "Strengthening and Preserving Adoptive Families: A Study of TANF-Funded Post Adoption Services in New York State," was published in April 2004.

    Thirteen community-based agencies were awarded TANF funds in June 2000 to establish Regional Adoption Centers and provide postadoption services. The study is based on data from worker-completed intake forms and from parent satisfaction surveys sent to 815 of the 1,053 families (both TANF and non-TANF eligible) who were served during the first 18 months of project funding. The author cautions that a low overall response rate (19 percent, or 153 surveys) limited the type of analyses that could be performed with the data.

    Some key findings include:

    • 29 percent of responding families reported that when they first contacted the agency they felt one or more of their children could not continue living with them.
    • Among the families that had a child at risk of no longer being able to live with the family, 73 percent reported that the child was able to remain in the home as a result of the help and support they received from the agencies.
    • Of all respondents, 82 percent indicated that their family was better off or happier as a result of receiving services.
    • The most frequently requested and used services were parent support groups, parent training, and counseling.

    Characteristics of the families served by the project varied. Approximately 58 percent of the families were nonkin adoptions, 26 percent were kin adoptions, and in 16 percent of cases the relationship could not be determined. Nearly 62 percent of the cases were known to be adoptions from foster care; in another 28 percent of cases the type of adoption was not identified. The majority of the children had special needs, including behavioral problems (40 percent) and emotional problems (36 percent). These special needs appeared to become more prominent as the children aged.

    Report appendixes include information on the services provided by participant agencies, the survey instruments, and extensive verbatim survey responses by families. The report can be downloaded from the New York State Citizen's Coalition for Children website at (PDF - 400 KB).

  • Keys to Successful Adolescent Adoptions

    Keys to Successful Adolescent Adoptions

    Characteristics of successful adolescent adoptions, factors influencing the adoption decision, and testable models for adolescent adoption were the subject of a research project by the Center for Child and Family Studies at the University of South Carolina's College of Social Work. Funded by a grant from the Children's Bureau, researchers set out to identify the factors that produce positive outcomes for adolescent adoptions.

    A qualitative approach to data collection and analysis was used that included interviewing 58 adoptive parents and 37 of their children who had been adopted when 12 to 18 years old and whose adoptions had never dissolved. The children were also asked to complete an instrument designed to measure life satisfaction.

    When asked about keys to success in their adoptions, parents and adolescents cited a variety of factors:

    • Commitment
    • Realistic expectations
    • Support from professionals, family, and friends
    • Personality characteristics, including flexibility, good communication skills, and a sense of humor
    • Compatibility
    • Positive attitude

    Based on the interviews and life satisfaction instrument, a number of recommendations were proposed for agencies to promote the successful adoption of adolescents:

    • Offer opportunities for adults in the community to get to know adolescents in foster care. Research showed that many of the adults had never considered adoption until they met a particular teen. By creating opportunities for adults to become acquainted with teenagers in need of homes (through such programs as Big Brothers/Big Sisters), the pool of possible adoptive families is expanded.
    • Promote coordination among public and private agencies so that parents do not have to contact many different places to find information. A number of parents cited the frustration of having to contact multiple agencies before finding one that fit their needs, and many were discouraged early in the process.
    • Allow adults and teens enough visitation before moving teens into the home. Adolescents and adults needed to be allowed time to get to know each other before having to make the adjustment to living together.
    • Employ caseworkers who specialize in adolescent adoptions and have positive attitudes about teenagers. In this study, several of the adolescents were not considered for adoption until their cases were turned over to agencies that specialized in placing older children.
    • Prepare adolescents for adoption through steps that include explaining their legal status, offering adoption as an option, explaining the adoption process, and providing support.
    • Provide postadoption support services, and make sure that families know about the services and how to access them. A number of parents in this study called on their agencies for counseling or other support before and after the adoption was finalized.

    Information on this study, "Field-Initiated Research on Successful Adolescent Adoptions," can be accessed on the Center for Child and Family Studies' website at (PDF - 1,065 KB).

    Related Item

    "Permanency for Adolescents" in the October 2004 issue of Children's Bureau Express highlights some programs that offer permanency options for adolescents.

Strategies and Tools for Practice

  • Improving Responses to Allegations of Severe Child Abuse

    Improving Responses to Allegations of Severe Child Abuse

    Since 1998, New York City's Administration for Children's Services (ACS) has been collaborating with the New York police department and district attorneys in an effort to reduce trauma to children when allegations of severe abuse and neglect are present and to effect the speedy arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators. This collaboration, called the Instant Response Team (IRT) Program, was the subject of a study recently published by the Vera Institute of Justice.

    The IRT Program brings together child protective workers, police, and prosecutors to respond to child abuse and neglect accusations within a 2-hour timeframe. All interviews with the children are conducted in a child-friendly environment. Protocols are in place to coordinate the investigation, and information sharing is encouraged among all agencies involved in the investigation.

    Vera researchers analyzed data from the IRT Program and compared it with data from the State Central Registry in New York, which maintains all allegations of child maltreatment in the State. Researchers also conducted interviews with program staff and shadowed child protective workers on one case. Vera identified many strengths of the IRT Program, including:

    • Ninety-nine percent of IRT cases examined met the established IRT protocol.
    • IRT cases were more likely to have an allegation substantiated than other New York City cases (52 percent vs. 35 percent).
    • IRT staff reported better information sharing among agencies, stronger working relationships, and more efficient case processing since the program began.
    • Incidents of multiple exams and interviews decreased.
    • Prior to the start of the IRT Program in 1998, if a removal was necessary following an incident of abuse or neglect, the child was more likely to be removed (57 percent of cases) than an alleged perpetrator. However, by 2002, the perpetrator was more likely to be removed (68 percent of cases).

    Vera noted that the main challenge the IRT Program faced was rapid growth. IRT caseloads have increased 160 percent from 1999 to 2002. This increase allows for more efficient use of child welfare resources but has placed a larger burden on law enforcement and prosecutors.

    More information on the Vera Institute of Justice report is available on the website at (PDF - 967 KB).

    Related Item

    Another recent publication from the Vera Institute, "Youth Who Chronically AWOL from Foster Care: Why They Run, Where They Go, and What Can Be Done" ( reports on interviews with foster care staff and adolescents in foster care with a history of AWOL behaviors. It discusses where the youth go when they leave foster care and how staff can prevent this pattern of behavior.

  • Strengthening Families Through Early Care and Education

    Strengthening Families Through Early Care and Education

    The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) has developed a new strategy to build on evidence-based protective factors for children and families to prevent the occurrence child abuse and neglect. Information on the CSSP website suggests this strategy, referred to as "Strengthening Families Through Early Care and Education," differs from past efforts in that:

    • It is based in the early childhood education (ECE) system.
    • It focuses on building protection for children within their homes and communities, not only on identifying risks in their homes and communities.
    • It seeks to overcome or mitigate manageable individual causes of child neglect and abuse such as parental isolation, lack of knowledge about child development, and mental, physical, or financial crisis in the family, rather than removing children from their homes.

    CSSP has been studying the role of early care and education in helping to prevent child abuse and neglect and strengthen families since 2001. They find this environment a promising one for prevention due to the relationships between caregiver/teacher and parent, the opportunity for daily observations with parents, the resources early childhood programs provide for parents, and the fact that parents are bringing their children to these programs by choice rather than as recipients of services.

    CSSP lists the following as additional advantages of this strategy:

    • It is doable. Most ECE programs can make additions or enhancements to current activities and curricula to introduce this prevention method.
    • It is affordable. Both public and private programs can add prevention components rather inexpensively. In addition, some State welfare officials are looking into whether child abuse and neglect funds may be used more effectively if this new strategy is applied at an early age.
    • It has widespread support. CSSP is working closely with social science researchers, State welfare officials, and early childhood programs to create a strategic framework around policy development.
    • The new early childhood workforce is ready to go to work. A study conducted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) showed that 97 percent of teachers and administrators want to do more to prevent child maltreatment and would want prevention training if it were available.

    Evidence has shown that this approach can have an impact on child abuse and neglect rates. An 18-year longitudinal study at the University of Wisconsin found resource coordinators in federally funded childcare programs in Chicago helped parents obtain services they needed to care for their children at home. Children who attended this preschool intervention program had a 52 percent lower rate of maltreatment by age 17 than those who did not.

    For more information about Strengthening Families Through Early Care and Education, visit the CSSP website at (Editor's note: This link is no longer active. To learn about CSSP's Strengthening Families initiative, visit

    Related Items

    For more information on the study conducted by the University of Wisconsin, read "Study Shows Preschool Can Help Prevent Child Abuse" in the March 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

    In 2002, NAEYC embarked on a national initiative to help early childhood educators play a key role in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect. Find more about the initiative, Supporting Teachers, Strengthening Families, on the NAEYC website at

  • Permanency Planning Mediation: Decreasing Time to Permanence

    Permanency Planning Mediation: Decreasing Time to Permanence

    A recently released final evaluation report from the Permanency Planning Mediation Pilot (PPMP) Program in Michigan suggests mediation in child welfare cases can result in positive outcomes for children, families, professionals, and systems without increasing the overall costs of judicial and administrative handling of child welfare cases. The report, released in June 2004, provides a retrospective look at the first 3 years of child protection mediation in seven pilot program sites.

    Researchers analyzed case characteristics and outcomes for 207 (86 percent) of the 289 mediation referrals during 1999, 2000, and 2001. Cases represented all types of child maltreatment and were referred to the program at all stages in the legal process, from preadjudication through completion of petitions to adopt. Some key findings included:

    • Achievement of permanency was higher for mediated cases than nonmediated cases, and this difference was statistically significant.
    • Time from petition to permanency also was shorter for mediated cases, compared to cases referred but not mediated.
    • The time from petition to any type of permanency averaged 17 months for all cases referred to mediation, regardless of the referral point (e.g., pre- or postadjudication).
    • The average time from mediation referral to any form of permanency averaged just over 13 months. (Following referral to mediation, family reunification was achieved in 11 months while adoptions were finalized in an average of 15 months.)
    • Comparison of averages for time to permanency from Michigan's AFCARS data suggests that permanency was achieved through mediation in a more timely manner in adoption cases, with some modest time savings in foster care cases resulting in reunification.

    In addition to the positive permanency outcomes, the evaluation data suggest participants in all roles were satisfied with the mediation process:

    • In the great majority of cases in which a mediation agreement was finalized, there were high rates of parental compliance with the terms of the agreement. (Comparison data for nonmediated cases were not available for analysis.)
    • Parent participants reported that they had been included in case planning and had their viewpoints considered during the process.
    • Involved judges, attorneys, and child welfare professionals all indicated high levels of satisfaction with the mediation process.

    From their findings, authors conclude that mediation is a reasonable option in the range of legal responses to child maltreatment and protection. The authors also suggest that while precise financial savings were not demonstrated by this study, it is reasonable to conclude there are financial benefits to be gained from a mediation program staffed with trained volunteers.

    The 75-page report, including lessons learned and recommendations for future study, can be downloaded from the Michigan Courts website at (PDF - 515 KB).


  • Parenting and Addiction

    Parenting and Addiction

    Providing children with the caring, nurturing environment necessary for healthy physical and emotional development is difficult when one or more caregivers are addicted to drugs or alcohol. A recently released book, The Lowdown on Families Who Get High: Successful Parenting for Families Affected by Addiction, by Patricia O'Gorman and Philip Diaz, describes the impact of addiction on children and families and offers parenting strategies for each stage of a child's life.

    The first two sections of the book use a combination of research and personal stories to describe the issues from various perspectives, including the addicted parent, the recovering parent, the partner of an addicted parent, parents who are adult children of addicts, and caregivers of children of addicted parents. The section on parenting strategies emphasizes a 12-step approach, revised for parents and caregivers. The third section of the book, written specifically for professionals, provides the legal framework for substance abuse and child welfare issues, as well as information on how to engage families in treatment.

    The book can be ordered online from the Child Welfare League of America at

  • Programs to Support Relatives as Caregivers

    Programs to Support Relatives as Caregivers

    The Brookdale Foundation's Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP) provides seed grants to local agencies and State grantees to establish programs that support grandparents or other kin who are caring for children. Each year, grants of $10,000 are awarded over a 2-year period to up to 15 local community-based agencies and up to 5 State agencies. Local grants focus on providing services and developing or strengthening linkages between community-based agencies. State grants focus on developing statewide networks of service providers and establishing inter-system task forces to address issues related to relatives as caregivers.

    Currently, RAPPs provide extensive services to grandparents and other relative caregivers in 41 States. Examples of services include linking caregivers to trainings and other sources of information, providing assessment and referrals, providing respite care, and developing or expanding support groups.

    RAPP requests for proposals (RFPs) and their guidelines are disseminated on an annual basis. This year, applicants must apply for local grants by January 13, 2005; State grant applications are due February 10, 2005. The 2005 RFP, along with a more complete description of the program, is available on the foundation's website at

  • Aging Out of Foster Care

    Aging Out of Foster Care

    A new book puts a personal face on the challenges of youth aging out of foster care. On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System by Martha Shirk and Gary Stangler tells the stories of 10 youth and their struggles to take on adult responsibilities once they became too old for foster care. Some of the common challenges faced by these youth included finding employment, finishing their education, finding affordable housing, and, in too many cases, dealing with life on the street.

    The final chapter of the book suggests strategies at the local, State, and national levels that can help improve the lives of these youth by improving their experiences with education, employment, housing, health care, and personal and community engagement. The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is cited as an example of a national effort aimed at helping youth transition out of foster care. Currently, the Initiative is focusing on demonstration projects in up to 18 cities in which youth are provided with an "opportunity passport" to gain access to services, funds, and programs that will help them work toward independence.

    On Their Own is published by Westview Press; more information can be found at

    Related Items

    For more information about youth aging out of foster care, see the following articles in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

    • "Foster Youth Receive Some, Not All, Independent Living Services They Need" (May 2004)
    • "Casey Foster Alumni Achieve Success in High School Graduation, Employment" (February 2004)
    • "Supporting Successful Transitions for Youth" (November 2003)
    • "Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Face Uphill Climb to Adulthood" (May 2003)
    • "Study Reports Employment Outcomes for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care, Creates Baseline" (November 2002)
  • Munchausen by Proxy

    Munchausen by Proxy

    Munchausen by proxy (MBP) refers to a form of child maltreatment in which a parent or other primary caretaker repeatedly falsifies, exaggerates, or induces symptoms in a child in order to gain medical attention. A new book by Louisa Lasher and Mary Sheridan serves as a primer on MBP for child welfare workers, as well as for physicians, judges, and law enforcement personnel who might be unfamiliar with this form of child abuse. Munchausen by Proxy: Identification, Intervention, and Case Management presents clear, informative descriptions of MBP, the investigation and confirmation process, and case planning when MBP is confirmed. Interspersed with this information are examples of MBP cases.

    The usefulness of this book for child welfare personnel lies in its clear outline of the procedures to be followed when MBP is suspected, including how to gather and report information, suggested interview questions, and steps to take in making the confirmation/disconfirmation decision. In cases in which MBP is confirmed, there is a risk assessment worksheet that can be used to plan for the victim's protection. A chapter on legal activities provides guidance on preparing to present a case of MBP in court, and an appendix provides recommended case plan elements.

    Munchausen by Proxy is published by the Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press; more information can be found at

  • Public Access to Court Child Protection Hearings

    Public Access to Court Child Protection Hearings

    With the passage of the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, the most recent amendment to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, States were explicitly granted the flexibility to determine their own policies on opening child protection hearings to the public. A new Technical Assistance Brief from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), To Open or Not to Open: The Issue of Public Access in Child Protection Hearings, offers guidance on the issues States need to consider to make these decisions.

    The publication presents arguments both for and against open hearings in three topical areas:

    • Best interests of the child
    • Public awareness of child abuse and neglect
    • Economic and procedural consequences

    A State-by-State listing of the current legislation and hearing status and a brief overview of research on the effects of open hearings also are presented. The publication was funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. Copies may be purchased for $5.00 each by contacting NCJFCJ by e-mail at or by telephone at (775) 327-5300.

  • Guidelines Regarding Munchausen by Proxy

    Guidelines Regarding Munchausen by Proxy

    Child abuse and neglect can take many forms, and it is important for child welfare professionals to be informed on the best practices for all kinds of abuse and neglect. Munchausen by proxy (MBP) is a pervasive type of abuse where the caregiver fabricates, exacerbates, or exaggerates symptoms or illness in a child. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, in partnership with the New York Foundling, published a set of practice guidelines for any professionals involved in reporting, assessing, or treating children affected by this kind of abuse. Medical providers, mandated reporters, law enforcement professionals, and others can use this guide to get a better understanding of what MBP is, how to recognize it, and what they can do.

    The guidelines are divided into two components: (1) identification, assessment, and initial management of suspected cases of abuse or neglect, caregiver-fabricated illness in a child, or medical child abuse, regardless of the motivation of the abuser, and (2) education, assessment, and management guidance for cases of these forms of abuse and neglect. This resource is broken into several sections, covering the following:

    • Definitions of terms
    • Background information
    • Approaches to identification and psychiatric evaluation
    • Reporting requirements
    • Specific guidance for case management and treatment

    Munchausen by Proxy: Clinical and Case Management Guidance is available at (981 KB). 

Training and Conferences

Find trainings, workshops, webinars, and other opportunities for professionals and families to learn about how to improve the lives of children and youth as well as a listing of upcoming events and conferences.

  • Computer Training for Foster Families, Relative Caregivers

    Computer Training for Foster Families, Relative Caregivers

    Two programs designed to teach computer skills to foster families and to relative caregivers offer promising models for bringing technology skills to these populations. These groups traditionally have had less exposure to computer use and training due to lower incomes and residential instability; in addition, grandparent caregivers may have had only limited exposure to computer training due to their age. Training these groups in technology skills may promote both educational success and job marketability for caregivers and the children in their care.

    The "Building Skills-Building Futures" project was developed by Casey Family Services, with the help of outside experts, to promote information technology skills for 32 foster families in the Bridgeport, CT, area. The model integrates foster family access to information technology training with ongoing foster care service activities. As part of the program, foster families are provided with computer hardware, software, and supplies, as well as with monthly Internet access; ownership of these items is transferred to the foster parents. Social workers use an individualized technology plan (ITP) to assess technology skills, set goals, and refer foster families to training opportunities. Progress is measured against the ITP at regular intervals, and goals are refined when necessary. Preliminary evaluation of the training has focused on collecting baseline data and evaluating the program implementation and costs; outcomes are not yet available.

    Using a different training approach, researchers in Florida provided computer training for kin caregivers and found that they made gains in both skills and social opportunities. In this model, 46 kinship caregivers (the majority of whom were grandmothers) attended an 8-week computer training course. Results from participant interviews and from computer efficacy scales completed before and after the training show that the caregivers gained in self-efficacy, career skills confidence, and confidence in helping with their children's education, as well as in awareness of the need to monitor their children's use of the Internet. In addition, the participants developed new friendships with others in the course, which led to greater social support.

    An article about the Casey Family Services project, "Building Skills-Building Futures: Providing Information Technology to Foster Families," can be found in the April - June 2004 issue of Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services and can be accessed at "Developing a Network of Support for Relative Caregivers," about the Florida program, can be found in the July 2004 issue of Children and Youth Services Review and can be accessed at