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Dec/Jan 2010Vol. 10, No. 10Spotlight on Youth Involvement

This month, CBX spotlights Youth Involvement, linking you to reports on how youth in foster care or formerly in care are participating in their own permanency planning and contributing their ideas about ways to improve the child welfare system.

Issue Spotlight

  • Promoting Youth Involvement in a System of Care

    Promoting Youth Involvement in a System of Care

    Transitioning to adulthood is particularly difficult for youth who have had contact with the child welfare system. The Dauphin County, PA, Systems of Care (SOC) initiative, funded by the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration project, has helped Dauphin County Human Services focus on preparing older youth to take control of their own futures by introducing them to services available around the community.  

    Helen Spence, SOC Community Outreach Coordinator in Dauphin County, took on the role of bringing the community members into a partnership with Dauphin County Human Services. In 2006, the SOC Faith-Based subcommittee, various school districts, police departments, and other organizations and agencies in Dauphin County came together to provide information and funds for troubled youth, and this collaboration created the 8-week New Beginnings Summer Enrichment Program. The Summer Enrichment Program provides structured activities around academic enrichment, life skills, drug education, sex education, self-esteem building, job readiness training, and conflict resolution. The program began with one site and 60-75 participating youth. By 2009, nine sites across Dauphin County participated, serving over 300 youth.  Additionally, a youth group has formed that meets on a year-round weekly basis to identify their own strengths and discuss relevant issues. Many of the program participants use their experiences to help other youth learn how to sustain themselves and connect with services and supports within their area. "It's a continuum of support for them in their own communities," says Ms. Spence.
    The Summer Enrichment Program has yielded positive results. Ninety-four percent of youth in the 2008 Summer Enrichment Program reported they stayed out of trouble in their community over the summer, ninety percent indicated they learned things that helped them stay out of trouble while attending the program, and eighty-eight percent reported they learned skills that will help them stay out of trouble in the future.

    "The success of involving youth in Dauphin County is dependent on many factors. Programs such as this need committed, consistent adult leaders," remarks Randie Yeager-Marker, Operations Manager and Community Liaison, Dauphin County Human Services. "When youth see the same people coming out on a consistent basis, it becomes more real to them that these adult leaders care," she adds.  

    To ensure the continued commitment of the youth, there must be a purpose or issue for them to talk about and solve, emphasizes Andrea Richardson, SOC Project Director. Youth who have an issue to solve that directly affects them will be motivated to stay involved. In addition, Ms. Richardson maintains that "engaging youth and providing them with leadership skills and opportunities will ensure that they will continue to work for community change . . . By doing this you are making changes to their world and their life path."

    Fortunately, the Summer Enrichment Program and the important work being done around youth involvement in Dauphin County continue even after the grant funding ended in September 2009. The network of subcommittees formed under the SOC grant developed into a nonprofit organization, New Beginnings Youth & Adult Services (NBYAS). The mission of NBYAS is to provide a synergy of collaborated and integrated services, supports, and resources that will empower youth and adults to be successful in their homes, schools, and communities.  

    For more information, contact Helen Spence, System of Care Community Outreach Coordinator (, or Andrea Richardson, System of Care Project Director (    

    Thank you to the following people who provided information for this article: Andrea Richardson, SOC Project Director; Helen Spence, SOC Community Outreach Coordinator; Jennifer Zajac, University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, SOC Local Evaluator; and Randie Yeager-Marker, Operations Manager and Community Liaison, Dauphin County Human Services.


  • Supporting Youth Transitioning to College

    Supporting Youth Transitioning to College

    Youth emerging from foster care face special challenges in attending college, including making the transition to college life, applying for financial aid, and finding housing during breaks. A new research brief published by the Advisory Board Company offers recommendations for building a support structure for foster youth in college and outlines essential support services that  youth need. Researchers spoke to contacts at five large public academic institutions, one mid-sized private university, the California State University system, and Casey Family Programs to determine how key support services for youth coming from foster care are structured, what resources are available to help these youth transition to university life, and how universities help them address challenges.

    Key observations from the study include the following:

    • Universities need to provide financial, academic, and emotional/social support.
    • A full-time designated point person is vital for the success of youth coming from foster care to a university.
    • Universities need to build an advisory committee with contacts across campus, institutionalizing the university's commitment to foster youth.
    • Students should be asked for their feedback to inform programming.
    • Financial advising is essential, whether or not the university is able to provide a comprehensive scholarship for students aging out of foster care.
    • All 4-year institutions need to offer year-round, on-campus housing for foster youth (even during semester breaks and vacations).
    • It is important to integrate former foster youth into the university community and not offer too many activities in which they would meet only other former foster youth.

    Building a Campus Support Network for Students Emerging From Foster Care, by Keely Bielat and Jennifer Yarrish, is available on the Casey Family Programs website:
    (267 KB)

  • Youth Contribute to Study on Youth Permanency Experiences

    Youth Contribute to Study on Youth Permanency Experiences

    Youth who age out of foster care are in the best position to comment on the needs of this population. A recent study on youth aging out of care, Developing Permanent, Supportive Connections While in Care: Foster Youth's Perspectives, sought to maximize youth involvement in this research. As part of the study, a Youth Advisory Board of four former foster youth developed research questions, oversaw the data collection, and assisted with reviewing and editing the final report. The study itself sought information from 27 youth about the child welfare services for permanency they had received while in care. Information was gathered through interviews and focus groups, and data were collected about the processes, services, and support the youth received for developing relationships with adults. Most youth reported that they had not received support from their child welfare workers about making connections to family or other adults while they were in foster care.

    Main themes from the findings included the following:

    • Lack of discussion about family placement options
    • Youth not wanting to be placed with family
    • Giving youth choices about placement
    • Connections to siblings who were also in foster care
    • The effects of mental health issues on permanency
    • Weak relationships with social workers
    • Mentors in the community as permanent connections

    The study recommends actions that child welfare agencies can take, including the following:

    • Implementing "Family and Permanent Connection Finding" services for youth in foster care who are not placed with kin, especially those over age 13
    • Training new social workers, supervisors, and managers about the importance of promoting family placements
    • Assigning siblings in foster care the same social worker
    • Ensuring all foster care youth have a voice in their placements
    • Linking youth with mentors in the community

    Developing Permanent, Supportive Connections While in Care: Foster Youth's Perspectives, by Sonja T. Lenz-Rashid, is available on the Child & Family Policy Institute of California website: (545 KB)

  • Voices From the 2008 National Convening on Youth Permanence

    Voices From the 2008 National Convening on Youth Permanence

    More than 30 youth and alumni from foster care attending the 2008 National Convening on Youth Permanence participated in an impromptu session facilitated by the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Family to Family Youth Engagement Team. The team was invited to meet with these young people and expand the discussion of their ideas and experiences around permanence.

    Participants shared their experiences and provided recommendations about improving the foster care system. What concerned these young people the most were issues of trust; they felt unable to trust the concept and the process of permanency planning. Most youth also reported that they had not been included in the process of identifying permanent connections for themselves.

    Youth recommended the following important steps in developing a trusting partnership:

    • Redefine permanence to include emotional connections.
    • Address the disparities in permanency outcomes for older youth and youth of color.
    • Continue the permanency search beyond emancipation.
    • Involve youth in planning for future Convenings.

    To read the full Recommendations of Youth and Young Adults From the 2008 National Convening on Youth Permanence, visit:
 (487 KB)

  • The Emancipated Youth Connections Project

    The Emancipated Youth Connections Project

    The California Permanency for Youth Project (CPYP) works with California counties to ensure that youth leave foster care with some kind of permanent connection with a caring adult. The CPYP emphasizes the importance of (1) involving youth in their own permanency planning and (2) using technology to help youth find family connections.

    A recent publication from CPYP outlines a unique project in which 20 adults (ages 17-39) who had exited foster care with no permanent connections were provided with services to help them make those connections. The Emancipated Youth Connections Project Final Report/Toolkit describes the 18-month project. Data collected from 19 of the former foster youth show that, at the end of the project, 139 permanent connections had been made with kin and 42 permanent connections had been made with friends or others outside the family. In addition, the participants had learned more about their family histories, met more family members, and experienced greater self-esteem as a result of the process.

    The Emancipated Youth Connections Project Final Report/Toolkit describes the 15-step program model developed to serve these former foster youth. Beginning with Step 1—Establishing a Relationship, the program model works through the process of helping a young person identify and make contact with kin or other important people in his or her life. The last few steps involve planning for closure, closing the case, and looking at lessons learned. The program model is designed to help youth make permanent connections, preferably before leaving foster care.

    The Toolkit also includes a chapter on lessons learned from the project and recommendations. Youth involvement in the planning and implementation is emphasized. A further chapter addresses building the program model and looks at administrative issues, funding, training, assessment, and implementation. Finally, the Toolkit also includes participants' stories from the project, and appendices provide backup materials, including assessment instruments.

    The Emancipated Youth Connections Project Final Report/Toolkit is available on the CPYP website: (3,020 KB)

  • Youth Voice Toolbox: Empowering Youth with Purpose

    Youth Voice Toolbox: Empowering Youth with Purpose

    Engaging young people can build a strong sense of community, a commitment to civic action, and a passion for active learning. The Youth Voice Toolbox produced by the FreeChild Project provides tools to help engage youth, particularly historically disengaged youth populations. The Toolbox includes a series of more than 20 one- and two-page publications designed to provide guidance (e.g., definitions, assumptions), information (e.g., on diversity, roles), and actions (e.g., assessing youth voice, forming partnerships) for promoting the youth voice and youth involvement. The Toolbox offers advice on how to do more than making youth heard; the goal is to actually empower youth with purpose.
    Some of the suggestions from the Youth Voice Toolbox are common-sense principles for involving youth in meaningful ways: 

    • Work with young people – not for young people. Engage, encourage, and empower them to take appropriate, purposeful, effective, and sustainable leadership for their own activities by providing training and coaching throughout every activity.
    • Make "having fun" powerful. If the goal is recreation, then let young people plan the activity, lead it, and reflect on it afterwards. Combine fun and learning, and change a young person's life.
    • Don't talk about "youth problems." Young people are part of larger communities, and when they have a problem, their communities have a problem. To promote social change, encourage young people to reflect critically on their experiences throughout their community.
    • Acknowledge young people in significant ways. There are many ways to show authentic commitment to youth, for instance, by providing school credit, a cash stipend, letters of support, or other tangible acknowledgments.

    To learn more about the FreeChild Project and the Youth Voice Toolbox, visit:

  • Encouraging Youth Involvement in Dependency Hearings

    Encouraging Youth Involvement in Dependency Hearings

    The voices of young people in foster care are rarely heard in the courtroom, where adults make critical decisions about the youths' lives. A recent article, "Where Are All the Children? Increasing Youth Participation in Dependency Proceedings," argues that youth participation in juvenile court hearings greatly benefits children and courts. By being present in court, children and youth can offer valuable insights into their lives and gain a better understanding of the judicial system. In turn, judges are able to make more informed decisions leading to better outcomes for foster youth and their families. 

    While data on youth participation in court are difficult to obtain, Home At Last's (2006) Foster Youth Participation in Court's national survey revealed that less than 15 percent of respondents attended their own court hearings. The author notes that if these data are representative, systemic changes are needed to increase youth participation and make children feel welcome in court.

    The article provides examples of successful policies that have been implemented by local jurisdictions as well as suggestions for agencies, leaders, and advocates to increase youth participation in court. Recommendations include:

    • Having a fair, impartial, and orderly system allowing children opportunities to be heard
    • Reaching a consensus among all stakeholders regarding youth participation in court
    • Requiring children in foster care to attend their court hearings
    • Helping children gain a sense of control through court involvement

    The article, "Where Are All the Children?  Increasing Youth Participation in Dependency Proceedings," by Erik S. Pitchal, was published in the UC Davis Journal of Juvenile Law & Policy, Vol. 12, Winter 2008, and can be downloaded without charge from the Social Science Research Network:

  • Resource Center for Positive Youth Development and Leadership

    Resource Center for Positive Youth Development and Leadership

    The National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth (NCFY) has developed informational and training materials on positive youth development and youth leadership that are now available on the NCFY website. Positive youth development refers to the prevention of risky behavior and support of youth involvement in healthy, useful activities that give youth the opportunity to build skills and leadership.

    The NCFY webpage on Positive Youth Development and Youth Leadership ( features materials for youth and for adults involved with youth development, including:

    • Introductory material on positive youth development
    • Learning by Doing factsheets
    • Teaming Up With Youth factsheets
    • Youth Empowerment Strategies factsheets

    Another NCFY webpage ( features archived podcasts in which NCFY staff interviewed youth dealing with such challenges as living on the streets, teen pregnancy and parenthood, and natural disasters. Other podcasts showcase positive solutions to these challenges, including mentoring, a summer program for at-risk youth, and youth leadership programs.

    The Exchange is NCFY's online newsletter (; it features articles on youth homelessness and news from the youth services field. Recent issues have focused on youth homelessness in today's economy and overrepresented groups among homeless youth.

    NCFY is a clearinghouse of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Family and Youth Services Bureau. NCFY publications are free of charge. 


  • Youth Leaders Speak Out About Foster Care and Permanency

    Youth Leaders Speak Out About Foster Care and Permanency

    The 2008 Destination Future: National Youth Leadership Development Conference brought together youth leaders in foster care or formerly in care from around the country to discuss their experiences in foster care and their hopes for the future. The August 2008 conference also gave these young people an opportunity to express their desire for change and recommend improvements to the foster care system. A report from the conference provides a snapshot of these youths' experiences. The conference was sponsored by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Youth Development (NRCYD) and supported by the Children's Bureau.

    The 94 youth and 74 adults in attendance were divided among eight groups, each with a focus topic for discussion:

    • Engaging youth in the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) implementation
    • Extending the Federal foster care program payments to age 21
    • Ensuring youths' success in their academic endeavors
    • Meeting youths' cultural needs while in foster care
    • Involving youth in the court case review process
    • Developing and maintaining youths' connections to family members
    • Ensuring that youth who do not go to college can still find a good-paying job
    • Ensuring that youths' mental health services needs are met

    The conference slogan "Nothing about us without us" reflects the desires of foster youth to take an active role in the decisions that affect their lives and develop ways to influence programs and policies. This theme was raised in all of the small-group discussions.

    The conference report includes recommendations that came out of the small-group discussions. Appendices include information about training opportunities promoting youth/adult partnerships, detailed comments and suggestions provided by current and former foster youth during the second round of the Child and Family Services Reviews, and background information about NYTD.
    The full report of the conference, Destination Future: National Youth Leadership Conference Report, by Jacqueline Smollar, is available online: (PDF 1.11MB)

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News From the Children's Bureau

CBX brings you news about reports on children's violence exposure and on disaster preparedness, a process for linking birth and foster parents, and the latest from the Training & Technical Assistance Network.

  • Report Identifies Shortcomings in Disaster Preparedness

    Report Identifies Shortcomings in Disaster Preparedness

    A new report presents preliminary findings from a comprehensive study assessing the needs of children when preparing for, responding to, and recovering from major disasters and emergencies. The report, National Commission on Children and Disasters Interim Report, identifies several shortcomings in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

    The study finds that among so many competing concerns, children are given less attention than necessary when disaster plans are written and exercised, equipment and supplies are purchased, and disaster response and recovery efforts are activated. In fact, State and local emergency managers are required by Federal law to meet the needs of pets in their disaster plans but not the needs of children.

    This report provides specific recommendations addressing the following issues:

    • Disaster management and recovery
    • Mental health
    • Child physical health and trauma
    • Emergency medical services and pediatric transport
    • Disaster case management
    • Child care
    • Elementary and secondary education
    • Child welfare and juvenile justice
    • Sheltering standards, services, and supplies
    • Housing
    • Evacuation

    The National Commission on Children and Disasters was created by Congress in 2007 as a bipartisan group consisting of 10 members appointed by the President and congressional leaders. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families provides financial and administrative support to the Commission.

    The report is available for download:

  • "Bridging the Gap" Between Birth and Foster Parents

    "Bridging the Gap" Between Birth and Foster Parents

    The following is part of a series of occasional articles on programs that come to the attention of the National CFSR Team during their reviews.

    Children in foster care have a more positive experience if their birth parents and foster parents work together to ensure that the children feel loved and comfortable in their out-of-home placement. That's the principle behind Northern Virginia's Bridging the Gap practice, which connects birth parents with foster parents when children enter foster care.

    "Bridging the Gap is a practice, not a program," explains Claudia McDowell, the Program Manager for Fairfax County's Foster Care & Adoption Program, which is part of Bridging the Gap's Northern Virginia Initiative. It begins with an icebreaker meeting between the birth and foster parents within the first few days of a child's placement. The caseworker arranges and facilitates the meeting and continues to remain involved at every step. Subsequent communication depends on each family and set of circumstances. Birth and foster parents may continue to communicate through notes in a diaper bag, phone calls, visits, or, in some cases, joint family dinners or events. The relationship that develops is unique to each family but can provide benefits to both the children and the two sets of parents. Children are generally more comfortable and secure when they know their foster and birth parents are sharing information, birth parents know more about the family taking care of their children, and foster parents learn about the children's family and background.

    While promoting relationships between birth and foster parents had been practiced informally in Fairfax County by some caseworkers and parents for a number of years, the county decided to move toward formalizing the practice in 2005. This decision eventually led to a unique collaboration among 10 private and 4 public agencies in Northern Virginia working together on Bridging the Gap. A steering committee of representatives from these agencies oversaw the implementation. The group received special consultation and training from Denise Goodman at the National Resource Center (NRC) for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning*. She helped the group define timelines and develop training materials and protocols for caseworkers and foster parents. Bridging the Gap had its formal kickoff in 2008 and is currently in an evaluation phase.

    The evaluation involves examining feedback from both sets of parents and the social worker as provided immediately after the icebreaker meeting and 6 months later. While some foster parents have been initially concerned about safety issues and some social workers have been a bit skeptical of the benefits of such meetings, the data so far show overwhelming support for Bridging the Gap. The agencies involved continue to implement the process for the majority of families and expect to eventually conduct evaluations of Bridging the Gap's impact on permanency outcomes.

    The NRC for Permanency and Family Connections website ( carries information about Bridging the Gap,  including:

    • Bridging the Gap: Definition and Rationale 
    • Frequently Asked Questions: A Guide for Social Workers and Foster Parents 
    • Roles and Responsibilities in Bridging the Gap

    For more information, contact Claudia McDowell, LCSW, Program Manager, Foster Care & Adoption, Fairfax County, VA, at

    *Now known as the National Resource Center (NRC) for Permanency and Family Connections

  • Survey Reveals Extent of Violence in Children's Lives

    Survey Reveals Extent of Violence in Children's Lives

    The results of the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NSCEV) indicate that more than 60 percent of children were directly or indirectly exposed to violence within the past year. The survey results, released in October by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), are based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 4,549 children and adolescents aged 17 and younger or the younger children's caregivers. The NSCEV was conducted during the first half of 2008, and its results are the subject of a Juvenile Justice Bulletin.

    Respondents were asked about violence exposure within the previous year and over the child or adolescent's lifetime. Screening questions asked about 48 types of victimization in the categories of conventional crime, child maltreatment, peer and sibling victimization, sexual victimization, indirect exposure, school violence, and Internet violence. Some of the highlights in the final report include the following:

    • Almost half (46 percent) of children were physically assaulted within the previous year.
    • More than 13 percent reported being bullied within the previous year; lifetime prevalence was almost 22 percent.
    • More than 6 percent of children had been sexually assaulted in the last year, and 9.8 percent had been sexually assaulted at some time in their lives.
    • Just over 10 percent of children were the victims of child maltreatment within the past year.
    • More than one-quarter had witnessed violence within the last year, and more than one-third had witnessed violence in their lifetime.
    • Almost 39 percent reported two or more direct victimizations within the past year.

    The authors of the study discuss the implications for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners. Information is also included on the Safe Start Initiative created by DOJ's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

    The Juvenile Justice Bulletin: National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence was written by David Finkelhor, Heather Turner, Richard Ormrod, Sherry Hamby, and Kristen Kracke and is available for free download: (882 KB)

    Another NSCEV report, with more statistics and a full text of the questionnaire and victimization definitions, appears in the November issue of Pediatrics and is also available for free download:

  • New! On the Children's Bureau Site

    New! On the Children's Bureau Site

    The Children's Bureau website carries information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, Federal reporting, and much more. The "New on Site" section includes grant announcements, policy announcements, agency information, and recently released publications.

    Recent additions to the site include:

    Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new!

  • Updates From the T&TA Network

    Updates From the T&TA Network

    The Children's Bureau's Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) Network continues to produce resources that can help States and Tribes in their work with children and families. Some recent resources are listed below:

    • Atlantic Coast Child Welfare Implementation Center recently posted Round 1 Implementation Projects for six States (Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia).
    • Child Welfare Information Gateway recently launched RSS feeds for several popular news features, including Child Welfare in the News, Children's Bureau Express, and E-lert! To subscribe to the RSS feeds and receive updates on a regular basis, visit:

      Information Gateway recently won Bronze Awards from the Television, Internet & Video Association of Washington (TIVA), DC, for its Child Abuse Prevention Resources promo and its What Is Information Gateway? video. Information Gateway was the only recipient of awards in the categories for Commercial/PSA (Internet only) and Public Relations/Marketing (Internet only). The TIVA Peer Awards honor professionals of the metropolitan area media community who have demonstrated excellence in their work as judged by their peers. Both videos are available on the website:
    • Midwest Child Welfare Implementation Center posted information on Implementation Projects that have been approved by the Children's Bureau for Indiana and Iowa.
    • National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center has posted a webcast available for viewing: "Collaborative Approaches to Identifying and Serving Substance Exposed Newborns: Lessons Learned from Four Demonstration Projects." In the video, representatives of four demonstration projects discuss their strategies for developing policies and procedures to meet the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act mandates related to substance-exposed newborns.
    • National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare has published Substance-Exposed Infants: State Responses to the Problems, which reports on States' policies regarding prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs from the broadest perspective of prevention, intervention, identification, and treatment of prenatal substance exposure, including immediate and ongoing services for the infant, the mother, and the family. (1.5 MB)
    • National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect is accepting applications for its 2010 Summer Research Institute. Researchers in child maltreatment are invited to apply for a session in secondary data analysis at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, from June 14 to 18. The deadline for applications is January 29, 2010.
    • National Quality Improvement Center (QIC) on the Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System has launched its website. The newly funded QIC will focus on improvements in the legal representation of children, including the promotion of certification for attorneys with this specialty.
      • National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) has added more resources to its Hot Topics webpage, including Adoption, Fatherhood, Children of Incarcerated Parents, and LGBTQ Issues & Child Welfare. The NRC has also updated its Statistics webpage with the latest national foster care and adoption statistics from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

        NRCPFC hosted two live teleconferences recently for State program managers in foster care and adoption, and they are now available online:
        • "A Family-Centered Approach for Youth in Juvenile Justice/Child Welfare"
        • "The Child Welfare Workforce: Issues and Strategies for Recruitment, Selection, and Retention"
        Users are invited to download the audio, as well as handouts that include agendas, presenters' contact information, bibliographies, and resources on each topic.

    • Northeast and Caribbean Child Welfare Implementation Center has posted four States' Intensive Implementation Project plans (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Jersey).
    • Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health publishes an online newsletter that includes child and family mental health news, research, and events.
    • Western and Pacific Child Welfare Implementation Center currently lists one site with an approved Implementation Project (Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska) and two sites selected for planning Implementation Projects (Los Angeles and the Navajo Nation) :

Child Welfare Research

Research from the child welfare field includes the latest evidence-based research on prevention, suggestions for adoption terminology, data on international child maltreatment and prevention, and foster care drift.

  • Barriers to Permanency After TPR

    Barriers to Permanency After TPR

    While termination of parental rights (TPR) can be a barrier to permanency for children who cannot return to their birth families, there are many other barriers that may delay or prevent permanency even after TPR has been achieved. A recent article published in Research on Social Work Practice examined barriers to adoption of children after TPR. The authors of "Vulnerability to Foster Care Drift After the Termination of Parental Rights" reviewed the cases of 640 children and conducted indepth research on 145 cases. Data were gathered in multiple categories, including current placement, permanency goals, history of goal changes, reasons for changes, history of residential treatment, and other related areas.

    The authors found that a number of variables were associated with delayed adoption or no adoption. Younger females and those of Hispanic origin were more likely to be adopted than older children and male children. The strongest association was found between time out of the home and age. Every year in foster care equaled an 80 percent reduction in likelihood of adoption.

    Emotional and behavior problems also affected adoption: Of the children not adopted during the study, 92 percent had recorded emotional or behavioral problems. Agency factors also played a role: Children whose social workers changed were 44 percent less likely to be adopted. Those placed before TPR were adopted in a little over half the time of those who were not placed at TPR.

    The authors suggest that it is important for case managers to be aware of the time that passes after TPR. They need to work to ease foster parents' concerns toward adopting their foster children, and they themselves must be careful about transferring cases too quickly.

    "Vulnerability to Foster Care Drift After the Termination of Parental Rights," by Gretta Cushing and Sarah B. Greenblatt, was published in Research on Social Work Practice, Vol. 19(6), and is available for purchase online from the publisher:

  • Recasting "Adoption Displacement"

    Recasting "Adoption Displacement"

    The term "adoption displacement" has become increasingly accepted as a way to refer to the situation of adopted children who return to foster care or group care. In a recent article in the Journal of Child Welfare, authors Trudy Festinger and Penelope Maza suggest that the negative connotations associated with this term may affect the expectations of professionals involved and unfairly label the children in this situation.

    In its place, Festinger and Maza suggest use of the term "postadoption placement," which is less value laden. This term better reflects research findings that show that most of the children who enter foster care after adoption eventually return to their adoptive homes after a period of placement.

    Using fiscal year 2005 data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) administered by the Children's Bureau, the authors analyzed data on children in State child welfare systems who had ever been adopted. Compared to children in the child welfare system who had never been adopted, those who had been adopted were more likely to be older (often in their teens), more likely to enter care because of behavior problems, and more likely to be placed in group settings. When the previously adopted children exited foster care, the majority returned to their adoptive homes. For those whose adoptions had dissolved, most were again adopted.

    These statistics indicate that for those adopted children who enter foster care, the foster care placement is just temporary until they return home or to another permanent placement. Therefore, "postadoption placement" better describes their circumstances and avoids the negative connotations of "adoption displacement."

    Festinger and Maza's article appeared in the Journal of Child Welfare, Vol. 3(3) from July 2009 and is available for purchase on the publisher's website:

  • UNICEF Releases International Data on Maltreatment

    UNICEF Releases International Data on Maltreatment

    A worldwide report on global efforts to protect children was recently released by UNICEF. Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection represents an extensive effort to provide comprehensive estimates on the nature and extent of the violations of children's rights while proposing clear recommendations for preventive actions.

    Guided by the provisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF adopted a new protection strategy that builds on an international framework for child protection and the recommendations of the United Nations' Secretary-General's Study on Violence Against Children. The strategy centers on the following areas of child protection:

    • Improving child protection systems
    • Promoting social change
    • Enhancing child protection in emergencies
    • Partnering for greater impact
    • Building evidence

    Based on the results of survey data compiled by UNICEF and its partners, this report pulls together international data for the first time on a number of international key indicators. Some of these indicators include:

    • Violence against children
    • Child marriage
    • Female genital mutilation/cutting
    • Child labor
    • Sexual exploitation and abuse of children
    • Child trafficking
    • Children with disabilities
    • Children without parental care
    • Landmines, explosive remnants of war, and small arms

    While the data show that there has been some progress in some areas of the world in raising the age of child marriage and in reducing female genital mutilation, there is still much to be done. The report concludes with a call to action to build a protective environment for children around the world.

    Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection is available on the UNICEF website:  (2.34 MB)

  • The Future of Children Focuses on Prevention

    The Future of Children Focuses on Prevention

    The Fall 2009 issue of The Future of Children presents some of the latest available research on evidence-based policies and programs designed to prevent child maltreatment. Contributors examine how insights into risk factors for maltreatment can help target prevention efforts. Articles assess the effectiveness of communitywide interventions, parenting programs, home visiting, drug and alcohol treatment, and educational programs on sexual abuse for preventing maltreatment. Articles include the following:

    • "Progress Toward a Prevention Perspective" (Matthew W. Stagner and Jiffy Lansing)
    • "Epidemiological Perspectives on Maltreatment Prevention" (Fred Wulczyn)
    • "Creating Community Responsibility for Child Protection: Possibilities and Challenges" (Deborah A. Daro and Kenneth A. Dodge)
    • "Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect With Parent Training: Evidence and Opportunities" (Richard P. Barth)
    • "The Role of Home-Visiting Programs in Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect" (Kimberly S. Howard and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn)
    • "Prevention and Drug Treatment" (Mark F. Testa and Brenda Smith)
    • "The Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse" (David Finkelhor)
    • "Prevention and the Child Protection System" (Jane Waldfogel)

    This issue of the journal focuses on prevention as the key to reducing child maltreatment and its long-term costs—in adverse effects on children's health and development and in the expensive social and legal services required to rectify those effects.

    The Future of Children is available for free download: 


Strategies and Tools for Practice

Find tools and examples of new programs and processes, including use of therapy animals, ways for courts and Tribes to work together, how cities can help transitioning youth, and the best use of the APPLA goal.

  • Making APPLA Work for Youth

    Making APPLA Work for Youth

    For many youth in out-of-home care, the court may determine at a permanency hearing that there is a compelling reason that reunification, adoption, guardianship, and relative placement are not in the child's best interests. If the court makes such a finding, it may order another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) as the permanency goal for the child. A publication from the Iowa Department of Human Services, Permanency for Children: Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement: Practice Bulletin, focuses on promoting practices that can make APPLA as a permanency goal truly permanent for children and not just a synonym for long-term foster care.

    Generally, APPLA is viewed as an appropriate permanency goal only for some older youth, age 16 or older. For children for whom this goal is being considered, it is expected that the youth will participate in the team meeting that establishes the permanency plan. In addition, the planned permanent living arrangement must:

    • Be a permanent living arrangement with a foster parent or relative caregiver or other suitable person
    • Include written commitment from all the parties involved or an order of the court, with the expectation that the child remain in that placement until he or she reaches the age of majority

    Examples of permanent living arrangements include the following:

    • With foster parents who have made a formal written commitment to care for the child until adulthood
    • With relatives who plan to care for the child until adulthood
    • In appropriate agency-supervised transitional living, with the expectation that the child will successfully transition to young adulthood

    The bulletin provides practical guidance for structuring placements that will give youth permanent and stable places to call home until they reach adulthood. It stresses that lifelong connections should be in place and stable long before a youth transitions out of foster care. In addition, skill development for young adulthood needs to be finalized so the child has the best chance for success.

    Resources provided by the bulletin include a permanency checklist, examples of cases when it is inappropriate to use APPLA as a permanency goal, and recommendations from youth for improving practice.

    The publication is one of a series of child welfare bulletins and is available on the Iowa Department of Human Services website: (368 KB)

  • Reforming Court Systems to Improve Outcomes for Indian Children

    Reforming Court Systems to Improve Outcomes for Indian Children

    A new briefing paper examines efforts to implement recommendations made by the Pew Commission to improve State court processes as they apply to State and Tribal courts that hear cases involving American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children.

    Court Reform and American Indian/Alaska Native Children: Increasing Protections and Improving Outcomes explores State and Tribal court involvement in Indian child welfare matters, State Court Improvement Program grants, challenges and promising practices gleaned from Tribal-State collaborations around court improvement, and opportunities for progressing court systems for the betterment of AI/AN children. Intrinsic to this analysis is the recognition that AI/AN children have a unique political status as citizens of sovereign nations, and these nations are inherently best equipped to identify, understand, and respond to the children's needs.

    The Pew Commission's report, Fostering the Future: Safety, Permanence and Well-Being for Children in Foster Care, which was released in 2004, provided many recommendations for strengthening and supporting the nation's dependency courts. This briefing paper gives a preliminary analysis of what has been accomplished since the release of the Pew Commission's recommendations. Separate sections discuss some of the identified challenges and promising practices from Tribal-State collaborations in four areas of court improvement: data collection, training and collaboration, improving legal representation, and court operation.

    The briefing paper concludes with a discussion of supplemental recommendations that build upon those of the Pew Commission and add application possibilities specific to the needs of AI/AN children. The briefing paper was written by Ashley Horne, Timothy Travis, Nancy B. Miller, and David Simmons and published by the Permanency Planning for Children Department of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), in collaboration with the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

    Court Reform and American Indian/Alaska Native Children: Increasing Protections and Improving Outcomes is available for download on the NCJFCJ website: (871 KB)

  • Using Therapy Animals to Help Child Maltreatment Victims

    Using Therapy Animals to Help Child Maltreatment Victims

    American Humane, an organization dedicated to protecting children and animals, has developed a program aimed at providing registered therapy animals to children in need. The Therapy Animals Supporting Kids (TASK) Program encourages child welfare and other professionals to use therapy animals while working with children who have been abused, neglected, or have witnessed violence. Program creators suggest that this type of therapy can be used with traumatized children who often find it difficult to speak about their experiences, as the animals can help these individuals open up during the healing process.

    Allie Phillips and Diana McQuarrie have developed an implementation guide, American Humane TASK Program Manual, which has two main goals: (1) to address the practical issues involved with setting up an animal-assisted therapy program and safely working with therapy animals and (2) to outline the legal implications of using therapy animals effectively in work with children. The manual describes the proper handling of therapy animals when working with children who have suffered maltreatment, emphasizing that this specialized field requires extensive training. It also provides guidance for agencies on finding an appropriate handler-animal therapy team to join an agency's treatment team.

    The manual identifies six situations in which incorporating therapy animals may be appropriate:

    • Greeting children at a children's advocacy center or other agency locations
    • Forensic interviews or evaluations
    • Medical examinations
    • Individual or group therapy sessions
    • Court preparation
    • Courtroom testimony   

    Other sections of the manual describe a short case study of the use of a therapy animal (dog) with a young girl who had been a victim of sexual abuse. It also provides examples of several child advocacy centers and one prosecutor's office that routinely use therapy animals to help children who have been victims of abuse.

    Find out more about TASK on the American Humane website:

    Access the TASK guidebook on the American Humane website: (1,105 KB)

  • Cities Can Improve Outcomes for Youth Transitioning to Adulthood

    Cities Can Improve Outcomes for Youth Transitioning to Adulthood

    Older youth transitioning from foster care to independent living face a number of challenges, including the risk of becoming homeless, dropping out of school, being unemployed and depending on public assistance, having children at a young age, or engaging in criminal activities. Although city governments do not manage the foster care system, city leaders are becoming aware of the impact that youth who are aging out of foster care have on their communities and what can be done to support them.

    The Municipal Action Guide on Supporting Foster Youth Transitions to Adulthood from the National League of Cities offers strategies and steps that city leaders can adopt to address the needs of transitioning foster youth and to improve communities. Recommendations include:

    • Gather statistics on local foster youth transitions and use this information to set goals and track progress.
    • Connect transitioning foster youth to existing programs and services.
    • Make the case for supporting foster youth transitions to adulthood.
    • Take a cross-system approach to service planning and delivery.

    The guide also includes examples of cities' strategies in the areas of housing assistance, employment services, and educational transitions. Philadelphia's Achieving Independence Center is described as an example of one city's way to provide multiple services for transitioning youth in one building.

    The Municipal Action Guide on Supporting Foster Youth Transitions to Adulthood, by Carlos Becerra and Andrew Moore, is available on the National League of Cities website: (756 KB)


  • Fostering Connections Resource Center

    Fostering Connections Resource Center

    The Fostering Connections Resource Center was established in October 2009 by a number of nonprofit organizations in response to the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The Resource Center provides information, training, and tools to States and Tribes to aid in the implementation of the Fostering Connections law. The Resource Center provides:

    • Nonpartisan data and resources on each section of the bill, including information tools and assistance for State policymakers and leaders
    • Technical assistance
    • Tracking of implementation activity
    • Opportunities to communicate with experts and peers through mailing lists, webinars, and online forums
    • Stakeholder networks

    Issue-specific information also is available on the following topics:

    • Adoption
    • Education
    • Health
    • Kinship/guardianship
    • Older youth
    • Tribal issues
    • Implementation progress

    The Resource Center is managed by Child Trends and The Finance Project with funding support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Duke Endowment, Eckerd Family Foundation, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, Sierra Health Foundation, Stuart Foundation, and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation.

    For more information on the Fostering Connections Resource Center or to sign up for email updates, visit:

  • Federal Spending on Children's Programs

    Federal Spending on Children's Programs

    Children's Budget 2009, a report from First Focus, provides information about more than 180 children's programs funded by the Federal Government. The report shows that while Federal spending on children increased by about 9.2 percent between 2005 and 2009, overall Federal spending increased at a greater rate, resulting in children's programs receiving a smaller portion of the Federal budget. Key findings include:

    • For the past 5 years, less than one nickel out of every new, real nondefense dollar spent by the Federal Government has gone to children and children's programs.
    • Spending on children's issues makes up less than 10 percent of the entire nondefense budget.
    • The overall share of Federal, nondefense spending going to children's programs dropped by 12 percent over the past 5 years.
    • Real discretionary spending on children has declined by 1 percent since 2005, while at the same time all other nondefense discretionary spending has increased by 4 percent.

    The report breaks down Federal spending on programs in child welfare, education, health, housing, and more and includes an analysis of the $144 billion made available to children's programs through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), a $787 billion package to stimulate the economy.

    Children's Budget 2009 is available on the First Focus website: (12.21 MB)

  • Summer Internship Opportunity for College Youth

    Summer Internship Opportunity for College Youth

    The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute's (CCAI) Foster Youth Internship Program is a competitive internship for young adults who were in foster care at the time of their 18th birthday or who were adopted after their 14th birthday from foster care. The 2010 program will place 16 academically successful college students in the Washington, DC, offices of members of Congress where they will receive experience in the operations of a congressional office, as well as professional training.

    Applicants must be enrolled in college and have completed four semesters by May 29, 2010. Applications are due January 4, 2010. For more information and an online application, visit the CCAI website:

  • National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth

    National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth

    Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth (NCSBY) provides training and technical assistance for professionals working with children with sexual behavior problems and adolescent sex offenders. The NCSBY website offers information for treatment providers, the latest on sex offender registration laws, frequently asked questions about children with behavior problems and adolescent sex offenders, and useful links to related organizations. 

    NCSBY publications, available for free download, include:

    • Factsheets on sexual behavior problems, youth offenders, childhood sexual development, and more
    • Bibliography of resources and a glossary of terms
    • Treatment manuals for cognitive-behavioral group therapy for children and for caregivers of those children

    Visit the website for more information:

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.

  • Conferences


    Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through April 2010 include:

    January 2010

    • 24th Annual San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment
      The Chadwick Center for Children and Families
      January 24–29, San Diego, CA
    • CWLA 2010 National Conference
      Children 2010: Leading a New Era

      Child Welfare League of America
      January 24–27, Washington, DC

    February 2010

    • International Conference on Parent Education and Parenting
      The University of North Texas Center for Parent Education-and-International Sociological Association Committee on Family Research
      February 18–19, Denton, TX

    March 2010

    • National Conference on Juvenile and Family Law
      National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
      March 14–17, Las Vegas, NV
    • Sixth Annual Conference on Childhood Grief and Traumatic Loss
      Restoring Joy to Children and Their Families

      Los Angeles County Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect and Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services
      March 17, Pasadena, CA
    • American Adoption Congress 2010 Spring Conference
      March 19–21, Sacramento, CA

    April 2010

    • NOFSW 27th Annual Conference
      Forensic Social Work: Integrating Research, Policy and Practice
      National Organization of Forensic Social Work
      April 10–14, Atlanta, GA
    • 28th Annual "Protecting Our Children" National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
      National Indian Child Welfare Association
      April 11–14, Portland, OR
    • Families on the Faultlines: Re-Imagining Race, Kinship, & Care
      University of California, Berkeley, Center for Race & Gender
      April 29–30, Berkeley, CA
    • Adoption: Secret Histories, Public Policies: 3rd International Conference on Adoption and Culture
      Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture
      April 29–May 2, Cambridge, MA

    Further details about national and regional adoption and child welfare conferences can be found through the Conference Calendar Search feature on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

  • QIC for Fatherhood Provides Training for Lawyers

    QIC for Fatherhood Provides Training for Lawyers

    The National Quality Improvement Center (QIC) on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System offers a curriculum designed to provide guidance to lawyers on how to navigate issues affecting fathers and their children involved in child welfare proceedings. It provides practical strategies to parents' attorneys who represent nonresident fathers who are often not the perpetrators of abuse or neglect.

    Instructor guides, PowerPoint slides, handouts, and posttest instruments with answer keys are available for each of the following lessons:

    • Asserting the Constitutional Rights of Non-Resident Fathers With Children Involved in Child Welfare Proceedings
    • Effective Ways to Advocate for Non-Resident Fathers Outside the Courtroom
    • Effective Ways to Advocate for Non-Resident Fathers Inside the Courtroom
    • Ethical Considerations for Attorneys Representing Non-Resident Fathers

    The American Bar Association also provides some free technical assistance to trainers as they adapt and use this curriculum. More information on the curriculum, available free on CD, and other resources are on the QIC website: