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September 2019Vol. 20, No. 7Spotlight on the Child and Family Services Reviews Round 3 Update

This month's issue of CBX focuses on round 3 of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) and how states are measuring up to federal child welfare requirements pertaining to safety, permanency, and child and family well-being. Read a message from Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, that emphasizes the importance of the CFSRs to improving the child welfare system and driving the changes needed to ensure children and families are served as they deserve to be served. The issue also includes a variety of resources and publications centered on the CFSRs and their outcomes.

Issue Spotlight

  • Making Progress in Child Welfare

    Making Progress in Child Welfare

    Written by Ashley Malefyt, founder, Ottawa Fosters, Ottawa County, Michigan

    It's no secret that the way we approach child welfare needs an overhaul.

    Ask any foster parent or frontline worker and they'll tell you, without hesitation, about the long list of things that they feel need to be changed to do their job effectively. I am a foster parent of 10 years. Over those years, I've learned quite a lot. I have also developed a great deal of opinions. So, I was thrilled to be invited to join the conversation at a Program Improvement Plan (PIP) meeting. PIP meetings are designed to allow states to analyze what they're doing well, find out what needs improvement, and come up with a plan to make positive changes in policy.

    At this particular PIP meeting, Michigan became the first state to partake in a different way of tackling the PIP process: a method using focused problem solving. For this pilot method, many stakeholders, representing all the different aspects of child welfare, came together over 4 days to dream up a new approach for better outcomes. Participants were encouraged to be creative, share ideas, and give push back directly to those who have the greatest influence over the Michigan child welfare system. Federal agents, judges, attorneys, frontline workers, foster parents, parents, and youth formerly in foster care were invited to the table with the idea that we all want the same thing: to be able to provide services to achieve safety, stability, and permanency for the children and families we serve and to figure out how to better accomplish that.

    We wrestled over why Michigan is not achieving timely permanency. We talked about the barriers to providing meaningful services, starting with accurate and prompt assessments. We discussed workforce development and questioned why caseworker turnover is so high. I overheard a conversation about quality legal representation and how to make sure that every child and their parent have someone fighting for them in court. However, my favorite dialogue was about how to engage the community and foster parents in this process in a more relevant and significant way.

    It would be far too idealistic to think that all the issues in child welfare and family services were discussed and solved during this meeting. But I can tell you that it seemed most, if not all, of the participants walked away feeling refreshed, empowered, and encouraged. Relationships were made, ideas were shared, and important work was done.

  • Louisiana: A Program Improvement Plan Made Successful Through Agency and Court Collaboration

    Louisiana: A Program Improvement Plan Made Successful Through Agency and Court Collaboration

    Written by Rhenda Hodnett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., assistant secretary, Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, Child Welfare Division; and Mark Harris, court improvement program coordinator, Pelican Center for Children and Families, New Orleans, Louisiana

    Approved by the Children's Bureau (CB) within a record-breaking 78 days, Louisiana's Program Improvement Plan (PIP) includes bold strategies purposefully aligned with CB's vision to shift from a child welfare system that is reactive to one that is proactive in addressing child maltreatment. The disappointing outcomes in round 3 of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) left Louisiana stakeholders disheartened. At the same time, it created a sense of determination and urgency to make substantial changes in how the child welfare system meets the needs of the children and families it serves.

    The timing of Louisiana's CFSR aligned perfectly with CB's effort to revise the process for creating a PIP. Louisiana volunteered to participate in CB's pilot program, which was designed to forge strong collaboration among stakeholders and critical thinking around root causes and strategies that would result in a meaningful change in the way children and families experience the child welfare system. In preparation for the onsite meeting, Louisiana received assistance from the Capacity Building Centers for States and Courts, which facilitated a series of engaging and collaborative meetings with a vast array of child welfare stakeholders. These meetings focused on a deeper exploration of data, root-cause analysis, and the development of a theory of change. In March 2019, this strong conglomerate—which included 68 individuals representing federal and state agencies, parents and youth with lived experience in the child welfare system, service providers, and legal stakeholders—convened for an intensive 4-day meeting. Not only did the participants have access to qualitative and quantitative data provided by the CFSR final report, the state agency, and the courts, they also were able to share lived experiences and hear perspectives from a variety of stakeholders who interact with the child welfare system. As diverse stakeholders committed to working together to transform the system, resolve overcame disappointment, and consensus regarding strategies and joint ownership among stakeholders became evident. Five cross-cutting themes emerged, which all participants agreed should be the areas of focus for real change: assessment and safety decision-making, engagement, workforce development, service array, and quality legal representation.

    There is strong confidence in Louisiana's ability to implement the PIP successfully because the essential stakeholders were part of its development from the beginning. Legal stakeholders actually assumed leadership for two of the five PIP strategies: service array and quality legal representation. Like the child welfare agency, courts make life-altering decisions that affect families for generations; thus, collaboration and coordination between the courts and agencies are critical to truly strengthening the safety, well-being, and permanency outcomes for children and families.

    My Community Cares (MCC) is one of Louisiana's innovative PIP strategies that aligns perfectly with CB's vision to improve child welfare outcomes through community-based, collaborative programs that give families access to critical services in supportive, culturally relevant, and prevention-focused environments that enhance protective factors. The CFSR data and discussions among stakeholders clearly demonstrated that families who encounter the child welfare system are often not getting the adequate services and supports needed to address underlying issues and strengthen their parental capacity to prevent maltreatment. Participants hoped that more children could remain with their families, return to their parent's custody, or be placed with relative caregivers more expeditiously when provided appropriate, individualized, and readily accessible trauma-informed services and supports.

    MCC is a multitiered, multidisciplinary grassroots approach designed to empower communities to intentionally and collectively care for their children and families. With judicial leadership, the Louisiana Court Improvement Program, other legal stakeholders, and the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services will collaborate with local communities to build and support their capacity. Core components of the model include the following:

    • Convene community teams at the neighborhood level to create a shared vision and ownership of desired outcomes and enhance coordination and collaboration within their communities
    • Establish a comprehensive continuum—from prevention to treatment—of accessible services
    • Assemble a state-level team to advocate for policy and law changes, build the capacity of each parish to implement MCC, and address statewide systemic challenges and gaps in services

    This is a bold vision for Louisiana, but we believe that together we can create communities where children and families are safe, stable, and self-sufficient, one family and one community at a time.

  • Looking Forward to Round 4 of the Child and Family Services Reviews

    Looking Forward to Round 4 of the Child and Family Services Reviews

    Written by Jennifer Haight, supervisory children & family program specialist, Children's Bureau

    As we near the end of round 3 of the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) cycle, a process that was established through a regulation nearly 20 years ago, we have already begun planning for round 4. The purpose of these reviews is to assess the extent to which federally funded child welfare programs function effectively to promote the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families with whom they have contact. Child welfare systems that underperform on one or more of seven specific outcomes and/or one or more of seven specified systemic factors are subject to financial penalties, which are held in abeyance as the state develops and implements a Program Improvement Plan (PIP). Approved plans are monitored during the PIP implementation and measurement period. States that have successfully executed their strategies and achieved improvement goals have their penalties rescinded.

    In between each of the prior CFSR rounds, the Children's Bureau adjusted—at times significantly—the review process to improve the methods, measures, and tools used to evaluate state performance. What has remained consistent and durable is the CFSR structure used to assess state performance and to develop improvement plans. That structure was presciently embedded in a continuous quality improvement framework. Working with child welfare system partners, each state is expected to use both quantitative and qualitative evidence gathered from administrative data–—from case records and from interviews with case members and key stakeholders—to assess its performance on the outcomes and systemic factors. Buttressing their observations with further analyses that identify key challenges and point to potential solutions, states are expected to develop substantive improvement plans outlining the goals and strategies they will undertake to address the areas of concern. Joint federal and state performance monitoring during the PIP period tracks progress and allows for midcourse adjustment, when appropriate.

    However thoughtful the structure of the CFSR is, some notable concerns have emerged in practice. Even after three rounds, all states have continued to incur penalties because of poor performance on most of the key outcomes and many of the systemic factors. Thus, each state continues to need to develop a PIP. A second significant concern is the often lengthy PIP development and approval process. Aggravating to everyone, this process has engendered frustration, protracted the back and forth between the parties, and has meant that approved PIPs are increasingly removed from the performance data and analysis on which they are based.

    Moving forward, we anticipate adapting the CFSR and PIP processes to address both concerns. We want to see a positive system change, and we believe it is more likely to occur if we implement improved and expedient procedures. That is, we want to be better at identifying key challenges and connecting them with core causes and reasonable solutions that result in stronger outcomes and want to do that more quickly—not only to avoid the frustration that the protracted process produces but also to decrease the distance between the observation and diagnosis of the challenges and the implementation of the remedies.

    While we expect to a make a number of adaptations to the full review process in round 4, we have already introduced and tested a significant change. Three states (Louisiana, Maryland, and Michigan) participated in a PIP pilot project that we introduced in round 3 to jumpstart the critical changes we want to see take place. In each of the pilot states, child welfare stakeholders came together with federal partners to work in a compressed time frame. They produced substantive PIPs that were approved within the 90-day deadline prescribed in regulation.

    The pilots occurred in three stages. The central event was a multiday, onsite working session that was facilitated by professionals from the Capacity Building Centers and included a wide range of system partners (federal staff, state agency staff, legal/court representatives, community-based partners, service agencies, youth, caregivers, and parents). During the onsite session, participants worked with data that had been gathered and reviewed in the first stage (preonsite work) to highlight the key challenge areas that surfaced during the CFSR review and to begin to identify root causes associated with those challenges. Over the course of the onsite sessions, participants narrowed down root causes, focused on cross-cutting themes related to root causes, and began to identify promising strategies that would address the challenges. The third and final stage followed the onsite meeting and involved the continued elaboration of results from the onsite work and the development of the PIPs.

    These PIP pilots were scheduled successively. Each pilot built on prior experiences to identify and strengthen the essential components of this approach to PIP development and to adjust those that were less successful. In the end, we arrived at a promising prototype for future PIP development and also identified three core principles that we expect to guide our approach to monitoring and oversight in general and to the CFSR round 4, specifically.

    First, we note the importance of tethering program innovation to a state's central vision for its child welfare system. Each state is required to articulate its vision in their Child and Family Services Plan (CFSP), which is submitted every 5 years. The core tenets of that vision are operationalized in the programs, policies, procedures, and practices that constitute a state's approach to working with children, families, and their communities. In practice, the vision undergirds each system's theory of change—or the specific organization of a child welfare system's structures and functions to produce desired outcomes. Our oversight will consider the alignment between that vision, the processes in place to execute the vision, the quality of that execution, and the outcomes that are its result.

    Second, we should seek broad involvement from child welfare system partners throughout the review process. This principle is grounded in the knowledge that child welfare systems can only be effective when all partners who have a role in it contribute to its design and operation. One of the most notable and successful features of the PIP pilots was the involvement of a wide range of system partners in the conversations that dug deeply into root causes and reached broadly for solutions. Including not only system partners (such as judicial and legal partners, private agencies, community stakeholders, and  workers) but also those with lived experience in child welfare added depth and detail to the evidence used to shape decisions that will guide system change.

    Third, we should gather and apply the appropriate evidence for each phase of the CFSR cycle. This was modeled during the PIP pilots but must be the defining feature of the full review cycle. In order to make accurate observations about performance as well as to accurately uncover causes and land on defensible remedies, the proper evidence must be considered. Reliance on evidence that is produced in accordance with best practices in measurement should be the cornerstone of both the CFSR and PIP processes. This expectation applies to the collection and use of both quantitative and qualitative data and will govern our adaptations to the CFSR and PIP procedures for round 4.

    In fact, each of these principles is already featured in the regulations that outline the CFSR and PIP development processes. In the coming months, as we wind down round 3 and look to shape the next review cycle, we will return to these principles and develop procedures that reflect them when we launch CFSR round 4.

  • The Child Welfare System Consists of More Than the Child Welfare Agency

    The Child Welfare System Consists of More Than the Child Welfare Agency

    Written by Vivek S. Sankaran, clinical professor of law, University of Michigan Law School

    When families come to the attention of child welfare agencies, they often have a multitude of challenges to address. They might lack housing. Or they may present with mental health issues. Or they may be consumed by substance use. Or they may be victimized by domestic violence. The list is long.

    No single entity alone can address these issues. Rather, a community partnership—consisting of the agency, the courts, lawyers, foster parents, clergy, other parents, older youth, and many others—must work together to help guide family members through a difficult moment in their lives.

    Yet, traditionally, we've looked to child welfare agencies to "solve" a family's problems or come up with another solution. When data reveal poor outcomes for kids in foster care, we blame agencies. When a tragedy involving a child occurs, we replace agency directors. When children are unnecessarily removed, we castigate child protective services workers. Despite knowing that only a true community partnership will achieve the outcomes we want for children and their families, we have resisted that approach. Instead, we continue to work in our silos.

    This past year, the Children's Bureau launched a pilot project—on which I was invited to participate—to change this dynamic. Because the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was not in substantial conformity with federal child welfare measures, our state was required to develop a Program Improvement Plan (PIP) to address the deficiencies. Traditionally, the responsibility to develop this plan fell squarely on the agency.

    But this year, the Children's Bureau encouraged a different approach. Over 50 stakeholders—including workers, lawyers, judges, foster parents, and others—gathered together for 5 days to discuss the root causes of our outcomes. A strong contingency of federal officials also attended the meeting. The group, guided by research and data, brainstormed different solutions to the problems, eventually narrowing down the conversation to several priorities that would guide the development of the PIP. For example, stakeholders agreed that the system could not achieve good outcomes without strong legal representation for parents. They also agreed that foster parents should be encouraged to engage with birth parents and that the state needs to figure out how to deliver quality services to families and retain workers. Then, they developed detailed plans to move forward on these issues, which formed the basis of our PIP. In other words, this plan was not developed by a few agency workers holed away in an office in a remote government building.

    Now, the hard work of implementing these ideas begins. But unlike other years, the responsibility to do so does not rest solely on the agency. Rather, as a result of this process, an entire community is invested in making these changes happen and will own whatever successes and failures result. Through this process, we learned that the child welfare system consists of far more than the child welfare agency. We are all part of the system, and through this recognition, we will be able to better serve families.

  • Using Child Welfare Data to Improve Federal Permanency Targets, Other Outcome Measures

    Using Child Welfare Data to Improve Federal Permanency Targets, Other Outcome Measures

    As the third round of the Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs) ended and final reports became available, data showed that states continue to struggle with meeting federal permanency targets for children and families. To help states, the Children's Bureau awarded a 5-year grant (HHS-2018-ACF-ACYF-CO-1360) to five recipients to develop, implement, and evaluate strategies for improving specific areas related to permanency, safety, and well-being of children and families. These include timely permanency outcomes, preservation of family relationships and connections, family capacity to provide for children's needs, and keeping children safely in their homes when possible and appropriate. The Children's Bureau's Capacity Building Center for States is providing programmatic technical assistance for the grant while James Bell Associates is providing technical assistance for the evaluation.

    This discretionary grant cluster is unique because of the intensive focus on collaboration with court systems to eliminate legal and judicial barriers to adoption and other permanency options and on improving basic social work practice. This cluster is also unique because four of the five grantees are external to the child welfare agency, although they are still required to work with child welfare agencies to improve CFSR outcomes.

    The five grantees (program titles in parentheses) include the following:

    • Judiciary Courts of the State of New Mexico (Strengthening Child Welfare Systems Through Interdisciplinary Practice)
    • Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families (Permanency From Day One Initiative)
    • Community Based Care of Central Florida (Strong Foundations)
    • University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc. (Kansas Strong for Children and Families)
    • Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing at the University of Texas at Austin (Texas Permanency Outcomes Project)

    Grantees are exploring their state child welfare system's most recent CFSR report, Program Improvement Plan, Child and Family Service Plan, Annual Progress and Services Report, Court Improvement Program (CIP) plan, CIP self-assessment (where applicable), and other state and federal data. This problem exploration and root cause analysis is helping grantees better understand the challenges and barriers associated with improving permanency outcomes for children and families (permanency outcome 1 in the CFSRs).

    The following are some of the identified challenges and barriers:

    • The need for partnerships between states and court systems. Although such a connection may exist through CIP-related work, there is not always data sharing or true collaborative teaming across state systems.
    • Engagement with parents. Parents—both mothers and fathers—are not always being engaged. Systems should explore how much effort is being made to engage them and the cultural value assigned to this work?
    • Workforce. Staff and leadership have expressed worries about having the time and support needed to successfully implement new strategies on top of the work they are already doing.

    Following the data exploration, grantees will use an implementation science-informed approach to identify strategies to improve outcomes for specified target populations and to develop evaluation plans, develop implementation teams for the grant work and assess related readiness. 

  • A Necessary Reconnection

    A Necessary Reconnection

    Written by Jerry Milner

    It is not that often in a career that you have a chance to return to a project or initiative nearly 20 years after its inception. As one of the original designers of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs), that chance arose for me when I returned to the Children's Bureau 2 and a half years ago.

    In 2001, we rolled out a radically different process for reviewing state child welfare programs—one that was designed to be anything but an exercise in compliance. We designed the CFSRs to explore how children and families actually experienced the child welfare system and to go beyond a review of mere documentation. With program improvement as the ultimate goal—as demonstrated in seven outcomes—we envisioned the reviews and Program Improvement Plans (PIPs) driving a dramatically improved system for serving children and families.

    The CFSRs were rooted in the vision that the reviews themselves could drive improvements by focusing attention on the practice of child welfare, the engagement of families and children, the effectiveness of service delivery, and child and family well-being, in addition to core safety and permanency concerns. We launched the CFSRs with the understanding that they were not a perfect process. Rather, they held tremendous promise to think about and approach our work in very different ways.

    When I arrived back at the Children's Bureau in 2017, we were deep into the third round of the reviews, and, within days, there was a stack of final review reports and PIPs waiting for my review. I was eager to see how much things had changed since I left the Bureau early during round two. I was hopeful that states' performance on achieving the CFSR outcomes would be markedly improved over the results of the first rounds of CFSRs and that the PIPs would be driving the needed systemic changes.

    That's not what I saw or read. Round 3 results were not much different than those of rounds 1 and 2. Even at the end of round 3, no state had yet achieved conformity with the major permanency and well -being outcomes, and they missed the mark by more than a little.

    Little in the PIPs I reviewed gave me confidence that the strategies included therein would reasonably lead to the kinds of changes needed in the outcomes. I saw plans that had been in negotiations for 2 to 3 years, with disconnected strategies not identifiably tied to a clear vision, lack of focus on underlying root causes of the problems to be solved, and inconsistent reliance on the activities of stakeholders essential to improving outcomes, especially the courts.

    Even though I knew many states were involved in system reform efforts, the PIPs reflected a reluctance to commit to bold actions or to rely on stakeholders outside the child welfare agency to carry a portion of the load—most likely due to fear of incurring a financial penalty. The degree of progress committed to in the PIPs was not enough to move the mark dramatically for many cycles of the CFSRs. In short, with some exceptions, the PIPs seemed to reflect more concerns about compliance than bold commitments to improve outcomes radically.

    That's not to say that the CFSRs have not changed child welfare in our country. They have. They've helped to focus our attention on outcomes as the key goals of federal oversight at a time when checking boxes and ensuring correct language in case plans were the subjects of review. They've helped bring the use of data and an emphasis on quality of data to the forefront of child welfare functions. They've helped to focus much of our attention and discussion on key practice issues, such as engagement of fathers, quality caseworker visits with children and parents, maintaining parent-child relationships during foster care episodes, and others.

    Our child welfare system is better because of the CFSRs.

    Yet, the CFSR and PIP processes have not attained our original vision for driving major improvements needed in child welfare so that our children and families experience it in ways that are more satisfactory. It is clear to me that we—both the federal government and the states—need to own our parts in the lack of progress and that we need to reconnect the CFSRs and PIPs to our vision.

    A few months ago, we began developing a very different approach to PIP development—one that addresses the major barriers to timely PIP approval and includes broad, bold improvement strategies. Three states—Michigan, Louisiana, and Maryland—stepped to the front of the line to try out the new approach. The pilots brought together representative teams of stakeholders, including parents and youth who had first-hand experience with the states' child welfare systems, for a week of onsite PIP exploration and development. The work of the teams was facilitated by our technical assistance providers and built on pre-onsite work while setting the stage for the remaining post-onsite work. In all three states, the results were approvable PIPs within regulatory time frames as well as the promise of a better child welfare experience for our children and families. These results were not achieved through the efforts of three faint-of-heart states unwilling to engage and to share responsibilities, but by three states that were bold and brave in committing to meaningful paths to improvement.

    I am very optimistic that we can embark on the CFSR and PIP processes in round 4 with a renewed sense of hope and commitment to the original CFSR vision. It will take leadership at the federal and state levels to ensure that the vision serves children and families as they deserve to be served and to make sure that compliance is not our primary motivating factor in making our child welfare system fully responsive to the needs it was designed to address.

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News From the Children's Bureau

Read a report about CFSR findings specific to older youth in foster care, an aggregate report about how states fared during the first 2 years of round 3 of the CFSRs, a recent Program Instruction for how states can claim payments for services and costs associated with the title IV-E prevention program, and the latest additions to the CB website.

  • Round 3 Child and Family Services Reviews Aggregate Report

    Round 3 Child and Family Services Reviews Aggregate Report

    In order to help states improve safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for children and families involved with child welfare and to conform with the requirements in titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reviews state child and family services programs through the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) process. The third round of this process began in fiscal year (FY) 2015, and a recently published report, Child and Family Services Reviews Aggregate Report: Round 3: FYs 2015–2016, aggregates the results from 24 states from the first 2 years of this process. (The remaining states were scheduled to be reviewed in 2017 or 2018.) This report provides a broad picture of how states' outcomes and the practices and procedures they use.

    CFSRs use seven outcomes and seven systemic factors to assess state performance, which cover the following areas:

    • Safety
    • Permanency
    • Well-being
    • Information, case review, and quality assurance systems
    • Staff and provider training
    • Service array and resource development
    • Agency responsiveness to the community
    • Foster and adoptive parent licensing, recruitment, and retention

    The preliminary findings in this report describe how few states met the outcome performance standards. Two states achieved substantial conformity with safety outcome 1, and five states achieved substantial conformity for well-being outcome 2. More states were successful with the systemic factors, although the strength on some factors was less consistent than others. Additional points of interest are covered in the report: identification of Indian children, tribal notification, placement preference, and oversight of prescription medications for mental or behavioral health.

    Read the full report at (2,330 KB).

  • New Program Instructions for Transitional Payments for Title IV-E Prevention and Family Services and

    New Program Instructions for Transitional Payments for Title IV-E Prevention and Family Services and

    The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a new Program Instruction (ACYF-CB-PI-19-06) that instructs states on how to claim transitional payments for services and associated costs under the title IV-E prevention program until the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse can review and rate a program or service. The clearinghouse will support ACF's goal to review programs and services as quickly as possible in the early years of implementation of the title IV-E prevention program.

    To read the complete Program Instruction, visit

  • Report Assesses Experiences of Older Youth in Foster Care, Agencies' Ability to Meet Their Needs

    Report Assesses Experiences of Older Youth in Foster Care, Agencies' Ability to Meet Their Needs

    A report from the Children's Bureau looks at federal data to determine how well child welfare agencies are meeting the needs of older youth in foster care as well as explore the experiences and perceptions of this age group.

    The report examines the Child and Family Service Review (CFSR) findings specific to youth 16–17 years old for the 38 states reviewed during the first 3 years of round 3 of the federal CFSRs (2015–2017). CFSRs evaluate agency performance in ensuring child and youth safety, permanency, and well-being by interviewing key stakeholders in each of the states involved. The strength ratings for the areas assessed in the CFSRs were substandard in all but one of the categories—placement with siblings—and demonstrate a need to improve practice to better serve older youth.

    The findings reveal that these older youth had been in foster care for 39 months on average and that the most common reason for entering care was primary caregiver neglect, followed by issues related to child and youth behavior. The most common permanency goal was other planned permanent living arrangement (OPPLA), a living situation where the agency oversees care and custody and in which the youth is expected to remain until adulthood. The report finds that agencies took steps to ensure such placements were permanent (e.g., by asking caregivers to sign a long-term care commitment). While the report notes that 58 percent of the older youth had OPPLA as their permanency goal, it emphasizes that this should only be the goal when options such as reunification, adoption, or legal guardianship have been ruled out. Reunification was the second most common permanency goal for older youth.

    The youth who were interviewed through the CFSR process reported mixed experiences in their understanding of, and involvement in, permanency planning. They also indicated there was no discussion regarding the potential consequences of aging out of care without a permanent connection or family support. Youth reported that, while they felt valued when included in the decision-making process, agency voices often overshadowed their own, and some felt unimportant to their caseworkers. Some youth reported they did not always understand their case plans and were often unable to reach their caseworkers. Some felt as though their voices were heard more in a court setting or by a judge. Others reported they felt more listened to as they got older. Youth emphasized the pivotal role of a caseworker's availability and positive attitude in helping them move forward. They cited placement instability, separation from siblings, and miscommunication and misunderstandings surrounding permanency as significant challenges as adulthood approaches.

    The report authors conclude that the results highlight the need for agencies and caseworkers to work with youth to make sure they understand their permanency options and the importance of preparing youth for life after foster care. The report encourages caseworkers to involve youth in the case-planning process and points out that this will help youth be more motivated to achieve their goals.

    Focus on Youth CFSR Findings: 2015–2017 is available at (8,700 KB).

    Related Item

    For information on the value of maintaining sibling relationships and the relevant research, strategies, and resources to assist child welfare professionals in preserving connections among siblings, read the bulletin Sibling Issues in Foster Care and Adoption, available at

  • CB Website Updates

    CB Website Updates

    The Children's Bureau website hosts information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, federal reporting, and much more.

    Recent additions to the site include the following:

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

Child Welfare Research

We highlight an article about an initiative in Massachusetts aimed at improving well-being, permanency, and maltreatment outcomes for children who have experienced trauma; a report about the importance of engaging both parents in casework; an article about using data to inform systems change; and more.

  • Administrative Data Informs Child Welfare Programming With Dynamic Visualization Methodologies

    Administrative Data Informs Child Welfare Programming With Dynamic Visualization Methodologies

    Agencies across the United States collect a massive amount of data, keeping track of factors such as entries, exits, movement of youth, and more. These data can be a powerful tool to inform improvements in systems, but it can be challenging to leverage the data to better understand the trajectories of youth in care, how effective services are, and where improvements and connections can be made. An article in Children and Youth Services Review, "Harnessing the Potential of Administrative Data to Inform Child Welfare Programming With Dynamic Visualization Methodologies," discusses and demonstrates how web-based visualization technology can be used to develop a feedback improvement system and how child welfare agencies can develop their own.

    This study highlights an example of a university-agency partnership that created an automated system that uses data visualization to process, analyze, and deliver data for continually improving child welfare systems and services. The key elements to the process include the following:

    • Reporting relevant, readily accessible data in a timely fashion
    • Limiting the number of outcomes reported but providing enough longitudinal information to guide continuous improvement efforts
    • Reducing long-term costs and maintenance using technology and automated analytic processing

    The article presents simulated data to illustrate how they can be analyzed, processed, and delivered. It also includes a literature review that walks readers through the importance of feedback and the impact it has on meaningful improvement. Child welfare agencies can use this study to help guide the development of their own feedback systems.

    "Harnessing the potential of administrative data to inform child welfare programming with dynamic visualization methodologies," by Michael J. Tanana, Mindy J. Vanderloo, and Jeffrey D. Waid (Children and Youth Services Review85) is available at

  • Study Underscores Need to Engage Both Parents in Child Welfare Work for Better Outcomes

    Study Underscores Need to Engage Both Parents in Child Welfare Work for Better Outcomes

    Child welfare work that engages both parents is associated with a greater likelihood of positive case outcomes, according to an article published in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services. The article describes a study that looked at how a New Hampshire agency's intentional efforts to engage both parents in casework affected the outcomes of over 200 cases involving children in both in-home and out-of-home placements.

    The parent engagement practices studied included parental involvement in case planning, assessment of parental needs, provision of services to parents, and parental visitation. The research centered on whether efforts were made to engage both parents in child welfare-related activities and, if so, how that affected overall case outcomes. The study analyzed 206 case practice reviews (CPRs) from New Hampshire's child welfare agency. CPR data were collected during week-long onsite reviews using a similar process to the federal Child and Family Services Reviews. The authors note that the goal of the CPR is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each district by focusing on child welfare agency efforts and the associated safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for children and families. To collect CPR data, New Hampshire uses the Onsite Review Instrument (OSRI), which was used by all states in round 2 of the CFSRs. The OSRI provides rating scores regarding case components and caseworker activities for 23 performance-related items.

    The article consistently points to improved outcomes in cases where both parents were engaged. For example, when reviewing efforts to ensure parental visitation for cases involving home removal, 84 percent of cases substantially achieved the outcome of maintenance in the home when both parents were engaged as compared with 45 percent of cases in which only one parent was engaged. Additionally, 91 percent of cases where both parents' needs were assessed substantially achieved the outcome of maintenance in the home, as compared with 51 percent of cases involving just one parent. Regarding efforts to provide appropriate services, 91 percent of cases involving both parents substantially achieved the outcome of maintenance in the home, compared with 50 percent of cases when only parent was provided services. When both parents were engaged in case planning, 91 percent of all cases substantially achieved the outcome of continuity of family relationships as compared with 42 percent when just one parent was engaged.

    Several of the cases with positive ratings shared common themes, including a consistent effort to locate and engage uninvolved parents, an involvement of family in the decision-making process, and the provision of concrete assistance and targeted services. The authors cite several themes regarding barriers to parent engagement: inconsistent efforts to locate uninvolved parents, logistical challenges (e.g., parental incarceration), and insufficient casework documentation.

    "Engaging parents: Assessing child welfare agency onsite review instrument outcomes," by Melissa Wells, Anastasiya Vanyukevych, and Sherri Levesque (Families in Society96), is available at

  • The Massachusetts Child Trauma Project Shows Promise in Improving Well-Being Outcomes

    The Massachusetts Child Trauma Project Shows Promise in Improving Well-Being Outcomes

    An article in Child Abuse & Neglect discusses the findings of a statewide trauma-informed initiative in Massachusetts aimed at improving well-being, permanency, and maltreatment outcomes for children who have experienced trauma. Those outcomes are also monitored by the Child and Family Services Reviews.

    The Massachusetts Child Trauma Project (MCTP), implemented from 2011 to 2016 and funded by the Children's Bureau, focused on integrating trauma-informed care into child welfare service delivery. MCTP was a partnership between child welfare agencies; the Department of Children and Families; two behavioral health agencies; and two large, urban medical centers, including a university-based medical center.

    MCTP was based on the Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC) method and the Intensive Learning Community (ILC) workforce development training design. The BSC method focuses on improving and implementing trauma-informed casework practice by improving the identification and assessment of children exposed to trauma; supporting trauma-sensitive practices within child-serving agencies; increasing trauma training; improving referral rates to evidence-based trauma treatments; and building capacity for attachment self-regulation and competency, parent-child psychotherapy, and trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy. The ILC training design focuses on building sustainable change and improving clinical outcomes by implementing change in clinical practice.

    The study included 91,253 children who were involved with the Massachusetts child welfare system between October 2012 and September 2013, with 55,145 children in the intervention group (participated in MCTP) and 36,108 children in the control group (children who did not participate in MCTP). Researchers used administrative data to gather information about child maltreatment, out-of-home placements, and adoption. Researchers also calculated continuous variables for each child, including the total number of maltreatment reports (regardless of substantiation), the total number of substantiated maltreatment reports of each type of maltreatment, and the total number out-of-home placements.

    The following are a sampling of results of the study:

    • Children in the intervention group had more out-of-home placements than children in the control group.
    • Children in the intervention group were 21 percent more likely to be adopted than children in the control group.
    • Children in the intervention group were 4 percent more likely not to have a substantiated or unsubstantiated maltreatment report compared with children in the control group and had more substantiated or unsubstantiated maltreatment reports overall.
    • Children in the intervention group were 15 percent less likely to have a maltreatment report of any type, 12 percent less likely to experience physical abuse, and 14 percent less likely to experience neglect than children in the control group.

    Implications of the study include the following:

    • Investment in trauma-informed programs and services is beneficial for children involved with child welfare and improves overall well-being.
    • Child welfare agencies should collaborate with mental health services to provide more cohesive and effective care for children affected by trauma.
    • Comprehensive intervention designs that include individual, organizational, and leadership drivers can help to improve maltreatment outcomes.

    "The impact of a statewide trauma-informed child welfare initiative on children's permanency and maltreatment outcomes," by Beth Barto, Jessica Dym Bartlett, Adam Von Ende, Ruth Bodian, Carmen Rosa Noroña, Jessica Griffin, Jenifer Goldman Fraser, Kristine Kinniburgh, Joseph Spinazzola, Crystaltina Montagna, and Marybeth Todd (Child Abuse & Neglect81), is available at

  • Achieving Permanency for Children in Care

    Achieving Permanency for Children in Care

    Achieving permanency for children in out-of-home care is a federally mandated goal of the Child and Family Services Reviews; however, many children still do not find permanent homes in a timely manner.

    A paper titled Achieving Permanency for Children in Care: Barriers and Future Directions discusses factors at the systems level, case level, and child and family level that may impact whether children in care achieve permanency.

    Systems-level factors that may impede permanency include the following:

    • Lack of preparedness, training, and supports for foster, adoptive, and kinship placements
    • High child welfare staff turnover leading to increased case loads 

    Case-level factors that may hinder permanency include the following:

    • Frequent contact with the child welfare system
    • Decreased placement stability
    • Prior involvement with child protective services
    • The type of initial placement, such as being placed in family foster care or congregate care

    Child- and family-level factors that may impede permanency include the following:

    • Child and family characteristics, including the child's gender, race, and age
    • Children with mental or physical disabilities

    The article also features key federal legislation related to improving permanency outcomes, such as the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, the Interethnic Adoption Provisions of 1996, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, and the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008; programs and strategies, such as the Permanency Innovations Initiative and the solution-based casework model; and future directions.

    Achieving Permanency for Children in Care: Barriers and Future Directions is available at (2,420 KB).

  • Placement With Family Impacts Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being

    Placement With Family Impacts Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being

    Casey Family Programs released a report as part of its From Data to Practice series that presents data and recommendations supporting the importance of families and kinship care.

    The report, The Impact of Placement With Family on Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being, examines the impact spending time with family has on safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for 436 children and youth who entered out-of-home care between July 1, 2014, and July 1, 2015. Child safety, permanency, and well-being are parameters measured by the Child and Family Services Reviews. 

    The following are findings and recommendations based on study data:

    • More time spent with family while in out-of-home care is associated with better safety outcomes. Researchers recommend engaging youth and caregivers in conversations about what safety means to them; advancing multidisciplinary team practices, such as child and family team building, to determine if a safety issue is present; refining ways of selecting resource families to minimize the chances of maltreatment; and developing strategies for distinguishing between threats to child safety and other barriers to achieving permanency.
    • More time spent with family while in out-of-home care is associated with improved well-being, including educational and mental and physical health outcomes and feelings of optimism. Researchers recommend engaging youth and families in conversations about what well-being means to them; exploring the intersection between safety, well-being, and permanency; and engaging youth in exploring their identity and sense of belonging and how they influence well-being.
    • More time spent placed with family while in out-of-home care is associated with a greater chance of obtaining and maintaining relational permanency. Researchers recommend working with state partners to focus on both placement stability and obtaining and maintaining lifelong family connections; ensuring staff explore all possible ways for family members to make lifelong connections with youth; continuing the use of strategies such as family finding and engagement, building and supporting youth and family networks, and individual child and family teaming as ways to locate and engage family members; and, when possible, having children placed with family if they have to enter foster care.
    • More time spent placed with family while in out-of-home care is associated with a greater chance of obtaining legal permanency. Researchers recommend examining licensing requirements for kinship caregivers and exploring ways to simplify and expedite the process; engaging families, including birth parents; challenging the bias against birth families, including those who have had their parental rights terminated; incorporating family group conferences or other family-centered teaming strategies to elevate relatives' voices, create a space for relatives to develop their own plan, and break down power differentials.

    The report also includes several real-life stories highlighting themes of the results.

    The report is available at (1,387 KB).

Strategies and Tools for Practice

This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other resources that provide either evidence-based strategies or other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.

  • What States' First-Round PIPs Reveal About How Child Welfare Agencies Are Addressing Domestic Violen

    What States' First-Round PIPs Reveal About How Child Welfare Agencies Are Addressing Domestic Violen

    A National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) report looks at how states addressed the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment in their Program Improvement Plans (PIPs) for the first round of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CSFRs). While addressing domestic violence is not explicitly one of the outcomes evaluated by the CFSRs, it is closely entwined with the goals of ensuring the safety and well-being of a child.
    NCJFCJ reviewed PIPs from 20 states, searching for key terms to identify which states warranted a more indepth review. During this second review, five primary trends emerged:

    • Absence of search terms (i.e., the terms NCJFCJ searched for were not present in the documents)
    • Clustering (i.e., grouping domestic violence with other problems, such as substance use or mental health)
    • Collaboration (i.e., actions taken or planned to encourage efforts between child welfare agencies and those working to address domestic violence)
    • Training
    • Assessment (i.e., tools and processes that included either or both agency assessments and family assessments)

    The report highlights how certain child welfare agencies are addressing the co-occurrence of child maltreatment and domestic violence and can help those involved in prevention work better address the needs of this population .

    The report is available at (52 KB).

  • Handout Features Child and Family Services Review Outcomes, Systemic Factors, and Associated Items a

    Handout Features Child and Family Services Review Outcomes, Systemic Factors, and Associated Items a

    A handout from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes assessment items related to the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs).

    During the CFSRs, States are assessed on outcomes within the domains of safety, permanency, and well-being. This includes making sure children are protected from maltreatment and are able to remain in their homes whenever possible; children have permanency and stability in their homes and continuity with regard to family relationships; families have the capacity to provide for their children's needs; and children receive the supports and services they need to meet their educational, physical, and mental needs.

    The handout also describes the systemic factors that impact these outcomes, such as having adequate statewide information, case reviews, and quality assurance systems; staff and provider training; service array and resource development; agency responsiveness to the community; and foster and adoptive parent licensing, recruitment, and retention.

    The handout, Child and Family Services Review Outcomes and Systemic Factors, and Associated Items and Data Indicators, is available at (44 KB).

  • Laying a Foundation: Child Welfare Agencies and Courts Working Together

    Laying a Foundation: Child Welfare Agencies and Courts Working Together

    Written by the Children's Bureau's Capacity Building Center for States and Center for Courts

    The vision of the Children's Bureau begins with recognizing that the child welfare system is much more than the child welfare agency alone—it includes many other agencies and organizations that touch the lives of children and families and affect the outcomes they achieve. . .It is a vision that cannot and should not be possible to achieve without the support and partnership of the legal and judicial community.
        —Jerry Milner, Acting Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families (2018, para. 6)

    Child welfare agencies and the legal community can best support the children, youth, and families they serve by working with each other and with their communities toward a common goal and vision. Bringing that vision to life and improving outcomes requires that agencies, courts, and stakeholders proactively collaborate to find sustainable solutions to the systemic challenges they face (Kelly, 2019).

    This article presents strategies to help agencies and courts work together to address common challenges, and provides an example of how one state put some of these strategies into practice.

    Strategies for Joint Planning and Improvement Efforts

    Joint planning is the first step in putting a shared vision into action and working together to achieve shared goals. To begin the process, agency and court staff can do the following:

    • Collaborate with one another and with other stakeholders to create a shared vision for child welfare in the jurisdiction, which can serve as a foundation for plans that are developed, such as the Child and Family Services Plans, Annual Progress and Services Reports, Program Improvement Plans, and Court Improvement Program (CIP) Strategic Plans
    • Hold regular meetings with stakeholders (e.g., frontline staff, CIP staff, parents' attorneys, parents, children's attorneys, youth) to discuss common challenges and review data
    • Adopt formal communication guidelines that clarify how information will be regularly shared among participants
    • Develop a data-sharing agreement to facilitate information exchange; while such agreements may require addressing technical challenges and privacy and confidentiality issues, they can be accomplished if all parties are willing (see the Additional Resources below for more information)

    Joint Planning to Improve Permanency: An Example

    Putting these strategies into practice requires a willingness to share responsibility and find collaborative solutions to challenges.

    One state's Child and Family Services Review results, like those of many states, showed challenges around timely permanency. This was demonstrated by many children continuing with a goal of reunification well beyond 12 months in care and extensive delays in finalizing adoptions. The agency believed this was the result of delays in the court process, while the courts felt that the agency often did not provide needed services to families until too late into the case.

    To address these challenges, agency and court staff, with the support of the agency director and chief judge, convened a workgroup that met regularly to find a solution. Together, they analyzed agency data, and the court was able to start a new data-collection process to evaluate continuances. The workgroup included program and field staff, court administrative and CIP staff, the court-appointed special advocate state program staff, and parents' and children's attorney leadership.

    The workgroup agreed to develop a mediation process that would occur early in the case to resolve preliminary disagreements about the case plan, thus increasing opportunities for reunification and avoiding multiple continuances that could delay the permanency timeline. The workgroup established referral criteria and an implementation plan, and the court was able to hire a part-time mediator to support the program.

    The state is hopeful that this strategy will not only improve its ability to move children to permanency more quickly but also set the stage for further collaboration on other shared priorities.

    As Acting Commissioner Milner notes, the work of supporting families and keeping children safe is the joint responsibility of the child welfare agency and the legal and judicial community. When child welfare agencies and courts proactively plan together to address common challenges, they can advance program and practice improvements that avoid or minimize the trauma of temporary placements for children and families.


    Kelly, D. (2019). Beyond the table: The need to work with courts and the legal community in improving outcomes for children and families. Children's Bureau Express19(10). Retrieved from

    Milner, J. (2018). Reshaping child welfare in the United States: Lawyers as partners in prevention. Retrieved from

  • Considerations and Strategies for Engaging Tribes and Tribal Families

    Considerations and Strategies for Engaging Tribes and Tribal Families

    Written by the Children's Bureau's Capacity Building Center for States and Capacity Building Center for Tribes

    Any child welfare professional can attest to the fact that engagement is both an art and a science. Engaging tribes and tribal families, as with any type of engagement, is all about relationships. When working with tribes, state child welfare agency leaders and managers need to begin by understanding the tribe's history, culture, and traditions and prepare their frontline staff to work effectively and respectfully with tribal families. 

    Consider Historical Relationships and Respect the Sovereignty of Tribal Nations

    As sovereign nations, tribes have a unique and complex relationship with county, state, and federal agencies. It is important to understand a tribe's historical relationship with government agencies. If these relationships have been strained in the past, that may affect the agency's relationship with the tribe and a child welfare worker's interaction with tribal families. To honor the past and pave a way forward, the following steps are important for child welfare agencies:

    • Understand historical and intergenerational trauma and its effects. Even when the trauma is generations in the past, historical trauma has a very real effect on the way tribes and tribal families relate to those outside the tribe. This type of trauma impacts each tribe differently.
    • Ensure that staff at all levels are familiar with the Indian Child Welfare Act when working with tribal families, the tribal child welfare agency, and the tribal court. Learn more about the Indian Child Welfare Act at

    Pay Special Attention to the Tribe's Culture and Traditions

    Tribes have rich and distinct cultures steeped in generations of traditions. When working with tribes, one size does not fit all. Child welfare agencies must do their homework. Take the time to understand the tribe's culture, traditions, and tribal history.

    • Recognize that the relationship between one tribe and a government agency may not be the same as another tribe. Take the time to understand the unique story and history of each tribe
    • When invited to do so, learn the stories of the tribe. Listening to the stories a tribe passes down from generation to generation offers a glimpse of the rich tapestry of the tribe.

    Ensure There Is a Shared Understanding

    A shared understanding is developed from a process of inquiry. Questions that begin with, "how do you define," "what do you call," or "what do you mean by" help ensure there is a shared understanding. Examples of important questions to ask include the following:

    • How does the tribe define family? Is the definition narrow (immediate blood relatives), or is the definition broad (immediate and extended blood relatives)? Is the familial relationship defined by cultural norms?
    • How do tribal traditions directly impact children, youth, and families? 
    • How can the agency assist and provide services that support children, youth, and families?

    Prepare Staff to Work With Tribal Families

    Training for frontline staff who work with tribal families should include the information above and a reminder that each tribal family has a unique history and brings a unique perspective to the table. Each family's experience within the tribal nation, the tribal community, and their family shapes who they are and how they view the world.

    Prepare child welfare staff to engage effectively with tribal families by providing training, coaching, and ongoing supervision and support. Below are some important strategies and reminders for frontline staff.

    • Move at the pace of the family. Remember that people tell their stories at their own pace. What may seem tangential might be of critical importance in understanding the culture of the family.
    • Remind staff to acknowledge what they don't know. Asking questions is not indicative of a lack of knowledge but rather shows a desire for knowledge.
    • Encourage staff to take time to understand the family's unique lens. Answer questions with honesty and transparency, even if the answer is "I don't know."
    • Embrace cultural humility, an ongoing process of self-exploration and self-critique, and a willingness to learn from others. This means entering a relationship with another person with the intention of honoring the person's beliefs, customs, and values.

    Child welfare agencies honor tribes and tribal families by establishing trust and building positive relationships. Building relationships takes time, but it is time well spent.

    Additional Resources

    Capacity Building Center for States: Come Together: Partnering With Stakeholders for Better Strategic Planning (

    Capacity Building Center for Tribes: Building an Effective Tribal-State Child Welfare Partnership (

    Capacity Building Center for Tribes: Family Assessment: Understanding Bias (

    Capacity Building Center for Tribes: Genetic Memory: How Trauma Can Change DNA (

    National Indian Child Welfare Association: Tribal Best Practices (

    National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment: Diligent Recruitment Planning Tool for Tribes (

    National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment: Recruiting Families for Native American Children: Strengthening Partnerships for Success (

    "Training Child Welfare Workers From an Intersectional Cultural Humility Perspective: A Paradigm Shift," by Robert Ortega and Kathleen Faller (Child Welfare90) (


This section of CBX provides a quick list of interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials that can be used in the field or with families.

  • Help for Parents, Hope for Kids Provides Child Safety Resources

    Help for Parents, Hope for Kids Provides Child Safety Resources

    The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services created a website dedicated to helping parents find the supports they need in their area. Its website—Help for Parents. Hope for Kids—is full of parenting tips and resources that cover topics important to child safety—which is a component of the Child and Family Services Reviews—such as water safety, safe sleep, and child safety. The website's Find Help section provides useful hotlines and links for parents for support with child development, parenting, substance use, and stress. There are also links to concrete resources for those inquiring about employment, food, and clothing.

    The information is presented with easy-to-understand language and is broken down into manageable snippets and short question-and-answer sections. There are also accompanying videos for sleep safety and water safety. Those who are interested in lending a hand by volunteering in their community can find organizations with which they can volunteer or donate to as well.

    This website is available in both English and Spanish and can be accessed at

  • Youth Permanency Toolkit

    Youth Permanency Toolkit

    The National Center for Child Welfare Excellence offers a web-based toolkit that provides a brief history of youth permanency, its current definition, and information on the adolescent brain and developmentally appropriate permanency services. It also provides information on the five core components of youth permanency:

    • Active engagement and preparation of youth—Permanency planning should be guided by each youth's wishes and particular needs
    • Active search, engagement, preparation, and support of parents, family, and kin—Finding a permanent family for a youth in care includes first identifying and locating parents and relatives and using a respectful, persistent, and purposeful process to reach out and engage them. That is followed by preparing and supporting certain individuals to play an ongoing role in the youth's life.
    • Facilitation of youth-driven, family-centered team decision-making—Active youth engagement is critical to shared planning and decision-making by youth, parents, family members, and other stakeholders. 
    • Consideration, exploration, and implementation of a full range of permanency options—There is a primary emphasis on achieving permanency outcomes through reunification with birth parents, adoption, or legal guardianship by relatives or nonrelatives; limiting the need for another planned permanent living arrangement; reinstating parental rights for youth who have not been adopted following termination of parental rights; and using evidence-informed recruitment practices for youth who cannot safely reunify with birth parents.
    • Strategic use of best-practice casework tools in youth permanency—Casework tools include the Belonging and Emotional Security Tool, the Connectedness Diagram, digital stories of youth permanency, mobility mapping, and more.

    The toolkit also includes an organizational self-study that child welfare agencies can use to review their policies and practices and identify their technical assistance and training needs.

    Youth Permanency Toolkit is available at

  • CFSR Factsheet for Youth

    CFSR Factsheet for Youth

    The Children's Bureau created a short factsheet that explains to youth what the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) are, how it affects them, and how they may be involved. It also calls particular attention to the two types of interviews youth may be involved in during a review:

    • Case-related interviews, in which their individual cases are selected and they speak with someone about their experience
    • Stakeholder interviews, in which they may have the opportunity to participate in a group interview

    This factsheet offers sample questions to help youth prepare for their involvement, such as those about if they felt safe and what kind of services were provided or worked well. Child welfare professionals can use this factsheet to help guide conversations with youth who are involved with CFSRs.

    Read the factsheet at

  • Child Abuse Prevention Toolkit

    Child Abuse Prevention Toolkit

    Families Forward Virginia released a toolkit aimed at disrupting the cycles of child maltreatment, neglect, and poverty by strengthening families and communities.

    The toolkit uses a trauma-informed approach that adheres to six key principles:

    • Safety
    • Trustworthiness and transparency
    • Peer support
    • Collaboration and mutuality
    • Empowerment, voice, and choice
    • Cultural, historical, and gender issues

    These principles can help parents build their children's self-esteem; understand lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning teens; learn about the dangers of opioid use; and prevent bullying.

    This digital toolkit provides several factsheets that can be shared with families in both English and Spanish, as well as a social media kit professionals can use to share information about the toolkit online.

    2019 Child Abuse Prevention Toolkit is available at

  • Parent Engagement Toolkit

    Parent Engagement Toolkit

    Children involved in child welfare are often at high risk of dropping out of school or not graduating. American's Promise Alliance offers a toolkit for organizations and community leaders interested in engaging parents and including their voice in the planning and development of local and state action plans to address the issue of dropping out of school. Child and family engagement is an outcome assessed by Child and Family Services Reviews.

    This toolkit is organized by the key transition points in a child's education: entry into elementary school, going from elementary to middle school, and going from middle to high school. The following are the four priorities within each transition that are important to attaining educational success, each influenced by parents, educators, community-based providers, and students:

    • Attendance every day—Make sure children regularly attend school.
    • Achievement every year—Make sure children have the supports they need to make progress at school.
    • Attainment over time—Set high expectations and make plans for attaining children's long-term goals.
    • Advocacy for all—Empower parents and families to improve opportunities for excellence in education.

    The toolkit also provides resources on how to effectively reach out to parents, incorporate their voice, and engage them in the development of strategies leading to improved educational outcomes for children.

    Parent Engagement Toolkit is available at

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.