This month, CBX looks at the important role the juvenile court system plays in child welfare. We highlight a collaborative program among the DC Family Court, DC CASA, and the DC Child and Family Services Agency that is preparing youth to transition from foster care to adulthood.
- New Frontier in Serving Crossover Youth
A white paper sponsored by Georgetown University's Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and the Robert F. Kennedy Children's Action Corps provides a new framework for serving youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, sometimes known as "crossover" youth. The framework combines the core elements from the Systems Integration Initiative (SII) and the Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM) within a comprehensive management tool. The result is a methodology to help jurisdictions better serve youth involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
The Results-Based Accountability (RBA) management tool ties cross-system stakeholder accountability and decision-making to a shared result. RBA distinguishes population accountability—entire geographic populations regardless of whether services are provided to a specific section of the population—from performance accountability—how well a program, agency, or service works and how well it serves individuals. Joint accountability ensures that decision-making across the spectrum yields the best results for the shared population or community rather than just the population served by a singular entity. The RBA framework utilizes specific terminology, including:
- Results are the desired quality-of-life conditions for a population within the community.
- Indicators are measurements of whether those conditions are being achieved.
- Performance measures are measurements of whether specific programs, agencies, services, etc., are working.
The white paper explains principles and practices of SII and CYPM and then provides six imperatives for RBA implementation. The authors assert the six elements need not be implemented in succession or even concurrently. They suggest that jurisdictions begin with the most feasible elements and scale up from there. The six imperatives include the following:
- Develop leadership and establish governance and management structures
- Study and analyze data, its management, and its effect on key decision-making points
- Create a culture of change across systems
- Prevent youth from crossing over
- Engage the family and community
- Develop policies, procedures, and practices for agencies to work together collaboratively
Addressing the Needs of Multi-System Youth: Strengthen the Connection Between Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice by Denise Herz, et al., is available on the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform's website:
- New Issue of CASA's Connection
With studies showing that youth involved in child welfare have a much higher likelihood of entering the juvenile justice system, effective collaboration among child welfare agencies, juvenile justice agencies, the courts, and other stakeholders can be key in improving outcomes for dually involved youth. Improving cross-system responses to dually involved youth is the focus of a recent issue of The Connection magazine, published by Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children.
In the feature article, author John Tuell, Codirector of the MacArthur Foundation Models for Change Initiative (MCI), outlines a new strategy that spotlights work done through the MCI and the Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Public Policy Institute, using the Crossover Youth Practice Model.
Some of the reforms that have been instituted at over a dozen sites across the country include:
- Identifying crossover youth at earlier stages of case processing (i.e., arrest, predetention screening, and diversion decision-making)
- Utilizing protocols that improve integrated assessment and case planning
- Coordinating ongoing case management among child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and behavioral health providers
- Developing policies for improved information sharing
Earlier work with similar models has indicated that such reforms can improve outcomes in several key areas, including:
- Reduced recidivism
- Reduced length of stay in detention
- Improved education outcomes
- Increased involvement in prosocial activities
- Enhanced placement stability
- Improved family functioning (i.e., reduction family/domestic violence)
- Improved permanency, safety, and well-being
The article, "Dually Involved or Crossover Youth: Improving Outcomes and Coordinating Responses," also highlights the role CASA volunteers can play in supporting reforms and working with crossover youth. Tuell's four-part framework is featured in the Guidebook for Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare System Coordination and Integration, which is available on the MCI website:
In another article within the issue, "5 Tips for Volunteers Working With Dually Involved Youth," author Cynthia Chauvin, Program Director of the CASA Jefferson in Louisiana, provides her insight on the unique challenges CASA volunteers face when working with dually involved youth. Her specific tips for working with this population include:
- Remain focused on the child's need for permanency, safety, and stability
- Never lose sight of the youth's victimization and remind other adults involved in the case that the youth also is a victim, despite recent delinquent activity
- Develop a working knowledge of juvenile justice terms
- Be careful not to talk about any juvenile justice case
- Utilize the resources of the local CASA program
The winter 2012 issue of The Connection is available on the CASA website:
- Preparing Youth for Adulthood
In 2007, roughly 800 Washington, DC, youth transitioning from child welfare planned to exit care with Alternative Planned Permanent Living Arrangements (APPLA). APPLA is a permanency option selected when reunification, adoption, legal guardianship, and relative placements are not possible, leaving the agency responsible for the child until adulthood. The Preparing Youth for Adulthood (PYA) initiative was designed to help reduce the number of DC youth exiting care with APPLAs and help them achieve safety, permanency, and well-being.
PYA is a collaborative effort among the DC Family Court, DC Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), the DC Office of the Attorney General (OAG), and the DC Child and Family Services Agency and is supported by Court Improvement Program Basic Grant Funds. Youth in the program are assigned a CASA through the Family Court, and the CASA works with a social worker and youth to develop an Individual Transitional Independent Living Plan (ITILP). The ITILP is then filed with the Family Court Magistrate Judge, who holds regular preparation hearings to discuss transition goals, tasks, and timelines. PYA participants must meet with their CASA volunteers at least twice per month and attend all preparation hearings. The Hon. Lloyd Nolan, Magistrate Judge in the DC Superior Court, said youth attendance at hearings isn't an issue. "Kids actually come to court on a regular basis. The kids who participate in PYA have clear ideas about what they want to do, and they communicate those ideas in court. I'm not just hearing from the CASA or the social worker, I'm hearing from the kids themselves, and it makes my decision-making easier."
PYA was established before the passage of the 2008 Fostering Connection to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. Fostering Connections requires youth to work with social workers and other representatives to devise a transition plan at least 90 days prior to their exit from care. Nolan and Phillip Lartigue, Senior Manager of Transitioning Youth at CASA DC, said PYA goes above and beyond those requirements. "PYA was ahead of the curve. Fostering Connections requires planning 90 days before exit. We start working with kids as young as 15 and 16 years old to get them planning through age 21. It can take 8, 9, or 12 months to get them truly engaged in planning. Ninety days is great, but starting transition planning 4 years prior to exiting care is more powerful."
Tracie Nelson, Acting Supervisory Independent Living Specialist, Office of Youth Empowerment, Child and Family Services Agency, said PYA is special because it helps youth establish ownership of their future. "It provides them with a team of experts who start to guide the process, point them in the right direction, and eventually help them lead the way to their own future."
To enroll, youth must have an APPLA goal and express interest in participating. After attending a PYA orientation, youth complete a match form. "The match form asks about their goals, hobbies, and interests so I can match them with a CASA volunteer who has those same interests or who can best help youth develop a roadmap to accomplish those goals. That's a golden ticket to becoming part of PYA," said Lartigue.
One barrier to increased enrollment has been docket changes. Nolan is the presiding judge over PYA. If a child is not on his docket, then he or she must petition to be put on Judge Nolan's docket. Nolan said that many children have strong connections with their judges and don't want to transfer, even to be part of PYA. Program staff is looking into alternative processes to help maintain those connections and still allow youth to participate. "We're thinking of maybe allowing them to stay with their judges who will make permanency rulings, but come to me to address PYA matters and get the services they need."
As of September 30, 2010, there were 18 youth enrolled in PYA and 13 had completed the program. Several positive outcomes have been achieved, included the following:
- In PYA's third year, 10 youth emancipated to safe and stable homes—4 were living with relatives and 6 were living independently.
- The 13 youth who completed the program identified two to five supportive life-long connections.
- Eleven of the 13 graduated from high school or obtained their high school equivalency, 7 were enrolled in college, and 2 had completed vocational programs.
- Nine of the 13 youth were employed by the time they transitioned out of the child welfare system.
Lartigue said the biggest success is the youth engagement. "It's amazing to see their progress. They go from wondering why we're having these meetings to emailing us and asking us to RSVP to their transition planning meeting." Nolan echoed that sentiment: "Once they buy in, once they're engaged in the program, they want to advocate for themselves, and they take on a different role in the courtroom. It's almost as if they don't need the attorney, and they run the meetings."
As for next steps, Stephanie Minor-Harper, Family Court Coordinator for the DC Superior Court, said she hopes PYA helps redefine success in transition. "Often, when you talk about kids who leave care because they've aged out, it's perceived as a failure. The system failed those kids. But youth in PYA are succeeding. They're making huge progress and helping us reshape how we define success."
More information on PYA is available on the National Resource Center for Legal and Judicial Issues website:
More information on CASA DC is available on its website:
Special thanks to Hon. Lloyd Nolan, Magistrate Judge for the DC Superior Court, Phillip Lartigue, Senior Manager of Transitioning Youth at CASA DC, Tracie Nelson, Acting Supervisory Independent Living Specialist, Office of Youth Empowerment, Child and Family Services Agency, and Stephanie Minor-Harper, Family Court Coordinator for the DC Superior Court, CIP, for providing information for this article. Yewande Aderoju, Abuse and Neglect Section Chief in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia is also a member of the PYA Initiative.
- Judicial Reform in New York
Two recent publications address ongoing court improvement efforts in New York State that show promise for addressing the particular problems of youth involved with both child welfare and juvenile justice.
Promoting Continuous Quality Improvement Through "Collective Impact" was published by the New York Child Welfare Count Improvement Project (CWCIP). It describes the CIP's continuous quality improvement (CQI) process focused on improving practice between judicial and child welfare systems in several jurisdictions in New York State. CWCIP's approach to systems change incorporates five components, including a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and a backbone support organization. This collective impact tactic is described in the article "Collective Impact" by John Kania and Mark Kramer, which appeared in the winter 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The article is available here:
http://www.ssireview.org/pdf/2011_WI_Feature_Kania.pdf (878 KB)
The CWCIP published a brief with definitions of each of the five components necessary for successful systems change—excerpted from the article "Collective Impact"—and descriptions of the State's CQI goals and ongoing efforts to achieve desired outcomes.
The brief, Promoting Continuous Quality Improvement Through "Collective Impact, is available on the New York State Unified Court System website:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/ip/cwcip/Publications/collectiveImpact.pdf (72 KB)
In the second publication, New York City Child Permanency Mediation Program Evaluation, authors Nancy Thoennes and Rasa Kaunelis examine a mediation program utilized in New York City from 2002 until September 2011. The program was suspended in 2011 because of budget cuts.
Mediation was piloted in New York City in response to the 2001 Federal Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) for the State of New York. The CFSR indicated a need to ensure timely permanency, as well as support visitation and relationships between parents and children in care, creating individualized service plans, and promote court and agency cooperation.
The evaluation compared cases that were and were not referred to mediation. The study also included interviews with a range of practitioners who had participated in the mediation process. The findings generally supported continuing mediation, for instance:
- Cases referred to mediation had fewer court hearings and fewer court appearances than the comparison group.
- Cases with mediation had three times as many children in out-of-home care for 1 year or less compared to cases not referred to mediation.
- Cases referred to mediation were more likely to be in partial or full compliance with court-ordered service plans. Cases that were not mediated were three times as likely to be described as noncompliant.
- The mediation group was almost twice as likely as the comparison group to have visitation awarded.
- Child welfare professionals who were interviewed felt strongly that the program should be reinstated.
New York City Child Permanency Mediation Program Evaluation was funded by the New York State Unified Court system with State CIP funding provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families. It is available on the New York State Unified Court System website:
- Dependency Court Focuses on Education
An article in the winter 2011-2012 issue of Youth Law News, the quarterly legal journal of the National Center for Youth Law, highlights the Middle School Education Court (MSEC) in Santa Clara County, CA. The court is the first education-focused collaborative juvenile court in the country.
Studies continue to show that, compared to the general population, youth in foster care generally have lower standardized tests scores and poorer school grades. They also have higher rates of absenteeism, misbehavior, grade repetition, and involvement in special education programs. In response to this glaring achievement gap, MSEC's goal is to help these youth achieve academic success—and ultimately graduate more foster youth from high school—by providing comprehensive educational supports.
As part of the Santa Clara County Juvenile Dependency Court, MSEC utilizes the knowledge and services of various child welfare advocates, including the Department of Family and Children's Services and the Office of Education, to support 24 middle school-aged youth who are receiving Family Reunification or Permanent Placement Services.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Teresa Guerrero-Daley, who presides over MSEC, dedicates every Wednesday to youth in this program. Collaborative, interagency morning hearings include the judge, educational representatives and advocates, social workers, and the child's lawyer. Discussion at these hearings is centered on the youth's MSEC Report, which is the result of an evaluation and assessment of the child's academic history, current level of academic functioning, and recommendations from outside education professionals. In the afternoons, Judge Guerrero-Daley meets one-on-one with the youth because she believes it is important that children have a "voice" in their education plans.
MSEC is in the second of its 2-year pilot phase and has already produced promising results.
- Three of 24 participating children have tested into gifted and talented school programs.
- Six participants are now receiving the special education support they need and were not receiving prior to the program.
- Less tangible but no less important is the change in outlook for many of these youth—they now realize, many for the first time, that they have a supportive network of adults with plans to help them succeed.
In addition to improving educational outcomes, the court hopes to also achieve the following:
- Increase collaboration among schools, child welfare, and the community
- Increase awareness of school and community-based resources
- Identify service gaps and improve access
- Increase stakeholder awareness of education-related issues of youth in care
With the pilot phase ending, funding obstacles make expansion questionable. However, MSEC hopes to serve as a model for other counties.
The article, “New Juvenile Dependency Court Focuses on Foster Youth Education,” by Kristy Luk, is available on the National Center for Youth Law website:
- A Caregiver's Guide to the Juvenile Court System
"How a Child Enters the Juvenile Court System," a chapter in Wyoming's Department of Family Service's Handbook For Foster and Relative Caregivers, helps foster and relative caregivers navigate the juvenile justice system. The manual provides information and tips on a range of topics, from how a child initially enters the juvenile court system to the roles and responsibilities of system stakeholders such as judges, attorneys, caseworkers, doctors, caregivers, and others.
The first section delineates the three reasons a child or youth enters the juvenile justice system—abuse and/or neglect, delinquency, and child in need of supervision (CHINS)—and explains court procedures for each path of entry. To help caregivers understand the court's processes and fully understand the role of everyone involved in the case, the guide explains the roles and responsibilities of 18 different stakeholders. This section also provides links to information and applications for children's mental health waivers and child developmental disabilities home- and community-based waivers.
Other sections of the chapter include:
- The legal requirements of confidentiality in juvenile court
- The laws regarding mandatory reporting and the responsibilities of foster and relative caregivers
- The definition of reasonable efforts and the State's statute regarding the nine instances where reasonable efforts are not required
- The definition and components of a family service plan as developed by the Department of Family Service
- The hearing process and a step-by-step explanation of each type of court hearing
"How a Child Enters the Juvenile Court System" was produced by the Children's Justice Project, a project of the Wyoming Supreme Court, and is available on the Wyoming Supreme Court website:
Spotlight on Creating a More Equitable Child Welfare System
Spotlight on Child and Family Services Review, Round 4
News From the Children's Bureau
The third article in our second Centennial Series highlights the Children's Bureau's role during the Great Depression. We also point to new CB and ACYF webinars available on YouTube, online materials from the 18th National OCAN Conference, and other news from the Children's Bureau.
- Early Care and Child Welfare Collaboration
Citing the shared goals of the child welfare and early child care and education systems, a new factsheet from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Office of Child Care highlights strategies for increased collaboration between the two entities. Research suggests that infants and toddlers enter the child welfare system at disproportionately high rates, and partnerships across like-minded agencies can help enhance the well-being of this vulnerable population during a developmentally important time.
In addition to highlighting a number of State approaches to program integration, the factsheet offers strategies for enhancing the following:
- Promoting access to quality programs
- Referral and service coordination
- Capacity Building
- Policy Coordination
Collaborative Partnerships Between Early Care and Education and Child Welfare: Supporting Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families Through Risk to Resilience is available on the ACF Office of Child Care website:
- Centennial Series: The Children's Bureau and the Great Depression
This is the third article in our second Centennial Series, CB Decade-by-Decade. These articles will examine highlights from each decade of the Children's Bureau's first 100 years. The first Centennial Series addressed some of the social issues, practices, and policies that laid the groundwork for the creation of the Children's Bureau.
The United States experienced a short-lived depression during 1921 and 1922, during which the Children's Bureau studied the effects of unemployment on child welfare. Its findings concluded definitively that children, during times of industrial depression, "suffered not temporary but permanent losses." During the Great Depression of the 1930s, similar studies occupied much of the Bureau's efforts. Bureau staff examined loosening child labor laws and the cause of and effects on transient adolescents. Their research laid the foundation for child welfare provisions in the groundbreaking Social Security Act of 1935.
The Bureau was instrumental in immediate fact-finding to gauge the effects of the failing economy and the need for relief. In 1930, President Hoover dispatched Bureau investigators to survey coal mining towns. Stories from investigators revealed that communities had been nearly abandoned and were thoroughly struggling. People were on the brink of starvation because even the partially employed could not afford to sufficiently feed and support their families.
The Children's Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics jointly examined the effects of economic conditions on children and families through the lens of the railroad industry. The study, Earnings and Standard of Living of 1,000 Railway Employees During the Depression, revealed that between July 1929 and April 1933, earnings dropped by at least 20 percent for two-thirds of the men surveyed. For half the men surveyed, earnings were reduced by at least 30 percent. Despite these shrunken wages, many families took in other struggling friends or family members and gave groceries and other essentials to needier families. Just 72 families of the men surveyed received public or private agency relief.
Because home life was so difficult, many youth fled to look for work. These transient youth were not welcomed in the towns through which they passed. Times were tough everywhere, and an additional mouth to feed was a burden. Children's Bureau representatives visited States and spoke with those who interacted with these homeless youth, later reporting their findings to the Bureau. At a congressional hearing in 1933, Chief Abbott made a suggestion: "The experience with work camps in which there is an opportunity for training in a wholesome environment had been excellent. There ought to be opportunity for vocational classes and for work relief in the cities and towns." Her proposal was echoed in the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Youth Administration, public work relief programs established as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal.
Results from the Bureau's study of unemployment during the 1921 depression indicated that economic struggle caused mothers to leave the home for work and children to leave school for work. The same trend held true during the Great Depression, and a breakdown in child labor law enforcement occurred. The Bureau published more than 30 reports on child labor conditions. Studies indicated the number of 14- and 15-year-old workers in the shirt industry had spiked. Thirteen-year-olds were working in Pennsylvania coal mines. Another study revealed that children younger than 11 slaved over piecework in their homes, earning less than $.10 an hour. In December 1932, an emergency conference was held regarding the Depression’s impact on child labor. The Bureau's focus on the effects of economic strife on children and families laid the groundwork for the crucial child welfare provisions in the Social Security Act.
Children's Bureau Chiefs Grace Abbott, Katharine Lenroot, and Martha May Eliot authored pieces of the act pertaining to child welfare. Among these provisions were the allocation of Federal funds to States, especially in rural areas, for improving maternal and child health, disabled children's health, and child welfare services. The Children's Bureau was given authority over these apportionments. The act also included the Aid to Dependent Children Program, which helped States maintain their mothers' aid programs, many of which had been eliminated in States between 1931 and 1933.
The research and other efforts by the Children's Bureau during our nation's Great Depression laid the groundwork for important social service legislation, whose child welfare provisions continue to benefit children and families today.
(This article is based on historical material found mainly in the Five Decades of Action for Children, by Dorothy E. Bradbury, published by the Children's Bureau, and available here: http://www.mchlibrary.info/history/chbu/2628.PDF [9 MB])
Read the first two articles in the second Centennial Series:
- 18th National OCAN Materials Available
The 18th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN), was held in Washington, DC, in April. The theme for the conference, "Celebrating the Past—Imagining the Future," coincided with the Children's Bureau's centennial year.
Conference materials and presentations were recently made available on the 18th National OCAN Conference website. Materials are available for many of the plenaries, workshops, learning clusters, and more.
To view the available materials from this year's conference, visit:
- New! From CB
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:
- Technical Assistance Materials for Child Welfare Waiver Demonstration Projects, including:
- A Child Welfare Waiver Demonstration Proposal Checklist (PDF - 118 KB)
- Waiver Terms and Conditions Template (PDF - 180 KB)
- Commonly Asked Questions About Cost Neutrality (PDF - 65 KB)
- Evaluation Technical Assistance for Title IV-E Child Welfare Waiver Demonstrations Project Summary (PDF - 94 KB)
- Child Welfare Waiver Demonstration Projects Helpful Resources (PDF - 150 KB)
- Evaluation Brief: Critical Issues in Evaluating Child Welfare Programs (PDF - 181 KB)
- Title IV-E Waiver Demonstrations: Overview of Evaluation Requirement s and Considerations - June 6, 2012 Webinar (PDF - 4636 KB)
- Status of Program Improvement Plans (PIPs) and Subsequent Child and Family Services Reviews
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/cwmonitoring/general_info/pipstatus.pdf (163 KB)
- Title IV-E 2012 Schedule of Reviews
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/cwmonitoring/general_info/iv-e_fy2012.pdf (128 KB)
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new!
- Technical Assistance Materials for Child Welfare Waiver Demonstration Projects, including:
- Children's Bureau Centennial Update
Many events and materials in celebration of the Children's Bureau's centennial continue to roll out. New materials have been added to the Children's Bureau centennial website, and more topical and historical webinars are scheduled for the coming months. Recent centennial news includes the following:
- The Story of the Children’s Bureau is now available as a Spanish e-brochure and printable PDF version on the Children's Bureau's centennial website:
- The first topical webinar, "Racial Disproportionality and Poverty in Child Welfare," has been posted to the centennial website:
- Photos from the Children's Bureau's April 9 centennial celebration in Washington, DC, are now available on Flickr:
- The centennial video The Children's Bureau, 1912–2012: A Passionate Commitment. A Legacy of Leadership won a 2012 Bronze Telly Award in the category of nonbroadcast productions in government relations.
- The Children's Bureau's facilitated discussion series Voices to Vision recently concluded. The four-part series brought together a blue-ribbon committee of experts representing various disciplines and authorities in the child welfare field. Each session centered on an issue important to the child welfare field, and participants' input will be used to develop a 2nd century document. The document will identify emerging issues and challenges and provide a shared vision for the next 100 years in child welfare. The series centered on the following topics:
- Strengthening Families & Mobilizing Communities
The first discussion, held in April, brought together representatives from the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Communities of Color Partnership, and Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare.
- Promoting Family Decision-Making and Preserving Family Relationships
This discussion, which took place in May, explored strategies for meaningfully engaging families, Tribes, and communities, and strengthening and managing family relationships.
- Rebuilding Systems and Organizational Structures
This June session examined organizational structure approaches that facilitate collaboration and the creation of coordinated services for children, youth, and families.
- Advancing Technologies and Changing Populations
This discussion, also in June, was centered on trends in child welfare, technology, and society, and the impact those trends are having on services, practices, and the child welfare workforce.
- Strengthening Families & Mobilizing Communities
Visit the Children's Bureau's centennial website often for more centennial updates!
- The Story of the Children’s Bureau is now available as a Spanish e-brochure and printable PDF version on the Children's Bureau's centennial website:
- NSCAW Data on Psychotropics and Children in Care
A research brief released by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) examines the use of psychotropic medications by children in child welfare. What makes this brief unique is its exploration of and distinction among the use of psychotropics across placement types (in-home and out-of-home settings), mental health needs, and usage in tandem with other mental health treatments or services.
Authors used data from the second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW II). The NSCAW II study included 5,873 children who had contact with the child welfare system during a 14-month period beginning in February 2008. This brief used data, collected between 2008 and 2010, on children involved in allegations of maltreatment, both substantiated and unsubstantiated, and children and families who did not receive services. The brief set out to answer the following questions:
- What are the rates of psychotropic medication use by age among children living in-home and in foster care settings following a report of child abuse or neglect?
- What are the rates of antipsychotic medication use by preschoolers, school-aged children, and adolescents involved with child welfare?
- What types of behavioral services do children involved with child welfare receive, including but not limited to psychotropic medications?
Findings included the following:
- Children living in-home (e.g., with one or more biological parent, an adoptive family, or informally with kin) were significantly less likely to use psychotropic medications than children living in out-of-home care (e.g., foster care, formal kinship care, residential care) 11 percent compared to 17.7 percent. Rates of medication use among children in care, however, were higher than those among the general population.
- The rates of medication use by preschoolers (aged 4–5 years) were 3.5 percent, school-aged children (aged 6–11 years), 18.8 percent, and adolescents (aged 12–17 years), 16 percent and higher. The rates of use of three or more medications were less than 1 percent for preschoolers, nearly 5 percent for school-aged children, and 5 percent for adolescents.
- The rate of children living in-home care who used psychotropic medications without simultaneous mental health treatments was less than 2 percent, compared to more than 9 percent of children living in out-of-home care.
The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being No. 17: Psychotropic Medication Use by Children in Child Welfare is available on the OPRE website:
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/nscaw/reports/psychotropic-meds/NSCAW-Psychotropic-Meds-Brief-No-17.pdf (232 KB)
Other recently released OPRE reports include:
- Career Pathways as a Framework for Program Design and Evaluation: A Working Paper from The Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency (ISIS) Project (PDF - 873 KB)
- 2012 Report: Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Supplement to the National Agricultural Worker Survey (PDF - 1 MB)
- Increasing Employment Stability and Earnings for Low-Wage Workers: Lessons from the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Project (PDF - 1 MB)
- NSCAW II Child Well-Being Spotlight: Children with Substantiated and Unsubstantiated Reports of Child Maltreatment are at Similar Risk for Poor Outcomes (PDF - 147 KB)
- NSCAW II Child Well-Being Spotlight: Children Placed Outside the Home and Children Who Remain In-Home after a Maltreatment Investigation Have Similar and Extensive Service Needs (PDF - 146 KB)
- CB, ACYF Webinars on YouTube
In May, Commissioner Bryan Samuels of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) and members of the Children's Bureau's data team held two webinars on issues important to the child welfare field. Both webinars have been posted on YouTube channels.
The first webinar, "Find Meaning in Your Data: Strategies for Identifying a Waiver Initiative," took place on May 18 and was hosted by John Hargrove, Kurt Heisler, and Valeria Fajardo from the Children's Bureau. The webinar focused on how States can use the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), and other data sources to identify outcomes or other aspects of their child welfare system and how to manage those outcomes within the context of the waiver initiative. View the webinar here:
The second webinar, "Promoting Well-Being While Addressing the Impact of Trauma," was hosted by Commissioner Samuels; Sonali Panel, Senior Policy Advisor at ACYF; Clare Anderson, Deputy Commissioner of ACYF; Jean Close, Technical Director for the Division of Benefits and Coverage at the Center for Medicaid and CHIP; and David DeVoursney, Senior Policy Analyst at the Office of Planning. The webinar explored the issues of social and emotional well-being, the new child welfare waiver demonstration projects, priority areas for waiver demonstration projects, child welfare funding opportunities, and more. View the webinar here:
Additionally, the podcast and a transcript of a Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) discussion with Commissioner Samuels are available on the FYSB website. Commissioner Samuels and Andrew Barnett, Executive Director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, discussed including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth in teen pregnancy prevention efforts. Listen to the podcast or read the transcript here:
Read the summary from the Tribal Symposium on Differential Response, find new resources for working with LGBTQ youth, and get other updates from CB's T&TA Network.
- Resources for Serving LGBTQ Youth
The National Resource Center for In-Home Services (NRC In-Home) recently released new resources for child welfare professionals who work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The NRC In-Home hosted a webinar in May titled "Building Support to Serve Families of LGBTQ Youth." The webinar, which is now posted on the NRC's website, coincides with the NRC's publication of In-Home Services for Families of LGBTQ Youth.
In April 2011, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released an Information Memorandum concerning the LGBTQ population in foster care. The NRC's resources echo data from the Information Memorandum about LGBTQ youth being overrepresented in the population served by the child welfare system. While it's difficult to know exactly how many LGBTQ youth are in out-of-home care, research suggests they are disproportionately represented in foster care and among the population of runaway and homeless youth. One study of three Midwestern States found that more than 23 percent of female and more than 10 percent of male respondents reported a sexual orientation other than heterosexual. Like other runaway or homeless youth, this population is considered to be at high risk for negative outcomes including unemployment, teen pregnancy, interaction with the juvenile justice system, low educational attainment, and more.
The NRC's publication In-Home Services for Families of LGBTQ Youth provides background information on this vulnerable population and on the impact of familial rejection—which is often the cause of their involvement with the child welfare system or their runaway or homeless status. Additionally, the publication explains the critical need for in-home services for LGBTQ youth and provides examples of research-based, family-focused interventions and promising practice models.
In-Home Services for Families of LGBTQ Youth, by Diane E. Elze, is available on the NRC's website:
http://nrcinhome.socialwork.uiowa.edu/resources/documents/LGBTissuebriefwithpractice.pdf (837 KB)
Materials from the webinar, available on the NRC's website, include the following:
- PowerPoint presentation slides
- Webcast presentation
- Family Acceptance Project Overall Best Practices Flyer
- Family Acceptance Project Resource List
- LGBTQ Glossary
- Transgender-Related Terminology Handout
The webinar materials are available here:
- Tribal Symposium on Differential Response
The Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response (QIC-DR) released a summary of the Tribal Symposium on Differential Response held in August and September 2011 that brought together representatives from seven Tribes, various government agencies, and other national nonprofit organizations to share information on differential response (DR). DR, sometimes called alternative response, refers to the use of a tailored response for families reported for child maltreatment and is most often used when there is a determination of low risk or when the family might not otherwise qualify for services.
The Tribal Symposium offered Tribes, policymakers, and other stakeholders the opportunity to share information about DR, lessons learned about implementing and practicing DR in Indian Country, and discuss elements of successful implementation. The report provides background information on each Tribe's culture, child protective services information, implementation activities and, when possible, data collection. The following Tribes attended and presented at the meetings:
- The Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation, MT
- The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, OR
- Crow Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, MT
- Fort Peck Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, MT
- Northern Cheyenne Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, MT
- The Osage Nation, OK
- The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, NY
The report is primarily centered on trends, themes, and differences in Tribal DR practice. A number of themes emerged, including the following:
- Role of Culture. Tribes discussed the different ways they incorporate their culture in DR or making DR more culturally competent. Examples included informing elders and other Tribal members of DR and gaining their input on implementation, using parenting time as an opportunity to share Tribal traditions, and using the clan system to engage extended family.
- Relationship building. Because DR is focused on engagement, Tribal representatives discussed how DR can strengthen families by enhancing trust. Removal as a last resort was a common element among all programs regardless of cultural implementation.
- Altering Approaches. Tribes discussed the different ways they altered approaches to implementation to better meet the needs of their communities. Changes in language, service duration, and decision-making were among some of the alterations discussed.
- Working Differently With Law Enforcement and Judicial Communities. Tribes discussed the various ways they engaged law enforcement and the courts in DR practice and approaches.
- Stages When Families Are Approached and Engaged. Participants discussed varied approaches and processes regarding when families were approached and engaged and the duration of services.
Summary of the Tribal Symposium on Differential Response is available on the QIC-DR website:
- More 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:
- Child Welfare Information Gateway has published updates to a number of its State statutes documents:
- Collection of Family Information About Adopted Persons and Their Birth Families:
- Immunity for Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect:
- Who May Adopt, Be Adopted, or Place a Child for Adoption:
- Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children:
- Collection of Family Information About Adopted Persons and Their Birth Families:
- The National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center (AIA) offers two free online tutorials that can be used to earn continuing education (CE) credits (http://aia.berkeley.edu/training/tutorials/onlinetutorials.php):
- "Women and Children with HIV/AIDS" provides participants with a better understanding of the prevalence, nature and impact of HIV/AIDS on this population, as well as treatment and intervention.
- "Substance Use During Pregnancy: Prevalence, Impact and Solutions" reviews the potential impact of prenatal exposure to various legal and illegal drugs on infant development and well-being and examines interventions for the prevention and treatment of drug use during pregnancy, from identification and education to individual and family based services.
- The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) has developed "Bringing Families Together: Models of Hope and Recovery," which describes a 10-element framework of system linkages, to help States, Tribes, and local communities overcome barriers and identify strategies for effective partnerships between mental health services, substance use treatment, child welfare, and family courts: http://www.ncsacw.samhsa.gov/improving/improving-video.aspx
- The National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues (NRCLJI) has posted a recording of its May webinar, "Child Well-Being Outcome Measures for Courts," available at http://icmelearning.com/well-being-webcast/
- The National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) has published a resource list on Child Welfare Supervision at http://www.ncwwi.org/docs/NCWWI_Resource_List_13_CW_Supervision.pdf (216 KB)
- The National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC DR) has published Year 1 site visit reports on each of its three projects:
- Colorado Year 1 Site Visit Report at http://www.differentialresponseqic.org/assets/docs/colorado-year-1-site-visit.pdf (921 KB)
- Differential Response in Illinois: 2011 Site Visit Report at http://www.differentialresponseqic.org/assets/docs/illinois-site-visit-report.pdf (3.06 MB)
- Ohio SOAR Project: Year 1 Site Visit Report at http://www.differentialresponseqic.org/assets/docs/ohio-year-1-site-visit-report.pdf (1.31 MB)
- The National Resource Center for In-Home Services (NRC In-Home) has posted Tribal In-Home Services Practice Model Description as a part of a project to reduce the disproportionate out-of-home placement of Alaska Native children: http://nrcinhome.socialwork.uiowa.edu/resources/documents/TribalIn-homePracticeModelTemplate.pdf (641 KB)
- The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) has updated its sibling information packet, Sibling Placement: The Importance of the Sibling Relationship for Children in Foster Care:
http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork/nrcfcpp/downloads/information_packets/Sibling_Placement.pdf (637 KB)
- The National Resource Center for Recruitment and Retention of Foster and Adoptive Parents at AdoptUSKids (NRCRRFAP) has a new web section designed for Spanish-speaking parents who want to learn more about adoption and foster care: http://adoptuskids.org/para-familias
- Child Welfare Information Gateway has published updates to a number of its State statutes documents:
Learn about a family finding program in New York, how certain types of kinship care arrangements impact reunification, and more news from the child welfare field.
- Children With Incarcerated Parents: Mental Health Aspects
The spring 2012 issue of Child Rights Litigation, an American Bar Association (ABA) publication, features an article about meeting the needs of children with incarcerated parents. The authors also touch on collaborative opportunities and best practices between the child welfare and justice systems. Three case studies are provided by attorneys and guardians ad litem, each focused on visitation and accompanied by a mental health analysis. The article is a follow-up to "A Voice for the Young Child With an Incarcerated Parent," which focused on the mental health aspect of parent-child separation and visiting with incarcerated parents.
In one of the case studies, a 3-year-old boy removed from his mother's care at 20 months experienced multiple relative and nonrelative placements. During visits with his mother at a jail/substance abuse treatment facility, the boy exhibited uncharacteristic behaviors, including hitting and biting. His caregiver reported that the behavior continued for 1 week after the visit. It was determined that the facility was not an appropriate place for the boy and his mother, and visiting was suspended; however, it was decided that visiting could resume in a therapeutic setting after the mother completed treatment.
The mental health analysis following the case study points to several holes and missing details in the case study. There was no mention of a case plan goal, such as reunification or filing for permanent custody, or goals for visiting. These missing details are important because they may determine the appropriate tools used by mental health practitioners to help the boy and his mother achieve case plan and/or visiting goals.
The other case studies explore the experiences of three young siblings who were removed from their parents due to multiple incarcerations for theft, drug abuse, and child endangerment charges, and a teenager whose parental visits helped to improve his behavioral problems and other therapeutic struggles.
"Meeting the Needs of Children With an Incarcerated Parent," by Lynne Reckman, Katie Gates, Meredith Schnug, and Debra Rothstein, Child Rights Litigation, Spring 2012, is available on the American Bar Association's website:
For more information on and resources for working with children with incarcerated parents, visit the following pages on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:
- Services to Children and Families of Prisoners
- Children in Out-of-Home Care With Incarcerated Parents
Children's Bureau Express most recently covered the topic of incarcerated parents in the following articles:
- "When a Parent Is Incarcerated" (March 2012)
- "Supporting Incarcerated and Reentering Fathers" (December 2011/January 2012)
- "A Toolkit for Working With Children of Incarcerated Parents" (April 2010)
- CW360: Secondary Trauma in Child Welfare
The spring 2012 issue of CW360° is dedicated to the topic of secondary trauma and the child welfare workforce. Twenty-four articles written by a wide variety of child welfare, medical, mental health, and other related professionals and researchers provide a comprehensive look at this relatively new and important concept.
Much research has been done on secondary trauma as it relates to emergency responders and mental health practitioners. However, with respect to the child welfare field, research in this area is lacking and has historically focused on turnover and burnout. Secondary traumatic stress (STS), often mistaken for burnout, can develop when a person empathizes with a traumatized individual. The article "Occupational Hazards of Work in Child Welfare: Direct Trauma, Secondary Trauma and Burnout," by Kimberly Shackelford, explains the symptoms of posttraumatic stress, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout.
Anita P. Barbee's article, "Social Support in the Workplace and Secondary Trauma," provides research on the role of workplace supports and worker retention. Special attention is paid to the role supervisors play in helping workers stave off the effects of secondary trauma. Other articles in this issue, which is organized into three sections—overview, practice, and perspectives and collaborations—discuss STS and the need for the child welfare workforce to address the issue at a systemic level.
CW360° is published annually by the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota's School of Social Work and is available on the Center's website:
- Victimizations Known to Authorities
Less than half of all incidents of child victimizations are known to police, schools, or medical authorities, according to the latest National Study of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV). Authorities were more likely to know about victimization perpetrated by adults and more serious victimizations, like kidnapping and sexual or physical assault, and were less likely to know about peer-to-peer victimization. The study's findings can help authorities target prevention and treatment services for underreported victimization types and encourage more disclosures from underserved groups.
NatSCEV researchers conducted telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of the parents of 4,549 children up to age 18; children older than 10 were also interviewed when appropriate. Participants were asked to report the child's lifetime victimization experiences and whether they knew if authorities were aware of the victimization. Researchers compared the results to authorities' past-year data on known victimizations, including those they witnessed or received through a report.
Altogether, authorities knew of 45.7 percent of victimizations. Schools knew of 42.3 percent, police knew of 12.7 percent, and medical authorities knew of 1.8 percent of victimizations. Among the study's findings:
- Authorities were least likely to know of peer-to-peer victimizations such as peer or sibling assault, dating violence, being flashed, and completed or attempted rape.
- Victimizations more likely to be known to authorities included those involving a serious injury, a nonfamily or adult perpetrator, a biased motivation, a female or low-socioeconomic status victim, and a victim who had experienced multiple victimizations.
- Different authorities were aware of different victimization types, e.g., police were more likely to know about kidnapping, neglect, sexual abuse by an adult, and witnessing domestic violence, while schools were more likely to know about attempts or threats rather than assaults and incidents involving children younger than 13.
The study found that the number of disclosures of child victimizations has increased compared to the results of a similar study performed two decades ago. Increasing disclosures of victimizations can help contribute to prevention by improving victims' access to treatment and support services and raising community awareness. The study's authors recommend that authorities increase outreach to male victims and victims with a higher socioeconomic status as well as direct more resources toward underreported incidents involving family members and peers. Collaboration among police, schools, and medical authorities may also improve cross-training on effective responses to disclosures and increase the availability of community resources to support victims and their families.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice funds NatSCEV. "Child and Youth Victimization Known to Police, School, and Medical Authorities," by D. Finkelhor, R. Ormrod, H. Turner, and S. Hamby, was published in Juvenile Justice Bulletin, April 2012, and is available to download from the OJJDP website:
http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/235394.pdf (577 KB)
- Family Finding and Rethinking Connectedness in New York
After the 2008 Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) showed poor permanency outcomes for youth in New York State, staff at Hillside Family of Agencies realized something had to change. To bolster their efforts to achieve better permanency outcomes, Hillside, in 2010, implemented two segments of family finding services: (1) quality family finding training and technical assistance (T&TA) to staff across public and private child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice, and developmental disabilities sectors and (2) services for youth.
Hillside Family of Agencies is one of the largest nonprofit agencies in New York State and offers a range of health and human services to the public and private sectors. Hillside's Institute for Family Connections offers the family finding T&TA that is specifically endorsed by the creator of the family finding model, Kevin Campbell. Family finding services for youth served by Hillside are offered by the organization's community-based clinicians.
Deborah Rosen, Director for the Hillside Institute for Family Connections, said the concept of family finding goes beyond finding immediate or extended family members for youth in care. "Young people need to be connected to permanent and loving families, but also to resilient communities. We're looking at redefining connectedness." She added that family finding requires a shift in mindset to include not just moms, dads, and grandparents, but any person the child is related to or cares about because it's important to think of this as expanding the universe of possibility for the child.
The definition of "related" also requires a new mindset, said Linda Kurtz, Senior Fellow at the Hillside Institute for Family Connections. "It's about reaching out to the child's third-grade teacher, former basketball coach, the mom's best friend, a Girl Scout leader, or a neighbor—anyone willing to commit to a plan of creating a permanent, lifelong network of connectedness for youth."
With this new definition of family in mind, Hillside family finders aim to identify a minimum of 40 adults to whom the youth is connected. Family members then come together for the blended perspective meeting at which they discuss the child's needs—with an emphasis on unconditional support and love—and members' abilities to fill those needs, and they develop a realistic plan for the youth's safety and well-being. The goal of creating a lifelong network of connectedness for youth, said Tess Mahnken-Weatherspoon, Hillside's Family Finding Practice Leader, goes beyond permanency as just a place to live. "We want to create a network of at least eight adults for each youth, and these adults can provide more than just a living situation. They can write letters, have phone conversations, provide any action that lets these children know they are loved and that someone cares about them."
While finding 40 connections per youth is the goal, that goal is sometimes exceeded. For one boy who had limited visitation with his mother and hadn't seen his father in 12 years, Hillside family finders identified 184 connections. Mahnken-Weatherspoon added that not all 184 people are likely to provide solid support for the young man; however, if just a few of them prove to be good resources it increases the boy's likelihood of permanency and well-being now and into adulthood. In just 2 years, Hillside has worked to find family members and reconnect more than 120 youth to caring adults.
Implementation of the family finding model began with a rigorous approach to fidelity and close collaboration with Campbell. Staff wanted to go beyond regular search and engagement efforts and develop a comprehensive curriculum. The first step was piloting the curriculum internally and revising it before rolling it out to counties and agencies. Hillside implemented a 6-month learn-by-doing training for staff, who were asked to pick one youth within their caseload. Trainings involved leadership at the highest levels possible so supervisors, managers, and higher authorities could recognize the policy and procedure changes required for family finding practice. Ongoing T&TA and coaching provides the necessary support to ensure casework is faithful to the model, timely, and practiced with the sense of urgency required to achieve connectedness for young people.
With the support of New York State Of Children and Family Services, Hillside's Institute for Family Connections has trained staff in 15 New York State local Departments of Social Services, seven New York State voluntary agencies, and one Tribe since September 2011, all with a child welfare focus. At the time of this writing, staff were in the midst of a condensed training to six mental health and residential health organizations in New York State. Additionally, Rosen and Campbell are working together to train the state of Ohio's juvenile parole workforce.
More information on Hillside Family of Agency's Family Finding programs is available on their website:
Special thanks to Deborah Rosen, Director for the Hillside Institute for Family Connections, Linda Kurtz, Senior Fellow at the Hillside Institute for Family Connections, and Tess Mahnken-Weatherspoon, Hillside's Family Finding Practice Leader, for providing information for this article.
- Setting Limits to Support Reunification in Kinship Care
Kinship caregivers raising the children of relatives, especially relatives affected by substance abuse, need help from professionals to establish appropriate boundaries and set limits to their support, according to a new study published in the journal Families in Society. There are numerous benefits to placing children with kin; however, researchers found that kinship care arrangements in which parents perceive unlimited support and unclear boundaries regarding visits with their children can contribute to lower reunification rates.
Using indepth interviews with 26 mothers with histories of addiction and 20 professionals (including substance abuse, child protection, and parenting professionals), researchers identified the following types of kinship care arrangements and explored their impact on reunification:
- "Limited family support" or "family support with parameters": Families had limited resources to offer or kin caregivers established clear limits to the support they would provide. Mothers focused more on treatment because they felt better knowing their children were with family; knowing the limits of kin's support motivated mothers to make changes necessary to regain custody.
- "Enabling family support": Kin caregivers did not set clear limits or mothers perceived the resources and support as unlimited. Mothers continued to see their children, sometimes in violation of their case plan restrictions, and did not feel much urgency to achieve substance abuse treatment or child welfare goals.
The study found that mothers with limited support or support with boundaries reported greater service satisfaction and achieved higher rates of reunification; mothers with enabling support, which included about half the mothers in the study, reunited less frequently with their children, and their children spent more time in care. Several mothers receiving enabling support described the arrangement as "the best of both worlds," because they could continue their relationship with their children without feeling the need to address their substance abuse problems. The professionals in the study said this lack of urgency greatly interfered with reunification and described families' unlimited offers of support as counterproductive.
The author of the study advised that professionals have an important role to play in helping kinship caregivers to (1) understand the fine line between helpful support and enabling support and (2) effectively communicate their support to the children's parents. Professionals should encourage kinship caregivers to emphasize the temporary nature of their arrangement with parents and set healthy boundaries for the parents' relationship with their children during that time. Doing so may help parents achieve the goals necessary for reunification, resulting in better outcomes for children and families.
"The Best of Both Worlds: How Kinship Care Impacts Reunification," by J. M. Blakey, was published in Families in Society, 93(2), 2012, and the abstract is available on the journal's website:
- Florida's Family-Centered Visiting
Parent-child and sibling visiting is an important component of family-centered practice that can help achieve timely reunification. The State of Florida has successfully implemented a community-based parent-child and sibling visiting program that is rooted in encouragement and is yielding positive outcomes. A peer-to-peer phone call in May, organized by Children's Bureau Staff in Region 4, allowed other States to hear about Florida's experience developing, implementing, and maintaining its visitation program.
The common threads throughout Florida's visiting program are encouragement and capacity building for parents. The State facilitates regular visits and the use of family teams, which are established early and composed of caregivers, relatives, or family friends familiar with the family and its situation. Visits often occur within the first 24 hours of removal and, according to Trisha Dees, a case manager from Families First, a local community-based care provider, usually within 10–12 hours. The Families First agency ensures that within the first 3 days, a progressive visitation plan is developed to help set parent, caregiver, and child expectations. "When a removal occurs, it disrupts the family's entire world. A progressive visitation plan allows them to know what's happening next and better understand what's required to reunite the family," Dees said.
Visits often take place at the parent's home—or another familiar setting—and members of the family team, as opposed to Department of Children and Families (DCF) staff, conduct supervision. These circumstances provide an environment where children and parents feel more comfortable, which can make the visit more productive and relieves caseworkers of supervision duties. Supervisors and parents are encouraged to center visits on a purpose or activity that supports bonding among parents, children, and siblings and allows parents to practice modeling behaviors and parenting skills.
The courts are involved in visitation from the very beginning of the case. At the first shelter hearing, judges are informed as to whether protective investigators have assessed the child's new living arrangement, and all involved parties discuss the earliest occasion for parenting opportunities. The Hon. Lynn Tepper, a Circuit Court judge, said there is no cookie-cutter approach to visitation, and the tone of the court should be chatty, positive, and not judgmental. "The art of encouragement is key. We have to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions specific to each family and their needs."
Steve Pennypacker, Northwest Region Director of Children's Legal Services, echoed that sentiment from the attorney's perspective: "We go to the first hearing with 'when will the parent visit?' in mind. Children start to wonder if removal is their fault, and they worry about their parents. The longer you go without visitation, the worse it is for everyone." Tepper added that regular visiting has proven a powerful incentive for parents suffering from substance abuse to engage in services immediately and seek treatment.
When asked how the State handles parents who miss visits, Tepper said, in her experience, frequent visiting reduces the number of noncompliant parents and the need to reshelter children. "When parents realize the court is not interested in finding fault and is solely invested in helping the family reunite and stay safe, a transformation occurs. There is a tectonic shift in relationship healing when parents are given frequent parenting opportunities, and the children are given the opportunity to trust again. After 2 years of implementation, we've been successful in avoiding resheltering children."
After the Federal Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in 2008, Florida's Dependency Court Improvement Program (CIP) examined the role that judges could play in visitation. Through the collaboration of CIP's statewide multidisciplinary panel, visitation protocols were developed and included in the 2011 Dependency Benchbook. The protocols were further highlighted at the Fall 2011 Model Courts All-sites Meeting. As a result of this meeting, CIP staff began coordinating trainings on visitation throughout the State, and as interest in this issue increased, so did questions concerning the research and some of the recommendations featured within the protocols. In January 2012, Florida's CIP formed an ad hoc visitation workgroup, which was composed of child development experts, foster parents, former foster youth, case managers, agency attorneys and administrators, parent attorneys, community-based care representatives, judges, and court staff. The workgroup is revising and enhancing the protocols to further highlight considerations for judges regarding visitation safety, frequency, quality, and individualization. The revised protocols will be released this year.
Other key players in the State's visiting program are foster parents. Foster parents are trained to participate in coparenting—often transporting children to visits and testifying in court—and experienced foster parents help train newer caregivers. Foster parents work as part of the family team and with birth parents. Trudy Petkovich, President of the Florida State Foster/Adoptive Association, said coparenting teaches foster parents how to enhance outcomes for children, and it can help build a stronger family unit for the long term.
As part of Florida's Quality Parenting Initiative, foster parents also have access to training specific to their needs and questions. "At any point, a foster parent can email his or her concern and ask for a specific training, which will be online within a week. It enables foster parents to better work with birth parents, managers, administrations, the legal system, and puts everyone on the same page."
Florida State University's Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation offers comprehensive training and technical assistance for all its supervised visiting programs in all judicial circuits. A bevy of free training materials, toolkits, manuals, and more are available on the website:
Special thanks to Trisha Dees, Case Manager, Families First, Judge Lynn Tepper, Circuit Court Judge, Trudy Petkovich, Foster Parent and President of the Florida State Foster/Adoptive Association, Sandy Neidert, Office of the State Court Administrator, Steve Pennypacker, Northwest Region Director of Children's Legal Services, and Karen Oehme, Florida State University, Supervised Visiting Program, for providing information for this article.
Children's Bureau Express last wrote about Florida CIP's CFSR-driven efforts for court improvement in "Florida's Court Improvement Program" (September 2010).
- Child and Family Team Meetings in NC
The May 2012 issue of Fostering Perspectives focuses on child and family team meetings (CFTs) in the North Carolina child welfare system. Articles aim to help foster and birth parents better understand CFTs and provide child welfare professionals with resources to make CFTs more successful.
The issue also includes the winning entries from a writing contest in which young people in foster care were asked to answer the question "Who would you invite to a CFT, and why?" The winning entries provide insight into youths' views of the most significant members in their support system.
Other article topics in the May issue include the following:
- What people should know about CFTs in North Carolina
- What foster parents can do to help a CFT be a success
- What birth families want from CFTs, including before, during, and after the meeting
- How a facilitator views CFTs
Fostering Perspectives is sponsored by the North Carolina Division of Social Services and the Family and Children's Resource Program. The May issue is available on the Fostering Connections website:
- CAN Investigation Protocol
To improve and enhance multiagency investigations and prosecutions of child abuse and neglect cases, a guide for developing a uniform set of protocols has been made available by the California Child Abuse Training and Technical Assistance Centers (CATTA). The Minimum Standard Protocol is an organizational tool intended to help county and State agencies develop written procedures for investigations. The tool is composed of five phases—preparation, writing, adoption, training, and revision.
CATTA provides training and technical assistance to child advocacy centers, multidisciplinary interview centers or teams, and child sexual abuse prevention, intervention, and treatment service providers. A one-page introduction to the minimum standard protocol, the Minimum Standards Protocol, and a checklist—a guide to protocol development—are available on the CATTA website:
- Family Education Rights and Privacy Act Q&A
The American Bar Association's Children and the Law, Education Law Center, and Juvenile Law Center, published a foster care and education factsheet about the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to guide information sharing among child welfare systems, schools, and the courts. FERPA provisions dictate which types of information can be shared, with whom, and how.
How Can Child Welfare Agencies Access Education Records in Compliance With the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)? answers the following questions:
- Why is sharing information between child welfare, education agencies, and the courts important?
- What is the impact of FERPA on information sharing?
- Can a school release education records to comply with a court order?
- Is there any child-specific information that schools can release without parental consent?
- Are there other FERPA exceptions that can help child welfare education systems share personally identifiable (PII) student information for statistical purposes, and how do recent changes to the FERPA regulations impact data sharing?
- Where can I learn more about this topic and other topics that relate to education for children in care?
The factsheet is available on the American Bar Association's website:
More information about the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education is available here:
- Individualized Learning Plans Tool
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) released a guide for professionals working with youth who need assistance with college and career readiness or transition planning. While the guide is not specific to foster care or child welfare, it can aid professionals working with youth who have individualized learning plans (ILPs).
The guide, Promoting Quality Individualized Learning Plans: A "How to Guide" Focused on the High School Years, provides sample ILP curricula, State-specific ILP and career resources, web-based ILP and career exploration tools, and other resources. The guide is intended to help professionals guide students through closing the gap between college and career readiness.
The ILP tool is available on the NCWD/Youth website:
- Parents Explore Postreunification Struggles
The spring 2012 issue of Rise magazine focuses on the trauma suffered by parents of children who experienced out-of-home care. Powerful articles written by parents long after reunification explore their guilt, struggles to reconnect with their children, and efforts to address their children's feelings of abandonment. One article highlights an intensive in-home treatment program for children and youth with emotional and behavioral disorders or those who have experienced sexual abuse.
Rise, 21, 2012, "The Long Shadow of Foster Care," is available on the magazine's website:
- Child Welfare and Technology Guide
The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) released the second guide in its policy brief series based on the 2011 CWO360°: Child Welfare and Technology. The guide, Child Welfare and Technology: A Guide for Policymakers, explores how technology is used in Minnesota's child protection, foster care, and adoption systems.
The guide is meant to be a "user's guide" for policymakers, directing them toward influential articles and solutions regarding common policy problems. Citations throughout the brief link to the full text in CWO360°: Child Welfare and Technology. The guide tackles three policy problems—large and incompatible data systems, challenges maintaining accurate data records, and the effects of budget constraints on quality connections—and provides solutions and a list of further reading for each emerging issue.
CASCW is a nonpartisan research and training center at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Child Welfare and Technology: A Guide for Policymakers is available on the University's website:
More information about CASCW is available here:
- Health Care Toolkit for Youth
SparkAction, a website with tools and information for those who work with children and youth, has shared a new toolkit by Young Invincibles. "Get Covered: A Health Care Toolkit for Gen Y" is designed to help youth understand all aspects of health care. Written by and for young people, the rereleased toolkit serves as a guide for young adults about obtaining health care coverage—either by remaining on a parent's plan or purchasing their own plan—with special sections on preexisting conditions, cancer, and women's health issues. After entering an email address, users can download the full toolkit with information specific to where they live and resources available in their State.
The toolkit consists of several topics, including the following:
- Health options when the student has graduated
- How to and if they are eligible to join their parent's insurance plan
- Glossary of terms to know when buying an insurance plan
- A section for young women covering pregnancy prevention, contraceptives, and pregnancy
- How to handle preexisting conditions
- Young adults and cancer
For more information and to download the full toolkit, visit the SparkAction website:
- Mental Health Assessment Tip Sheet
Children and youth in foster care often have symptoms and behaviors that may require assessment for possible pharmacological support. In Arizona, the Child and Family Team (CFT) process facilitates discussions around the need for appropriate services, which may involve a referral for psychiatric assessment and medication treatment. The tip sheet Guidelines for Caregivers: Are You Prepared for Your Child's Psychiatric Evaluation? by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Division of Children, Youth and Families, provides caregivers with a checklist of questions to ask during the evaluation and medication monitoring appointments. This brief guide focuses on the following key recommendations:
- Explain the purpose of the visit with the child
- Describe child behavior in detail
- Provide relevant medical records
- Review diagnosis and medication treatment plan
- Discuss pros and cons of medication, side effects, etc.
- Evaluate the informed consent form
After the evaluation, additional areas of focus relate to the prescription, use, and management of any medications. The tip sheet is available on the Arizona Department of Economic Security website:
https://www.azdes.gov/InternetFiles/Pamphlets/pdf/ACY-1236A.pdf (981 KB)
Find trainings, workshops, webinars, and other opportunities for professionals and families to learn about how to improve the lives of children and youth as well as a listing of upcoming events and conferences.
Upcoming national conferences on child welfare and adoption through October 2012 include:
- 35th National Child Welfare, Juvenile, and Family Law Conference
National Association of Counsel for Children
August 8–16, Chicago, IL
- West Coast Child Welfare Trainers Conference
University of Washington, School of Social Work
August 22–24, Seattle, WA
- 13th National Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention
National Children's Advocacy Center
August 28–30, New Orleans, LA
- The 25th Annual National Independent Living Conference
Growing Pains 2012
Daniel Kids Foundation
September 4–7, Atlanta, GA
- Family Drug Court: A National Symposium to Improve Family Recovery, Safety and Stability
Children and Family Futures
September 5–9, Anaheim , CA
- Strengthening Connections Between Parents and Children Affected by Substance Abuse, HIV and Trauma
National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center
September 10–12, Austin, TX
- Twelfth International Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma
National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome
September 29–October 1, Boston, MA
- National Staff Development and Training Association Profession Institute
American Public Human Services Association
October 14–17, Portland, OR
- 7th Biennial Adoption Conference "Best Interests of the Child?"
Race, Religion, and Rescue in Adoption
The Adoption Initiative/St. John's University
October 18–20, New York, NY
- 10th Annual Together We Can Conference
Together We Can C/O Team Dynamics
October 23–25, Lafayette, LA
Further details about national and regional child welfare and adoption conferences can be found through the Conference Calendar Search feature on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:
- 35th National Child Welfare, Juvenile, and Family Law Conference
- Working With Youth With Disabilities
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) offers eight training modules to support professionals working with youth. The Youth Service Professionals' Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (YSP/KSA) Initiative develops 10 competency areas through 1-day interactive sessions. The modules include the following:
- Knowledge of the Field: This Work That We Do
- Communication With Youth: The Helping Relationship
- Assessment and Individualized Planning: Charting a Course With Youth
- Relationship to Family: Working Together
- Career Exploration and Workforce Preparation: Youth Opening the Door to the World of Work
- Community Resources: Weaving a Web for Youth
- Employer Relations: Beyond the Handshake
- Program Design, Delivery, and Administration: It's All in the Design
More information and overviews of each training module are available on the NCWD/Youth website:
- Substance Abuse Training Resources
The March issue of Training Matters, a publication of the North Carolina Division of Social Services (NC DSS) Child Welfare Services Statewide Training Partnership, is centered on the theme "Substance Abuse and Child Welfare: Training Resources." The issue is a complement to Children's Services Practice Notes 17(1), which focused on prescription drug use and the implications of family drug use on child welfare practice.
The issue highlights trainings provided by the North Carolina DSS and online self-tutorials provided by the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare. Tips for working with medical providers and a feature on a practice model for child welfare and substance abuse are also included in the issue.
Training Matters 13(2) is available here:
Children's Services Practice Notes 17(1) is available here: