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January/February 2016Vol. 16, No. 10Spotlight on Technology and Child Welfare

In today's information age, it's important for the child welfare field to embrace new technology, systems, and data in order to inform and guide decisions and provide targeted and efficient services. This month's CBX features resources on how professionals, youth, and families can use the latest data and technology to improve outcomes and enhance well-being.

Family meeting using a tablet

Issue Spotlight

  • Ending Homelessness With Interagency Data Sharing

    Ending Homelessness With Interagency Data Sharing

    Programs to prevent and end homelessness require collaboration with school systems, housing providers, and social service organizations. These community partners can better serve families, children, and youth experiencing homelessness when they can share data on the characteristics and needs of these families. However, the need to maintain the privacy of students' education records, as required by the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), has raised concerns among some school systems about what kinds of data they are allowed to share.

    In order to address those concerns, and to promote effective and careful data sharing that falls in line with FERPA, the Department of Education and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently released a publication, Interagency Data Disclosure: A Tip Sheet on Interagency Collaboration. The tip sheet shares background on Federal requirements and provides guidance to help State and local education agency homeless education programs; housing and human service agencies; and organizations serving homeless families, children, and youth better coordinate their services by disclosing student data and information with each other. The tip sheet also discusses the privacy rights and protections in FERPA and focuses on the following areas of student data sharing:

    • Schools may disclose nonidentifying information or statistical data about students when proper public notice is given about the information that is to be shared.
    • School districts may consider offering annual reports about homeless youth in their schools, with all identifying information removed.
    • Schools and school systems can take part in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) annual point-in-time count of people experiencing homelessness.
    • The school district’s homelessness liaison can discreetly refer homeless youth and families to resources and let point-in-time volunteers know where homeless youth may congregate.
    • Because homeless youth and families may be served by multiple agencies, school systems can coordinate their information with data collected via HUD's Continuum of Care Housing Management Information System.

    The tip sheet also features examples of communities that have integrated school and continuum of care data and implemented effective data-sharing and integration strategies to serve homeless families, children, and youth more effectively.

    The tip sheet is available on the U.S. Department of Education website at (301 KB).

    An overview is available from the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, a service of the Family and Youth Services Bureau, at

  • Internet Safety Guide

    Internet Safety Guide

    While the technological advances made over the past several decades have catapulted human progress in many ways, digital progress also poses a real and alarming threat to children and youth. In November 2014, the Children's Safety Network (CSN) released a practical guide on Internet safety intended for use by parents and their children, educators, law enforcement, and all professionals, individuals, and communities dedicated to keeping youth safe.

    Data from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that almost 15 percent of high school students experienced electronic (cyber) bullying in the prior year. With the normalization of and increasing necessity for appropriate Internet usage (e.g., research for school projects), youth's access to explicit and harmful websites and content is a growing concern (e.g., sharing inappropriate pictures of self or others on social media; websites that encourage dangerous behaviors such as self-mutilation and suicide).

    The CSN resource guide provides links to a variety of organizations, publications, and resources focused on Internet safety. Specific attention is given to Internet safety as it relates to alcohol and drugs, cyberbullying, sexting (sending sexually explicit photographs or messages via cell phone), social networking, and suicide and self-harm. Each resource and link is paired with text that is concise, yet descriptive, making it an easy read.

    CSN is a service of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Access Internet Safety: 2014 Resource Guide on the CSN website at

  • Data Sharing Between Child Welfare, Education Systems

    Data Sharing Between Child Welfare, Education Systems

    The Child Welfare and Education Learning Community (CWELC) is a collaboration between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in Illinois, Minnesota, and North Carolina that seeks to address issues relevant to the child welfare and education systems. One of the areas CWELC is assessing is how agencies collect, share, and use data to analyze and improve services to children and families. A recent CWELC report outlines the data-sharing efforts in these three States, as well as select examples from other locales, and presents recommendations for improvement, which include the following:

    • Child welfare and education professionals need to be supported in gathering data.
    • Data-sharing agreements must be established to protect student confidentiality while facilitating coordinated care between child welfare and education systems.
    • Data systems must be co-developed by professionals from both child welfare and education agencies to gather, share, and use information in easily adaptable ways.
    • Data must be aggregated regularly to maintain system accountability and promote informed policy decision-making.
    • Data must be shareable in real time to aid child welfare service providers and educators in making informed decisions that enable the delivery of coordinated services to students in child welfare.

    To view the report, Get the Data, Share the Data, Use the Data: Recommendations From the Three-State Child Welfare and Education Learning Community (CWELC) Project, visit (1 MB).

  • An Online Space for Youth in Foster Care

    An Online Space for Youth in Foster Care

    Today's children and youth are growing up immersed in a world of information at their fingertips. As a generation, they are avid consumers and fluent users of ever-evolving technologies such as social media and smart gadgets. Given young people's increased access to, enthusiasm for, and general facility with technology, child welfare professionals and other supportive adults can leverage technology as an effective tool for reaching vulnerable children and youth. One organization in particular has made it its mission to create an online space offering guidance to youth in foster care.

    Formed as a commitment to action through the Clinton Global Initiative University, Think of Us is a nonprofit organization creating a supportive platform for self-development to help youth in foster care navigate important decisions and situations. The organization is working to engage youth and support their positive development through multimedia approaches such as online coaching, online social connections, and interactive videos. The videos, featuring youth in and formerly in foster care as well as experts with knowledge about foster care, offer support and suggestions to help youth navigate issues such as growing their resilience, dealing with stigmas and feelings of emptiness, and building connections. The videos also include life stories shared by youth formerly in care as well as interactive modules to help youth better understand the effects of trauma they may have faced and learn positive strategies for moving forward in life. The current portfolio of interactive videos includes the following titles:

    • Getting Through Common Experiences in Foster Care
    • Understanding Youth and Their Stories
    • B-POS Practices of Success for Youth
    • Recognizing Trauma Prototype

    The Think of Us Storyboard Project encourages youth to share their stories through written formats and visual media, such as video. The program also includes workshops and coaching to show youth how to effectively tell their stories, as well as a school-to-work curriculum that helps youth develop and strengthen their interview skills. Think of Us also seeks to help other organizations and government entities incorporate its tools as part of their services.

    To read a blog post on the White House's website by Sixto Cancel, a college student founder of Think of Us who was honored as a Champion of Change for Foster Care, visit

    Learn more on the Think of Us website at

  • Data-Driven Diligent Recruitment Webinar

    Data-Driven Diligent Recruitment Webinar

    Most child welfare systems collect data on children in foster care but lack data on how prospective families navigate the process from recruitment to licensure or approval and beyond. In February 2015, the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment (NRCDR) at AdoptUSKids held a free 1-hour webinar exploring ways child welfare systems can develop their capacity to efficiently use data to inform their recruitment, development, and support of foster, adoptive, and kinship families to meet the needs of children and youth in care.

    The webinar, intended for child welfare program and data staff, offered an overview of using data, and presenters discussed the important resource family data elements that systems can collect and analyze to understand the effectiveness of their recruitment, development, and support efforts. Approaches for gathering these data were also shared.

    The importance of and strategies for partnering between child welfare and data staff to strengthen a system's use of data were discussed. The webinar highlighted an example from Arizona, which is demonstrating the benefits of a strong partnership between child welfare and data staff to inform data-driven recruitment efforts. It also referenced and provided links to a number of diligent recruitment tools and resources, such as NRCDR's Diligent Recruitment Navigator, which helps guide States, Tribes, and territories through their own process of developing a comprehensive diligent recruitment program.

    Presenters included an NRCDR consultant and data expert, as well as recruitment and geographic information systems staff with the highlighted Arizona project. For more information and to view the webinar, “Data-Driven Diligent Recruitment: Partnering and Prioritizing to Strengthen Your System's Use of Data,” visit the NRCDR website for links to the PowerPoint and Flash files and the NRCDR YouTube channel at

  • Internet-Based Learning to Support Kinship Caregivers

    Internet-Based Learning to Support Kinship Caregivers

    For children who need to be placed in out-of-home care, a kinship placement generally is preferred over nonrelative foster care. Evidence suggests that children who are cared for by relatives may fare better on a range of outcomes, including preservation of family ties, greater placement stability, and fewer behavior problems. However, research also suggests that kinship caregivers do not receive the same level of support and training as nonrelative foster parents. An article in the Journal of Family Social Work describes KinCareTech, an online learning tool designed to target the specific needs of kin caregivers in a direct and cost-effective manner. Building on the lessons learned from other e-learning programs, KinCareTech promotes early reading and parenting skills.

    KinCareTech was developed as part of a 1-year pilot research project. In the first phase of the study, researchers conducted a focus group consisting of 10 kinship caregivers who were members of a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren based in Detroit, MI. In phase two, utilizing the information collected from the focus group, the researchers developed two Internet-based modules, one focusing on managing difficult behavior and one focusing on facilitating success in school through building early reading skills. Both intervention modules included brief assessment and motivational enhancement techniques, as well as video clips to model relevant skills.

    In phase three, the modules were tested using volunteers from the focus group. Half of the participants tested the managing behavior module and half completed the reading skills module. Participants received a brief introduction to using tablet computers prior to completing the module. Following completion of a module, participants provided feedback on the module and working with the computer by responding to a brief post-intervention survey and providing unsolicited qualitative feedback via unstructured observation. Feedback from these kinship caregivers suggested that they saw the software as easy to use, helpful, and relevant to their concerns.

    The article concludes by noting that this study shows that computer-based tools that target the needs of kinship caregivers can be an inexpensive vehicle for assisting kinship caregivers in a way that existing resources do not. However, given that this study was limited in scope and number of participants, additional study is needed.

    The article, "KinCareTech: Interactive, Internet-Based Software to Support Kinship Caregivers," by Amy M. Loree, Daniel Beliciu, and Steven J. Ondersma, Journal of Family Social Work, 17(2), 2014, is available for order at Taylor and Francis Online at

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News From the Children's Bureau

We feature a new monthly child welfare research spotlight from the Children's Bureau's Capacity Building Center for States, the Children's Bureau-funded National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Child Welfare, and the final site selection of the National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation's (QIC-AG's) collaborative project partners.

  • Commissioner's Page

    Commissioner's Page

    The following is the monthly message from Rafael López, the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families. Each message focuses on the current Children's Bureau Express Spotlight theme and highlights the Bureau's work on the topic.

    In today's world of rapidly advancing technology, there are many tools and avenues open to the child welfare field to help improve services and increase positive impact on children and families across the nation. The Children's Bureau recognizes the importance of embracing technology, systems, and data in order to inform and guide decisions and make services more targeted and efficient.

    Over the past few years, the Bureau has undertaken several initiatives and supported efforts aimed at better using data and technology in the child welfare field. In 2012, the Children's Bureau convened three workgroups of national child welfare experts, each focused on a different evaluation topic—Calculating the Costs of Child Welfare Services Workgroup, Tribal Evaluation Workgroup, and Framework Workgroup. The workgroups created products designed to strengthen the link between research and practice and respond to pressing evaluation needs in child welfare. In 2014, the Bureau announced the Child Welfare Evaluation Virtual Summit Series, a group of 17 videos that combine illustration, animation, motion graphics, and content from national experts on a variety of evaluation topics. Videos covering the following topics are available on the Children's Bureau website:

    • Cost analysis in child welfare
    • Constructing comparison groups
    • Evaluation and direct practice
    • Measuring child well-being
    • Sharing data across service systems
    • Strengthening partnerships between research and practice
    • Using workforce data
    • Effective evaluation with Tribal communities
    • Building evidence and spreading effective child welfare practice

    The Children's Bureau has also funded discretionary infrastructure-building grants that support collaborative initiatives between State, local, or Tribal child welfare agencies and education systems to improve educational stability and permanency outcomes for youth between the ages of 10 and 17 years in the child welfare system. Projects funded through this grant cluster worked to gather information about the educational status of youth in care, improve data sharing between the child welfare and educational systems, and reduce disruptions and removals from schools. Learn more about the projects, including outcomes and lessons learned, at

    In the past year, the Bureau has published two Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) announcing changes aimed at improving national information and reporting systems. The regulations proposed in the Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System NPRM (PDF - 453 KB) will replace the Statewide/Tribal Automated Child Welfare Information System regulations at 45 CFR 1355.50 – 57 and provide State and Tribal title IV-E agencies with more flexibility to take advantage of modern technology to build smaller, flexible, and less expensive systems to support changes in child welfare practice. The NPRM on the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) (PDF - 665 KB) proposes to update the AFCARS requirements to incorporate statutory requirements that have passed since 1993 and to enhance the type and quality of information title IV-E agencies report to the Children's Bureau by modifying and expanding data elements and requiring title IV-E agencies to submit historical data. Within the next few months, the Bureau will publish an AFCARS Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rule Making (PDF - 167 KB) to collect data related to the unique experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native children and families in title IV-E-funded child welfare systems.

    As technology continues to advance and offer new opportunities for interaction and learning, so, too, must the child welfare field continue to seek new ways to reach out to and improve the lives of children and families. By keeping stride with technological developments and taking advantage of opportunities to improve systems' capacities, child welfare can continue to provide the best and most relevant services.

  • Partnering to Improve Mental Health Outcomes in Child Welfare

    Partnering to Improve Mental Health Outcomes in Child Welfare

    By Melinda J. Baldwin, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., Child Welfare Program Specialist, Children's Bureau, and Leslie Rozeff, M.S.S.W., L.C.S.W.-C, Director, National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Child Welfare, University of Maryland School of Social Work

    We know that many children and youth involved with child welfare services experience depression, anxiety, behavioral challenges, and traumatic symptoms. We also know the child welfare services, and our mental health partners, need to continue to deepen the quality of our responses. What if there was a model that incorporated evidence-based treatment practices responsive to the most common mental health issues confronting young people in child welfare? What if there was an approach that brought the child welfare and mental health systems together to more efficiently integrate and coordinate responsiveness and treatment?

    The Children's Bureau has funded the National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Child Welfare (NCEBPCW) to make such a model and approach available to the child welfare field. Work with an initial group of implementation sites is going very well.

    The NCEBPCW, launched in October 2013 under a 5-year cooperative agreement, created the Partnering for Success (PfS) model, which incorporates a common elements, evidence-based approach utilizing cognitive behavioral treatments. It is available to agencies at the State, county, and municipal levels. PfS pulls together the most current knowledge and insights regarding evidence-based practice implementation, change management, transfer of learning, interorganizational relations, practice and system reform, and continuous quality improvement. The NCEBPCW engages jurisdictions in designing targeted implementation approaches and identifying strategic, operational, and tactical issues associated with initially delivering PfS. It actively works to resolve these issues in partnership with site stakeholders as it simultaneously works with sites in the development of an implementation platform to inform model scaling up and sustainability.

    The NCEBPCW has worked with senior child welfare and mental health administrators, supervisors, and direct service professionals in Baltimore County, MD, and New York City (NYC). The leadership, practice, supervisory, interagency, and delivery network benefits identified during the targeted phase of work has prompted both jurisdictions to take steps to scale up PfS systemwide. Baltimore County is actively seeking State IV-E Waiver approval to scale the model up throughout the county. NYC has made PfS a core component of the New York State's IV-E Waiver Plan.

    Andrew White, deputy commissioner, NYC Administration for Children and Families, says, "Partnering for Success and the National Center have helped New York City's child welfare system pave the way for much stronger, individualized behavioral health planning for foster children and their families. We've taken what we've learned in the initial pilot and begun to expand it across the system, systematically building new bridges between mental health providers and child welfare professionals. We've worked with the Center to build in new components to help strengthen the family engagement skills of case planners, which should make a major difference in supporting young people and reducing their time in foster care."

    Sharon Dillon, a director at the child and family serving agency MercyFirst in NYC, focuses on Partnering for Success' ability to improve service quality by changing the status quo. She states, "It's a step up for us. It allows us to go beyond just referring a child out to therapy and not really knowing what is taking place, and if treatment is benefiting their lives in any way while in a foster home, or even when they get discharged to their birth parents."

    The NCEBPCW is also initiating implementation activities in the States of Maine and Oklahoma. For additional information or to explore the possibility of becoming an implementation site, please contact Leslie Rozeff, director, at

  • New AFCARS Report Released

    New AFCARS Report Released

    The Children's Bureau recently posted new statistics on the numbers of children involved with the child welfare system. Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report #22 provides preliminary estimates for fiscal year (FY) 2014 and indicates that, as of September 30, 2014:

    • There were 415,129 children in foster care.
    • There were 107,918 children waiting to be adopted.
    • The average age of children in foster care was 8.7 years.
    • The largest percentage of children (46 percent) in foster care were in nonrelative foster family homes, followed by 29 percent in relative foster family homes.
    • The largest percentage of children (55 percent) had reunification with parents or primary caregivers as their placement goal.
    • Of the children in foster care, 42 percent were White, 24 percent were Black, and 22 percent were Hispanic.

    The updated Trends report, which compiles data from FY 2005 through FY 2014, shows that after a decline of more than 20 percent between FY 2005 and FY 2012 to a low of 397,000, the number of children in foster care increased to 415,000 in FY 2014. Trends for children entering the system follow a similar pattern, and most of these increases occurred during the past year.

    Find the latest AFCARS reports on the Children's Bureau website:

    Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report #22 is available at

    Trends in Foster Care and Adoption FY 2005–FY 2014 is available at (125 KB).

  • CB Website Updates

    CB Website Updates

    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.

    Recent additions to the site include:

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

  • QIC-AG Site Selection

    QIC-AG Site Selection

    The National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG) recently announced that it completed the site selection for its collaborative project partners. A 5-year project and partnership among the Children's Bureau, Spaulding for Children, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the QIC-AG seeks to promote permanency, where reunification is no longer a goal, and improve adoption and guardianship preservation and support. QIC-AG will work with the selected sites to develop a continuum of services that increases stability for families both before and after permanency, improve children’s behavioral health, and advance the well-being of children and families.

    The following sites have been selected as partners for the 5-year initiative: Illinois; New Jersey; Catawba County, North Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Vermont; the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska; and Wisconsin. To read more about the project, the project team, and site selection, visit

    Related Item

    The QIC-AG was featured in the March 2015 issue of CBX.

  • An Evaluation of Training and Technical Assistance

    An Evaluation of Training and Technical Assistance

    Training and technical assistance (T&TA) is an important aspect of the Children’s Bureau’s approach to supporting States, Tribes, territories, and courts with implementing federally funded programs, meeting Federal requirements and standards, and improving child welfare practices. But what does it look like on the ground, and how well does it work? A recent Children’s Bureau-funded report, Supporting Change in Child Welfare: An Evaluation of Training and Technical Assistance, presents findings from an evaluation of T&TA delivered by 10 National Child Welfare Resource Centers (NRCs) and 5 Child Welfare Implementation Centers (ICs). Conducted by James Bell Associates and ICF International, this cross-site evaluation advances what is known about the delivery of T&TA to child welfare agencies and courts, especially as they engage in systems and organizational change.

    Over 5 years, the ICs and NRCs assisted child welfare agencies (from 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 46 Tribes and Tribal consortia) with identifying issues in their systems, developing solutions, implementing changes, and designing strategies to sustain those changes to improve child welfare practices. The evaluation used a variety of tools and new strategies to measure T&TA and its effectiveness over time. The report highlights key findings related to the following:

    • The utilization of T&TA services by States and Tribes
    • The characteristics of NRC and IC services
    • How well providers collaborated with each other to deliver T&TA
    • Satisfaction with and the quality of the T&TA
    • The perceived outcomes of NRC and IC services

    In addition to the report and executive summary, a series of evaluation briefs and tip sheets summarize the implications and lessons learned about measuring, delivering, and participating in T&TA.

    Evaluation Briefs

    Tip Sheets for T/TA Providers and Recipients

    These materials highlight the lessons learned about T&TA delivery and evaluation. Findings document the importance of organizational leadership, the duration and intensity of T&TA, and the ability of child welfare systems to sustain organizational change. The report, executive summary, overview, evaluation briefs, and tip sheets are available at

  • Shortening Permanency Timelines in Interstate Placements of Children

    Shortening Permanency Timelines in Interstate Placements of Children

    By Marci Roth, Project Director, National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise, American Public Human Services Association

    For many years, placing children in foster care and adoptive placements across State borders has been a paper-intensive and time-consuming process. Placements can take months and even years as States exchange the necessary paperwork, often in triplicate and typically through the mail. However, a new nationwide project is working to fix these problems using the latest cloud-based technology and data standards.

    The Children's Bureau is supporting a new national project by the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and its affiliate, the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (AAICPC), to scale up a pilot that connects State agencies in real time. An online tool—the National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE)—allows State office systems to talk to each other electronically and process Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) cases more quickly.

    NEICE supports the administration of the ICPC by exchanging data and documents via a highly secure, cloud-based system across State jurisdictions to facilitate the safe placement of children into foster care quicker and more efficiently than ever before. It began as a pilot project managed by APHSA and AAICPC, in partnership with the Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau, through a cooperative agreement. In August 2014, the NEICE web-based case management system was launched in Florida, Indiana, Nevada, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. NEICE added Nebraska in November 2015, and Illinois, Georgia, and Virginia are on track to join in early 2016.

    An evaluation (PDF - 4 MB) conducted by WRMA, Inc., in 2015 found that during the pilot, use of NEICE reduced waiting times for children in participating States between 30 and 38 percent (depending on the case type). It is anticipated that implementation of NEICE nationally will result in significantly shorter case processing times, meaning children will be placed safely and securely across State borders more quickly. In addition, participating States will accrue cost savings through reductions in copying, mailing, and staff time.

    NEICE uses national data standards, the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), to translate data and documents for exchange across State lines into a standardized format. An Information Exchange Package Document (IEPD) for NEICE has been created for the use of information technology professionals in the States. States pay an annual service fee of $25,000 to use the NEICE system, which will soon have the capability of connecting a State's child welfare information system directly to other State systems via NEICE.

    NEICE is accepting 12 new States into the system this year (until May 2016) and still has some spots available. The project plans to have all 52 jurisdictions (the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) on board by May 2018. As of early December 2015, seven participating States had entered over 10,200 children into NEICE, and placement decisions had been recorded for 71 percent of requested home studies.

    For more information and to learn how your State can sign up for NEICE, please see

  • Root Cause Analysis: Keep the Questions Coming

    Root Cause Analysis: Keep the Questions Coming

    The following is the monthly research highlight from the Children's Bureau's Capacity Building Center for States, which forms part of the Bureau's Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative. Each article focuses on current and emerging topics in child welfare research.

    By Liz Quinn, Research Lead, Capacity Building Center for States

    Bringing about improvement in systems, programs, and practices starts with identifying and understanding the problem that needs to be addressed. This can be challenging, as it might be tempting to jump in and address what might only be a symptom or might not be the underlying problem. If that happens, the problem will almost certainly return.

    Root cause analysis (RCA) is a rigorous, structured approach for identifying why a problem occurred in the first place and what to do so it does not recur. RCA is logical and fact-based, avoids speculation, and dives deeply into the chains of events that cause errors. Guides to RCA are available online, such as a mini-guide that includes techniques and tools and a guide that was developed for investigating adverse events in medical facilities

    RCA has been used to analyze adverse events in airline, military, hospital, and industrial settings, but less often in social services. The complex child welfare environment may make the application of RCA more challenging than in other settings; however, there are some examples of RCA:

    Child fatality. Rzepnicki and Johnson (2005) used RCA to uncover multilevel factors contributing to child fatalities. They started with a case example of a child fatality and worked backward from the immediate cause through several events in the chain. For each event, the investigator asked, "What led to this event? What allowed it to happen?" The process of identifying root causes in this case led to identification of corrective actions and solution alternatives tailored to the organization's specific needs.

    Child injury. The State of Washington used RCA when a loss prevention review team investigated an incident resulting in serious injury alleged to be caused, at least in part, by a State agency. In November 2008, the team reported on an investigation of an incident involving serious injury to a child.  Identification of the root cause for the injuries led to recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.

    Many methods are available for conducting RCA. Two examples are the 5-Whys method and the CATWOE method. Both provide structures for developing and asking questions that help drill down into the origin or root of the problem and figure out what to do to reduce the likelihood of its recurrence.

    The 5-Whys method involves repeatedly asking "Why?" to drill down into underlying layers of issues and symptoms. Although this method is called "5-Whys," more than five whys may be necessary to ensure that you have arrived at the root cause of the problem. The information collected by this methodology is built into a Why Tree that shows all the uncovered cause-effect branches. For more information, see, for example, "Understanding How to Use the 5-Whys for Root Cause Analysis." 

    The CATWOE method builds questions around the following six elements:

    1. Clients (the users of the system or process)
    2. Actors (the people who will implement the change in the system or process)
    3. Transformation process (the processes or systems affected by the issue)
    4. Worldview (big picture of the situation and wider impact of the issue)
    5. Owner (decision-makers with the authority to make changes)
    6. Environmental constraints (limitations on the success of the solution—ethics, resources, regulations, etc.)
    For more information about CATWOE, see, for example, "What is CATWOE Analysis?" 

    When can the questions stop? A causal chain is stopped when one of the following occurs: (1) an event or situation is reached that could be eliminated through a change in policy, practice, or procedure; (2) the investigator determines that it is not possible to correct the situation; or (3) more data must be collected to continue the analysis.

    Interested in getting help to systematically explore the root causes behind an issue or concern in your State? Contact your Center for States' Liaison.

Child Welfare Research

This month, CBX features a technical assistance bulletin detailing the disproportionality rates for children of color in foster care, a report about determining State compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act, and more.

  • Disproportionality Rates and Children of Color in Foster Care

    Disproportionality Rates and Children of Color in Foster Care

    The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) recently published a technical assistance bulletin detailing the disproportionality rates for children of color in foster care in every State. Presenting the information both at national and State levels, the bulletin graphically shows the disproportionality rates by race/ethnicity and by whether the child had entered care, was in care, or had exited care. In addition to the State-level breakdown of data, the bulletin gives background information about the changes in disproportionality in States since 2000 and notes the distinction between disproportionality and disparity.

    The bulletin also provides suggestions for how readers can think critically about the data presented, including data limitations and what they may and may not mean for readers' particular jurisdictions. Guidance and examples on how readers—ranging from academics and policy makers to other interested parties—can use the report are also included.

    The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges technical assistance bulletin, Disproportionality Rates for Children of Color in Foster Care (Fiscal Year 2013), is available at

  • Mental Health Practice Recommendations: Grandfamilies' Perspectives

    Mental Health Practice Recommendations: Grandfamilies' Perspectives

    A research article published in GrandFamilies: The Contemporary Journal of Research, Practice and Policy explores the relationships between grandparents and the grandchildren they raise and the mental health professionals who serve them, with a focus on what grandfamilies want as consumers. Past research suggests that when grandfamilies' needs are not met, it can result in negative individual and family outcomes. As the percentage of children living in grandparent-headed homes has doubled in the last few decades, it is important that mental health practitioners understand these families' wide-ranging needs. To that end, interviews were conducted with 40 custodial grandmothers and their adolescent grandchildren with the goal of addressing the limitations of knowledge, gaining insight on how to best intervene, and developing recommendations on how to better meet their needs.

    The research found that grandmothers and grandchildren did not differentiate between types of mental health providers, services, or professionals, which suggests that efforts should be made to better educate grandfamilies on the differences so they can better select appropriate service providers based on their needs. The analysis of the interviews also identified five main themes in relation to service recommendations: tailoring service provision, offering services for grandchildren, monitoring biases, creating space, and engaging in advocacy. Interview results included the following suggestions:

    • Grandchildren emphasized the need for mental health professionals to facilitate mentoring and to provide opportunities for grandchildren to socialize with other grandchildren in similar circumstances.
    • Grandmothers and grandchildren both recommended promoting problem solving, offering services for grandchildren, and being responsive to their families' unique needs.
    • Participants suggested that practitioners avoid making judgments, educate themselves about grandfamilies, advocate for their families, and attend to the experiences of both grandmothers and grandchildren.

    The article, "Practice Recommendations for Mental Health Professionals Perspectives From Grandparents and Their Adolescent Grandchildren," by Kendra A. O'Hora and Megan L. Dolbin-MacNab, GrandFamilies: The Contemporary Journal of Research, Practice and Policy, 2(1), 2015, is available at (PDF - 281 KB).

  • Research on Youth Violence Prevention

    Research on Youth Violence Prevention

    Research indicates that, overall, incidents of violence in the United States are on the decline. However, there continue to be high rates of violence among youth, and incidents of violent victimization, homicide, cyberbullying, and gun violence have fluctuated since the 1980s and 90s. Child Trends, in partnership with Futures Without Violence, conducted a review of research on the correlates and potential causes of these ongoing high rates of violence and the impact of violence on children and youth in the United States.

    Research was reviewed across a number of important environments and themes. The review evaluated the relationship between youth violence and the contribution of negative factors, such as adolescent mental health, substance use, child maltreatment, bullying, and the availability of weapons. The report examines how these negative factors can predict a range of different types of violence, such as child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and suicide.

    The review also highlights opportunities for reducing violence among youth, including increased positive connection with the school system, connection with family-planning organizations, and enhanced socioemotional learning. Examples of evidence-based programs that have proven useful in the reduction of violence are provided.

    Read the report, Preventing Violence: A Review of Research Evaluation, Gaps, and Opportunities, on the Child Trends website at (6 MB).

  • Determining Compliance With the Indian Child Welfare Act

    Determining Compliance With the Indian Child Welfare Act

    Casey Family Programs recently released a report about determining State compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The report briefly describes the history of Indian child welfare practice in the United States, summarizes ICWA, and addresses issues regarding State compliance. It also highlights various ways State compliance can be measured and provides recommendations to support measurement and conformity to ICWA, including the following:

    • Allocate funds and resources for effective child welfare services to support active efforts and placement preferences.
    • Develop training mechanisms and opportunities to include initial and continuing education for Child Protective Services and judicial staff, and incorporate ICWA history, importance, and compliance measurement into existing training programs.
    • Develop a standardized national compliance measure for certain provisions of ICWA and differentiate standards that can be measured across sites from jurisdiction-specific measurements.

    The report was written in partnership with the Center for Regional Tribal Child Welfare Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and the Minneapolis American Indian Center.

    Access Measuring Compliance With the Indian Child Welfare Act: A Research and Practice Brief on the website for Casey Family Programs at

Strategies and Tools for Practice

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


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

  • Tip Sheet for Foster Parent With Transitioning Teens

    Tip Sheet for Foster Parent With Transitioning Teens

    Foster parents and birth families play critical roles in helping teens in foster care transition to adulthood by aiding them in developing independent living skills and strategies while they are still in care. These early years are critical to a youth's development, so it is imperative that foster families (in conjunction with birth families, when possible) use these years to ensure youth are prepared for the challenges of adulthood.

    A tip sheet by the Foster Care & Adoption Resource Center provides some key strategies for foster parents to help their teens transition to adulthood, as well as information on the importance of coparenting. Tips include the following:

    • Start preparing teens as early as possible
    • Offer opportunities to make decisions
    • Increase expectations and responsibilities
    • Look for every day teachable moments
    • Celebrate successes, learn from shortcomings

    Helping Teens in Care Transition to Adulthood is available on the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families' website at (637 KB).

  • Be Strong Families Parent Cafés

    Be Strong Families Parent Cafés

    In 2007, Be Strong Families developed Parent Cafés, a process that encourages communities to bring parents together and engage in conversation on strengthening their families. Parent Cafés focus on the importance of building protective factors, not only into their relationships with their children, but with fellow parents as well. Protective factors highlighted by Be Strong Families include the following:

    • Parental resilience—be strong and flexible
    • Social connections—parents need friends
    • Concrete support in times of need—we all need help sometimes
    • Knowledge of parenting and child development—being a great parent is part natural and part learned
    • Social and emotional competence of children—parents need to help their children communicate

    Parent Cafés have been proven to result in reduced stress, increased parenting knowledge and skills, and lead to opportunities for parent leadership. For communities and groups new to offering Parent Cafés, Be Strong Families now offers Parent Café in a Box. This learning tool, intended to facilitate conversation among participants, includes a set of cards with hundreds of questions that focus on the protective factor topic areas.

    For more information on Parent Cafés, visit

    Related Item

    The National Child Abuse Prevention Month 2015 Prevention Resource Guide: Making Meaningful Connections promotes and discusses Parent Cafés as a good tool for engaging parents directly in building protective factors for themselves and their families. Access the Prevention Resource Guide via Child Welfare Information Gateway 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.

  • Conferences


    Upcoming national conferences on child welfare and adoption through March 2016 include:

    March 2016

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


  • Impact of Substance Use Disorders

    Impact of Substance Use Disorders

    The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) is pleased to announce the release of an enhanced and updated online tutorial for child welfare professionals. This free tutorial provides child welfare professionals with core knowledge of substance use disorders and their impact on the family, as well as how cross-system collaboration with substance abuse treatment and court professionals can improve outcomes for these families.

    The tutorial provides an overview of alcohol and drug addiction and its impact on the following:

    • Parenting
    • Engagement strategies for families affected by substance use disorders
    • The substance use disorder treatment and recovery process
    • Serving children whose parents have substance use disorders
    • Cross-system communication and collaboration among substance abuse treatment, child welfare, and court systems

    This course is approved through the National Association of Social Workers for 4.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). To access "Tutorial 2: Understanding Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, and Family Recovery: A Guide for Child Welfare Professionals," visit