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November 2023Vol. 24, No. 9Spotlight on National Adoption Month

This issue of CBX features National Adoption Month and the importance of empowering youth and incorporating their voice in the permanency decisions that affect their lives. Read a message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg about adoption’s impact on the family bond. This issue also includes valuable resources for professionals and the families they serve.

Issue Spotlight

  • Blessed and Bonded, A Message From Aysha E. Schomburg

    Blessed and Bonded, A Message From Aysha E. Schomburg

    Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg

    National Adoption Month is centered on the celebration of families coming together, in an official, government-blessed and bonded way. In many ways, through adoption, family members find and choose each other. The concept of being able to choose family is like pie in the sky for so many of us. The reality that familial union can be formed with a stroke of universal alignment. That’s quite extraordinary.

    I’ll be honest, I know many people who have found family through adoption. I’ve had many conversations about how complex it can be because, for every family that is found and formed through adoption, arguably, there is a family that has been dismantled. Perhaps there is even a family that never had a chance—a true chance—to bond. How can we wrestle with that? I know adults who have been adopted and for whom their adoptive family is their one and only true family; their hearts are secure. Still, there are adopted people who have an unwavering desire to be connected to their family members, and even their cultures, of origin.

    Adoption from foster care can be especially bilateral. I’m thinking about the very fine line between the importance of celebrating families coming together and acknowledging that families have also been separated. It’s a difficult balance. Somewhere and somehow, a foster care placement happened, a family was not reunified, and the fundamental right to parent was terminated. I know every situation is different. My first job in this profession was as director of parent recruitment (adoptive and foster parents), just 3 years after the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was signed. When a child is taken into state custody, ASFA requires that actions be taken to initiate termination of parental rights if  a parent has not met specific requirements for 15 of the most recent 22 months, with certain applicable exceptions. Fifteen months. They say time waits for no one; yet recovery is a lifelong process. The math just isn’t… mathing. That’s one example.

    I wouldn’t be myself if I wasn’t honest about the fact that while I’m proud of the role I played in bringing families together through adoption for the best of it, I question the role I may have played for the worst.

    It’s November, and many of us will celebrate our family at Thanksgiving. We must acknowledge that there are many families who are unable to be together, families awaiting a universal shift in their favor. We have a responsibility to wrestle with that. Family is so sacred. In whatever way your soul family has formed, by birth or adoption, or simply by choice, my wish for you is that you can all be together… blessed and bonded.

  • November Is National Adoption Month

    November Is National Adoption Month

    National Adoption Month (NAM) in November is a time to raise awareness of the thousands of children and youth in the foster care system who are waiting for permanent, loving families. The NAM campaign is led by the Children’s Bureau in partnership with Child Welfare Information Gateway and AdoptUSKids.

    The theme of this year’s NAM campaign is "Empowering Youth: Finding Points of Connection." It focuses on prioritizing youth voice in adoption efforts and helping young people, especially older youth, develop lifelong connections that extend far beyond their time in care. The focus on youth empowerment demonstrates how crucial it is for child welfare professionals to support young people as they grow into their identities and learn to recognize their strengths, interests, and talents. Professionals must partner with youth on this journey and help them find and maintain connections with supportive family and friends so that they can thrive.

    The NAM website provides resources and information to help child welfare professionals with these efforts. Resources include a Permanency Planning With Youth section, which features tools for culturally responsive practice, identity development, and youth engagement. The website also features relationship-building tools from several Children’s Bureau-funded projects designed to eliminate barriers to adoption, such as the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative and the Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency.

    To hear directly from young people who have experienced adoption, visit the Youth and Family Voices section, which features videos and articles. We invite you to show your support and spread the word about NAM to your colleagues and networks so we can help connect young people with permanent, loving homes.

    Explore the NAM website today for more information.

  • Considering Race and Culture in Adoption Permanency Decisions

    Considering Race and Culture in Adoption Permanency Decisions

    A recent webinar from AdoptUSKids, "The Importance of Race and Culture in Adoption Permanency Decisions," brought together child welfare and adoption experts to discuss the critical role of considering race and culture in adoption decisions, with a focus on Latino, Indigenous, and Black children in foster care. The event also featured a consultant with lived experience in transracial adoption who shared stories and strategies.

    This webinar underscores that adoption permanency decisions should not only revolve around finding a permanent home but should prioritize a child's racial and cultural background and incorporate youth voice. The presenters highlighted the importance of recognizing and respecting the impact these aspects have on a child's identity and well-being. They also stressed the importance of recruiting adoptive parents who can provide a culturally competent and sensitive upbringing.

    Presenters shared strategies on how agencies can improve the ways they engage in conversations about culture and race with adoptive parents, tips for incorporating a cultural and racial lens into their matching efforts, and ways organizations can improve their inclusion of communities of color and youth in their work.

    The 90-minute webinar is available in full for free, along with detailed presentation slides, on the AdoptUSKids website.

  • Study Findings From Project Examining Permanency Instability After Adoption and Guardianship

    Study Findings From Project Examining Permanency Instability After Adoption and Guardianship

    The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has made available slides from a presentation on study findings from the Understanding Post Adoption and Guardianship Instability (PAGI) for Children and Youth Who Exit Foster Care project. This presentation sheds light on the complexities surrounding children transitioning from foster care to adoption or guardianship using data from two comprehensive studies, the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) Adoption study and the Contact After Adoption or Guardianship Child Welfare Agency and Family Interactions study.

    The presentation slides from the PAGI project offer a succinct summary of the methodologies, key findings and highlights, and practical implications of these two vital studies. Questions from these studies are focused on risk and protective factors for permanency instability after adoption, accessibility of support services, contact with child welfare agencies after adoption or guardianship is finalized, and information tracking.

    A Children's Bureau Express article from June 2023 explores one of the studies, the NSCAW Adoption Study, offering a deeper dive into its findings and implications. This article provides essential context for understanding the challenges and opportunities in the postadoption and guardianship phase.

    Additionally, OPRE provides a PAGI tracking toolkit, which includes a user guide, a tracking workbook, and a webinar on how to use the toolkit. A summary report from the Contact After Adoption or Guardianship study is also available. Use these resources to better support children and families during the transition from foster care to permanent adoption or guardianship.

    For more indepth information, explore the presentation and related resources linked on the ACF website.

  • Exploring and Supporting Identity Development in Adoption

    Exploring and Supporting Identity Development in Adoption

    This resource from the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI) discusses the challenges around the question "Who am I?" for youth who are adopted and the importance of supporting identity formation. Many youth who are adopted may need extra support as they grapple with questions surrounding their identity and their place in the world. Mental health and child welfare professionals who receive adoption-specific training are best equipped to support youth and their families as they work through their challenges related to identity.

    Filling in the Identity Blanks: Identity Complexity in Adoption explores ways to help families support adoptive youth in understanding and forming their identities, such as the following:

    • Encouraging parents to have honest conversations about identity with youth
    • Connecting parents to culturally appropriate supports to help them regularly incorporate a youth's ethnic and cultural background

    One key takeaway from the discussion is the vital role of mental health and child welfare professionals with adoption-specific training. These experts are ideally positioned to provide the necessary guidance and support to adoptive youth and their families as they navigate the complexities of identity formation.

    Access the full resource for more details and to find additional resources. Child welfare professionals looking to expand their skills and support the Family First Prevention Services Act and Child and Family Services Reviews' goals can explore NTI's free training.

    Recent Issues

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News From the Children's Bureau

In this section, find the latest news, resources, and publications from the Administration for Children and Families, the Children's Bureau, and other offices within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as a listing of the latest additions to the Children's Bureau website.

Training & Technical Assistance Updates

This section features resources and updates from the Children's Bureau's technical assistance partners to support practices and systems that improve the lives of children and families.

Child Welfare Research

In this section, we highlight recent studies, literature reviews, and other research on child welfare topics.

  • The Impact of Increased Postpermanency Payments on Foster Care Exits and Academic Achievement

    The Impact of Increased Postpermanency Payments on Foster Care Exits and Academic Achievement

    Lengthy stays in foster care and aging out of foster care can result in poor transitions to adulthood. However, it is common for financial support in the form of adoption assistance and guardianship assistance payments to be lower than foster care payments or nonexistent.

    In 2015, Minnesota passed a child welfare policy change known as the Northstar Care for Children reform, which increased adoption and guardianship payments so they were equal to foster care payments. To examine the impact of financial incentives on child and youth permanency and other outcomes, researchers from the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota conducted a study of the Northstar reform as part of the Minn-LInK project.  

    The study examined how the increase in permanency payments affected the following factors:

    • The rate of exit from foster care and probability of exit into adoption and kin guardianship
    • Child academic achievement years after the start of foster care

    Researchers gathered data on foster care, education, and mental health from several sources, including the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Social Services Information System, the Minnesota Department of Education’s Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System, Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, Disciplinary Incident Reporting System, and Hennepin County Medical Center’s Medicaid claims. Using these data, researchers examined outcomes such as the rate of exit to adoption and kinship care, academic achievement, suspensions, school stability, and use of mental health services among a sample of more than 40,000 children and youth.

    Findings affirmed the researchers’ hypothesis that increased payments could contribute to improved permanency achievement and academic outcomes. Specifically, study findings indicate the Northstar reform increased the likelihood of older children exiting foster care for adoption or guardianship, decreased time spent in foster care, and improved child and youth academic outcomes 3 years after entering the system.

    A brief on the study and a discussion guide detailing practice implications and potential agency and system change are available on the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare website.

  • Updating Supplemental Security Income Asset Limits Would Increase Family Economic Stability

    Updating Supplemental Security Income Asset Limits Would Increase Family Economic Stability

    A blog post from the Urban Institute synthesizes a recent and growing bipartisan, bicameral push for Congress to update the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program’s antiquated asset and income limit. That group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would make it easier for SSI recipients to save for financial emergencies without putting the benefits they rely on to live at risk.

    This proposed legislation has the potential to positively affect millions of Americans, not just those individuals who are older and/or disabled for whom SSI is intended. This includes the 2.5 million children in the United States being raised by grandparents and other relatives in grandfamilies, many of whom receive or may be eligible to receive SSI benefits. The same is true for the millions of families headed by one or more parents with disabilities.

    According to the blog post, more than 8 million people who are either over age 65 or are disabled and who have low incomes rely on these benefits to meet their families’ needs. However, current SSI asset limits, which were established in 1974 and were only partially adjusted for inflation in 1989 (nearly 35 years ago), penalize individuals and couples for working to grow even modest savings.

    Updating outdated asset thresholds, as the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act proposes, would increase families’ economic security and dramatically reduce poverty. The following evidence-based resources from the Urban Institute support this push and are linked in the article:

    To learn more, read the post, “Supplemental Security Income Thresholds Are Out of Date; Updating Them Would Reduce Poverty,” on the institute’s blog, the Urban Wire.

    Related item: The June 2023 issue of CBX features an article about the Child Welfare Information Gateway publication Separating Poverty From Neglect in Child Welfare.

Strategies and Tools for Practice

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

  • Analyzing and Reducing Youth Homelessness

    Analyzing and Reducing Youth Homelessness

    The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released Preventing and Ending Youth Homelessness in America, the first brief in a series highlighting the challenges and opportunities faced by youth ages 14 through 24. The brief is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Thrive by 25 efforts to promote basic needs, permanency connections, education and credentials, financial stability, and youth leadership among young people.

    The brief analyzes and outlines youth homelessness in the United States, including its prevalence, risk factors, and effects. Homelessness among youth often occurs when systems are unable to resolve family conflict related to parental abuse or neglect, substance use, a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity, youth pregnancy, or other household challenges. In contrast, adult and family homelessness often stems from a lack of economic stability.

    About 3.5 million young adults ages 18 to 25 and about 700,000 youth ages 13 to 17 experience some form of homelessness every year. This includes sleeping on the streets, in shelters, or couch surfing. These youth experiencing homelessness are more likely to experience threats to their health, safety, and well-being, such as missing school, struggling with mental health issues, substance use, being assaulted, being sexually assaulted, being trafficked, or resorting to survival crime.

    The brief details recommendations for addressing youth homelessness:

    • Develop a unified definition of youth homelessness
    • Target funding to basic needs and other youth homelessness risks
    • Focus on prevention
    • Support cross-systems partnerships
    • Advance equity
    • Elevate youth voice
    • Transform the justice system response
    • Help young people leaving foster care prepare for adulthood

    The brief is available on the Annie E. Casey website.

  • Four Considerations for Improving Support to Family Caregivers

    Four Considerations for Improving Support to Family Caregivers

    Family caregiving situations vary greatly depending on a number of factors, such as living situation, length of caregiving, relationship, age, socioeconomic status, and more. Because of these factors, no two family caregivers have the same needs. To help organizations better understand and meet the unique needs of family caregivers, First Principles: Cross-Cutting Considerations for Family Caregiver Support outlines four cross-cutting issues that influence the caregiving experience.  

    The document is part of the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers, which was developed by the RAISE Act Family Caregiving Advisory Council and the Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (collectively, the Advisory Councils). The strategy is designed to help agencies, communities, and others meet family caregiver needs by implementing various actions.

    The document details four cross-cutting issues that the Advisory Councils indicate should be reflected in all efforts to improve support to family caregivers:

    • Person- and family-centered approaches: Caregivers should remain the focal point of interactions, not systems or providers.
    • Trauma and its impact: Responses should proactively address the impact of trauma on the caregiving journey.
    • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility: Caregivers who come from unserved, underserved, and marginalized communities may face additional caregiving challenges.
    • The direct care workforce: A well-trained and well-paid direct care workforce of professional caregivers is necessary to ensure family caregivers have the services and support they need.  

    The document includes strategies and essential practices to support each of the four considerations. More information about the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers, including actions that federal, state, and community organizations can take to support the strategy, is available on the Administration for Community Living website.


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

  • Permanency Options for Children in Kinship Foster Care

    Permanency Options for Children in Kinship Foster Care

    Children in kinship foster care are more likely to exit care to a forever home than children in nonrelative foster care. However, navigating this transition can be challenging. Deciding what permanency option is best for your family requires careful consideration and informed decision-making.

    A brief from Generations United, Adoption and Guardianship for Children in Kinship Foster Care, helps relative caregivers, birth families, youth, and child welfare professionals learn about and understand the different permanency options. It provides general information about adoption and guardianship and how these options differ. Topics discussed include foster care licensure, basic principles and state laws concerning adoption and guardianship, assistance programs available for each, transitioning from guardian to adoptive parent, and more.  

    The laws that govern adoption and guardianship vary and are determined and implemented at the state, local, and tribal levels. To help kinship foster parents and others compare the two options, the brief also includes a national comparison and state-specific charts that focus on the important information about each.

    The brief, national comparison chart, and state-specific charts were made possible with support from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and are available on the Generations United website.  

  • Caring for a Child Affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

    Caring for a Child Affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

    A recent brief from the Grandfamilies and Kinship Support Network provides kin caregivers with information about how consuming alcohol during pregnancy can adversely affect children’s development. It offers tips for raising children who were exposed to alcohol before birth and now have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

    The brief discusses FASD—a disorder that comprises a spectrum of conditions, the effects of which can include mental, physical, and learning disabilities; behavioral challenges; and more—and its signs and symptoms. It also notes that, while FASD can manifest in a variety of ways and severity, there are many things grandparents and other caregivers can do to support the child in their care. With an emphasis on early intervention, the brief lists strategies grandparents and other caregivers can use to support the child.

    Caring for a Child Affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is an adaptation of a Zero to Three resource and is available on the Grandfamilies and Kinship Support Network website.

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.