November 2019Vol. 20, No. 9Spotlight on National Adoption Month
This month's issue of CBX features National Adoption Month 2019 and finding permanency for children and youth in out-of-home care. Read a message from Jerry Milner, associate commissioner of the Children's Bureau, and David Kelly, special assistant to the commissioner, that highlights the importance of being mindful of the circumstances that lead to the need for adoption to ensure families have a fighting chance of staying together. The issue also includes adoption resources for professionals and families working to help children and youth find safe, nurturing, and permanent homes.
- Adoption Is Wonderful and We Should Reduce the Need for It
Adoption Is Wonderful and We Should Reduce the Need for It
Written by Jerry Milner and David Kelly
Adoption is a critically important permanency option for children in foster care who are unable to be reunified with their parents. It can allow for the creation of new families or expansion of existing families. Adoption can be a very positive thing, and we must continuously strive to improve our adoption practices from recruitment through postadoption supports to ensure stability and sustainability. We have events to celebrate adoptions and campaigns that recruit adoptive parents and draw attention to the need for specific types of adoptive homes. For the past 2 years, the Children's Bureau (CB) has focused on building awareness around the need for the adoption of older youth who are in foster care and unable to return to their families. CB recently held an adoption summit bringing together teams from every state to identify jurisdiction-specific challenges to finalizing adoptions and create state plans to address those barriers. All of these efforts are helpful when adoption is the best route to permanency for a child or youth.
In considering children and youth's need for permanency, it is equally important to be mindful of the circumstances that lead to the need for adoption in the first place. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that, in some situations, adoption can be the consequent result of failing to make reasonable efforts to prevent children's removal from their homes. The need for foster care and adoption can reflect missed opportunities to strengthen families and keep them together. For this reason, we must have a national strategy that simultaneously focuses on preventing unnecessary removals through vigorous reasonable efforts and on ensuring appropriate permanency for those children and youth for whom reasonable efforts were unsuccessful in keeping them safely within their own families.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) makes clear that reunification is the most preferred permanency goal for children who enter foster care. As all are aware, ASFA also established statutory timelines for judicial determinations pertaining to reasonable efforts and for filing petitions to terminate parental rights, absent compelling reasons. There is nothing that prohibits an earlier filing of a petition in situations that clearly warrant such filings or that meet the statutory criteria for foregoing reasonable efforts (e.g., aggravated circumstances). However, given the complex difficulties that families find themselves in and the spirit and intent of the law, we urge caution in routinely filing termination of parental rights petitions early absent clear evidence that parents have received full statutory protections. Parents deserve a chance to be the best parents they can be, and children deserve the chance to be with their parents.
Adoption can and does provide lasting permanence in a loving home for children and youth who absolutely cannot be cared for safely within their families. Adoption can be a joyous event that best meets the needs of children and youth. We must remember that preventing the need for adoption through strengthening and preserving families are also joyous events.
- Teens Shouldn't Be Put in This Position
Teens Shouldn't Be Put in This Position
Written by Joshua Christian, foster care advocate, Indianapolis, Indiana
Young people in the child welfare system are often faced with challenges when finding permanency, which can look different depending on the best interests of the child. Adoption can take place when the legal rights of a parent or other guardian have been terminated. Although it is not meant for everyone, adoption can truly be a beautiful thing. Approximately one-quarter of young people in foster care are eligible for adoption, and it is important for these young people to have the necessary education.
If a young person believes they want to be adopted, they are faced with a decision that no young person should ever have to make: to become adopted and possibly lose out on services meant to help one achieve stability—such as programs that provide federal funding for school, mental health resources, or health care—or age out of care with full access to the services that were created to help them become successful. Lawmakers could consider offering the same services and resources to all youth, regardless of whether their case plan is geared toward adoption or other permanency options. Personally, I was faced with this decision when I found my forever family in my 18th placement. I knew my family could support me moving forward, but because of my love and respect for them, I told them that I would rather age out so we could utilize those services. When young people are adopted, the obstacles that aging-out services would help them face do not disappear.
As a local, state, and national advocate with almost two decades of lived experience, I want to encourage professionals to engage in authentic, real, and frequent conversations with youth about their permanency options. I also encourage states to ensure caseloads are a reasonable size so that case managers can focus on each young person and give them the attention they deserve. Too often, these conversations happen once, and that's the end of it. If professionals take a more long-term approach, they can address the fears and misunderstandings that come from exploring adoption as a permanency. It is necessary that these conversations happen repeatedly and consistently to ensure we are educating young people about their possible future.
Recent federal legislation has required all states to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act by fiscal year 2021. This will help states provide services to help young people transition into adulthood, which is really important given the research showing that 90 percent of young people tend to be exposed to trauma. (Williams-Mbengue, 2016). Young people entered foster care through no fault of their own, and each new placement change creates long-term challenges in many areas of life, including education, mental health and well-being, and social stability. Services are not only critical but necessary to help young people grow and overcome the obstacles they face.
Throughout the past 4 years, I have learned so much while advocating for young people in foster care. When having conversations with resource parents, I have seen common fears around taking youth in foster care into their homes, mostly related to common issues teens face going into puberty like having conversations around sex, being on their phones, not following rules, and dealing with trauma. I always highlight how I moved into my forever home a week before I turned eighteen and that my thoughts were not focused on puberty or breaking roles but simply about where I would be a few months later. I was thinking about having a place to call home, a place to go during the holidays, a place where I might get a hug from someone who loves me before I leave. I was worried about becoming one of the statistics in our country showing that out of roughly 20,000 to 30,000 young people who age out of care annually, one-fifth will become homeless and 1 in 4 of will become involved with the criminal justice system (Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, 2013). Resource parents' fears become a lot less stressful when they are engaged with talking about the reality of a young person aging out of care.
If we address these issues, states would have an opportunity to help more young people find a loving, safe, and permanent home, so that no teen has to be put in the position of questioning whether to join their forever family or forego needed services.
Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. Tools and resources. Retrieved from https://www.aecf.org/work/child-welfare/jim-casey-youth-opportunities-initiative/.
Williams-Mbengue, N. (2016). The social and emotional well-being of children in
foster care. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/Documents/cyf/Social_Emotional_WellBeing_Newsletter.pdf (775 KB).
- Pursuing the Best Interests of Children
Pursuing the Best Interests of Children
Written by Melissa D. Carter, clinical professor of law, executive director, Barton Child Law and Policy Center, Emory Law School, Atlanta, GA
Each year, the Children's Bureau celebrates November as National Adoption Month to increase public awareness of the need for permanent families for the thousands of children and youth in foster care. This year's National Adoption Month theme is "Youth Voices: Why Family Matters." This theme seems apt for many reasons, primarily because adoption is lauded as a universal good for children and youth in the foster care system. But is adoption, in fact, a universal good for children and youth in foster care? Or, does this theme resonate more because of what child welfare professionals believe adoption to represent?
Our nation's priority is to ensure children have safe, supportive, and permanent families. We pursue that end under the mantle of the "best interests of the child" standard, which is the governing legal standard for the formation of the parent-child relationship, including through adoption, and for the ongoing regulation of the family. The meaningfulness of this standard is something that has always preoccupied my thinking as an adoptee and, later, as an adoption practitioner and child welfare policy advocate. Although my family was perfectly imperfect, I am unendingly curious about how a cast of unfamiliar professionals could so confidently draw conclusions about what—at 5 days old—was in my lifelong best interests. The law gives a framework whereby permanent decisions made about the direction of a child's life are guided by a set of factors, legal standards, and many inputs. But, these rules and guidelines, even if framed in terms of a child's interests, necessarily stem from the adult perspective.
One adult perspective is reflected in the hierarchy of permanency outcomes set forth in federal child welfare law. When a child cannot be reunified with his or her biological parents, adoption is the preferred permanency goal. Certainly, there are virtues to adoption. But, the rightful concern of child welfare system practitioners, researchers, and policymakers is with permanency, a construct that encompasses both legal security and emotional security. Because of the law's "rule of two," by which a child can only have two legal parents, the adoption process operates first to legally estrange the child from his or her biological family and, then, to construct anew a legal family with the adoptive parents. Adoption records are sealed from public inspection, and the child's original birth certificate is cancelled and replaced with a reissued birth certificate naming the adoptive parents. Under adoption's legal framework, these steps are technically necessary, and they offer certainty to the child's new family. In that way, the process makes a lot of sense. But a child's sense of family is about much more than the family's state-created legal status.
Research has shown that some youth in foster care do not necessarily desire to be adopted. They report ambivalence and disbelief that adoption, or permanency in general, is something meant for them. They fear the loss of connections to family and friends, which is a legal fact of adoption. And the attitudes of these youth about adoption appear to affect adoption outcomes, at least in terms of how the system currently measures those outcomes. We measure timely and compliant filing of petitions to terminate parental rights, we criticize reunification plans that are in place too long, we judge the selection of guardianship as an inferior permanency option compared with adoption for young children, and we monitor the length of time to achieve a finalized adoption. These measures are properly justified by federal law and by research- and values-based consensus about what is best for children. But they are inherently deficient. The law has the power to construct, deconstruct, and reconfigure families, but it has not yet evolved as a tool for cultivating or assessing the quality of the parent-child relationship. Put another way, complying with the law to find families and finalize a process will not tell us why family matters to a child or what family structure is in the child's best interests.
Figuring out how to engage children and youth about why family matters to them and about the adult process-based decisions that must be made is the actual moment of obligation, rather than permanency, per se. I am an expert in exactly one adoption—my own. But my experience is consistent with what is known from research. Adoption is a process of grief and loss, not just a matter of a judicial decree. It roots a life-long journey of identity seeking, belonging, and acceptance. Children and youth fare better—are more resilient—through this process of family reconstruction when they feel a sense of personal control over their lives. That means that our pursuit of permanency must extend beyond the lens of the law and the reach of regulation and oversight. It must be more than categorical preferences for certain family structures. We must suspend adult agendas and set aside adult perspectives to enter the child's world, to value relationships as the child does, and to pace change at a rate the child can tolerate.
Spotlight on Incorporating Youth Engagement and Lived Experience Into Child Welfare Practice
Spotlight on the Title IV-E Prevention Program and the Family First Prevention Services Act
News From the Children's Bureau
Read about the 2019 National Adoption Month initiative, a series by the Capacity Building Center for States highlighting the importance of meaningful partnerships to expedite permanency, recent data showing a drop in the number of children in foster care, and the latest additions to the Children's Bureau website.
- November Is National Adoption Month
November Is National Adoption Month
According to the 25th Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System report, there were over 123,000 children and youth waiting to be adopted as of September 2017, 11 percent of whom were between the ages of 15 and 17. All children need stable and caring families to guide them into adulthood, and older youth are much less likely to be adopted than younger children.
The theme of this year's National Adoption Month initiative is "Youth Voices: Why Family Matters." It highlights the need to ensure the voices of older youth are heard and they are engaged in planning for their own future. It is important for older youth to consider all their options—whether they decide to pursue adoption or alternative permanency options, such as guardianship.
The National Adoption Month 2019 website features tools and resources aimed at increasing adoption of older youth currently in foster care. The website includes a section dedicated to providing adoption- and permanency-related resources and tips for families, including families considering adoption and families who have adopted. The website also supports child welfare professionals in preparing families for adoption and talking with older youth who may feel they are too old to be adopted.
Youth, families, and professionals can also visit the website to do the following:
- Watch and listen to personal stories and share the examples of older youth in foster care finding permanent families through adoption
- Learn ways to help involve, support, and empower older youth in foster care to prepare and plan for their future
- Read the tip sheet Belonging Matters—Helping Youth Explore Permanency for help in talking with older youth about adoption and the importance of family
National Adoption Month, supported each November by the Children's Bureau, is a partnership between AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Visit the National Adoption Month website throughout November at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam.
- Data Show the First Foster Care Decrease Since 2011, Record Number of Adoptions
Data Show the First Foster Care Decrease Since 2011, Record Number of Adoptions
According to the latest Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data, the number of children in foster care decreased from 441,000 at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2017 to approximately 437,300 at the end of FY 2018. The number of children entering care in FY 2018 decreased from 270,000 in FY 2017 to 263,000 in FY 2018.
These data show the first drop since 2011 in the number of children in foster care, and the number of children achieving permanency through adoption increased for the fourth year in a row to its highest level ever. In addition, the number of children entering foster care dropped for the second year in a row after going up every year since 2013.
The number of finalized adoptions with U.S. child welfare agency involvement increased in FY 2018 to over 63,100, compared with 59,500 finalized adoptions in FY 2017. This is the largest number of adoptions reported by AFCARS since AFCARS data collection began in FY 1995.
To learn more, read the latest AFCARS report, available at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/afcars-report-26.
- CB Website Updates
CB Website Updates
The Children's Bureau website hosts information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, federal reporting, and much more.
Recent additions to the site include the following:
- Fiscal Year 2019 Children's Bureau Discretionary Grant Awards: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/discretionary-grant-awards-2019
- "Birth-Foster Parent Mentoring Teams" [Podcast]: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/child-welfare-podcast-birth-foster-teams
- Child Welfare Outcomes 2016: Report to Congress: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/cwo-2016
- Report to Congress: The Child Welfare System Response to Sex Trafficking of Children: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/report-congress-children-sex-trafficking
- Adoption Savings Data 2018: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/adoption-savings-data-2018
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new.
- Helping Communities Engage Local Partners to Expedite Permanency for Children and Youth
Helping Communities Engage Local Partners to Expedite Permanency for Children and Youth
There are an estimated 123,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States waiting to be adopted, according to recent Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System data. This number has increased steadily over the last 5 years, demonstrating the urgent need to help communities expand access to resources that will help them recruit, train, and support adoptive families. In an effort to address this need, the Capacity Building Center for States issued a series of publications designed to help communities engage with partner organizations to work toward the goal of achieving timely permanency for local children and youth awaiting adoption.
The series provides several publications and additional resources that offer strategies for engaging local community organizations to reduce the number of children awaiting permanency by identifying, recruiting, preparing, and supporting adoptive parents. The series includes the following:
- Engaging Faith-Based Communities to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to be Adopted—A tip sheet that provides strategies, examples, and suggestions for how faith-based communities and child welfare agencies can work together to promote permanency for children and youth in foster care.
- Engaging Nongovernmental Organizations to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to be Adopted—A tip sheet that describes ways child welfare agencies can refer to nongovernmental organizations, which usually have strong ties to the community and expertise in reaching out to specific populations, about how to leverage their knowledge in order to remove barriers to adoption, expand successful pilot programs, and provide support to adoptive parents.
- Engaging Philanthropic Partners to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to be Adopted—A tip sheet that offers ideas, strategies, and examples of how child welfare agencies can garner the expertise of philanthropic partners to raise awareness and fund adoption recruitment as well as support adoption efforts and program evaluation.
The series, Engaging Partners to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to Be Adopted, is available at https://capbuildcollab.prod.acquia-sites.com/states/topics/achieving-permanency/engaging-partners.
Child Welfare Research
We highlight a study on how social supports can help lessen the impact of childhood trauma for adult adoptees and a study that looks at adoption outcomes in two states and how preadoptive risk factors can affect permanence.
- Mediating Effects of Social Support in Childhood and Adolescence and Well-Being in Adult Domestic Ad
Mediating Effects of Social Support in Childhood and Adolescence and Well-Being in Adult Domestic Ad
Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences and other emotional or behavioral problems during adolescence have a negative impact on adult well-being. A study from the Journal of Happiness Studies explores the relationship between social support and the well-being of adult adoptees. The study suggests that problems during childhood and adolescence have a direct negative impact on adult well-being, and the more emotional and behavioral problems participants had contributed to a lower score of adult well-being. However, the effects of previous difficulties were diminished based on current perceived social supports. That is, the more support adult adoptees believe they have, the less of an impact childhood issues have.
The study involved 70 young adult adoptees who are part of families involved in a longitudinal study that began over 20 years ago. It was measured with three different scales that assessed self-perceived social support, components of well-being, and the presence of problems in adopted children. In addition to the correlation between difficulties as a child and adolescent and adult well-being, the strength of attachment between families and adopted children also plays an important role in outcomes.
The results of this study suggest that adoption should continue to be considered as an adequate solution when a child cannot remain with his or her birth family, adoptees should receive social and professional support to help them recover from the emotional consequences of the problems they encountered in their youth, and adoptive families should receive additional support to improve attachment between family members.
"Mediating Effects of Social Support in the Association Between Problems in Childhood and Adolescence and Well-Being in Adult Domestic Adoptees," by Yolanda SÃ¡nchez Sandoval, Sandra Melero, and Ana MarÃa LÃ³pez JimÃ©nez (Journal of Happiness Studies, 2019), is available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-019-00124-8#citeas.
- Study Highlights Opportunity to Target Services to At-Risk Families to Improve Adoption Stability
Study Highlights Opportunity to Target Services to At-Risk Families to Improve Adoption Stability
A study that looks at adoption outcomes in two large states highlights the preadoptive risk factors most associated with reentry into foster care and points to an opportunity to improve adoption stability by targeting services to at-risk families.
The study used administrative data to track children in Illinois and New Jersey for 5 to 15 years, depending on their date of adoption. The goal was to determine the most common preadoption characteristics associated with postadoption reentry into care for children adopted from public child welfare agencies in Illinois and New Jersey. The study concluded that the majority of children adopted from foster care—95 percent—did not reenter care following their adoption.
The risk factors most associated with postadoption reentry into foster care included a child being younger at the time of adoption (e.g., children 3 and older were 128 percent more likely to reenter care than children adopted at a younger age) and having more prior foster care placements (e.g., each additional move was associated with a 15 percent increase in the risk of reentry). In Illinois, African-American children were 30 percent more likely to experience reentry than children of any other race (although this statistic was not corroborated in New Jersey).
The authors reported the findings may be useful in identifying at-risk families to target with preventive preadoption and postadoption services. They also point out that, because the study is based exclusively on administrative data, there is no way to determine how many of the adoptive families whose children have not reentered care may be struggling or in need of services.
"A Comparison of Foster Care Reentry After Adoption in Two Large U.S. States," by Nancy Rolock, Kevin R. White, Kerrie Ocasio, and Lixia Zhang, Michael J. MacKenzie, and Rowena Fong (Research on Social Work Practice, 29), is available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1049731518783857 (262 KB).
Strategies and Tools for Practice
This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other resources that provide either evidence-based strategies or other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.
- The Adoption Exchange
The Adoption Exchange
Many children face barriers to permanency, such as being part of a sibling group or having behavioral or health challenges. It can be overwhelming for families interested in adoption, and it can be challenging for the caseworkers seeking adoptive families for children in these situations. The Adoption Exchange is a website dedicated to providing resources and support for families looking to adopt or needing support after adoption. It also provides resources for child welfare professionals who help those families. By collaborating with state, federal, and local agencies, The Adoption Exchange provides expertise and assistance with recruiting, supporting, and training throughout the adoption process.
The Adoption Exchange has offices in Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, and Utah and provides services in Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The website provides resources and education on many aspects of the adoption process. Originally conceived as a place for caseworkers to discuss placement for children within the Rocky Mountain region, The Adoption Exchange has grown into a multistate network of professionals and volunteers who focus on integrating holistic, innovative child-specific strategies into preadoption and postadoption services. It also provides technical assistance to help build the capacity of state and tribal child welfare programs.
Visit https://www.adoptex.org/ to learn more.
- Empowering Youth to Share Their Voices and Be Heard
Empowering Youth to Share Their Voices and Be Heard
Written by the Capacity Building Center for States
"When youth are engaged in decisions around their own care, they are more likely to feel empowered and feel like they have some control over their situation."—Child welfare professional formerly in foster care
The 2019 theme for National Adoption Month is "Youth Voices: Why Family Matters." With it, the Children's Bureau challenges child welfare communities to engage with youth and listen to their voices about what family means to them and why it matters. (To explore strategies for having conversations about family with youth in care, see Keeping the Family Conversation Alive [3,600 KB].) Enabling youth to share their voices—both to inform permanency planning in their own cases and provide input in the larger child welfare system—can help young people in care realize their strengths, assess their options, and feel empowered to make decisions about their futures. The strategies and resources below, most of which were suggested by young people formerly in foster care, can help agencies and young people work together to empower youth voices in child welfare.
At the Individual Level: Help Youth Develop Self-Advocacy Skills
An important part of empowering youth is developing their capacity for self-advocacy. Self-advocacy refers to the ability to speak up for oneself, make decisions about one's own life, learn where and how to get necessary information, and find mentors (Center for Parent Information & Resources, 2018). Helping youth become self-advocates means more than "offering them a seat at the table" at a case-planning meeting, for example. Rather, it may mean allowing the young person's individual goals to inform the direction of the meeting; ensuring that they have the necessary preparation, information, and support; and actively encouraging them to share their perspective with others.
Young people sharing their stories in a safe, meaningful way is a crucial part of self-advocacy. Many youth need encouragement and coaching to be able to articulate their experiences in a way that is relatable to others and appropriate for the audience and context. Caseworkers and other child welfare staff may need training on asking for young peoples' perspectives and working with them in an individualized way. (See the publication Strategic Sharing [393 KB] for an example of how to teach youth to tell their stories.)
At the Agency Level: Build a Culture That Actively Values and Incorporates Youth Voice
An essential part of creating an agency culture and climate that prioritize youth voice is recognizing young people as experts on their own needs, strengths, and goals. Youth in foster care have valuable perspectives on their own lives that can help child welfare staff understand how and when to help them and when to stand back and let them take independent action.
Incorporating youth voice when making and evaluating agency practice and policy also can help agencies better understand the needs and concerns of youth and implement programs to help youth thrive. With supportive policies and workforce training and supervision that promote self-advocacy, agencies can better ensure that young people are encouraged to share their perspectives, needs, and goals and that their input will play a significant role in agency decisions. The resources at the end of this article can help agencies build a culture and climate that engage youth at all levels.
At the Community Level: Partner With Community Organizations to Empower Youth
Community organizations, including faith-based, nongovernmental, and philanthropic organizations, are important partners in engaging and empowering youth in foster care. Community organizations (e.g., religious community, school, sports team, volunteer group) can offer youth opportunities that preserve social connections, build relationships, and provide mentoring and peer support. They also can create environments in which youth feel supported and can develop their identities. Child welfare agencies and their community partners can work together to support youth in self-advocating and openly disclosing their strengths and needs. Then, they can identify and provide appropriate services and resources that further empower youth to grow and succeed as members of their communities. The resources listed below include additional strategies for finding and working with community organizations.
Empowering youth voice at the case, agency, and community levels is critical to building youth self-esteem, growth, and ability to form social connections (Annie E. Casey Foundation, n.d.). By consulting with youth in foster care regularly about their lived experiences and goals, caseworkers and other staff let young people know that each of their stories and voices matters and that these can be sources of strength in their own futures. Empowering youth voice at the agency and community levels allows agencies and organizations to improve their youth services and programs and invest in the future of their communities.
The following Capacity Building Center for States resources provide additional information and strategies for engaging with youth in a way that prioritizes their voices and experiences:
- Building a Family-Focused System Series: https://capacity.childwelfare.gov/states/topics/foster-care-permanency/family-focused-system
- Embracing a "Youth Welfare" System: A Guide to Capacity Building: https://capacity.childwelfare.gov/states/topics/youth-development/youth-welfare-guide
- Engaging Partners to Achieve Timely Permanency for Children and Youth Waiting to Be Adopted Series: https://capbuildcollab.prod.acquia-sites.com/states/topics/achieving-permanency/engaging-partners
- Youth Engagement Blueprint Series: https://capacity.childwelfare.gov/states/focus-areas/youth-development/blueprint-series/
Annie E. Casey Foundation. (n.d.). Authentic youth engagement. Retrieved from https://www.aecf.org/work/child-welfare/jim-casey-youth-opportunities-initiative/areas-of-expertise/authentic-youth-engagement/.
Center for Parent Information & Resources. (2018). Priority: Best practices in self-advocacy skill-building. Retrieved from https://www.parentcenterhub.org/priority-selfadvocacy/.
- Adoption Learning Partners Resources
Adoption Learning Partners Resources
The Adoption Learning Partners website offers timely web-based resources for professionals, parents, adopted individuals, and their families—especially those who do not live near accessible, knowledgeable supports or those who have limited time.
The site includes a variety of interactive e-learning courses, webinars, blog posts, podcasts, articles, and papers designed to increase the understanding of the benefits and challenges of adoption as well as a community forum that gives adoptive families the ability to interact with others and share experiences.
Some examples of the resources available include the following:
- Online courses such as "Adopting the Older Child," "Becoming Your Child's Best Advocate," "Creating an Adoption Profile That Works," "Discipline and the Adopted Child," and more.
- Webinars such as "Adopting After Infertility," "Adoption and Classroom Success," "An Insider's Guide to Identity and Adoption," "Anxiety and Depression in Adopted Children," and more.
- Downloads such as "Adoption Language for Schools," "Attachment-Focused Parenting," "Brothers and Sisters in Adoption," and more.
Visits the Adoption Learning Partners website at https://www.adoptionlearningpartners.org/index.cfm to learn more.
This section of CBX provides a quick list of interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials that can be used in the field or with families.
- Creating a Family Profile
Creating a Family Profile
Families who have already passed the homestudy process and are approved to adopt from foster care can use photolisting sites, like AdoptUSKids and other state-run sites, to showcase a profile of their family. These websites can be useful to foster care professionals who are looking for families and offer a great opportunity for families to provide a first impression. AdoptUSKids interviewed caseworkers across the nation for tips on how families can get the most out of these sites.
In a recent blog post, AdoptUSKids lays out the following nine tips, with examples, about what steps families can take to make their profile more informative and useful:
- Give workers a sense of who you are by writing with personality.
- Include a recent photo with all legal members of the family.
- Describe where you find support.
- Share what behavior and conditions you will and will not accept.
- Talk about your experience with children—even if it is not as a parent.
- Ensure all the information you share is current.
- Include how you can work with the birth family to maintain a relationship.
- Describe your family's lifestyle and interests as well as what adjustments could be made to fit the needs of a child.
- Review your draft again to make sure it is error free.
Read the blog post, "Creating a Family Profile: Tips From Workers," at https://blog.adoptuskids.org/creating-a-family-profile-tips-from-workers/.
- Seven Major Issues Facing Those Impacted by Adoption
Seven Major Issues Facing Those Impacted by Adoption
An Adoptalk article explores the complex and intergenerational psychological and emotional issues faced by members of the adoption constellation, which includes adopted persons, birth/first parents, permanent parents, and extended family.
The article also provides an overview of the following seven core issues in adoption and permanency and how they may affect the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of each constellation member throughout their lives:
- Loss—Feelings of loss are often felt with the loss of a family member; loss of family history, culture, lineage, and vital physical, genetic, mental health, and historical information; and loss of safety, love, and protection of one's birth/first parents.
- Rejection—Feelings of rejection can cause increased sensitivity to any further rejection; subsequent losses being experienced as rejection; questions such as "Why me?" or "What did I do or not do to deserve this?"; children believing the crisis was their fault; and feeling judged, unwanted, different, less than, or not good enough.
- Shame and guilt—Shame and guilt are often felt when attachments have been broken; relational trauma, violence, abuse, and neglect occur; stigmatizing words and labels are used; parents withhold important information from the child or youth; people are lied to, manipulated, or coerced; and professionals and systems of care criticize or demean (intentionally or unintentionally).
- Grief—Grief is often experienced when the original separation occurs; during anniversaries of the loss or crisis; as a result of subsequent losses that require more adaptation; when someone says something that triggers the feelings of loss; when memories surface in connection to the crisis, loss, or person lost; when a child's or teen's understanding of adoption and their story unfolds; and when search and reunion occurs.
- Identity—Identity issues can occur when youth are forming their identity; children feel insecure or angry and say things like "You're not my real mother/father;" search and reunion occur; personal or intrusive questions are asked; medical issues arise; people ask "Are those your real children?" or "Are those your real parents?"; people ask the birth/first parent "How many children do you have?"; and during birthdays, Mother's Day, and Father's Day.
- Intimacy—Challenges to intimacy can occur after experiencing relational trauma, multiple moves, attachment disruptions, abuse, violence, and neglect; when an adoptee lacks genetic, ethnic, and racial mirroring; when they lose an intimate connection to a child they were parenting; and when they lose an intimate relationship with a partner and/or family members.
- Mastery and control—Loss of mastery and control often occur when major life decisions about who will parent the child are made by courts, social workers, and others; parental rights are terminated; a child experiences multiple placements; and when a new birth certificate is issued with the child's new name and birth information.
To read the article, "Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency," visit https://www.nacac.org/resource/seven-core-issues-in-adoption-and-permanency/.
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.
Upcoming conferences and events on child welfare and adoption include the following:
- 2019 Families Learning Conference
National Center for Families Learning
November 4-6, Louisville, KY
- Together We Can Conference 2019
Pelican Center for Children & Families
November 11-14, Lafayette, LA
- 2019 Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN)
Nexus Training Conference
November 20, Universal City, CA
- 2019 Global Youth Justice Conference
Global Youth Justice, Inc
December 3-5, Las Vegas, NV
- "Challenging Class Privilege in Adoption" [Webinar]
Pact, An Adoption Alliance
December 4, online
- "First/Birth Parent Voices" [Webinar]
Pact, An Adoption Alliance
January 8, online
- 2020 Annual Conference: "Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality"
Society for Social Work and Research
January 15-19, Washington, DC
- 35th Annual San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment
Chadwick Center for Children and Families
January 25-31, San Diego, CA
- "Adoptive Parent Learning: Been There, Done That - What We Learned That Could Help You" [Webinar]
Pact, An Adoption Alliance
January 29, online
- Context Matters: Confronting a Culture of Exploitation
Wichita State University Center for Combating Human Trafficking
January 31, Wichita, KS
- 2019 Families Learning Conference
- Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate
Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate
The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) has a certification program—the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC)—that aims to increase the number of qualified permanency- and adoption-competent mental health and child welfare professionals who are able to work with children and youth in foster care or who have been adopted.
The PACC curriculum includes the nationally recognized "Training in Adoption Competency" course, as well as four additional modules on child welfare policy and processes and the Indian Child Welfare Act. PACC comprises 13 in-class sessions; 2 self-guided sessions that include online materials; and 6 months (18 hours) of posttraining clinical case consultation and supervision. Course graduates receive a certificate of completion that makes them eligible to be listed on CASCW's directory of child welfare and mental health professionals who have successfully completed the training.
In addition, course graduates with a master's degree will be eligible for a national credential, and those who have a baccalaureate degree will be able to petition for the national credential if they attain a master's degree in the future.
To learn more about the PACC curriculum, visit http://www.cascw.org/continuing-education/permanency-adoption-competency-certificate/.