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March 2021Vol. 22, No. 3Spotlight on Youth Transitioning Out of Care

This edition of CBX highlights youth transitioning out of care and the challenges they face as they begin their journey to independent living and adulthood. Read spotlight articles on how the COVID-19 pandemic has created even more obstacles for these youth, ways to ensure their financial well-being as they navigate living on their own, and the importance of acquiring education and skills to be self-sufficient and independent.

Issue Spotlight

  • Helping Youth Prepare for the Transition to Adulthood

    Helping Youth Prepare for the Transition to Adulthood

    Youth who at risk of transitioning out of care because of their age may face many challenges. Some may not have had access to the same supports that their peers not in care have had and may be lacking in skills that will help them live successful, thriving, and independent lives as adults. Others may have had adverse childhood experiences that negatively affected their development. Foster parents play a crucial role in ensuring these youth learn the skills they need and in being a source of positive, stable support after their time in foster care has ended. FosterClub created an online course, "Helping Youth Prepare for the Transition to Adulthood," to better prepare foster parents for that role.

    This course consists of five steps to help educate foster parents on the importance of helping youth build a strong foundation for a successful transition to adulthood. In this course, parents are expected to learn about the unique challenges that youth in foster care can face when exiting care, how they can mitigate some of these challenges, resources available to them, and the vital role that they play in helping youth in foster care prepare to transition to adulthood. Those who take this course are expected to do the following:

    • Read an article featuring a youth's perspective about aging out of foster care unprepared. The article details the hardships the youth faced after aging out without a support network or the required skills as well as what could be done to help prevent other youth from facing the same challenges
    • Review a list 21 items teens should accomplish before leaving care. It includes information about programs they could find useful, tips on what paperwork and documentation they should have, and more. It also emphasizes the importance of having and building a support network.
    • Read about the importance of involving youth in their transition planning and ensuring they are educated about the available benefits at the right time, how to balance relationships, and basic life skills.
    • Review Child Welfare Information Gateway's Helping Youth Transition to Adulthood: Guidance for Foster Parents. This factsheet for families provides guidance on how to help youth transition, how the adolescent brain develops, how that development affects behavior and decision-making, and resources for concrete supports and more information.
    • Join the discussion and answer the question "When do you think a young person should begin their transition plan?" Foster parents can see what others in their position have learned and what their answers are, and they can contribute their perspective.

    The FosterClub course is free and worth 2.5 credit hours.

  • Ensuring the Financial Well-Being of Youth Transitioning From Care

    Ensuring the Financial Well-Being of Youth Transitioning From Care

    When youth begin the transition to independent living and adulthood, it is required that they have a transition plan in place at least 6 months before their 18th birthday. It is during this time that financial education can be most beneficial. A recent article on the MoneyGeek website aims to help youth aging out of care achieve financial security and self-sufficiency by addressing the roadblocks they may face and providing solutions, resources, and tools to help them overcome those challenges.

    The article lists the five financial roadblocks youth aging out of care face and solutions for each:

    • Not being able to attend or afford a higher education. Youth who have recently exited care are often bombarded with additional responsibilities related to their day-to-day lives. For this reason, obtaining a higher education and a degree is often left by the wayside. The article suggests researching the financial aid opportunities for youth involved with child welfare, such as applying for the Education Training Voucher program.
    • Having inconsistent financial role models. Most children learn about financial responsibilities from their parents and other trusted adults. Unfortunately, many youth exiting care do not have these positive influences nor the opportunity to learn these skills. The article suggests that caregivers and caseworkers engage these youth in financial decision-making early on and teach them how to visit businesses, government offices, and banks to solve problems.
    • Experiencing greater economic hardships compared with their peers who were not involved with child welfare. Many youth who have exited care do not have enough money to pay rent and/or utility bills, have utilities shut off, and are evicted. The article suggests making sure youth learn to be financially capable by teaching them how to understand their paychecks, including taxes and other deductions; encouraging them to invest in an education; teaching them how to track their spending and live on a budget; and more.
    • Having higher levels of unemployment and lower annual earnings. The article suggests joining networking sites, such as LinkedIn, to "build their brand" and feature their resumes.
    • Not having a safety net from a biological family. Most youth and young adults have a parent, extended family member, or a sibling to reach out to when they need help. Having a strong safety net can help young adults get back on their feet when they experience hardship or distress. This security can allow young adults to learn from their mistakes and navigate their adult life with ease. The article suggests helping youth aging out of care develop a good support network of friends, caregivers, social workers, foster parents, mentors, and other trusted adults.

    To learn more about how youth exiting care can maintain financial stability and security as they enter independent living, read the article "Financial Empowerment for Youth Who Age Out of Foster Care."


  • The Experiences of Older Youth in and Aged Out of Foster Care During COVID-19

    The Experiences of Older Youth in and Aged Out of Foster Care During COVID-19

    COVID-19 has had a large impact on all levels of society. It has exposed weaknesses in systems and exacerbated disparities among the most vulnerable. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on older youth in foster care and those who have recently aged out. This population often has intersecting vulnerabilities and too often lack concrete and social supports, resulting in them struggling with their well-being and security.

    The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research released a report, The Experiences of Older Youth In & Aged Out of Foster Care During COVID-19, that explores the experiences of older youth in and who had recently aged out of foster care during COVID-19 and seeks to develop actionable solutions to improve the well-being of this population. The development of the questions for the study was guided by a poll from FosterClub and outcomes from the National Youth in Transition Database survey. The report discuses survey responses from almost 300 youth about their experiences with housing, employment, food and economic security, physical and mental health, and social connections over the course of 1 month during the pandemic.

    The survey found that COVID-19 had a negative impact for half or more of participants on housing, finances, food security, employment, educational progress, and mental health. The center used these results to inform practice and policy recommendations that would contribute to improving the well-being, safety, and health of these youth, including the following:

    • Ensure older youth in foster care stay housed and connected to services and caring adults
    • Connect youth in foster care with professionals and other caring adults to provide emotional and material support as well as reliable information
    • Ensure youth have access to assistance programs and distribute concrete resources

    The center recommended five actions for child welfare agencies to take:

    • Ensure older youth in foster care are connected to caring adults.
    • Increase the frequency of virtual visitation with friends and family to strengthen relationships.
    • Ensure older youth have access to the internet through smartphones or computers.
    • Allow for flexibility in foster care stipends to ensure an adequate pool of foster homes during a crisis.
    • Create an emergency response plan.

    The report includes a literature review, discussion of results, and additional recommendations.


  • Education and Skills Training May Ease the Transition to Adulthood for Youth Exiting Care

    Education and Skills Training May Ease the Transition to Adulthood for Youth Exiting Care

    Attaining an education and obtaining employment play an important role in the transition to adulthood for most young people. This is especially important for youth in foster care. Compared with their peers who have not been involved with child welfare, youth in care often face lower levels of educational attainment and higher levels of unemployment or underemployment.

    According to a recent article from Child Trends, youth who receive educational aid and employment skills training, as well as other needed services and supports, are more likely to achieve their educational and employment goals. The article discusses findings from a recent National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) report to Congress showing that young people transitioning out of foster care at certain time points (ages 17, 19, and 21) reported low rates of employment and educational attainment. Based on these NYTD findings, researchers at Child Trends analyzed how employment and education outcomes are connected over time using the same time points. They found that three-quarters of young people who received educational aid were connected to education and/or employment at all three time points, compared with 41 percent of respondents who did not receive educational aid. In addition, 59 percent of youth who reported receiving employment skills training were connected to better outcomes at all three time points, compared with 47 percent of young people who did not report receiving employment skills training. The article also emphasizes how education and employment attainment can ease the transition to adulthood and boost outcomes for youth exiting foster care.

    To learn more about the NYTD study and the Child Trends analysis, read the article "Education and Skills Training May Ease Transition to Adulthood for Young People Involved in Foster Care."

    Recent Issues

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    Spotlight on Youth, Authentic Youth Engagement, and Lived Experience

  • June 2024

    Spotlight on Reunification

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News From the Children's Bureau

Read a report about a survey conducted by Child Welfare Information Gateway to find out how child welfare professionals, legal professionals, and social work students access and disseminate child welfare information as well as a brief listing of the latest updates to the Children's Bureau website.

Training and Technical Assistance Updates

We feature a new communications guide that aims to help improve the way child welfare agencies and organizations disseminate information, a learning experience from the Capacity Building Center for States based on the stories of those with lived experience with the child welfare system, and a brief listing of the latest updates from the Children's Bureau's technical assistance partners.

Child Welfare Research

We highlight a report on child maltreatment and the response to it during the COVID-19 pandemic and a brief that discusses the intersection of child welfare and human trafficking.

  • Foster Care Runaway Episodes and Human Trafficking

    Foster Care Runaway Episodes and Human Trafficking

    Evidence continues to emerge to support the relationship between running away from foster care and sex trafficking victimization. There are promising programs and approaches to reduce the risk of a youth running away and their subsequent risk of being trafficked. The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, published a brief that summarizes and expands on a 2019 report to Congress that covers the child welfare system's response to child sex trafficking. It discusses some of the possible reasons that youth run from care, statistics of those who run, factors to consider when looking at the numbers, and evidence about the correlation between youth in foster care running from care and sex trafficking victimization.

    Taking findings across multiple studies, the brief finds that there are several factors that contribute to a youth's risk of running away, including age, sex, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and others. However, there are also factors that decrease runaway behavior, such as placement in a family-like setting. There are several promising evidence-informed approaches to preventing and reducing the risk of youth running from care. The brief highlights two research-informed programs—Behavior Analysis Services Program and Children and Residential Experiences. Both programs resulted in reductions in runaway incidence rates. 

    To learn more, read Examining the Link: Foster Care Runaway Episodes and Human Trafficking.

  • Using Data to Understand Trends in Maltreatment and the Response to It During COVID-19

    Using Data to Understand Trends in Maltreatment and the Response to It During COVID-19

    COVID-19 has created circumstances that have increased many families' stress levels, such as stay-at-home orders; job loss; or other health, economic, or social stressors. There is also a concern that children being home from school diminishes their exposure to adults who might detect and report maltreatment and there will be a spike in reports once they return to school. A Chapin Hall issue brief used data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System, and other sources to analyze trends and respond to concerns of a surge in maltreatment reports that could overwhelm the child welfare system once children and youth return to school full time.

    Based on monthly maltreatment report data from 2018, the researchers determined that hotline reports from education personnel typically return to their typical levels each fall when children return to school rather than increase to higher than typical levels. They also acknowledge, though, that there is a higher risk of child maltreatment during the pandemic and that additional community-based concrete supports may be needed. The data analyzed in this report led to the creation of the Latent Event Simulator—a tool that can be used to help plan system responses.

    The issue brief also includes recommendations for adaptive system changes, including the following:

    • Refine child maltreatment categories to distinguish and address poverty-related neglect from child endangerment or abuse.
    • Broaden the array of community-based supports and partner with families directly.
    • Leverage technology to improve access to needed services and supports.
    • Create alternative pathways to enhance the ways in which mandated reporters can support families.
    • Expand the responsibility for child and family well-being beyond the child welfare system.

    Read the Chapin Hall issue brief, COVID-19 and Child Welfare: Using Data to Understand Trends in Maltreatment and Response, to learn more.


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.

  • Engaging Families in Congregate Care

    Engaging Families in Congregate Care

    Written by the Capacity Building Center for States

    Engaging and empowering families as partners and decision-makers has the potential to improve child welfare quality and outcomes (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2016). While family engagement is a valued practice in child welfare and has steadily increased over time, the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) emphasizes the importance of family connections across the child welfare continuum and establishes a set of engagement requirements for qualified residential treatment programs (QRTPs). To create a family engagement culture, programs should reach out to families, include them in their child's treatment, and provide 6 months of family-based supports after discharge (Children's Bureau, 2018).

    The literature makes a strong case for this approach. Family engagement in congregate care settings is linked to shorter stays in care and increased reunification (Hess, 2003). Children and youth who have frequent contact with their families adjust more easily to out-of-home care, experience less depression and increased well-being, have an increased sense of normalcy, and have fewer behavioral challenges (McWey et al., 2010).

    The information and tips below are adapted from the Capacity Building Center for States' forthcoming publication, Congregate Care in the Age of Family First: Family Engagement, which is designed to help state agencies, QRTPs, and other child welfare stakeholders understand the family engagement requirements of the FFPSA and thoughtfully plan for meaningful partnerships with families and youth in residential treatment programs.

    Engaging Families in Congregate Care

    Child welfare agencies can help QRTPs meet FFPSA requirements and meaningfully engage families throughout the course of treatment. They consider how QRTPs engage families along the following touch points:

    • During initial contact: At the time of admission, families may feel uncertain, anxious, exhausted, and afraid. Staff members with lived experience, sometimes referred to as professional parent partners, can help a family feel welcome.
      • Do families have the opportunity to tell their story, ask questions, and learn about next steps without being overwhelmed?
      • Are staff focused on what it will take for the child or youth to return home?
    • During treatment: Consistent connections to family throughout a stay in congregate care can improve treatment outcomes and prepare families for a successful reunification (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2016). QRTPs need to have clear, consistent guidelines for partnering with families in the day-to-day care of children and youth.
      • Are families engaged as partners and decision-makers?
      • Is there thoughtful preparation for family visits and clinical support afterward to help families and youth process their emotions?
      • Are there opportunities for concrete skill building to facilitate a smooth transition home?
    • During discharge and aftercare: Discharge planning should begin at the time of admission. Staff should consider what will help a family feel hopeful and excited about reunification. Families should have a clear understanding of next steps and expectations for the transition home.
      • Do staff clearly communicate with families about the discharge and aftercare processes?
      • Are families connected to supports in their community?
      • Do families have the opportunity to inform aftercare service delivery?

    Planning for Family Engagement

    Engaging families in congregate care requires vision and organizational commitment highlighted in policy and practice, along with workforce development.

    Articulating a Vision and Organizational Commitment

    Creating a vision for family engagement in collaboration with youth and families sets the tone for authentic partnership.

    • Consider how congregate care leaders model and communicate the vision and commitment to family engagement. For example, do they encourage youth and families to participate in hiring, training, and organizational policy development?
    • Has the program budgeted sufficient funds to support family engagement activities? Consider compensation for family and youth consultants at agency and system levels as well as tangible supports at the case level such as transportation and technology for family visits.

    Building Workforce Readiness

    Supporting meaningful family engagement through staffing and clinical practice embeds family-centered practice and support for authentic partnership.

    • Does the program use equitable and inclusive hiring practices that result in a diverse workforce that is representative of the families served?
    • Does the program offer family-centered training and skill-building opportunities?
    • Does the program provide clear expectations that hold staff accountable for authentic family engagement?

    Thoughtful planning for family engagement takes work, but by partnering with each other—and with families—agencies and QRTPs can increase the likelihood of a more positive experience and improved child and family outcomes.

    Want to Learn More?

    The Center for States' forthcoming 2021 series, Congregate Care in the Age of Family First, will offer more strategies for implementing FFPSA provisions in a congregate care setting. (Visit the Center for State's website for updates). Agencies can also work with the Center for States to develop and implement successful approaches to family engagement. Visit the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative Liaisons webpage to find your state's tailored services liaison.


    Children's Bureau. (2018). Information memorandum: ACYF-CB-IM-18-02. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families.

    Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Family engagement: Partnering with families to improve child welfare outcomes. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau.

    Hess, P. (2003, October). Visiting between children in care and their families: A look at current policy. The National Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning. 

    McWey, L., Acock, A., & Porter, B. (2010). The impact of continued contact with biological parents upon the mental health of children in foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 1338-1345.

  • Using a Trauma-Informed Approach With Parents of Color in Family Court

    Using a Trauma-Informed Approach With Parents of Color in Family Court

    Shifting to more trauma-informed practices in family court has been shown to improve outcomes for families. A report presented on the Rise website details the importance of using a trauma-informed approach in working with child welfare-involved parents, especially families of color, who may have had negative experiences with courts that resulted in systemic distrust.

    Intended for family court officers and child welfare professionals, the report provides introductory information on a trauma-informed approach and the impact of language in the courtroom. At its core, a trauma-informed approach involves a shift away from asking "What is wrong with you?" to asking "What happened to you?" Principles of this approach include safety, collaboration, and empowerment.

    The report emphasizes the importance of using this approach when working with families of color. Most parents who get involved with family courts in urban areas are people of color from the lower socioeconomic strata of American society. As such, many of these parents have faced personal trauma, community violence, societal racism, and exclusion from economic opportunity. As court settings often foster tense and confrontational encounters, systems that are not trauma-informed run the risk of retraumatizing these parents.

    In addition to an overview of trauma-informed approaches, the report includes the following:

    • Definitions of key terms, including shared trauma, a relatively new term that refers to a collective traumatic reality that is shared universally, such as a pandemic
    • Recommendations for trauma-informed practices that best support families during a period of shared trauma
    • Input from parents on their experiences with family courts
    • A case vignette that compares traditional language to trauma-informed language

    Read the full report, Supporting Families of Color: How Racial and Complex Trauma Affect Parents of Color Navigating Family Court During the Time of COVID and Beyond, 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.

  • Tips for Helping Older Children and Teens Adjust to Adoptive Homes

    Tips for Helping Older Children and Teens Adjust to Adoptive Homes

    When integrating an older child into their home, adoptive families can use several strategies to ease the transition. While necessities such as food, shelter, and education are all important, there are various other areas of focus that can help an older child or teen adjust to their new home.

    The AdoptUSKids article "How to Help an Older Child or Teen Adjust to Your Home" shares the following tips for helping adopted children acclimate:

    • Be trustworthy. Because adopted children might not have previously had trustworthy adults in their lives, it is important that new adoptive parents tell the truth, behave predictably, and admit when they make mistakes.
    • Communicate expectations. Clearly explain household rules and think about making changes that will help the new child feel more comfortable.
    • Encourage honesty. Families can promote positive communication by encouraging children to express their thoughts and feelings. When listening, parents should respond without judgement and without taking the child's words personally.
    • Give them alone time. Alone time can give a child a chance to relax and express their emotions in private.
    • Be open-minded and accepting. It's important to prioritize relationship-building before attempting to correct bad habits, such as inappropriate language. 
    • Let them be a kid. Some children who enter the child welfare system have faced more responsibilities and hardships that other kids their age. New families should be aware of this and parent to their child's needs, not their age.
    • Serve familiar food and make food available. A child might have eaten different foods or had limited access to food before they were adopted.
    • Plan for a good night's sleep. Some children might not be used to having their own room, or they might have certain bedtime rituals that are comforting.
    • Provide opportunities for therapy. There are various group, family, and individual therapy options for adopted children that families can discuss with their social worker.

    To learn more, read "How to Help an Older Child or Teen Adjust to Your Home."  

  • iFoster Partners With Learn to Be to Offer Free Tutoring

    iFoster Partners With Learn to Be to Offer Free Tutoring

    iFoster, a nonprofit that serves children in foster care, recently partnered with Learn to Be, an organization that provides one-on-one virtual tutoring for students, to provide free tutoring for its members. The free, virtual program is accessible via a Chromebook, laptop, or desktop. To sign up, a caregiver, social worker, or someone familiar with the child can fill out an enrollment form for the program. Most students are matched with a tutor within 24 hours. iFoster prioritizes referrals made by and on behalf of its members. However, signing up for a membership is free.

    Since the partnership launched in November, iFoster members have received almost 3,000 minutes of free tutoring in various subjects.

    For more information, visit the iFoster website or contact iFoster at 855.936.7837 or


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.