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February 2008Vol. 9, No. 1Spotlight on Family Engagement

Issue Spotlight

Issue Spotlight

  • Healthy Families America: Positive Impacts of Home Visiting

    Healthy Families America: Positive Impacts of Home Visiting

    For 15 years, Healthy Families America (HFA) programs around the country have promoted positive parenting and the prevention of child maltreatment through home visits to new and expectant parents who may be at risk for child abuse. The HFA initiative has grown to include programs in more than 450 communities. While there is a great deal of flexibility in implementation, all HFA programs adhere to a series of critical elements involving service initiation, service content, and staff characteristics.

    A recent article explored the effectiveness of HFA programs by reviewing 33 evaluations of HFA sites, including 15 studies with comparison groups. Despite the diversity of the sites and the variability in implementation, program quality, and family risk level, overall findings were positive for the impact of the home visiting program. HFA sites showed improvements in parenting attitudes, the home environment, birth outcomes, maternal depression, and in many cases, child maltreatment rates. Data from two large-scale programs illustrated the benefits of communitywide and statewide HFA programs.

    "Healthy Families America Effectiveness: A Comprehensive Review of Outcomes," by Kathryn Harding, Joseph Galano, Joanne Martin, Lee Huntington, and Cynthia Schellenbach, was published in the Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, Volume 34, and is available from Haworth Press:

    Related Items

    • For more information about Healthy Families America, including access to the new self-assessment tool, visit:
    • Children's Bureau Express wrote about the Healthy Families New York site, which was recognized by RAND as a "Promising Program That Works," in "Recognition for Healthy Families New York" (April 2006).
    • The Children's Bureau recently awarded 5-year grants to three agencies to provide nurse home visitation to low-income first-time mothers at risk for child abuse and neglect. The Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic in Toppenish, WA, the Nurses for Newborns Foundation in St. Louis, MO, and the Spokane Regional Health District in Spokane, WA, will implement nurse home visitation in combination with healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood curricula.
  • Engaging Families Through Intensive Family Preservation Services

    Engaging Families Through Intensive Family Preservation Services

    A new report illustrates the effectiveness of Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) in preventing out-of-home placements of children. Researchers reviewed both IFPS and a variation for children already in out-of-home care, Intensive Family Reunification Services (IFRS), using case-level data from State or private contract agencies in seven States.

    The IFPS model includes frequent face-to-face contact with families in their homes or communities, as well as small caseloads, rapid response, 24/7 availability, time-limited services, and provision of both clinical and concrete (e.g., financial) services. While there were some variations among the sites and some differences in the types of families served by programs, all the sites showed a high degree of fidelity to the IFPS model and delivered "intensive" services.

    Researchers found that the IFPS programs achieved a 93 percent placement prevention rate (children living with a biological or adoptive parent or relative, with 85 percent living with the biological parent). Family preservation was associated with increased parenting skills and family functioning and was not dependent on the type of maltreatment.

    The reunification rate for families that received IFRS was 69 percent (children reunited with biological or adoptive parents, relatives, or guardians). In the case of IFRS, race and maltreatment type appeared to be factors in the rate of reunification. Child well-being and readiness for reunification were two factors associated with successful reunification.

    These results show promise for child welfare agencies seeking new strategies for achieving permanency and well-being for children and families.

    The report, An Examination of Intensive Family Preservation Services, was prepared by Raymond S. Kirk and Diane P. Griffith of Independent Living Resources, Inc., in cooperation with Priscilla Martens of the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN). Funding was provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report is available on the NFPN website:

  • Engaging Dads: The National QIC on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System

    Engaging Dads: The National QIC on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System

    Fifth in a series of articles on the Children's Bureau's Quality Improvement Centers

    How are child welfare outcomes affected by nonresident fathers' involvement in their children's lives? This question is the focus of one of the newest Children's Bureau Quality Improvement Centers, the National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC NRF). In 2006, the Children's Bureau funded the American Humane Association and its partners, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and the National Fatherhood Initiative, to develop and implement the QIC NRF.

    The QIC's first year was spent conducting a national needs assessment to determine the current state of nonresident father involvement in the child welfare system. Research—including findings from the first round of the Child and Family Services Reviews—showed that many children are not living with their fathers when they enter foster care, and a tenuous father-child relationship may become even more difficult to maintain once a child is placed in out-of-home care. Five substantive areas for research by the QIC NRF were noted:

    • Identification of nonresident fathers
    • Location of fathers' residence or workplace
    • Contact between child welfare systems and nonresident fathers
    • Engagement of fathers by working with them or offering services
    • Interagency collaborations that make identification, location, contact, and engagement possible

    The QIC NRF explored father involvement from three perspectives: social work/child welfare, the courts, and private provider practice, with special attention to cross-system issues involving child welfare, child support enforcement, and judicial and other systems. A number of reasons for noninvolvement of nonresident dads with their children were found by the QIC NRF, including:

    • Gaps in policy, procedures, or professional training that particularly affect contacting and engaging nonresident fathers
    • Inequitable treatment of fathers and paternal kin by child welfare and judicial systems compared to the perceived essential role of the mothers
    • Personal, relationship, and material and economic barriers encountered by the fathers

    During 2007, as a result of their needs assessment and research, QIC staff compiled an extensive literature review on nonresident dads and the child welfare system. In addition, staff prepared for Phase II, which will involve administering grants to fund demonstration projects on nonresident father involvement. The grants will be awarded early in 2008, so that the funded projects can begin to determine how the involvement of nonresident fathers impacts the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in the child welfare system. One of the activities in progress to support the work of the grantees is an additional literature review on male help-seeking behaviors.

    During this next phase, which will take place over 4 years, the QIC NRF will provide technical assistance to the demonstration projects and conduct cross-site evaluations to assess outcomes. The QIC NRF will continue to develop knowledge and a network among the grantees and other agencies and service providers, courts, and the Children's Bureau so information can be shared easily and disseminated quickly.

    To find out more about the QIC NRF, its initial findings, and the upcoming demonstration grants, visit the website:

    Or, contact Principal Investigator Sonia Velazquez at or Project Director Karen Kessen at

  • Involving Families in the CFSRs

    Involving Families in the CFSRs

    Outcomes from the first round of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) have helped States extend family engagement efforts beyond case planning, and some States are now engaging families for their input into agency policy and management. A November teleconference sponsored by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI) featured presenters from North Carolina and Oregon discussing strategies used in their States to involve children and families in the CFSR process. The presenters outlined promising practices for involving families in such areas as assessing agency performance and planning program improvements. Associate directors from the NRCOI and the National Resource Center on Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning also participated.

    The NRCOI has made this presentation available on its website as an audio file for MP3 players. Also included are links to the handouts used in the presentation, including manuals, information packets, PowerPoint slides/presentations, and more. Visit the NRCOI website to access these materials. Scroll down the page to the November 29 presentation at this link:

  • Resources for Group Decision-Making

    Resources for Group Decision-Making

    Family engagement is increasingly recognized as an essential ingredient for the safety, permanence, and well-being of children involved with the child welfare system. A number of strategies for engaging families involve group decision-making through team meetings or family conferences. While team approaches vary and each has its own set of techniques, all stress the importance of including family and kin as partners who can contribute to finding the best safety and permanency solutions for children.

    Recent resources and articles on different types of group decision-making include:

  • Family to Family: Implementation Update

    Family to Family: Implementation Update

    One of the most longstanding programs to endorse family engagement in child welfare is Annie E. Casey's Family to Family model, which promotes a family-centered, neighborhood-based network of care for children by specifying certain organizational and practice changes for child welfare agencies. Begun in 1992, the Family to Family initiative has been implemented in more than 60 locations in 19 States.

    A recent report drew on interviews and focus groups with agency staff, community partners, and families at five sites to explore challenges and solutions experienced in implementing the Family to Family initiative. The results are discussed in terms of the four core components of Family to Family:

    • Team decision-making—Respondents pointed out the benefits of team decision-making, including greater engagement of families, more knowledge of and access to resources to support children and families, and shared responsibility for placement decisions. Challenges were related to the time involved, logistics, and follow through.
    • Community partnerships—Agency leadership and respectful dialog were cited as the two factors that promoted good community partnerships. A number of respondents noted that agencies need to target partners who actually live in the community where children and families are being served.
    • Resource family recruitment and support—Respondents noted that resource families, birth families, and agency staff worked together as a team as a result of the Family to Family initiative.
    • Self-evaluation—Staff cited some difficulties in involving community partners in collecting data, although most reported positive results when sharing data with community partners.

    While each site had issues unique to its population, there were common challenges and solutions that cut across the all locations. Some of the common strategies for implementing Family to Family included strong leadership, community-based practice, and a focus on developing relationships. As Family to Family continues to evolve, the four core strategies will become more integrated with each other; this is apparent in sites where Family to Family has been in place the longest. This integration should help agencies and stakeholders take the initiative to a new level of service for engaging and serving children and families.

    To read the full report, Implementing Family to Family, by Marno Batterson et al. and published by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, visit: (PDF - 514 KB)

    To read more about the Family to Family initiative and to access related resources, visit the Annie E. Casey website:

  • Mentoring Kinship Caregivers-An Interview With Tiffany Hesser

    Mentoring Kinship Caregivers-An Interview With Tiffany Hesser

    The Caring Communities Demonstration Project in Clark County, NV, includes a kinship care program with some special features. Anchored in a systems of care approach, the program operates out of neighborhood family service centers that serve as the workplace for staff and specialists from a number of systems and disciplines. A relatively unique component is the use of kinship liaisons to mentor kinship caregivers. These liaisons are former or current kinship caregivers who have been hired and trained by the Department of Family Services (DFS) to link kinship caregivers with important resources, provide networking opportunities, and help support stable placements for children in care.

    Clark County's experience with kinship caregivers was recognized by Casey Family Programs in 2004 when the county was selected to participate in the Casey Breakthrough Series Collaborative to support kinship care. This involved the rapid testing and evaluation of new practices for supporting kinship caregivers and their children.

    Children's Bureau Express (CBX) spoke with Tiffany Hesser, Project Director, Caring Communities, about the county's experiences in developing the kinship support program and being part of the Casey Breakthrough Series Collaborative.

    CBX: How is your Children's Bureau Systems of Care grant helping you support kinship caregivers in Clark County?

    Hesser: When we applied for the grant in 2003, kinship caregivers in our area were a population with a great deal of unmet need. Unlike foster parents who choose to take in children and receive training and prepare their homes, most grandparents and other kinship caregivers aren't prepared to take in children. The call they may receive in the middle of the night to pick up a child is usually a surprise, and they may need a number of resources and a great deal of support. This support hasn't always been available to them through the DFS.

    As a result of the grant, the mentoring program was begun in 2005, and since that time, we've refined the program and made the kinship liaisons paid DFS staff members. These four staff all have personal experience as kinship caregivers; that experience is what makes them valuable mentors to other kinship caregivers. Our liaisons contact the kinship caregivers, mail out packets of resource information, and explain their roles. Sometimes, a caregiver might not choose to draw on that support until a crisis arises. In other cases, caregivers are looking for a sympathetic listener who can understand what they're going through. Our liaisons are able to offer all those levels of support. That's part of the systems of care individualized approach. They can even explain and assist with the licensing procedure, if a caregiver is interested in becoming licensed.

    CBX: Tell us about some of the stakeholder involvement in Caring Communities.

    Hesser: We were very lucky because, at the time we received the grant, the University of Nevada was already in the middle of a study of kinship caregiver needs in the State. We were able to use the information from that needs assessment to do our initial planning. We also had the benefit of the knowledge of a number of stakeholders who were involved in children's mental health systems of care. Some of that involvement carried over to this systems of care grant for child welfare, and some did not. For instance, the use of neighborhood centers for staff was an idea that came from mental health systems of care.

    Our kinship caregivers—both our liaisons and our families—have been involved stakeholders from the beginning. They are involved at every level. We have kinship caregivers review every brochure, resource guide, and evaluation tool we produce, and they sit on every committee and attend all our meetings. At times, for instance, during teleconferences with other systems of care grantees, some of the kinship caregivers have been reluctant to speak out, but we've convinced them of the value of their stories and the importance of sharing their experiences.

    CBX: How do the kinship liaisons function as part of the DFS inhouse staff?

    Hesser: It has been overwhelmingly positive to have the kinship liaisons work for DFS. Regular staff have come to realize their value and to regard the kinship liaisons as a resource for information and for referrals. And they're busy! Our most recent data show that the four kinship liaisons received approximately 500 relative referrals in 6 months. The kinship liaisons are also good at retaining the resource families that we need so badly. This focus on retention has become one of the most important parts of their job.

    CBX: Clark County was 1 of 25 teams that participated as part of the Casey Breakthrough Series Collaborative on Supporting Kinship Care. What did you learn from that experience?

    Hesser: Being part of the Casey series was great, because it gave us permission to go ahead and try lots of different strategies on a small scale and in a short timeframe. At the same time that we were working on the long-term systems of care approach, we also had the freedom to try some of the short-term "fixes" that were part of the Casey approach. For instance, we had the idea of using the National Crime Information Center to run criminal background checks on potential kinship caregivers beyond traditional work hours. Using this database allowed relatives to receive clearances and take children into their homes more quickly. We also enhanced our efforts at "diligent search," that is, the systematic search for relatives who could provide homes for children coming into care.

    CBX: What do you see for the future of kinship liaisons?

    Hesser: While we're just beginning our evaluation, we know anecdotally that kinship caregivers in our county have more support and better access to resources as a result of our program. We're now focusing on measuring and reporting outcomes that demonstrate this. Hiring kinship liaisons as DFS staff has worked well, and I'd like to see them continue their focus on retaining kinship caregiver families. Supporting and retaining these families will always be important for the permanency of children.

    Tiffany Hesser can be reached at

    The Breakthrough Series Collaborative report, Supporting Kinship Care: Promising Practices and Lessons Learned, is available on the Casey Family Programs website: (PDF - 839 KB)

  • How Systems of Care Grantees Engage Families

    How Systems of Care Grantees Engage Families

    A new series of issue briefs reports on findings from the nine grantees participating in the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration initiative. Developed by the National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center (NTAEC), A Closer Look debuts with a report on "Family Involvement in Public Child Welfare Driven Systems of Care." The issue brief draws on insights from the grantees to address the challenges of and strategies for involving families in meaningful ways in such areas as agency policy development and management.

    Four challenges to family-agency partnership were identified by the grantees:

    • Agency readiness to partner with families
    • Training and professional development for families
    • Recruitment and retention of family partners
    • Funding

    The report summarizes multiple strategies employed by the grantees to overcome each challenge. Some of the suggestions include working with parent advocacy organizations, developing mentoring programs, partnering with faith-based organizations, and providing partial reimbursements for parents. In accord with their systems of care focus, the grantees' strategies emphasize collaboration across many groups.

    Future issues of A Closer Look will explore grantees' findings in such areas as strengths-based care, interagency collaboration, cultural competency, and accountability. The series will be posted on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website. The grantees and NTAEC are supported under the Children's Bureau discretionary grant program.

    Recent Issues

  • July/August 2024

    Spotlight on Youth, Authentic Youth Engagement, and Lived Experience

    Spotlight on Youth, Authentic Youth Engagement, and Lived Experience

  • June 2024

    Spotlight on Reunification

    Spotlight on Reunification

News From the Children's Bureau


  • New Spanish Adoption Campaign Launches

    New Spanish Adoption Campaign Launches

    A new Spanish-language public service advertisement (PSA) campaign to encourage prospective parents to adopt from the U.S. foster care system was recently launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, in partnership with the Collaboration to AdoptUsKids and the Ad Council. As with other PSAs developed by the Ad Council, the ads will run in television, print, and radio formats using donated advertising time and space.

    The new PSAs highlight the emotional and psychological rewards of adoption from foster care by showcasing everyday, yet special, family moments. The tagline of the campaign is "Completa una vida. Completa la tuya. (Complete a life. Complete your own.)" The ads emphasize that families or individuals can achieve a sense of fulfillment by adopting a child from the foster care system.

    Of the more than 114,000 children currently available for adoption, 15 percent are Hispanic/Latino. The campaign's goal is to raise the awareness of Spanish-speaking prospective parents about the children, teens, and sibling groups in foster care who need permanent, loving homes. The ads refer to a website in Spanish, operated by AdoptUsKids, that offers information on how to become an adoptive parent and features children available for adoption across the United States. A Spanish-language toll-free number is also provided. For more information in Spanish, visit or call 1.877.ADOPTE1 (1.877.236.7831).

    To view the PSAs and read a press release about this campaign, visit:

    To see materials from all the Ad Council campaigns focusing on adoption from foster care, visit:

  • Be a Grant Reviewer (Students, too!)

    Be a Grant Reviewer (Students, too!)

    Each spring, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recruits reviewers and panel chairpersons for its grant programs, including those administered by the Children's Bureau. Grant reviewers convene to receive training and then review grant applications.

    To find out more about becoming a grant reviewer and to apply online, visit the ACYF grant website:

    The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recruits undergraduate and graduate students to serve on panels that review and make recommendations on the award of Federal grants. Students selected to serve on the grant review panels spend 1 week reading, evaluating, discussing, and making recommendations on grant proposals. They work with other panelists from a variety of backgrounds related to helping children and families. Students who are selected to be reviewers receive compensation for their time, as well as valuable experience in the Federal grant review process.

    For more information, download the ACF Student Grant Reviewer brochure:

  • New Hot Topics for the NRCFCPPP

    New Hot Topics for the NRCFCPPP

    The National Resource Center on Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning (NRCFCPPP) recently added new webpages to its extensive list of hot topics. The webpage on Latino child welfare issues includes links to general resources and research, resources from States, a bibliography, a PowerPoint presentation, and a website.

    The webpage on disproportionate representation of children and youth of color lists a variety of resources on this topic, including a number of reports on promising practices and State efforts to address disproportionality.

  • Comment Period Opens for AFCARS Changes

    Comment Period Opens for AFCARS Changes

    The Children's Bureau has published a notice of proposed rulemaking for implementing improvements in the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). The changes will affect the reporting populations, data structure, elements, compliance determination, and penalty provisions. Public comments will be accepted until March 11. For more information, visit: (link no longer available)

  • Primer Hands On-Child Welfare

    Primer Hands On-Child Welfare

    The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI) recently introduced comprehensive training materials to help stakeholders build systems of care for children and families in the child welfare system. Primer Hands On—Child Welfare is based on the premise that child welfare can provide leadership in engaging partners (including families themselves) to build a system of strategic alliances and provide wraparound services that meet the individualized needs of children and families.

    The training materials include a skill-building curriculum, trainer's notes, PowerPoint slides, and a network for peer support and technical assistance. They incorporate real-world examples, a case method approach using system-building scenarios, peer exchange and teamwork, and ongoing coaching and support to build a network of systems of care strategists. Training can take place over 2 full days or over a longer period organized around 10 modules:

    1. Purpose and Organization of Primer Hands On—Child Welfare
    2. Context: System-Building Definitions, History, Values, Principles, and Characteristics
    3. Process and Structure in System Building
    4. Cross-Cutting, Nonnegotiable Characteristics: Family/Youth Partnership and Cultural/Linguistic Competence
    5. Planning, Governance, and System Management
    6. Outreach and Engagement, Organized Pathways to Service/Supports; Screening, Assessment, and Evaluation; and Service/Support Planning
    7. Service Array and Financing
    8. Provider Network, Natural Supports; Purchasing and Contracting
    9. Care Management, Utilization, and Quality Management
    10. Discussion of Other Functions (e.g., Human Resource Development, External and Internal Communication, Training and Technical Assistance, Listserv)

    Flexibility in the curriculum allows jurisdictions to draw on the materials to meet their specific needs. For instance, a jurisdiction may use a portion of the curriculum to develop a child welfare system of care work plan for addressing a specific population's needs. States and Tribes interested in building their capacity to use systems of care may also access training and technical assistance from the Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance Network by first contacting their Regional Office for approval.

    The curriculum was written by Sheila A. Pires, in partnership with Katherine J. Lazear and Lisa Conlan, and sponsored by the NRCOI, University of Southern Maine, in partnership with the National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health, Georgetown University, and the National System of Care Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center, ICF International, with funding from the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Primer Hands On—Child Welfare is available on the NRCOI website:

  • Strengthening Child Welfare Supervision

    Strengthening Child Welfare Supervision

    The fall 2007 issue of Child Welfare Matters focuses on how agencies can support and strengthen the role of supervisors in child welfare. The lead article outlines key steps agencies can take to train and support supervisors, provides examples of these strategies, and notes some of the lessons learned about supervision from the first round of CFSRs. Other articles explain how the National Resource Centers can provide agencies with training and technical expertise in the area of supervision and discuss lessons learned about structured clinical supervision. A column on training system news makes its debut in this issue.

    Child Welfare Matters is a publication of the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement: (PDF - 388 KB)

    Related Item

    For more information on supervision, see "Training Supervisors to Retain Workers" in this issue's News From the Children's Bureau section.

  • SACWIS Technical Assistance Materials Now Available

    SACWIS Technical Assistance Materials Now Available

    The Children's Bureau Division of State Systems has posted webcasts, webinars, PowerPoint presentations, and documents to help States with their Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) projects and other information technology projects that support child welfare. Highlights include the following:

    • The Child Welfare Technology Training Resources and Materials page of the State Information Technology Consortium website contains an archive of child welfare trainings going back to 2003, as well as webcasts on a wide range of information technology topics. If your State is planning a new development effort or building a new SACWIS module, be sure to check out either the online course or webcast on "Getting IT Right and Keeping It Right: Processes, Strategies, and Tools to Develop and Manage Requirements." Testing newly built software? Check out "Testing 1, 2, 3, . . . Managing Software Testing," which is full of tips on thorough testing.
    • The SACWIS Resources page of the National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology website includes materials presented on the national SACWIS Managers' Conference calls from March 2004 to the present and covering a wide range of topics, including CFSR data indicators, exchanging data with State courts, and the Chafee National Youth in Transition Database.
    • The New SACWIS Managers Page of the Division of State Systems is a great starting point and orientation for new staff as well as SACWIS Managers.
    • You can learn about upcoming trainings and SACWIS-related meetings at the SACWIS Meetings and Conferences page. If you are unable to attend an upcoming training, check back as this page is regularly updated with links to training materials offered at past trainings.

    After you have checked out the highlights, feel free to browse the other SACWIS offerings at each site.

  • AIA Program Guides on Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS

    AIA Program Guides on Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS

    A new publication series from the National Abandoned Infants Assistance (AIA) Program focuses on challenges facing families affected by parental substance abuse and/or HIV/AIDS. Each guide emphasizes a family-centered approach designed to strengthen families and help parents play active, fruitful roles in their children's lives.

    The first AIA program guide, Assessing and Supporting Parenting in Families Affected by Substance Abuse and HIV, provides child welfare professionals with the tools for assessing, supporting, and strengthening child-parent relationships. The guide identifies parenting-related challenges and provides guidelines to build successful relationships with clients. Also included are strategies to assess parenting skills, information on parent-child relationships, and methods to implement parenting intervention and safety planning strategies. The guide also includes an annotated list of assessment tools and curricula used by AIA projects.

    To download a copy of the first program guide, visit: (PDF - 1,540 KB)

  • 2007 Adoption Excellence Awards

    2007 Adoption Excellence Awards

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services honored 15 individuals and organizations with Adoption Excellence Awards in eight different categories recognizing the recipients' contributions to providing stable, permanent homes for our Nation's children in foster care. The awards affirmed the Department's national commitment to rebuilding the lives of the nearly 513,000 children in foster care and achieving permanency for the 114,000 of those who are waiting for adoption.

    The Adoption Excellence Awards were presented at a ceremony on December 12, 2007, during a luncheon at the Children's Bureau's "Fresh Perspectives on Child Welfare Partnerships" conference. This year, awardees were honored in the following categories: increased adoptions of older children, faith-based initiatives, support for adoptive families, individual or family contributions, child welfare system improvement, philanthropy/business contributions, media/public awareness of adoptions from foster care, and decrease in the length of time that children in foster care wait for adoption.

    The sole award in the category of family contributions was presented to Clem and Bettie BellStewart, who are adoptive parents from Virginia. The BellStewarts have a special interest in adopting children with special needs and have created an atmosphere of love and acceptance by providing exceptional care to their six adopted children, ages 1 to 17, all of whom were previously in foster care. Mr. and Mrs. BellStewart, along with all of their children, were at the awards ceremony and acknowledged for their remarkable successes.

    A complete list of the 2007 award recipients from the awards ceremony are available on the Children's Bureau website:

  • States Use CFSR Results to Address Mental Health Care Challenges

    States Use CFSR Results to Address Mental Health Care Challenges

    Most children in the child welfare system have experienced significant trauma and are in need of effective mental health services. A recent study analyzed findings from the first round of the Federal Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) to determine the extent to which mental health issues are addressed in CFSR Final Reports and Program Improvement Plans (PIPs).

    Child and Family Services Reviews, 2001-2004: A Mental Health Analysis includes an overview of the final reports and PIPs of all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The analysis shows that the CFSR process has identified an urgent need for mental health reform. Findings are presented in four sections:

    1. Describes trends related to mental health issues found in the 52 CFSR Final Reports, including service delivery, administration, and management
    2. Describes trends found in the 52 PIPs, including strategies to develop mental health service systems
    3. Summarizes the continuing mental health challenges and opportunities described in the Final Reports and PIPs
    4. Identifies issues for further consideration and study, including cultural competence, provider issues, substance abuse, and family involvement

    The study was commissioned by the Administration for Children and Families and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report was authored by Jan McCarthy, Erika Van Buren, and Marisa Irvine of the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health at Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development and the Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health at the American Institutes for Research. (PDF - 453 KB)

  • Training Supervisors to Retain Workers

    Training Supervisors to Retain Workers

    A partnership between the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) and the University of Iowa School of Social Work has led to a collaborative project aimed at improving the recruitment and retention of qualified child welfare workers. Focusing on the specific needs of Iowa's workforce and the results from the first round of Iowa's Child and Family Services Review, the partners developed trainings and curricula for supervisors, as well as college classes for new and prospective workers.

    Compared with many other States, caseworker turnover in Iowa is relatively low, and there are sufficient applicants when jobs open. Thus, one issue that supervisor training needed to address was how to maintain morale and keep workers creative and engaged in their jobs. Retention of experienced workers remains an issue in Iowa, with a substantial proportion of supervisors planning to retire in the next few years. Another issue addressed by the project was the need for professionally trained workers, since Iowa does not require caseworkers to have a social work degree.

    Drawing on the expertise of a statewide advisory board and input from surveys and focus groups with supervisors in the field, the project staff developed a curriculum for supervisor training that included five modules:

    • Contemporary child welfare supervisory practice
    • Human resources functions of supervisors
    • Case practice supervision
    • Clinical practice supervision
    • Leading positive change during organizational transformation and the supervisor's role in addressing worker stress and safety

    Each module is taught during a 1-to-2 day training, and the trainings are offered in four cohorts for all of the supervisors and administrators in the State. The interactive trainings also give supervisors the welcomed opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with their peers.

    To address the issue of attracting qualified candidates for jobs, project staff worked on developing a child welfare specialization for University of Iowa B.S.W. and M.S.W. students. A class in contemporary child welfare practice was developed and has been taught for several semesters. Two other courses are planned for the final year: a graduate-level course in child welfare supervision and a course in clinical issues in child welfare practice.

    Project staff have planned an ambitious evaluation to measure knowledge, behavior, and organizational climate before and after supervisor trainings. In addition, evaluators are looking at the influence of workplace factors, job stressors, and professional orientation on a supervisors' commitment to child welfare practice.

    By having a positive impact on supervisory skills, the project partners hope to increase worker and supervisor retention and improve the quality of job candidates, which will lead to better outcomes for children and families.

    For more information about the project, contact the project director:
    Miriam Landsman, Ph.D.
    351 North Hall
    University of Iowa
    Iowa City, IA 52242

    The Improving Recruitment and Retention in Public Child Welfare project is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0111, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Developing Models of Effective Child Welfare Staff Recruitment and Retention Training. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.

    Related Items

    For more information on supervision, see "Strengthening Child Welfare Supervision" in this issue's News From the Children's Bureau section.

    An extensive literature review on social work supervision can be found on the website of the Southern Regional Quality Improvement Center for Child Protection: (PDF - 67 KB)

  • Children's Bureau Welcomes New Acting Associate Commissioner

    Children's Bureau Welcomes New Acting Associate Commissioner

    Christine Calpin, former Associate Director of the Child Care Bureau, has joined the Children's Bureau as Acting Associate Commissioner. Ms. Calpin brings extensive experience in child welfare public policy to her new position. Prior to working at the Child Care Bureau, Ms. Calpin served for 4 years on the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means as lead Congressional staffer, where she focused on welfare, child care, and child protection issues. She also worked for 5 years for the Congressional Research Service, specializing in welfare and child protection issues.

    Ms. Calpin assumed her new position in January, taking the reins from Joe Bock, who had served as Acting Associate Commissioner since October when Associate Commissioner Susan Orr accepted a 1-year detail as the Director of the Office of Population Affairs in the Office of Public Health and Science.

  • Nominations for the National Child Welfare Leadership Institute

    Nominations for the National Child Welfare Leadership Institute

    The National Child Welfare Leadership Institute (NCWLI) is seeking nominations for participants. The purpose of the NCWLI is to develop and enhance leadership skills among midlevel managers in public and Tribal child welfare agencies to improve service programs and outcomes for vulnerable children and families in the child welfare system. Each leadership institute includes:

    1. A 5-day residential training event focusing on leadership development
    2. A 3-month transfer-of-learning period that includes technical assistance through e-learning communities
    3. A 3-day training event to discuss progress on change initiatives and to advance implementation skills
    4. A 4-month implementation period during which technical assistance and mentoring from NCWLI staff continue

    Due to a generous grant from the Children's Bureau, costs to participants are limited to transportation to the training events. All other costs, including per diem costs, will be paid by the NCWLI.

    The proposed dates and locations for the 5-day training events are:

    • Philadelphia area: April 13–18
    • Atlanta area: April 27–May 2
    • Denver area: May 11–16
    • Seattle area: June 1–6

    Please see the website for more details and instructions on how to nominate midlevel managers:

    Please send nominations (and any questions) to Dr. Norma Harris at or call 801.581.3822.

  • New! On the Children's Bureau Site

    New! On the Children's Bureau Site

    The Children's Bureau website carries information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, Federal reporting, and much more. The "New on Site" section includes grant announcements, policy announcements, agency information, and recently released publications.

    Recent additions to the site include:

    • Adoption Excellence Awards for 2007
    • IM 07-09: Issued: November 13, 2007. Title IV-E Adoption Assistance State Self-Assessment Tool
    • Child and Family Services Reviews Fact Sheets for Tribal Child Welfare Officials and Substance Abuse Treatment Professionals
    • Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS); Proposed Rule - Proposes numerous improvements to AFCARS data, including changes to the reporting populations, data structure, elements, compliance determination and penalty provisions.

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

Child Welfare Research

Review this months research

  • American Attitudes About Foster Care Adoption

    American Attitudes About Foster Care Adoption

    A new national survey commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption estimates that 48 million Americans have considered adoption from foster care, yet a majority of Americans hold misperceptions about the foster care adoption process and the children who are eligible for adoption.

    The report, National Foster Care Adoption Attitudes Survey, 2007, indicates that two-thirds of those considering foster care adoption are unnecessarily concerned that biological parents can return to claim their children, and nearly half of all Americans mistakenly believe that foster care adoption is expensive.

    Key findings from the survey suggest that:

    • American adults are considering foster care adoption more often than any other type of adoption but hold many misperceptions about the children waiting to be adopted and the foster care adoption process.
    • Approximately 72 percent of American adults have a very favorable opinion of adoption, and 69 percent believe society as a whole should be doing more to encourage foster care adoption.
    • Although 89 percent of Americans are familiar with adoption in general, only 79 percent of Americans are familiar with foster care adoption.

    While there is a large pool of potential adoptive parents who are both familiar with the issue and considering acting (an estimated 48 million adults), 114,000 children still wait to be adopted from the U.S. foster care system.

    Conducted by Harris Interactive, the survey of 1,660 Americans focused specifically on national attitudes toward foster care adoption. The full report, an executive summary, and a factsheet on foster care adoption are available online:

  • Request for Applications: BSC on Safety and Risk Assessments

    Request for Applications: BSC on Safety and Risk Assessments

    The Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC) on Safety and Risk Assessments sponsored by American Humane and Casey Family Programs moves to its next phase as 30 teams are recruited from across the country to join in using the BSC methodology to improve child welfare safety and risk assessments and decision-making. The 30 teams will receive technical assistance, training, and support from BSC staff and faculty to test multiple ideas, strategies, and tools on a small scale in their pilot sites. Through the repetition of and learning from these small tests of change, the most successful field-tested and measurable strategies and tools will be rapidly applied to entire jurisdictions or systems. Participating teams will also share lessons learned with other teams via the extranet, phone conferences, and four 2-day meetings.

    The application process will be open February 11 to March 7 at

    For additional information, contact Project Director Anne Comstock at 303.925.9481 or, or Project Manager Donna Parrish at 303.925.9427 or

Strategies and Tools for Practice


  • Funding Innovations Improve Child Welfare Outcomes

    Funding Innovations Improve Child Welfare Outcomes

    A new publication by the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) profiles several States and counties that are using innovative approaches to better align child welfare funding with improved outcomes for children and families. By using Federal title IV-B funds more flexibly and by reallocating State and local funding, many States have developed promising practices in child welfare that better meet the needs of the children and families they serve.

    The programs are varied in their approaches, focusing on every aspect of the child welfare system, from prevention to permanency. Some examples of approaches used include:

    • Differential response
    • Rapid response in-home services to stabilize families in crisis
    • A collaborative TANF/child welfare program to prevent child abuse and neglect among families involved with both systems
    • A public/private partnership to find permanent families for older children and youth in out-of-home care
    • Long-term services and supports for adoptive families

    For each highlighted program, an overview of the model and services, funding structure, and demonstrated outcomes is provided. Common themes from the programs include:

    • Tailoring services to meet the child and family's strengths and needs
    • Maintaining children's extended family and community ties
    • Developing more effective community partnerships to deliver services
    • Blending and integrating funding sources
    • Using data to track results and make programs accountable for allocated resources

    The full report, Successes for Children and Families: It's Time to Build on What Works in Child Welfare, can be downloaded from the NACAC website: (PDF - 449 KB)



  • Youth Transitioning to Independent Living

    Youth Transitioning to Independent Living

    The Finance Project has launched a new website for youth transitioning out of foster care and those who work with them. The Information Resource Center provides links to resources on how to develop and sustain supports and services for these youth. It is supported by the Foster Care Work Group, a network of national foundations that developed a shared vision and investments to facilitate more successful transitions for youth aging out of foster care. The Information Resource Center website is organized around the framework of five key strategies: education, workforce, financial literacy, savings and asset building, and entrepreneurship. It also includes links to permanency resources.

  • Helping Courts With the Co-occurrence of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

    Helping Courts With the Co-occurrence of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

    Protecting families where there is co-occurring child abuse and domestic violence poses a real challenge to courts and social services systems. A new publication, Helping St. Louis County Families: A Guide for Court Professionals on the Co-occurrence of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse/Neglect, provides practical information to court professionals on the overlap of domestic violence and child abuse to help shape their practice to handle these cases more effectively.

    The guide was developed as an outgrowth of the 1999 Greenbook, published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, which provided guidance to State courts on the development of best practices. St. Louis County, MO, was one of six communities selected by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to serve as a demonstration site in implementing the principles of the Greenbook.

    The current guide provides information on the context for domestic violence and such specific issues as confidentiality, safety planning, protection orders, visitation, family support meetings, personal bias, and vicarious trauma. It was written by Lauren J. Litton and is intended for attorneys, judges, social services providers, and volunteers working with families in co-occurrence cases. (PDF - 1,140 KB)

  • Judging "Reasonable Efforts"

    Judging "Reasonable Efforts"

    Judges in child welfare cases are often called upon to determine whether child welfare agencies have made the required reasonable efforts to prevent a child's out-of-home placement, reunify a family, or achieve other permanency outcomes. The role of the judge in making reasonable efforts findings for children is the focus of the latest issue of the Judges' Page Newsletter. Authors representing judicial, child welfare, and youth perspectives share their experiences in making reasonable efforts that represent the best interests of the child. These include making reasonable efforts in cases involving infants, American Indian children, youth, and children with a parent who lives outside the United States.

    The Judges' Page Newsletter is a publication of the National CASA in partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. (PDF - 654 KB)

  • Changes in Federal and State Laws and Policies

    Changes in Federal and State Laws and Policies

    Two new reports offer summaries of changes in Federal and State laws and policies that impact child welfare agencies and those involved in the child welfare system.

    A report released by the Congressional Research Service in November 2007 summarizes changes to Federal child welfare policy enacted by the 109th Congress during 2005-2006. Child Welfare: Recently Enacted Changes in Federal Policy focuses on changes made to title IV-B and title IV-E of the Social Security Act, as most Federal child welfare programs are authorized by those titles.

    The report was prepared by Emilie Stoltzfus of the Congressional Research Service. The Congressional Research Service is the nonpartisan public policy research arm of the U.S. Congress that provides congressional members and committees with analyses of legislative issues.

    Ordering information is available online:

    The National Conference of State Legislatures has produced a report of State child welfare legislation that occurred in 2006. The report covers issues from adoption to the workforce, showing that States were particularly active in the areas of adoption, the courts, education, foster care, kinship care, oversight, prevention, and the transition to adulthood for children in the child welfare system.

  • New Video Helps Prepare Children for Court

    New Video Helps Prepare Children for Court

    A new video, "Home Court Advantage," is an animated, interactive, instructional DVD designed to put children at ease when facing a court appearance. The primary audience for the video is child sexual abuse victims who may have to appear in court to testify against their abusers. Nonoffending family members or guardians of the child victim may also benefit from the DVD. Additionally, court officials, therapists, social workers, victims' advocates, and courtroom participants may utilize this DVD to help prepare children for court testimony.

    The video's objective is to alleviate the anxiety associated with appearing in court by providing a child-focused virtual tour of a courtroom. During this tour, the child receives a brief introduction to the various people he or she may encounter during the trial and, through the words of the courtroom participants themselves, an explanation of why each one is there and what they will be doing.

    The video was developed by Tec-Masters, Inc., in conjunction with the National Children's Advocacy Center. Ordering information is available on the NCAC website:

  • Legal Advocates for Permanent Parenting

    Legal Advocates for Permanent Parenting

    Foster parents, kinship caregivers, and adoptive parents can find information and resources to help them navigate the foster care system at the Legal Advocates for Permanent Parenting (LAPP) website. The site provides legal information, training, referral, and support for foster parents, relatives raising children, adoptive families, and their child welfare partners. LAPP works to improve communication between caregiver families and agencies, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), attorneys, and the courts, and it supports policies that ensure that every child in foster care finds a permanent, loving family.

    The founders of LAPP are experienced dependency lawyers who have cared for foster children in their own homes as foster, adoptive, and kinship parents. LAPP provides information, training, and consulting to caregiver groups, child welfare agencies, and courts throughout the Nation.

    Featured on the LAPP site is a national resource manual and curriculum on foster parent rights and responsibilities that was developed in collaboration with the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, the National Foster Parent Association, and the Child Welfare League of America. The manual and curriculum are available from the LAPP website.

  • Orphan Foundation Scholarships

    Orphan Foundation Scholarships

    The Orphan Foundation of America, which administers the Casey Family Scholars program, is now accepting applications for scholarships for the 2008-2009 academic year. Scholarships up to $10,000 per year are available to eligible former foster youth who are pursuing postsecondary education. To qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:

    • Have been in foster care for one consecutive year at the time of their 18th birthday or high school graduation OR have been adopted or taken into legal guardianship out of foster care after their 16th birthday OR have lost both parents to death before age 18 and not been subsequently adopted
    • Be accepted into or enrolled in an accredited postsecondary program (university, college, community college, or vocational/technical institute)
    • Be younger than 25 on March 31, 2008 (link no longer available)

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.

  • National Children's Advocacy Center 2008 Schedule

    National Children's Advocacy Center 2008 Schedule

    A wide variety of onsite and online training for professionals working with abused children and their families is available from the National Training Center (NTC) sponsored by the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, AL. Onsite training covers such topics as forensic interviewing of children and family and victim advocacy, while online training courses address child development, effects of domestic violence, cultural competency, investigative interviewing, trial strategies in child abuse cases, and working with nonoffending caregivers.

    The NTC is also available to develop customized training on location throughout the country. Complete information about the training program is available online:

  • National AIA Teleconference Series

    National AIA Teleconference Series

    The effects of methamphetamine, mental health services for women living with HIV and their children, and working with Latino families affected by substance abuse or HIV are the topics of six trainings being hosted by the National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center (AIA), beginning in April 2008.

    The 90-minute, interactive seminars will integrate both a conference call and web-based presentation of slides and other handouts. After registration is complete, participants will receive a packet of materials via email about 1 week before the training with instructions for accessing the conference call and webinar, an agenda, biographical information about the speaker, a participant roster, and occasional written articles. Course descriptions and registration information are available online:

  • Conferences


    Upcoming national conferences on adoption and child welfare through May 2008 include:

    (Editor's note: Some of the links on this page no longer exist.)




    • Pathways to Adulthood 2008
      National Independent Living/Transitional Living Conference

      U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Administration on Children, Youth and Families; Administration for Children and Families; Children’s Bureau; Family and Youth Services Bureau
      May 14–16, Pittsburgh, PA
    • Prevent Child Abuse America 2008 National Conference
      Connecting the Dots: Turning Knowledge into Action

      May 19–22, Milwaukee, WI

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