myU OneStop

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Recently in child welfare Category


The Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis, Missouri got inspired by the show Extreme Makeovers and thought, why not "extreme recruitment" for youth in foster care?

Thus, Extreme Recruitment was created. In Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a house is build in a week through the efforts of professionals and volunteers working together to build a house for a family in need. Inspired, Melanie Scheetz, Executive Director of Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, thought professionals and volunteers could work together to quickly find permanence for childen in foster care.

The Extreme Recruitment model focuses on a 12-20 week intensive plan to place children considered "hard to place" - children with special needs, older children and youth (10-18 years), children of color and sibling groups.

So far almost 70% of the youth involved in the Extreme Recruitment program in 2012 were matched with a permanent family. If you are interested in learning more about Extreme Recruitment, you can download their Toolbox and learn more about how Extreme Recruitment is done at their website.

You can also learn more by reading this feature in Time Magazine and watch this video below.

Reuters investigation into re-homing

| No Comments

[Photo by Samantha Sais for Reuters]

A few weeks ago, Reuters journalist Megan Twohey's in-depth investigative report about rehoming in adoption was big news in the adoption world, particularly for those interested in intercountry adoption. The five part series included:

For those of you who have never heard of the term "re-home" it refers to when an adoptive parent decides they cannot parent their adopted child and seeks to have the child placed within another adoptive family. Often times the "re-homing" is facilitated by an adoption agency, but unfortunately there have been times when this action is done without agency or legal oversight and the Reuters report focuses on those types of re-homing.

Many adoptive parents were angered by the report by Twohey, which focused on the use of internet forums such as Yahoo groups and facebook as places where adoptive parents sought other families who would take on their adopted child. The report focuses on the cases where such re-homed children were abused by their next adoptive parent and called for oversight and regulation. Not all families, of course, seek to "re-home" using these methods and many adoptive parents have used agencies and ensured that the family that was going to adopt or take guardianship of their adopted child had been adequately screened and supervised.

As with any family issue, re-homing is a complex story. While many people, particularly adoptive parents and adoption agencies, have been distressed by the Reuters investigation, it is nonetheless a practice that everyone involved in adoptions must know clearly and squarely where the gaps are so that children and families can be supported and practiced. Most of the families who choose to re-home have attempted to seek help and have found post-adoption supports lacking, unaccessible, or inadequate to help the family. Rehoming as a practice is not new; but the attention toward it is relative new. One aspect of this story that needs to be highlighted is that many adoption agencies did not know about this practice.

The lesson to be learned from the Reuters report is that the more we know that these issues exist, particularly unethical re-homing practices, the more responsibility adoption professionals and child welfare/adoption agencies must take in finding responses that reduce as much as possible the trauma that a re-homed child will suffer, and provide adequate support to adoptive parents. While in adoption, the saying "forever family" and "permanency" is a goal, it is sadly not always the reality. As the media hype over this story subsides, what must remain is a commitment to better prepare and support adoptive families and of utmost concern is to reduce the trauma to a child that has already experienced rejection and abandonment. Any re-home or placement must be done with the concern of the child through the transition into their next placement with care and appropriate support.

In our last blog post we highlighted a film about a family, the Wilson's, and the director's commentary about the cycle of violence, poverty, drugs and interaction with the child welfare system intergenerationally and how difficult it is to break that cycle.

Today we'd like to let you know about some of the other stories in the Kids at Risk series for Crosscut. In July the publication kicked off a series titled, The Long Way Home: Inside Foster Care. The series looks in-depth at the state of Washington's child welfare system and the children and parents caught up in the cycle. Kathryn Hunt, whose film No Place Like Home was discussed in the last blog post, made another film about a Seattle family involved in foster care. Take This Heart features three boys who, despite the abuse they endured in their home and the loving and caring foster parent who cared for them, only wanted to be back with their parents.

This first part in the series lays out the problems - the numbers of children taken into custody by the state because of abuse and neglect; how long they stay in out of home care; and the factors that make some children more vulnerable than others.

According to Crosscult, the series will "look at the people, the programs, the policies and philosophies and, most importantly, the kids and families that the system was invented to help: What's working? What's not working? How does the system help families stay together? How does it create healthy homes away from home for those kids whose families fall apart? "Normalize" a foster kid's life? (It shouldn't take 48 hours and a judge's order to go on a sleepover.) What puts kids "at risk?" And what is "at-risk" anyway?"

Read more here.

Telling the story of children in foster care through film

| No Comments

Filmmkaer Kathryn Hunt is interested in telling the stories of people on the margins. In this piece for Crosscut, Hunt writes that the people in her films "were tangled up with three social institutions that rarely touch the lucky rest of us: foster care, criminal justice (courts and prisons), and what we used to call welfare and are now supposed to call something else, but mostly still think of as welfare. These institutions are raw, inescapable realities for the poor. The mostly well-meaning workers in those places could humiliate and deny their clients resources by simply following protocols, or fail to keep their children safe or, at worst, tear families and loved ones apart, however necessary that might appear to others."


[Photo Credit: James Nicoloro]

Hunt tells the story of the Wilson family - mother Lori, and her three children, in No Place Like Home. Central to the film is Barbara who in 1995, the year the film was made, was 10 years old. The film shows the cycle of poverty, abuse, neglect - Barbara herself was sexually abused at a young age, spiraled into drugs and poverty and lost a child to the child welfare system.

Read Hunt's article for Crosscut, who features stories about vulnerable and at-risk children and youth .

For more about Crosscut's Kids At Risk, click here.

Former foster alum brings personal story to off-broadway

| No Comments

Actor, playwright and composer Patrick Burns brings his personal story of resilience and tragedy to the stage. In "From Foster Care to Fabulous" Burns brings the audience along with him through four foster families he lived with as a teenager.

You can watch a trailer for his show below:

Learn more about Patrick Burns on facebook.

[Uncredited photo from Governing Magazine]

On August 13, 2013, Jonathan Walters looks at the myths and challenges of kinship care for children in the child welfare system for Governing magazine.

In Agencies Taking a Second Look at Kinship Care, Walters relates a commonly uttered phrase when caseworkers hesitate to place children with relatives, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

But Walters challenges this belief. In addition, Walters points out that children experience less trauma when placed with people they know. Walters points out that there are many policy challenges to kinship care, including licensing, reimbursement or subsidies, and services that are available. Many states are now creating policies that heavily focus on placing children with relatives, even, as some argue, whe it goes against the child's "best interests."

To read the article, click here for the full story.


Writer Cris Beam's new book, "To The End of June: Stories from Foster Care" offers in-depth stories of foster children and foster parents. Beam, a foster parent, spent several years with foster families, social workers, former foster children and other professionals who work with foster children.

In an interview with Publisher's Weekly, Beam states,

We have many studies about foster kids, but almost none about foster parents. Some are fantastic. The parents who talked to me, who come to group trainings, are the better ones. But I heard complaints from foster kids: "They locked me in the basement," "They stepped on my hands," [accounts of] molestation. Surveys reveal incredible abuse. Many foster parents are just okay.

Beam has an MFA and teaches at Columbia University, New York University and at Bayview Women's Correctional Facility. For more on Beam, click here for her website.

To read an interview with Salon's Laura Miller, click here.

You can also listen to Beam talk with WNYC station in New York abouther book.

Regina Calcaterra spent time in foster care, and in 1980, emanicipated herself at the age of 14. In her book, "Etched in Sand," Calcaterra describes her chlidhood of abuse and neglect and advocates for adoption, not aging out of foster care.

In an interview with Caroline Linton for Women in the World, Calcaterra shares,

Now we're going to fast-forward thirtysomething years later, and they're doing the exact same thing. What they're doing is for kids who are aging out of foster care, they try to teach them how to live independently on their own at the age of 18 or 21. It's because kids are pushed out of care at 18 or 21 based on what state they're in or based on what it is they're doing. In some states, if a foster youth will go to vocational training or college, they'll keep them in foster care until they're 21, but then they still cut them off when they're 21. All that means is that from 18 to 21, they're still getting the Medicaid card and they're still getting a couple hundred dollars a month to pay their rent and that's it.


Etched in Sand is Calcaterra's memoir of her story as a child living with abuse, only to find themselves in a foster care system that was unable to meet their needs.

To view a video about Calcaterra's memoir, click here.

Calcaterra currently serves as Executive Director of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption in New York. She is also a board member of You Gotta Believe, an organization based in New York that advocates for moving children and youth in foster care into adoptive homes.

Special series on foster care

| No Comments

KLEW-TV in Washington state created a three part series on foster care. The series starts with a personal story of one youth's experience bouncing around foster care and eventual stay in a residential facility.

In Part 2 Melissa shares how she ended up in the system as a foster child, and the broken promises foster families made to her.

Part 3 follows Melissa's transition from residential to a foster family. In this clip, Melissa expresses her feelings about making yet another transition.

The costs of doing "nothing"

| No Comments

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative has created an infographic aimed at educating the public on the costs of "doing nothing" to prevent youth from aging out of foster care.

costs of doing nothing.png

In an op-ed in the Huffington Post, Executive Director Gary Stangler wrote, "for every young person who ages out of foster care, taxpayers and communities pay $300,000 in social costs like public assistance, incarceration, and lost wages to a community over that person's lifetime. Do the math and you can conservatively estimate that this problem incurs almost $8 billion in social costs to the United States every year."

This PSA from Jim Casey's Success Beyond 18 Initiative, illustrates what happens to foster youth when they are forced to "age out."

Jim Casey Initiative Success Beyond 18 PSA from Jim Casey Initiative on Vimeo.

You can follow the conversation on twitter and facebook. For more information about the Success Beyond 18 Initiative, check out their website.


Last week I came across a news article from the Times-Picayune. The LA senate approved a bill sponsored by Patrick Jefferson (D), HB219, that would prohibit the disqualification of a prospective adoptive parent based solely on past criminal history.

HB219 would require a judge to consider the type of offense and length of time since the offense was committed. The bill is now headed for debate in the Senate.

Opening up foster "cold cases"

| No Comments

This guest blog post was written by Linda Gross.

MichelleBarclay3 300.jpg Photo of Michelle Barclay, Cold Case manager in Georgia

Youth Today recently published an article about a program in Georgia where "cold" foster care cases are being reopened to consider adoption options for children that have been otherwise left alone for multiple years. The project began a few years ago, and is managed by an attorney named Michelle Barclay who works under Georgia's Committee on Justice for Children.

The article serves to provide insight into the long-term experiences of foster care youth and resurfaces myths supporting the passive allowance of youth living and aging-out of foster care. One such myth is that during the child's initial case, all that could be done, was done. While ideally this would be true and could be assumed, given tight timeframes, limited budgets and the occasional bad worker, it could easily be that the child has never truly had the child welfare system work intensively on his or her behalf to find a new family for them to build permanence with. The second myth is that once all options are exhausted in the search for a permanent place for the child, they are exhausted for life. An important example of this are kin who at the time of the child's first need for placements, may have been under life circumstances that didn't allow them to feel they could take on caring for the child. However, several years later a more stable life situation combined with a child closer-aged to self-sufficiency and independence, could result in kin able to open their homes to another person.


The article also brings to light the interesting collaboration between child protection and the hire of private investigators for the purpose of family finding. While several agencies have begun incorporating more formal family finding models, the use of investigators for the purpose of finding additional kin to broaden placement options, this is a collaboration we can only hope grows. In 2006, a 60 Minutes broadcast entitled Lost and Found featured Kevin Campbell, an expert on family finding. The episode demonstrated his field's ability to contribute to the connectedness these youth have, with one two-hour search providing enough for one young woman to have a virtual depiction of her own family tree.

Bringing these lost youth, discounted to becoming foster-care children for life, into new and resurged prospects for permanency is a true demonstration of hope and potential for the future of America's next generations.

To read the article at Youth Today click here.

To view Lesley Stahl discussing her 60-minutes feature, Lost and Found, click here.

This guest post was written by Salma Hussein.

There is growing evidence that supports the role systematic racism and the workers biases contribute in the overrepresentation of families of color serviced in the child welfare. Consequently, resulting in unjust, unnecessary and unequal treatments that go on to influence both access and utilization of supportive services that are meant to assist families.

In the article written by Lorthridge, Croskey, Pecora, Chambers, & Fatemi, in 2012 we learn that disproportionality has been linked to a number of multi-level factors that overlap and have various impacts. These factors include parent and family risk factors, community risk factors, and organizational and systematic factors. For instance, in the parent and family risk factors, it is said that disproportionality exists because of a disproportionate need that exists. Risk factors including un-(under) employment, inadequate housing, substance abuse and other debilitating conditions are more likely to be present in families of color. Furthermore, the disproportionality of children of color in the child welfare system will not change unless these risk factors are reduced.

To improve child welfare services for families of color a multi level approach is suggested. Focusing on addressing parent and family, community and organizational and systematic risk factors that contributes to disproportionality. The idea is that all families and children live in communities that are then impacted by the organization they receive services from. The disproportionality mitigation model that was discussed in this article attempted to address risk factors at multiple levels.

The committee that was assigned to undertake the self -evaluation portion of the study felt it would be much easier to start by looking at the data, and then asking agencies/departments what they thought the causes were. The data that was examined came from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and included demographic information obtained from every section of the child welfare procedure. The analysis revealed that African-American families experienced poorer outcomes.

Particular strengths of this article is that it promotes further research to further investigate in determining specific factors that contribute to making some communities overrepresented in both entry and existing the child welfare system. Additionally, the article dispels myths about permanency by promoting a multi-level approach in working with families and communities. Similarly, a limitation of the study was a lack of a system to ensure case records to be readily and easily accessible for further use. Also, the number of African-American families involved in the comparison group study was very small. It is imperative to include more African-American in future research, in hopes of having research participants reflect service recipients. By doing so, we may be able to better understand strategies for improving the profession for all families, particularly communities that are disproportionally represented.


Lorthridge, J., Mc Croskey, J., Pecora, P.J., Chambers, R. & Fatemi, M. (2012). Strategies for improving child welfare services for families of color: First findings of a community-based initiative in Los Angeles. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 281-288.

This post was guest written by Brian Magruder.

MV5BMTc3MDcxMDMwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNzAzNzE2._V1._SY314_CR2,0,214,314_.jpg Photo from IMDb.

The article I found is titled Jason's Story: 'All You Need Is Love' and it was written by actress Rhea Perlman. This article is about a man Perlman describes as a man in his 30s who had grown up in the Los Angeles County foster care system. What Pearlman describes is that this man's story demonstrated the importance of finding permanent homes for the children in the American foster care system that are eligible for adoption.

Jason described that from ages 11 to 17 he was placed in foster home, with three foster brothers. Living in this foster home setting was terrorizing for Jason in different ways than living with his schizophrenic mother. He described a very restrictive lifestyle that allowed him to go to school but no afterschool activities. He stated that he and the other foster children were not allowed to sit on the furniture and ate their meals on the floor. Jason described dinners of hot dog and grits for weeks at a time and not getting well-balanced meals.

Although social workers were reportedly supposed to visit Jason on a monthly basis, he saw workers about twice a year and commented that it was always a different worker. Jason also described difficulties in expressing what was really going on in the foster home as the child welfare worker would always talk to him in front of the provider and he never felt safe talking about the realities of his life in foster home. Jason would've likely continued living unpleasantly in the foster home, but a friend of his from school contacting social services. After his friend called social services someone finally came and talked to Jason alone. After he discussed openly what had been occurring in his foster home placement, he was moved and the provider's license was revoked.

Jason's experiences in the Los Angeles County foster care system, unfortunately, continue to be an experience for children placed in the American foster care system. I think Ms. Perlman makes a great point in the beginning of the article in which she emphasizes the urgency of finding permanent homes for the more than 100,000 children in the foster care system that are eligible for adoption. Pearlman described that things have changed in the Los Angeles County foster care system since Jason was there as a child. Perlman went on to describe, however, that the fundamental experience of growing into adulthood without a permanent connection has not.

Jason described a difficult childhood growing up in the foster care system. This system seemed to lack permanent options for him. As he described some of the struggles which carried with him into adulthood, we can see how important it is to address attachment issues with our foster care youth.

I see the article having strengths in that it identifies current problems and issues facing the American foster care system. The importance of establishing permanent family connections instead of long-term foster care is the main emphasis of the article. I think a limitation of the article is that it doesn't discuss possible solutions and ways of improving the system.

To read the article in full, click here.

Adoption incentive programs

| No Comments

This guest post was written by Molly Lewis.


The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) posted an article to their website titled "How the Adoption Incentives Program Can Incentivize Adoptions." This article discusses a federal program called the Adoption Incentives Program, which began in 1997 under the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The author of this article believes that although there have been some successes of children finding their forever homes, trends predict that about 50% of the 100,000 children who are still waiting to be adopted will not, in fact, be adopted. The article goes on to address that the Adoption Incentive Program should be re-evaluated and the ways in which states receive these funds should be changed.

Currently, states receive funds based strictly on the number of adoptions that they have. CCAI believes that older and special needs children could be better served on a different model. CCAI also believes that states should be implementing different strategies for social welfare systems to be able to reduce the number of children living in foster care who need a permanent home. Some strategies suggested include diversifying the ways in which families are recruited, partnering with community and faith-based partners and embracing the belief that all children need and deserve a forever family.

This article addresses a huge concern that is faced by most child welfare agencies in this country. The article discusses several approaches to how the Adoption Incentive Program could reallocate funds. States and their systems should be challenged to reduce the length of time that children remain in foster care while waiting for their forever homes.

What this article doesn't address is that some for some children, in some situations, adoption might not be the best outcome. Often times, older children may not wish to be adopted. In situations like this, finding a permanent connection might be just as beneficial. I believe that states should be rewarded for their efforts on permanency in general and not only being rewarded based on the number of children who are placed in adoptive homes.
In addition, when I first read the title of this article, I believed that it would be in regards to incentives for families who would adopt a child from foster care. It is interesting that the title of this program, the Adoption Incentive Program, is about incentives for the state governments and not about incentives for families who make the decision to change their lives and impact the life of a young person who needs them.

Investigation of Russian adopted child's death

| No Comments

This guest blog post was written by Kari Torborg.

041B6153-1496-484F-80EC-45544EAF0BF9_w268_r1.jpeg [Photo of Max Shatto (Maksim Kuzmin) who died on January 21.]

The article which is the focus of this blog assignment is entitled "All eyes on Texas town at center of Russian adoption drama". It was published on February 22, 2013 by Richard Solash with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The topic of this article is of adoption. Most notably, the story of a young child recently adopted from Russia who died in January and is now the subject of an international media frenzy.

The strengths of this article include that Mr. Solash provided necessary and unbiased background information regarding details available about the child's death, communication with the police department and medical examiner's office, and about the family who adopted the young child. Mr. Solash detailed both positive and negative character descriptions of the adoptive mother and did not paint a picture of her character that would lead the reader to be persuaded either that she was guilty or was not guilty of her son's death. Mr. Solash also provided available information confirming that the adoptive mother completed necessary steps of the adoption process but also included the factual detail that child protection has since become involved.

The limitations in the article include the inherent negative connotations in regard to the information provided which related to the accusations from the Russian officials. Although the information coming from Russian officials appears to be potentially prejudiced and perhaps unfounded, Mr. Solash's communication style could leave the general audience feeling as though the Russian officials were defiant, oppositional, or unreasonable. Also, Mr. Solash only briefly mentioned (in one sentence) the current ban on Russian adoptions by U.S. citizens with respect to this case. The general population would benefit from additional information regarding the federal law signed into law on January 1, 2013 banning adoptions from Russia to the United States.

A common myth about adoption that was mentioned in this article was described in the following statement by the county sheriff, "I understand they think these things get covered up, get thrown under the rug, and nobody investigates, but this is not investigating a Russian kid. This is investigating a Texas kid that has died" (Solash, 2013). This statement speaks to the myth of cover ups and the subsequent or anticipated mistreatment of adopted children. This statement dispels the myth that internationally adopted kids are seen perhaps as unworthy of due process due to their status as someone originating from another county. What the sheriff is trying to say is that this child who has lost his life, although he is from Russia, he was adopted in the United States and the jurisdiction is on Texas' authority to investigate. This article also encourages the myth of adoptive children who have the potential to be exploited in the media. It also brings up the question and common misperception regarding whether or not biological parents are able to get their child back after an adoption. Although the article does not take a stance on this topic, it does present the information that the child's biological mother is asking that her surviving son be returned to her care.

This article provided very useful information regarding the current state of this case, the United States and Russian response, and future implications depending on the outcome of the investigation.

To read the article, click here.

Experiencing the Joy and Grief of Fostering to Adopt

| No Comments

This guest blog post was written by Tina Graber.

Saying Goodbye to the Foster Child I Fell in Love With

r-JIYER-large570.jpeg [Photo by Jiyer for Huffington Post]

The Huffington Post posted an article written by Jiyer on January 15, 2013 as part of the series "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days". The article is written by a woman who shares her and her husband's both joyful and painful personal experience as parents in a foster to adopt, or concurrent planning program.

The article is a realistic portrayal of many families participating in foster to adopt programs across the United States. Jiyer describes the emotional ups and downs consistent with many parents who have chosen the difficult job of assisting families with reunification while at the same time preparing to adopt the child if it does not work. Concurrent planning is an important tool when considering the best interest of the child; however, it is essential to consider the experiences and struggles of the resource parents in order to support them as well.

It is important for families interested in foster to adopt to have realistic expectations before agreeing to care for a child. A common myth about concurrent planning is that parents will eventually be able to adopt the child they are fostering. Although there are many cases where the child can be adopted, that is not always the case. In reality, the goal for many foster children is reunification with their biological parents and if they are able to make the changes necessary, many children are returned home. Through Jiyer's experience she shows the emotions and struggle that many resource families go through before they are eventually able to adopt a child, who many times may not be the first child placed in their home.

It is important for resource families to be aware of the reality that they may not be able to adopt the first child placed in their home. They may experience significant grief and loss if the child is returned to the parent's care. This is why it is important, as Jiyer demonstrated, for resource families to develop a support system and coping strategies as they take on this significant role.

Many resource families will have conflicting feelings throughout the process because the roles of the job can often feel conflicting. Jiyer's words demonstrate this so well, "But I was also torn. I was rooting for Rayna [biological mother to Nina], yet I was growing so attached to Nina -- little Nina, the first child we got to hold and love, the child who came to us during peak bonding months in her life and who bonded so closely with us."

It can also be a deeply rewarding experience for foster parents to make a positive connection with a child that could potentially last a lifetime, even if they are not able to adopt. It is also possible and in fact encouraged by the Minnesota Department of Human Services that resource parents partner with birth parents to support them in parenting. Through Jiyer's words, we are able to see the power of intentional human relationships, all for the love of a child.

For more information:

For the whole 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days series, click here.

Jiyer. (2013, January 14). Saying goodbye to the foster child I feel in love with. Huffington Post. Link to article here.

Minnesota Department of Human Services. Practice guide for concurrent permanency planning.

A look at permanency planning challenges in the U.K.

| No Comments

This guest blog post was written by Jessica Hansen.


Planning for permanency in adoption can be a challenging process not only in the United States, but also in other parts of the globe. Judy Selwyn, author of The Challenges in Planning for Permanency, is the Director of the Hadley Center for Adoption and Foster Care Studies at the University of Bristol in England. Selwyn discusses that in England, permanency planning became a major focus of concern as children started drifting into the care system without plans of permanent homes or relationships

Selwyn gives insight to a very important issue regarding youth in the care system: the importance of children's relationships. Very early on in the United Kingdom (UK), permanency planning became one and the same with adoption and the focus on a child's relationships was replaced with the importance of a placement in general. Services in the UK for birth families and for children in the system started to dwindle. Children were spending far too much time drifting through the system and not enough time in the permanent care of secure, healthy placements.

Selwyn states that in 2002, the Adoption and Children Act stressed the importance of permanency planning, reducing delay in decision making and securing better outcomes for children through the timely planning of a permanent placement secured by legal order. This act also reinforced the importance of relationships and long-term support from adults to help children thrive in school, gain self-esteem and have a greater out-look on life. Selwyn does a great job explaining that the challenge of permanency planning is not to find a placement, but to ensure that every child and young person has lifelong connections to people who will continue to offer positive relationships and support.

Selwyn also gives some reasons why children are not connected through the foster care system. She makes the point that older children are harder to adopt out, but those children are still able to make strong connections with healthy, reliable adults that help to foster children's growth into adolescence or young adulthood even without permanency. One limitation I discovered while reading this article is that although Selwyn focuses on children's current relationships, she does not go into much detail about how to build relationships with children who lack a presence of these relationships. I think she could have identified how adults can make it a point when working with or supporting children in foster care, to maintain and continue to build these relationships on their own and also by connecting these children to other healthy relationships or mentoring programs that can facilitate this process.

Overall, I think this article does a great job stating the importance of stable, healthy relationships with children in the foster care system. I found it written very clear within the article that the reality is, not every child will be adopted, but if these same children have safe, secure relationships with adults in their support networks, children can build a safety net with these social supports for their transition into adulthood.

To read more, go to this link or you can read the journal here:

Selwyn, J. (2010). The Challenges in Planning for Permanency. Adoption & Fostering, 34(3), 32-37.

Transitioning youth: Policies and outcomes

| No Comments

This guest post was written by Amanda Talan.


In a recent article in Children and Youth Services Review, Tonia Scott asserts that young people who emancipate from or age out of the foster care system need increased federal and state assistance. Scott assesses four federal policies aimed at lessening the hardships faced by these young adults and offers recommendations for better support and policies.
In her article, "Transitioning youth: Policies and outcomes," Scott provides readers with a clear picture of the turmoil within the child welfare system. She gives thorough descriptions of the issues encountered by young people during their foster care experiences and reviews numerous articles about how they fare when they transition from care.

The review compares outcomes before and after the 1999 passage of the Foster Care Independence Act (FCIA), a federal policy that increased overall funding and housing and health care resources for youth who transition out of care. The review suggests that this policy does not serve as an adequate support system for this population. Scott writes that the articles in review found no improvement in education, employment, finances and housing. The articles also found no decline in criminal involvement, substance use and pregnancy or improvements in physical and mental health status.

Scott notes that although major policies have provided funding and services for youth who transition out of the foster system, the support is not available for all in need. Scott also discusses the correlation between the foster care experience and transition into adulthood, and believes that better social connections and self-sufficiency during care will result in a successful transition.

At the same time, the article fails to take into account how economic and social conditions have changed in the years since the FCIA went into effect, making a comparison between then and now difficult. Scott also mentions concern about whether participants in the studies she reviewed represent the population in question. Despite these limitations, Scott's review provides a context for further discussion of policy efficacy and methods to reach more youth transitioning or transitioned from care.
The article defies myths that regard foster care as a positive foundation for transition into adulthood and federal policies as adequate supports for transitioning and transitioned youth. Scott demonstrates that most youth will experience numerous foster placements and aren't encouraged and/or allowed to have strong social and intimate relations, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and money management skills while in care. These restrictions are devastating to youth who are suddenly expected to have educational, employment and housing security with little or no help from federal or state agencies.
Moreover, federal policies are problematic in a variety of ways. The number of emancipated youth has increased since 1999, but no funding adjustment has accommodated this change. Most significantly, the young adults most in need do not receive federal and state assistances due to eligibility guidelines (lack of education and/or employment.) To change this dire situation, Scott encourages the foster care system to
nourish social connections that youths can maintain during transitions out of care, accessible informational for each young adult and "basic food, shelter and healthcare" for youths who leave foster care without a permanent home.

This guest post was written by Teresa King.


On February 28th, 2013 posted an article titled Support Safe Housing for All Youth Aging Out of Foster Care written by Jim Theofelis. Theofelis is a guest contributor for King and Executive Director of The Mockingbird Society. The Mockingbird Society's website states that their mission is to advocate for systems reform based on the personal experiences of children, youth, and families impacted by the foster care system.

The article was written in support of Washington state proposed legislation titled Extended Foster Care HB 1302/SB 5405. If passed, the legislation would extend housing support and benefits to youth aging out of foster care who are not able or not ready for an education track to continue to receive benefits. Youth benefiting from this legislation would include those who have significant barriers to employment or secondary education due to cognitive or physical disabilities and those who are working part time but still unable to afford full independence.

Theofelis provided support for the legislation by utilizing data from the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) and by including the evaluation results of a 2006 Washington state pilot program titled Foster Care to 21. The pilot program allowed up to 150 youth to remain in foster care to age 21 to pursue their post secondary education. Not only did the youth participating in the program continue their education they also steered clear of negative behaviors attributed to many youth who are literally pushed out of foster care and forced to be on their own. Furthermore Theofelis states that the youth who participated in the pilot program not only realized greater academic achievement but also gained valuable work experience and were able to begin successful transition to health adulthood. Lastly he states that for every Washington tax dollar invested in this service the community received a return on investment of $1.35.

A significant strength of the article is that it offers evidence that extending benefits to youth aging out of foster care yields not only fiscal benefits but also societal benefits. Investing in youth now helps to ensure less future dependence on public assistance as well as potential involvement with the criminal justice system should youth aging out of foster care turn to crime as a means of supporting themselves. Although the article lacks the exact content or precise language used in the legislation; based upon what the author provides I believe legislation such as Washington state's Extended Foster Care HB 1302/SB 5405 offers youth aging out of foster care a voice as well as the promoting socially responsible decision making. Most of the youth in foster care had no voice, or choice in whatever circumstances found them in foster care in the first place.

The article promotes that youth should have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they would like to pursue an education, employment or what direction they would like for their futures. Finally - after years of having guardians or courts make decisions for them, they would not be empowered to make decisions for themselves. The opportunity to guaranteed stability while making choices about their future is, in my opinion pursuing social justice for youth who may not have previously experienced justice.

You can read the article here.

This guest post was written by Tracy Neil.

la-oe-bass-roybal-allard-immigration-20130211-001.jpeg (Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images / February 8, 2013)

The Los Angeles Times ran an article on February 11, 2013 that was written by Karen Bass and Lucille Roybal-Allard that are both members of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Care. This article brought attention to the issue of what happens to immigrant children when their parents are detained or deported due to federal immigrations enforcement. The article goes on to talk about how immigrant parents or guardians, once arrested are usually not given time to make arrangements for their children. With no one to look after them, these children then enter the foster care system. Due to the distance between where the parents are held and where custody hearings for their children take place, parents often do not have a say in what happens to their children and trying to remain in contact with their children is very difficult. If the parents are released, they face a difficult time trying to work a case plan showing they are capable of meeting the health and welfare needs of their children as they do not qualify for most services that would be provided to assist them and they cannot get a job due to their immigration status. These issues often lead toward the permanent loss of their parental rights. If the parent is deported, the odds of getting their children back are even less and requires the parents to get the support of consulate and have the consulate advocate on their behalf. Often times the judge or social workers feel it is in the child's best interest to remain in foster care in the United States rather than return to the country their parents were sent back to. Last year, the Help Separated Families Act was introduced to Congress by Roybal-Allard and this year Representative Bass will help co-sponsor and reintroduce the act to the upcoming Congress. This act would make it "more difficult to terminate parent's rights based only on their immigration would also allow the children to be placed in the best home for them regardless of the immigration status of the potential guardian" (Bass & Roybal-Allard, 2013).

This article was very well written in regards to explaining the issue very clearly for those who are not familiar with foster care or immigration. It brought to light a very real problem in our country that needs attention but that many readers have probably never thought about nor heard of. However, I felt that more specific information explaining the Help Separated Families Act was left out; leading someone with no foster care experience to think this act is going to solve the issue. The article did not address the issue that some of these children grow up in foster care and upon them aging out of the system; they are deported just as their parents were. If these children are not deported upon aging out of foster care and they do not become U.S. citizens for some reason prior to aging out, they face the same obstacles their parents did in regards to finding a job, getting medical insurance and they cannot apply for financial aid to attend college all due to their immigration status. If they do seek to become a citizen after age 18, how do they maneuver through the system and pay the fees associated with gaining citizenship in addition to trying to keep a roof over their head and food on the table? These are all questions that these children and the system will face, and hopefully as this act moves forward these issues will be addressed.

To read more see the entire article here.

This guest post was written by Brittany Kellerman.

FOSTER-1-articleLarge.jpeg [Photo: Mark Holm for the NYT]

The New York Times published an article on January 26, 2013 entitled "Focus on Preserving Heritage Can Limit Foster Care for Indians" by Dan Frosch. The article discusses the impact that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 continues to have today on Native American children and families. It highlights the fact that Native American children are highly overrepresented in child welfare systems around the country, including in Minnesota. It also points out the extreme shortage of licensed Indian foster families in particular states, such as in New Mexico, where in Bernalillo County there are 65 Indian children in state custody, but only 5 Indian foster homes. This discrepancy leads Native American children waiting in shelters for significant amounts of time while searching for relatives or native foster homes and in many cases ultimately placing the children in non-native foster homes.

While the article provides important facts around disparities that are beneficial to dispelling myths, it does not dig deep into why these disparities continue to exist. It is however quick to point to the poverty and the substance abuse endemic in American Indian communities as being the reasons for low rates of Native foster homes, while the issues of institutional racism and historical trauma are simply skimmed over.

As an example of a case where ICWA impacts the outcomes for native children, the article discusses a highly publicized case of Baby Veronica. In this case, a judge ordered a white couple to return a 27-month-old girl they raised since birth to her biological Indian father. In this case, the father was estranged from the mother and was unaware that his daughter was going to be put up for adoption. The facts of the case demonstrate that the father engaged in seeking custody as soon as he was notified of the request for adoption. The decision to return the child to her father was based upon the child's tribal status and the ruling that the birth mother tried to conceal the father's tribal affiliation.

The case of Baby Veronica, while governed by ICWA in this case due to the father's tribal affiliation, brings up questions around all fathers' parental rights that were not addressed in the article. If this case were involving a non-native father, would the child be returned to the biological father? If a biological father is willing/able to provide a loving home for the child, it only seems right to keep the child connected to their biological roots. The case of Baby Veronica will be held before the Supreme Court in April 2013 and the court will be asked to consider the constitutionality of ICWA.

In summary, ICWA has made a significant impact on the Native American population by keeping many children connected to their heritage. Clearly, Native American families continue to face significant challenges and discrimination in their interactions with child welfare agencies and cases such as Baby Veronica's demonstrate a continued need for additional protection for Native families.

For more information on the Baby Veronica case, click here.

This guest post was written by Emily Wesely.

JuvenileJustice.jpeg [Photo from]

Published in the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, "Number of Kids Behinds Bars Reaches 35-Year Low", written by Kaukab Smith on February 27, 2013, discussed the recent reduction in youth incarceration rates across the country, reaching the lowest it has been for 35 years. Smith referenced the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot (2013), "Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States", to share the recent trend toward more community-based services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. These alternative responses to juvenile delinquency are less punitive and cost saving for the public. Five states - Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota and Tennessee - reported declines in the number of incarcerated youth between 2001 and 2010 by more than 50 percent (Smith, 2013). These states have recognized that the reasons youth become involved in the justice system is different from adults; therefore, the response should be different.

Crossover youth, a popular term used to describe the several children involved in both the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system, are affected by these declining youth confinement rates. The number of crossover youth varies depending on the jurisdiction, however, estimates range from 9 to 29 percent of children in the child welfare system (Goldstein, 2012). This reduction in youth incarceration means that children who intersect in both systems are experiencing less confinement and out-of-home placements, increasing permanency rates and the overall outcomes for these said crossover youth. Youth in confinement are defined as young people under the age of 21 (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013), which includes those involved in the child welfare system given that children may remain in extended foster care until age 21.

One of the weaknesses of the article is that it fails to identify and describe the alternative measures and responses to juvenile confinement. The article is so focused on the reduction in incarceration rates that it overlooks the current trend toward permanency for youth by treating them in their home communities. One strength of the article includes Smith's discussion on racial disproportionalities. Despite declining incarceration rates, racial and ethnic disproportionalities still exist in the remaining incarcerated population. This disparity is also true for crossover youth. Youth who identify as African American are disproportionately over represented in both systems. Therefore, permanency rates for African American youth are lower given that they are more likely to be in out-of-home placements or incarcerated.

Since crime rates have not increased as a result of fewer incarcerations, this article dispels the myth that juvenile incarceration rates are correlated with the general public's safety and crime rates. This article promotes the myth that more permanency in placements for youth produces better outcomes, not just personally for the youth and their families, but also for the communities in which the youth reside.


  • Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2013, February). Reducing youth incarceration in the United States. Link.
  • Goldstein, B. (2012, November). "Crossover youth": The intersection of child welfare and juvenile justice. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Link.
  • Smith, K. J. (2013). Number of kids behind bars reaches 35-year low. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Link.

This guest blog post was written by Johanna Zabawa.

Group pays drug addicts to get sterilized or receive long-term birth control, sparks criticism: Founder launched group after adopting four children from a crack addict.


[Photo from the Project Prevention Facebook page]

On May 9, 2012, Rheana Murray, with the New York Daily News published an article on a controversial non-profit called Project Prevention (formerly known as CRACK: Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity). Project Prevention, based out of North Carolina, pays women $300 to either get tubal ligations (permanent sterilization), or other forms of long-term birth control such as IUDs, Implanon, or Depro-Provera shots. The article does well discussing both supportive and oppositional opinions revolved around the program's practices. Founder Barbara Harris holds firm to the position that Project Prevention is about preventing unwanted pregnancies and placing fewer burdens on the child welfare system. Harris has adopted four siblings, all from the same mother who was addicted to crack. The program believes that decreasing unwanted pregnancies from addict populations will aid with the economic burden on taxpayers, trim down social worker caseloads, and alleviate clients from "the burden of having children that will potentially be taken away" ( The article also provides opposing viewpoints of Project Prevention, including beliefs that the program is "thinly disguised" racism, targeting vulnerable populations and women of color. Critics condemn the program further by discussing that addicts may not be in a position to make decisions of this magnitude, especially when offered money. Harris responds to criticism within the article stating that two thirds of the women Project Prevention has served are White, and that the majority of women choose long term birth control over sterilization.

This article, as well as an article from the LA TIMES, bring up interesting albeit controversial view points surrounding the amount of children entering into foster care from drug addicted families, and what role or responsibility, if any, does the child welfare system have in preventative measures with these families. Harris argues that "its just not fair" to the children whose parents have either no intention or ability to remain sober. She believes the amount of children entering into the foster care system is preventable. The last 20 women who chose sterilization through her program were pregnant a combined total of 120 times. Out of those pregnancies, "Thirty were either aborted, stillborn or died after being born and seventy-eight are in foster care." The LA TIMES article, written in 2009, describes birth control as the "elephant in the room of the child welfare system". Although it seems like an area that many workers and county agencies would be interested in supporting further, outside of their counseling and advising regarding birth control and pregnancy prevention, it might challenge agency boundaries and the constitutional rights of the women who are addicted to make more formal supports through policy and practice.

This article focuses on issues related to permanency and adoption that might not be at the forefront of most of our minds, yet is a challenge that impacts child welfare agencies and addicted parents everyday. The article perhaps promotes the idea or frame of thought that the majority of children and siblings entering into care are abandoned by drug-addicted parents, and every drug addicted mother is producing multitudes of children who are bound for the foster care system. Neither article includes the point of view of children who have come from drug-addicted parents and foster care, nor those parents or mothers who have fought addiction and have been reunited with their children.

Find more information on this topic:

Two sides of an adoption battle

| No Comments

This guest blog post was written by Ryan Lewsander.

Right now the Minnesota Supreme Court is tasked with making a tragic choice: who will they rip two children away from, their prospective adoptive family, or their biological grandmother and extended family in Georgia? The sad drama of this case is documented compellingly in Olivia LaVecchia's City Pages article "Split the Baby: Two sides of an adoption battle" published on January 13th, 2013.


The story begins in October 2009 when Javille "Angel" Sutton gave birth to a baby girl, Princess, born with cocaine in her system. Hennepin County Child Protection Services (HCCPS) responded by placing the four-day old infant with foster parents Liv and Steven Grosser in Plymouth, Minnesota. Upon learning that her granddaughter was in the system, Dorothy Dunning, of Mississippi called HCCPS on December 2nd, 2009 and expressed that she wanted Princess with her. In April 2010, HCCPS sent Mississippi an Interstate Compact in the Placement of Children (MICPC) to approve Dorothy Dunning's home as a placement for Princess. This process was bungled, and after a year and a half HCCPS withdrew its' MICPC and told the Grosser's to move forward with their plans to adopt Princess and her baby sister, Hannah. Not long after that, Mississippi sent a completed home study of Dorothy Dunning to Minnesota, and in March 2011 HCCPS reversed itself and supported Dorothy's claim for the children in court. Now the Minnesota Supreme Court will decide the fate of the children after hearing the case this January.

Lavecchia's article does a good job of presenting the details of the timeline of the case, and the injustices done to both the Grosser family and Dorothy Dunning. The complexity of this contested adoption depicted in the article enables the reader to feel empathy for all parties in the case, as is appropriate. What's more, the article does not shy away from illuminating an important element of the dispute: race. The Grosser family is a White suburban family and Steven, the father, works as a Corporate Financial Officer. Dorothy Dunning is African-American who cleans homes professionally and whose son's crack addiction was a reason for the children's removal upon birth. The article provokes the reader to think about how race should be considered in cases of permanency. More specifically, it challenges many readers to wrestle with their prejudice that white affluent families are better caregivers for their children than poor black families, and should therefore be privileged in these kinds of disputes. A key question this article provokes is how would this case be different if Dorothy Dunning was white and middle-class and the Grosser family was black and working-class?

The article also hits on the widespread perception of permanency in child welfare as a confusing mess, and excessively bureaucratic. In this case, it appears that HCCPS made major mistakes by not searching out Dorothy Dunning as an option for the children, and by encouraging the Grosser family to adopt only oppose it three months later. Not to be outdone, Mississippi demonstrated extreme incompetence by taking a year and a half to complete a home study to approve Dorothy Dunning as a fit placement for the children. It is these kinds of mistakes that lead people to believe that the system does more harm than good for vulnerable children.

To read the article in full, click here.

This guest blog post, also about the Family Reunification Act, was written by Colleen Doescher-Train.


On February 13th, 2013 five Minnesota State Senators introduced S.F.422; appropriately nicknames the Family Reunification Act of 2013. The Family Reunification Act, as currently written would allow parents who had their parental rights terminated at least 36 months ago to possibly be reunified with their child(ren). This bill requires certain criteria to be met in order for the county attorney to petition for a child to be returned to their parents. Children would need to be 15 years of age or older and never have been adopted. Parents would need to have the financial means and ability to take care of their child.

Following this, several articles emerged regarding this bill and what the potential effects are if the bill is passed. Specifically, Minnesota Public Radio published an article written by Sasha Aslanian on February 26th, 2013 titled Family Reunification Act could restore parental rights in some lost custody cases. Within the article, Aslanian appears to be a proponent of this legislation being passed. John Choi, who is currently an attorney for Ramsey County, unified with other supporters of the bill at a local addiction recovery center. He spoke regarding the proposed legislation and how it would affect children who are currently waiting in limbo in the foster care system to be adopted. Currently, there are about 35 children who meet all of the criteria to be reunified with their parents.

A positive aspect of this article is that it brings awareness that there is children who are currently aging out of the foster care system without being adopted. At the same time, a limitation of this article is that it does not go into full detail regarding the number of children who do age out of foster care. Nor does it discuss how the legislation differs from last year's proposed legislation that did not pass. The article briefly mentions the potential negative affects that aging out of the foster care system has on a child. Without a family to lean on for support, these children are at higher risks of homelessness, drug use, and other chronic problems.

Many current publications that are read by the general population on a daily basis do not depict the number of children who are aging out of the Child Welfare System without a permanent family. According to Minnesota's Child Welfare Report of 2011, there were 469 children who were under state guardianship who aged out of the foster care system during 2011. These children have no family and nowhere to call home. Children who have a permanent home when they reach the age of majority are more likely to become more productive members of society. Research has also shown that young adults who have aged out of the foster home system show a genuine want to return to their biological parents. Allowing a family to be reunified will have a lasting, positive impact on the child's life and on the parents.

To read the bill and track it as it moves through the Minnesota Senate, click here.

Further reading opportunities:

Aslanian, Sasha. (February 26th, 2013). Family Reunification Act Could Restore Parental Rights in Some Lost Custody Cases.

Samuels, Gina M. (2009). Ambiguous loss of home: The experience of familial (im)permanence among young adults with foster care backgrounds. Children and Youth Services Review, 31:12, 1229-1239.

Minnesota Department of Human Services. (2012). Minnesota's Child Welfare Report 2011 (DHS Publication no. DHS-5408D-ENG 8-12). St. Paul, MN.

Supporting foster youth parents

| No Comments

teen pregnancy.jpg

California Senator Leland Yee is sponsoring a bill that would help support foster youth who are parents in the state. The bill would help foster youth raising children with resources to help them stay in school, provide needed parenting and child care.

In the Pleasanton Weekly, Leland states that "parenting and pregnant youth are 200% more likely" to leave school without earning a high school diploma or GED and that impacts their ability to find work that enables them to provide financial stability for their children.

About 30% of pregnant and parenting youth experience a second pregnancy while still in foster care.

Documentary about former foster youth changing the system

| No Comments

A wonderful resource for those interested in youth aging out of the foster care system, the documentary From Place to Place follows two young adults, Mandy and Raif, as they share their lives and travel to Washington DC to advocate for system change.

View the trailer:

Their story is also documented in this article featured on the National Foster Youth Action Network.

20130131_012913heartland01_33.jpg [Photo by Jennifer Simonson for MPR]

This morning as I was driving to work I heard a wonderful story by Sasha Aslanian on MPR about the Heartland Girl's Ranch. Heartland began as a group home for adolescent girls with behavioral issues and found over the years that more and more of the girls referred to them had a history of being exploited for sex trafficking.

Part of the therapeutic programming at Heartland Girl's Ranch includes equine therapy. Girls are matched with horses that they care for on a daily basis. They also have opportunities to learn how to ride and to participate in horse shows.

You can hear the story through the link below, or read the full story and listen on the MPR website.


[Photo by Catherine Green for LA Weekly]

The LA Weekly published a story last Thursday about the story of one young man struggling to find his way after aging out of the system, and a family that has informally offered resources and support.

This story deftly describes the many ways in which young adults aging out of the foster care system fall between the cracks and that even the best and brightest struggle on their own without the famiy their peers rely on for support.

Kevin, the young man in this story, has survived a lot and has a lot of resiliency. Kevin was particularly dedicated to learning, understanding that post-high school education is key to making it on his own. Even so, he struggles.

This article provided an important view into the daily life and challenges that unfortuntately too many youth and young adults in the U.S. face. Kevin is likely to make it, thanks in part to the support from the Campbells. Many others are not as lucky.

To read the article, click here.

Believing that parents who abuse are able to change

| No Comments

An innovative initiative by former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Helen Meyer helps to support parents who have been accused of abusing their children.

According to Myer, repairing the relationship between the parent and child is worth the effort and resources if it prevents the child from having to be placed in out-of-home care or adopted.

Myer's program will train law students on how to represent parents subject to child abuse investigations. According to Myers, these parents in particular need skilled attorneys who can represent them well. In the KSTP report, Myers says, "More often than not our clients are vilified," said Courtney Allensworth, a Mitchell law student who's working in the clinic. "But I think to say that somebody can't learn how to parent, or be an effective parent, sort of defeats the idea of the child protective system."

In addition, Myers states that removal is "a traumatic event. And so you should do it very cautiously. And you should do it only when necessary."

For more, see the video from KSTP 5 below.

What happens when adoption fails?

| No Comments

Two weeks ago the City Limits newspaper published a series by Rachel Blustain on what she termed, "broken adoptions" - that is, adoption dissolutions.

adopt2.jpgPhoto by Marc Fader for City Limits.

The numbers of how many adoptions fail is a tough statistic to obtain, in part because many adoption dissolutions occur years afer an adoption has been finalized; families move, they may not seek help, and the agencies that facilitate the adoption do not always know when the adoption is dissolved. In addition, there is no centralized mechanism for obtaining adoption data.

The series began with the story, "Growing Concerns over Broken Adoptions" in which featured one young woman who was adopted at age 7, only to be abandoned and put back into the foster care system by her adoptive mother at age 13.

The difficulty in obtaining solid numbers about adoption dissolutions is the focus of the second article, "Adoption Numbers in Question." Social service agencies that serve children report that anywhere from 5 to 25% of the kids they serve involve adopted children re-entering out-of-home care.

The third article, "From an Option to a Mandate" explores what happens when adoption is the permanency emphasis without the needed post-adoption services to support the families.

In "Solutions to Broken Adoptions May Lie in "Gray" Areas," a discussion of a different conceptualization to permanency is introduced - one that is flexible, allows children to stay connected with biological family in one way or another, and focusing on the needs of the child rather than agencies, workers and parents.

Finally, the story of one child, S.D., and her attorney who advocated against her adoption, is told in "One Foster Child's Choice: Not to be Adopted." I found the most compelling statement in this piece to be the last paragraph.

When Zimmerman went to court to argue against adoption for S.D., he had no fantasy of a happily ever after. "It was not a slam dunk," he recalls. Still, Zimmerman says, when he convinced the judge to let S.D. remain in foster care for the remainder of her childhood, he felt that he had done the best he could for his client as an individual, not as a permanency statistic.


Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) along with bipartisan support from fellow members of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA), Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) saw their bill aimed at improving educational outcomes of youth in foster care pass both the House and Senate on January 1, 3013. The members of the CCFY were supported by their Senate counterparts, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

One of the most challenging issues facing youth in care is having to repeat courses when they enroll in a new school because their placement changed. Children and youth often had to repeat classes, or potentially miss important classes they need to graduate on time.

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act will now allow child welfare agencies to access foster children and foster youth's education records to help with educational stability and to ensure that chlidren are not having to repeat classes as a result of placement moves. Under the current education laws regarding access to education records, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), social workers struggled in obtaining records that would help provide stability and smoother education transitions.

The Uninterrupted Scholar Act, along with the emphasis on educational stability outlined in the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, strengthen the resources child welfare agencies need to improve educational outcomes for youth in care. While the Fostering Connections emphasizes the importance of keeping children in the same schools to lessen school interruptions that are so difficult on a child's educational success, the Uninterrupted Scholars Act helps when those transitions and placement moves do occur.

As reported in the Huffington Post, Representative George Miller (D-CA) stated,

"Throughout their young lives they may change care placements multiple times. Each placement means adjusting to a new family; often to a new community, new friends and a new school. Each move can put their educational success in jeapordy that's because the caseworkers who advocate for them as they move from one school to another often do so without critical information. Though current law rightly requires foster care workers to move children's educational records in their case plans, another federal law limits the ability of caseworkers to access those records in a timely manner."

This video from Fostering Media Connections provides a good summary of the issue.

Building social capital for youth in foster care

| No Comments


Earlier this month we discussed social media and adopted and foster youth. While social media is often discussed as a concern regarding the ways in which youth use it, what isn't always as talked about is how it is part of a youth's overall social capital and why social capital is an important area that young people, particularly those in care, need help with.

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative recently released their Issue Brief #2 on Social Capital: Building Quality Networks for Young People in Foster Care and it is available at this link.

Social capital is very important for youth in foster care, who typically lose connections with important friends, family and other people through the transitory nature of being in foster care. According to the issue brief, social capital is made up of a person's reciprocal and mutual social relationships.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for social capital.jpg

Social capital has several dimensions, including the number of relationships, the quality of those relationships and the resources that are available as a result of these relationships. Think of the saying often used about getting a job - "it's who you know."

For youth who do not experience foster care, the modeling of social relationships and the ability to see how social networking happens in different contexts is demonstrated in family and in the community. For youth in care who experience multiple transitions, it may be more difficult to see examples of long-term, caring, reciprocal, trusting relationships extended over time. In fact, our system once discouraged foster care adoption or allowing foster parents to get too attached to the youth in their care.

This issue brief outlines a few practical ways to help foster social capital experiences for foster youth, including helping to make school stability a priority, supporting sibling relationships, engaging with birth family as much as safely possible, maintaining involvement with the child's community and neighborhood and supporting the development of positive peer relationships.

National Adoption Month 2012

| No Comments

It's National Adoption Month time again. Since President Clinton expanded National Adoption Week to National Adoption Month in 1995, National Adoption Month has been an effort to bring attention to the children and youth in foster care in need of adoption.

Throughout this month we will be highlighting stories about foster care adoption and bring attention to helpful resources for families and professionals.

For today's post we share a message from the Children's Bureau about National Adoption Month initiative - helping states use social media as a tool for recruiting parents for children and youth in foster care.

On the Children's Bureau's National Adoption Month website you will find a host of resources. Follow along to the AdoptUSKids twitter feed, watch videos, share their widgets on Adoption in the Digital Age and make use of the many resources available for youth, parents and professionals.

Hear Me Now - the 2012 CCAI Foster Youth Internship Report

| No Comments

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Foster Youth Internship Report, Hear Me Now, has just been released.

The Foster Youth Internship program, created in 2003, provides opportunities for formerly fostered young adults to become congressional interns, where they learn about policies and the legislative process on foster care and adoption. The Foster Youth Internship program enables formerly fostered young adults to learn how to get their voices and policy recommendations heard. As part of the program, interns produce a policy report that they present at a congressional hearing.


The 2012 report, titled Hear Me Now, includes the most recent cohort's policy recommendations. The chapters and authors are:

  • Preventing Crossover from Foster Care into the Criminal Justice System / R.J. Sloke
  • Educating Congress: The Value of Investing in Post-Secondary Education for Foster Youth / Maurissa Sorensen
  • Age of Accountability / Tawny Spinelli
  • Care for Youth in Care: The Need for High-Quality Foster Parents / Ashley Lepse
  • Transitional Foster Youth, Post-Secondary Education, & Mentor Programs / Michael Duvall
  • Life's Transitions Do Not Occur Overnight / Briana Dovi
  • Foster Youth for Sale / Talitha James
  • An Information Database for Foster Youth / Marchelle Roberts
  • Putting Home Back in Group Home / James Williams
  • Leaving No Indian Child Behind / Daryle Conquering Bear
  • Having Options Provides Empowerment / Cristina Miranda
  • Lifelong Connections: You Determine My Fate / Dashun Jackson
  • A Pill for Every Problem: Overmedication and Lack of Mental Health Services among Foster Youth / Cassandra Cook

Executive Director Kathleen Strottman writes in this year's forward,

"For far too long we have let the voices of those in care go unheard...It has been my experience that the voices of foster care alumni are the ones we should be listening to more than any others. When they speak, things actually stand a chance of getting better. Not because their stories remind us of how far we have yet to go, but because their ingenuity and passion for making a difference show us just how far we can reach."
Listening to those who have been in care - the children that were in foster homes, institutions, and adopted - should be a top priority for any organization or agency that takes the title "child welfare" seriously. For all the lip service given about "the best interests of the child," it is the rare child welfare organization that asks those that were the children about their experiences or, even more rarely, what needs to be done better.

According to the CCAI website:

  • 100 former foster youth have used this experience as a foundation to go on and pursue a variety of distinguished careers
  • 60 Members of Congress have heard the voice of former foster youth and are now educated about issues affecting their lives
  • 10 Congressional briefings have provided firsthand knowledge to policymakers
  • 125 policy recommendations have been presented to policymakers
  • 37% of FYIs have gone on to pursue graduate, law, and doctoral degrees
  • 47% of FYIS enter careers in social service

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family.

You can download a PDF of the report from the CCAI blog here.

The Children's Bureau released a new Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) report for 2011 (October 1-September 30, 2011). According to the report:

  • In 2011, there was a continued trend toward fewer childrThumbnail image for 00202032.jpgen waiting for adoption (104,236 children, down from 109,456 in 2010 and from 133,682 in 2007).
  • During the reporting period, parental rights were terminated for 61,361 children.
  • The mean age for children waiting for adoption was 8 years, and their mean age when they entered foster care was 5 years.
  • 23% of the children were in relative foster homes, and 54% were in non-relative foster homes.
  • 12% of the children were in pre-adoptive homes.
  • 9% of the children were in a group home or institution.
  • 40% of the children waiting for adoption were white, 28% Black or African American, 22% Hispanic of any race, 6% two or more races and 2% American Indian/Alaskan Native.
  • 53% of the children were boys and 47% were girls.
  • The mean time these children had been in care was 23.6 years.

Download a PDF of the report here or go to the Statistics and Research page of the ACF website.

When adoptive parents target adopted children for abuse

Photo of two adoptive parents who targeted their adopted children for abusePhoto by Chris Wilson for the Journal Sentinel

The abuse of children who have been adopted by their adoptive parents is particularly tragic, considering that adoption is supposed to be the safe haven for children who have already experienced the traumatic dissolution of their birth families.

A recent case of the abuse of internationally adopted children born in Russia and adopted to a family in Wisconsin has increased the tensions between Russia and the U.S. when it comes to the welfare of Russian adopted children. At least 18 Russian adopted children have been murdered by their American adoptive parents and many more Russian adoptees have been abused.

According to reports, the adoptive parents in this case targeted their adopted children for abuse and included their biological children in the abuse.

Below are a selection of news reports about this case.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for MN ADOPT logo.jpg

MN Adopt is offering a training on August 6, 2012 on Working with the Mind-Body Connection: Understanding Stress and Trauma in Adopted and Foster Youth. The training will be presented by Lora Matz, LICSW.

From the description:

Increased levels of anxiety, depression and hopelessness are being seen in children from all socio-economic conditions, cultures and family life. Stress-related stomachaches and headaches in children of all ages are being reported as the number one health concern for children by physicians today. The principals and practices of Mind-Body skills are easily learned and empowering. Lora Matz offers Mind-Body skills that not only increase self-confidence, resilience and self-regulation but contribute to decreased disruptive behaviors often seen in children who have trauma histories. Participants will gain insight on how to talk to children of different ages about the stress response and how it impacts the body and emotions.

Lora Matz, LICSW is an internationally known health and wellness expert in the practices of Integrative Medicine. She currently serves as Clinical Education Specialist of Prairie Care and has a rich background as a psychotherapist, lecturer, writer and consultant in the areas of mind-body medicine and transpersonal development. Lora has many years of experience working with both children and adults in the areas of trauma and stress reduction strategies. She has served as Associate Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington D.C. and supervised the team who worked with the children who were on the school bus when the I-35W bridge collapsed. Addtionally, she has worked with adoptees and foster children as a foster mother, psychotherapist with both children and adults who have been adopted and their families. She also has worked as a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor with individuals struggling with issues related to failed adoptions.

For more information on this or other trainings, contact MN Adopt at: or

612-861-7112 (fax)
866-303-6276 (toll free)

scale.jpgAn Ottawa man's children have been removed from his custody and will be placed for adoption because of the father's weight. According to the CBC News report, a parent's obesity can be a factor to determine a person's "fitness" to parent. Despite a 180 lb. weight loss, according to the unnamed father he is still being judged because he weighs over 300 pounds.

Obesity has been a factor in other cases, such as this case of a Cleveland, OH child, where it was the child's weight that targeted the family for child protection intervention.

What are your thoughts? Should weight be a factor in a child's removal and termination of parental rights?

Summary of 2012 Foster Care Legislation in MN, part 1


Significant changes were made to the foster care statutes in the last legislative session. This post will summarize part of the new legislation changes, and more will come in a future post.

Several definitions were amended:

  • "Child" was amended to include references to other statutes allowing youth to remain in foster care to age 21.
  • "Sibling" was amended to "one of two or more individuals who have one or both parents in common through blood, marriage or adoption, including siblings as defined by the child's tribal code or custom."
Juvenile Court
Amendments were made regarding juvenile court to include its jurisdiction for youth up to age 21 in child welfare and permanency, and to include adoption proceedings in juvenile court.

Emergency protective custody hearing amendments include:

  • Reasonable efforts to prevent placement are NOT required if a parent has committed sexual abuse against their child or another child, or is a registered sexual predator.
  • The court may order chemical dependency, mental health, medical or parenting assessments/evaluations as the court deems necessary as a means of supporting the development of a reunification plan.
  • Out of Home Placement plans must be based on the results of the emergency protective custody hearing, and the agency must make reasonable efforts to engage both parents (including paternal) in case planning.
Out of Home Placement Plan
The term "residential facility" was replaced with "foster care" and includes
  • family foster homes (both relative and non-relative),
  • group homes,
  • emergency shelters,
  • residential facilities (not otherwise excluded),
  • child care institutions, and
  • pre-adoptive homes.
Agencies are now required to document their efforts to keep the child in the same school if a placement change occurs.

Duties of the commissioner and the child-placing agency
Changes to the legislation include:

  • Training for prospective foster and adoptive parents now must specifically include preparing parents to care for the needs of foster and adoptive children.
  • Home studies must follow the commissioner's designated format.
  • The home study must provide the information needed for agencies to determine the family's capacity to meet the needs of a child based on the best interest factors.
  • Licensing agencies may provide the updated adoption home study for their foster families who want to adopt.
  • Prospective adoptive parents with approved home studies may have their foster care license applied through the same agency.
One of the aspects of the new legislation that struck me in particular was the following section. Chapter 260C was amended to broaden child protection to include juvenile protection. This includes adding juvenile protection proceedings including CHIPS, permanency, TPR, post-permanency reviews and adoption. Juvenile protection proceedings are intended to ensure permanency planning.

Additions to section 260C also include permanency planning for children in foster care that includes both a primary plan for reunification with parents and a secondary plan for an alternative permanent legal home in the case that reunification "cannot be achieved in a timely manner." Reasonable efforts include:

  • Locating and assessing both parents,
  • Identifying and notifying relatives, and
  • Placement with a caregiver that supports concurrent permanency efforts.
The new legislation also includes the expressed prioritization that adoption is the preferred permanency option, whether by a relative or non-relative. The next best option if adoption is not possible or in the child's best interest is a transfer of permanent legal and physical custody to a relative.

**What are your thoughts about adoption being prioritized in statute as the preferred permanency option? What are the political and/or social biases that led to this expressed change in the law? What are the potential outcomes for families?****


One of the long-held myths about adoption has been that children become confused about the concept of having more than one set of parents. This became one of the rationales used to amend birth certificates identifying adoptive parents as birth parents once an adoption finalization has occurred in the United States, and to justify closed adoptions.

However, it is untrue that children can be confused about who their parents are, and it is untrue that children cannot love more than one set of parents. We don't expect parents to be incapable of loving more than one child. And children whose parents divorce and re-marry often end up having more than one "mother" and "father" figure. The onus is on the parents and adults to be secure in their parenting role and to communicate well with children about the parental figures in their lives.

In California, a bill has been introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D) that would allow for more than two legal parents for a child. That bill, SB1476, does not change the definition of a parent, but it eliminates the requirement that a child may only have up to two parents.

According to the article in the Sacramento Bee, examples of three-parent relationships that could be affected by SB 1476 include:

• A family in which a man began dating a woman while she was pregnant, then raised that child with her for seven years. The youth also had a parental relationship with the biological father.
• A same-sex couple who asked a close male friend to help them conceive, then decided that all three would raise the child.
• A divorce in which a woman and her second husband were the legal parents of a child, but the biological father maintained close ties as well.

The law was created to expand the possibilities of caregivers for children without having to place children in foster care, the situation that occurred for one girl when her two mothers (in a same-sex relationship) were both unable to care for her and her biological father could not be deemed the legal father because of the law limiting the number of parents to two.

Leno's website states:

This bill would reaffirm a family court judge's ability to recognize parent-child relationships based on the evidence and what is in the best interests of the child. The bill modernizes state law by giving courts the flexibility to protect children who have parent-child relationships with more than two

As expected the legislation is opposed by many groups, including the Association of certified Family Law Specialists. The organization's president stated in an interview that this law would "create confusion in the minds of children and in the legal system."

For more information:

MSN: Bill would let children have more than 2 parents
Sacramento Bee: California bill would allow a chlid to have more than two parents

Webinar on helping children with sexualized behaviors

| No Comments

Thumbnail image for MN ADOPT logo.jpg

MN ADOPT is hosting a webinar on July 25, 2012 on Helping Children with Sexualized Behaviors: What Parents and Professionals Need to Know with Jane Seymour, MSW, LGSW.

From the training desciption:
This webinar will review the common myths and facts about children who are exhibiting sexualized behaviors. Participants will learn about the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy sexual behavior in children. The presenter also explores the influence of early traumas, such as domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse and how it manifests with children who display sexualized behaviors. Parents and professionals will learn specific strategies and interventions for working with and helping these children.

Jane Seymour, MSW, LGSW is a Clinical Specialist with the MN ADOPT HELP program at Minnesota Adoption Resource Network (MARN). MN ADOPT HELP provides a Warm Line for adoptive families and connects adoptive families with adoption competent therapists. Prior to her work with MARN, Jane provided individual and group therapy to children who had experienced intra-familial sexual abuse. She also provided in-home therapy, education, and skill building to adoptive and kinship families. Jane has previously worked with families involved with Child Welfare, and with youth in residential and day treatment settings.

For more information on this or other trainings, contact MN Adopt at: or

612-861-7112 (fax)
866-303-6276 (toll free)

Summary of MN DHS 2012 Adoption legislation bulletin

| No Comments

A few weeks ago, we updated you on the new Adoption Assistance legislation that will go into effect in August 2012. Today we will summarize some of the other child welfare legislation that was enacted in the same legislative session.

We will cover adoption policies in this post and in an upcoming post we will summarize foster care policies.

Previously most of the adoption rules and regulations were housed under Chapter 259. The rules and regulations pertaining to children under the guardianship of the commissioner (also referred to as state wards) will now be moved to Chapter 260C. This move means adoption is now included as part of the overall continuum for children in public child welfare. Guidelines for children who are NOT under the guardianship of the commissioner will continue to be in Chapter 259.

Some of the highlights and changes to the adoption of children under the guardianship of the commissioner are:

  • The new legislation reiterates and reorganizes language around "reasonable efforts" to finalize an adoptive placement, emphasizing concurrent permanency planning.

  • There is added emphasis that children under the guardianship of the commissioner may not refuse or waive "reasonable efforts" to recruit, identify or place said child into an adoptive home. This does not change the consent needed by any youth 14 or older to the adoption of a specific parent - this only means that children/youth may not refuse efforts on behalf of the agency to find them an adoptive placement. Youth ages 14+ still need to consent to a specific adoptive placement.

  • Relatives or foster parents who want to file a motion to adopt once a chlid has been placed with another family for adoption has 30 days after receiving the required notice of the adoptive placement to file. The relatives or foster family must have an approved adoption home study and prove that the agency has been unreasonable in responding to their request to adopt.

  • Previously, the home study requirement could be waived for a relative. The relative waiver is no longer an option. All relatives who wish to adopt a child under the guardianship of the commissioner must now have an approved home study.

  • The court is no longer able to order a child that is under guardianship of the commissioner into long-term foster care.

  • Previously, the commissioner was required to consent to the adoption. Under the new policy the commissioner is a signatory to an adoption placement agreement but is no longer required to give consent.

  • Previously, all requests to separate siblings for adoption had to be approved by consent from the commissioner. Under the new policy, the courts will now provide approval for separating siblings for adoption.

  • There will no longer be any exemptions to the requirement that the identified adoptive parent must have a fully executed adoption placement agreement in order to file an adoption petition.

  • The adoptive parent petitioner must be a minimum of 21 years of age, unless the adoptive parent is related to the child.

  • Previously, the court had to waive a requirement that an adoptive parent had to reside in the state of Minnesota of one year prior to filing the adoption petition. With the new legislation, the Minnesota residence has been eliminated.

  • The new law requires a petition for adoption to be filed no later than 9 months after the date of the adoption placement agreement. Previously, the filing requirement was 12 months.

  • If a married couple petitions to adopt, both spouses must sign their willingness to adopt. Exceptions may be made by the court in cases when spouses do not live together or for other reasons the court deems reasonable.

  • The child placing agency must provide testimony in support of the adoption petition during the finalization of the adoption in court. The testimony may be in person, by telephone, or by affidavit.

  • The requirement that a child live at least three months with their pre-adoptive parent prior to the court's order of an adoption decree has been eliminated.
For a more in-depth review, please read the full bulletin.

Data, data, and more data

| No Comments

Data Star Trek.jpg

As someone who is interested in understanding the impact of adoption on children, youth, families, and social welfare systems, one of my biggest frustrations is that there seems to be concurrently an over-abundance of data, and yet the adoption data is very unorganized, un-centralized and differs greatly depending on who is managing the data.

This past week, I saw two data-related stories that interested me. First, a blog I read regularly, the Child Welfare blog, posted about the blogger's project that aims to improve data-sharing capacity nationwide, county by county, so that nationally, researchers (and anyone interested in the data) could better understand the well-being of children in the child welfare system. County- and state-level data is often not collected uniformly, so this project would create an integrated database.

The other data-related story I came across comes from the Right For Kids site. This organization out of Florida created a ranking system of states using AFCARS and other national data to look at several measures of child safety, permanency and well-being (although the report could do a better job citing where the data came from). The full report is available here.

Adoption data in the United States is not centralized so we have no idea the actual numbers of adopted persons in the country, nor how many children are actually being adopted from the many different silos, or types, of adoption that can occur.

For example, each of the following types of adoption are tracked separately (or not at all):

  • children adopted from foster care
  • children adopted by relatives or kin
  • children adopted by stepparents
  • children adopted from other countries
  • children adopted through private arrangements
  • children adopted through illegal/undocumented arrangements
The reality is that the courts, the state child welfare systems, the private adoption agencies, and the U.S. Census all have different ways of "counting" adoption, and none of them are integrated. In addition, trying to understand multiple facets of adoption, permanency and well-being of children is difficult to do without good data. The U.S. Census only began asking about adopted children in the 2000 Census!

The Right For Kids report discusses their desire to have been able to understand even more about children and youth in foster care, such as their educational outcomes.

In Minnesota, thanks to the Minn-LInK project, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare could answer that question - as they did in their study, Educational Outcomes for Children in Out of Home Placement - because of the shared data agreement between the state's Department of Human Services, Department of Health and Department of Education.

Better data and shared data means being able to better answer the questions we have about the children and families whom we are serving. Research tells us what is working, what needs to be improved, and promising practices that make lives better.

MN ADOPT logo.jpg

MN Adopt is offering a training series, Beyond Consequences Training and Support - 8-part Series with Brenda Benning, MSW, LGSW.

This training series will provide insight into children's behaviors as well as hands-on skills to help parents work with children that have experienced traumatic histories. The series is based on the book "Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control" by Heather T. Forbes.

Dates begin Tuesday, July 10th. For more information on this or other trainings, contact MN Adopt at: or

612-861-7112 (fax)
866-303-6276 (toll free)

The Exchange: Focusing on Outcomes for Youth: Permanent ConnectionsThe National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth have focused their latest edition of The Exchange on permanency connections for youth.

The issues focuses on helping youth who are homeless/runaway connect, build, and improve their permanent connections - that is, a stable living situation that these youth are not afraid of having to leave, with connected relationships (including but not limited to family, friends, mentors and other significant relationships).

To read the issue of The Exchange, click here.

In-depth report on the family court system in New York

| No Comments

If you haven't had a chance to visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website and subscribe to their news feeds and links, I would strongly recommend it. This is an invaluable resource for child welfare workers, supervisors, foster and adoptive parents, students, researchers and policymakers. Click here for the list of email subscriptions for which you can sign up.

Each week I receive newsletters from the Child Welfare Information Gateway, and they are full of links to news stories, research articles, and other online resources. The following is a great example of a story I would likely have missed otherwise:

Reporter Helen Zelon from City Limits, an independent investigative news organization, spent several months observing and speaking with people involved with family court in New York state to understand how the family court system works. Her work resulted in an in-depth report that addresses many of the issues that child welfare workers know intimately - working with families in crisis, children adrift in the foster care system, the juvenile justice system, overburdened case workers and court dockets.

This entire series is worth reading. Here are descriptions of each of the chapters in Zelon's report along with the link to the story:

  • From Mom to Not in Seven Minutes: Inside Family Court - City Limits spent months observing Family Court and found an overburdened system where delays were endemic, legal help was scarce and the approach to solving family problems was divided.
  • When Delays Dominate, Kids Lose: Chapter two of our Family Court investigation focuses on the courtrooms that handle custody and child support, where many people try to navigate complex legal lingo without a lawyer, and where running out the clock can be a weapon in warfare between parents.
  • Blurred Lines Between Advocates and Adversaries: All parties in Family Court are supposed to be fighting for the welfare of the child. But chapter 3 of our Family Court investigation finds that in the adversarial format of a courtroom, players sometimes take on conflicting roles.
  • Juvenile Justice System Excludes Many Youthful Wrongdoers: New York's juvenile justice system is the target of reform efforts. But to some critics, it's the fact that New York State tries so many teens outside of juvenile court that most needs reform. Chapter 4 in our Family Court investigation.
  • React, Reform, Repeat: A Round of Change Faces Family Court: In chapter 5 of our investigation of New York City Family Court, we look at past reform efforts and survey judges, lawyers, advocates and parents on how they think the system could be improved.
  • A Separate System with Special Rules: A lower threshold for judgment, different standards of evidence, a shift in the burden of proof and no Fifth Amendment protection--these and other features of Family Court set it apart from the rest of the legal system.
  • Kinship Approach Shows Promise: New York recently began trying to get more children who were removed from their homes placed in guardianship relationships with other relatives. While there are potential pitfalls, the approach can save time and money.
  • Q&A with Family Court's Top Judge: A conversation with Edwina Richardson-Mendelson a one-time lawyer and then a courtroom judge in Family Court who now oversees the city's system.

A week from today, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW), in collaboration with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), will hold a reflective seminar moderated by Professor Esther Wattenberg entitled The Role of Supportive Housing in Improving Responses to High-Risk, Young Parents and Adolescents in Cross-Sector Involvement:

Open to the public
Cost: FREE
Date: June 7, 2012
Time: 1:30pm-4:30pm
Location: The Wilkins Room, 215 Hubert Humphrey Center, University of Minnesota
Register at

The goal of the seminar is to explore supportive housing, both as a concept and as a resource for two deep-end groups that now engage our attention: young parents and cross-sector adolescents. The focal point, homelessness, will feature a discussion of resources that contribute to case planning.

Supportive housing has been shown to be effective in promoting permanency and stability in the lives of children and youth. For example, our recent Minn-LInK report analyzing the role of supportive housing in the lives of homeless children showed that those utilizing supportive housing were less likely to be involved in child protection, and out-of-home placements decreased over time. To understand policy implications of this topic, please review our Child Welfare Policy Blog post.

We are presenting our 13th Annual FREE Child Welfare conference,
Beyond Burnout: Secondary Trauma in the Child Welfare Workforce
on May 1, 2012, from 1:00pm to 4:30pm.

We are pleased to feature keynote presenter Dr. Brian Bride, PhD, LCSW, who is Associate Professor and PhD Program Director at the School of Social Work, University of Georgia. Following the keynote presentation Erika Tullberg, MPA, MPH of the ACS-NYU Children's Trauma Institute will present on the Institute's Resilience Alliance Project intervention, which addresses STS experienced by child welfare staff. The conference will conclude with a panel presentation, which will include a local child welfare worker and a local administrator.

The conference will be held in the DQ Room at the TCF Bank Stadium, University of Minnesota, East Bank campus, and will also be available via live web stream. As always, there is no charge for this conference.

Participants may earn 3.5 CEUs for their attendance.

Information and registration for this event may be found at

Please note: Registration will only be available through Monday, April 23, 2012.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact Nora Lee at, or 612-624-4231.

We look forward to your attendance!

CW360-CEEDCover.gif Last week, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare published a special edition of CW360° on using a develomental approach to child welfare practice. The publication, created in collaboration with the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED), is an incredible resource for anyone working in the areas of adoption and permanency.

Understanding child development is integral to child welfare practice, in particular for children and youth that are involved in adoption and permanency. Foster care and adoption workers, as well as foster, adoptive, and kinship/relative caregivers must understand the impact of early experiences of abuse, neglect, trauma, stress, multiple placements and institutionalization have on a child's development and how that affects children and youth's permanency outcomes.

This special issue of CW360° includes perspectives from child welfare workers, foster parents, judges, researchers, and policy experts. Topics include: higlighting innovative programs for parents and children; what foster parents need to meet the developmental needs of children in their care; influencing public policy to include child development; current research; and collaboration among child welfare, education, public health, child development and mental health arenas.

For a copy of this issue of CW360°, click here.

For past issues of CW360° including special issues on:
2009 Permanency or Aging Out: Adolescents in the Child Welfare System and 2010 Promoting Placement Stability
visit our CW360° page at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare.

Adoptions in 2007 and 2008

| No Comments

cover_AJ-0023A_page_1.pngThe Child Welfare Information Gateway has published a report on the number of children adopted in 2007 and 2008. For those who study adoption, this is an important update, as the last major report by the Children's Bureau looked at the numbers of children adopted in 2000-2001.

According to the report: There is no single source for the total number of children adopted in the United States, and no straightforward way to determine the total number of adoptions, even when multiple data sources are used. This report gives best estimates of the numbers of children adopted in each of the States for 2007 and 2008 from state courts, the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), and the U.S. Department of State.

Some of the findings from the report:

  • About 40% of the adoptions that occur are from public child welfare agencies (i.e. foster care adoption)

  • About 13-14% of adoptions are international adoptions

  • About 46-47% of adoptions are from private agencies.

The report is downloadable here or you can visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway page to see the table of contents or to dowload specific chapters of the report.

Over the past few days, several articles have reported this story about an Indian family living in Norway whose children were placed in foster care, sparking accusations of racial and cultural prejudice.

According to The Telegraph article that was published today, Norway has accused the parents of over-feeding their children and allowing them to co-sleep. Norweigan social workers also claim the children's mother suffers from depression,

BBAW4Y_2118435b.jpg[Photo by Alamy]

According to the children's grandparents, the allegations that led to the removal of the children are culturally-accepted ways of child-rearing in their culture, where it is common practice for mothers to "push food into their toddler's mouths" and where "children often sleep in their parents' bed until they are six or seven."

In The Telegraph, the head of the Child Welfare Services is quoted as saying, "I most strongly deny that this case in any way is based on cultural prejudice or misinterpretation. I am unable to give any comments regarding the particular grounds in this case because of our duty of confidentiality."

According to the article, Norwegian officials have determined the children will remain in foster care in Norway until they are 18 years old. The family is pushing for the children to be cared for by their grandparents, but according to the article, Indian officials are getting involved.

Read the article in full here.

Another article on this story: Reunite Indian Kids with Parents, Delhi Urges Oslo

Law scholar critiques current child welfare narrative

| No Comments

Last week, Matthew Fraidin, Visiting Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, wrote an essay titled, Changing the Narrative of Child Welfare for the Huffington Post. In the article, Fraidin critiques the current system that harms more than helps children by unnecessarily removing many of them from their parents' homes because of factors related to poverty, not abuse.

Fraidin writes, "...more than 70% of the children in foster care are there because of allegations that they were neglected, not abused. And neglect -- lack of food, clothing, shelter, supervision, or other necessities of life -- is poverty by another name."

Rather than punishing parents because of their poverty, Fraidin suggests improving anti-poverty programs, encourage clients to advocate for themselves and to look for ways to build on families strengths instead of focusing only on their problems.

Read the article and let us know your thoughts!

Weekly news round-up

| No Comments

Each Friday on the Stability, Permanency and Adoption blog we will provide a selection of news from the past week that you may have missed.

Today's news round up:

A new research center in Michigan will address the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren. The National Research Center for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is the result of a collaboration between Western Michigan University and Georgia State University. According to Linda Dannison, Chair of Western Michigan University's Family and consumer Sciences, "Having a center devoted to better understanding and influencing policy and practices in order to facilitate people's awareness will have a more positive impact on the lives of children." For more information on the center, click here or visit the center's website here.

The boy removed from his mother's care due to his obesity is being placed in relative care. The Washington Post reports that the 9-year old will be placed in his uncle's care. According to the Post article, "The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio joined the case on the boy's behalf and said he should be with his family. 'We think it's a fundamental liberty for a child to be brought up in his home among family and friends,' said the ACLU's James Hardiman." Read the story here.

The Child Welfare League of America and Lambda Legal released a practice guide for state and local child welfare agencies working with LGBTQ youth in child welfare settings. According to the article, ACYF commissioner Bryan Samuels is quoted, "These guidelines provide practical examples of practices that every child welfare agency can use to better meet the needs of the LGBTQ youth in their care." For the article, click here.

The Washington Post reported that the Virgina Board of Social Services has ruled that state-licensed adoption agencies can discriminate against LGBTQ prospective adoptive parents based solely on their sexual orientation. Read the full story here.

According to the Associated Press, the Bureau of Indian Affairs will hold a summit in South Dakota to address concerns that the state is not in compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. The state claims the NPR report which reported the great disparities in a three-part series this past fall is inaccurate. You can read the full article here.

In New Jersey, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D) has introduced a bill requiring adoptive parents to raise their adopted child in the faith or religion of their biological parents. From the New Jersey Jewish Standard, Marc Stern, Associate General Counsel for the American Jewish Committee stated, "It is traumatic enough to pull kids out of a home, and if you have kids who are Sabbath-observant and eat kosher food, and you put them in with the family who is up next on the DYFS list, you are adding to the trauma," he said. The bill has received some support from Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Catholic communities.
You can read the entire article here.

fanciershawl_250x.jpgA controversial ruling by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding an Indian Child Welfare Act case has been brought to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Nation is asking the U.S. Supremem Court to determine whether the tribe has the jurisdiction to define their members regarding Indian Child Welfare Act cases.

As this MPR news story (originally aired November 30, 2011) reports, American Indian children have high rates of removal and are much more likely to be placed into out-of-home care. In Minnesota, that rate is 14 times higher than white children. The Indian Child Welfare Act was created to give tribes jurisdiction over the placement of their children. Prior to the enactment of ICWA, American Indian children were placed in non-Native foster and adoptive homes and boarding schools where the goal was to strip them of their culture. Today, many of those who experienced these placements are speaking out, as in this article, The Adoption Era, defined: Native Americans expose a forgotten period in their history.

The question raised by the Cherokee Nation is whether the courts violated ICWA because of the Cherokee Nation Citizenship Act that grants tribal membership to all infants up to 240 days after birth. The 10th Circuit Court ruled that ICWA does not apply to the Cherokee Nation Citizenship Act because by definition, an Indian child under ICWA must be already enrolled in the tribe and in this particular case the child's mother was not an enrolled memeber of the Cherokee tribune until after the placement.

For the full article, Supreme Court Approached on ICWA Issue, click here.

You can also listen to the NPR story by reporter Sasha Aslanian below:

or at the MPR website.

For more resources on Indian child welfare and the Indian Child Welfare Act, here are some resources:

Youth in foster care: A report on teen parents

| No Comments

643881_30290496.jpgAccording to a report from Chlid Trends released on December 9, 2011, youth in foster care have an increased risk of having a child as teen parent. These young parents experience many challenges and often, outcomes for these youth and their children are poor.

Teen Parents in Foster Care: Risk Factors and Outcomes for Teens and Their Children identify several risk factors these youth experience that may contribute to their becoming a teen parent, including:

  • raised in a single parent home
  • chaotic home environment
  • poverty
  • exposure to abuse and/or neglect
  • low academic performance
  • poor school engagement
  • risky sexual behavior
The research study also includes several recommendations particularly focused on creating ways to better understand this population, particularly the teen parents and their children. For the report, click here.



The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare is pleased to announce that we will be co-presenting a webinar for the National Resource Center for Adoption tomorrow, Wednesday December 14th at 1pm CST/ 2pm EST.

Traci LaLiberte, Executive Director of CASCW and JaeRan Kim, Coordinator of the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate will join Christeen Borsheim, Director of Child Safety and Permanency Division at the MN Department of Human Services and Debbie Riley, CEO of the Center for Adoption Support and Education.

Meeting Description:
Adoptive parents, adopted persons and adoption researchers consistently tell us the mental health needs of adopted children and youth often go unmet, largely because there are too few adoption competent mental health professionals.

Recognizing that clinicians need quality adoption competent training, the Center for
Adoption Support and Education developed a 78 hour curriculum and case consultation process designed to provide practitioners with the knowledge and skills they need to provide quality mental health services for adopted persons, birth and kinship families, prospective adoptive parents and adoptive families.

Following a rigorous pilot test, the training is currently being replicated in three communities -- one of which is the State of Minnesota which has demonstrated stellar leadership in committing resources to ensuring that adopted children and adoptive families in both urban and rural areas of the state are served by adoption
competent clinicians. This webinar highlights the Minnesota program and the state leaders and university partners who have worked to develop, fund and fully implement this training and greatly expand the state's mental health treatment capacity.
This webinar is hosted by Natalie Lyons, Director, National Resource Center for Adoption.

To register or learn more about the webinar, click here.

Overmedicating children and youth in foster care

| No Comments

Last Friday night, Diane Sawyer and ABC World News reported on a year-long investigation by the Government Accounting Office that found that children and youth in foster care - even infants as young as a year old - were over-prescribed psychiatric medications or inappropriately receiving psychiatric medication for conditions that did not exist. In addition, the GAO report asserts that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has not done enough to to protect the overmedication of children and youth in foster care.

The GAO report findings are startling. Compared to their non-foster care counterparts:

  • Overall, children and youth in foster care are 9 times more likley to receive psychiatric medications in which there was no FDA-recommended dosage for their age
  • Babies less than one year old in foster care were two times more likely to be prescribed psychiatric medication
  • Children in foster care in Texas were 53 times more likely to be prescribed five or more psychiatric medications
  • In Michigan, children in foster care are 15 times more likely to be prescribed five or more psychiatric medications
  • In Massachusetts, children were 19 times more likley to be prescribed five or more psychiatric medications
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Read the full article here.

ABC's resource page on organizations advocating for children and youth in foster care is available here.

World AIDS Day

| No Comments

Cross-posted from the Child Welfare Policy Blog.

World AIDS Day 2011 provides some glimmers of hope for children with HIV/AIDS worldwide. HIV and AIDS related deaths for children under age 15 have dropped 10 percent since 2005 and the number of newly infected children has dropped by 24 percent in the same time period. Still, nearly 10 percent of the globe's orphans have been left without a family due to HIV/AIDS.

What does this have to do with adoption?

Read more here.

Timeline of adoption legislation

| No Comments

Cross-posted on the Child Welfare Policy Blog

Tomorrow, several states and counties across the United States will finalize adoptions as part of National Adoption Day 2011, the day designated each year to bring awareness and recognition of foster care adoption in the United States (for more information about Adoption Day events in Minnesota click here).

Over the past month, two bills have been introduced to support the adoption of children and youth in foster care into adoptive homes. On Wednesday, November 17, 2011, SR 302, introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) was passed (the House version, H Res 433 was introduced by Senator Bachmann (R-MN)). Senator Landrieu's speech about the passage of the resolution is below.

In honor of National Adoption Day, the following is a list of major adoption-related legislation that have had huge impacts on the lives of adoptive families (click on each law for more information):

New adoption legislation - Every Child Deserves a Family Act

| No Comments

Last Friday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced plans to introduce the Every Child Deserves A Family Act, an anti-discrimination bill that would prohibit child welfare agencies receiving federal assistance from discriminating against prospective foster or adoptive parents based solely on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or marital status. In addition, this bill would prohibit agencies from discriminating against the sexual orientation or gender identity of foster youth.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-VT.), Patty Murray (D-WA.), Al Franken (D-MN.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) have co-sponsored the bill in the Senate, currently in review in the Congressional Budget Office. So far 76 Representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors in the bi-partisan House version, H.R. 3827, led by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Earlier efforts at passing this legislation, including a version of the ECDF introduced in the 111th Congress (introduced by Rep. Stark), were unsuccessful.

While many states take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach towards their acceptance of LGBT prospective adoptive parents, Mississippi, Utah, Louisiana, Michigan and N. Carolina outright prohibit same-sex couples from adopting (although individuals identifying as LGBT may be approved if adopting as a single parent). Several states prohibit the second-parent adoption of a partner's child for LGBT couples (see this map for more information on state by state comparisons).

However, even for those other states without outright legislation prohibiting the adoption by LGBT individuals or couples, agency bias in practice often results in delayed or denied placements of children into LGBT homes such as in Arizona where heterosexual married couples receive placement preference over same-sex couples. Only six states (California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and New York) currently prohibit discrimination against LGBT prospective parents.

According to a recent Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report, Expanding resources for children III: Research based best practices in adoption by gays and lesbians (2011):

  • Lesbians and gay men adopt at significant rates, with over 65,000 adopted and 14,000 foster children in the U.S. residing in homes headed by non-heterosexuals. Children growing up in such households show similar patterns of adjustment as those raised by heterosexuals.

  • At least 60% of U.S. adoption agencies accept non-heterosexual parental applicants, and almost 40% have knowingly placed children with them - meaning almost any lesbian, gay man, or same-sex couple can find a professional to work with them

  • Over 50% of lesbian and gay parents adopted children from the child welfare system, and 60% adopted transracially. These findings demonstrate that non-heterosexual individuals and couples are important resources for children who linger in foster care

The Family Equality Council has created a helpful web site with information about the Every Family Deserves a Family Act, as well as maps for state-by-state comparison regarding adoption legislation for LGBT individuals and couples.

LGBT state map.jpg

More links: