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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

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Achieving Permanency for Youth Based in the Community

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This post is written by the Stability, Permanency, and Adoption MSW Intern, Andrea Brubaker.

As an alternative design to placing children in foster care in permanent families, the non-profit group home San Pasqual Academy near San Diego, CA offers a place for youth in foster care to live, attend high school, learn job skills, and be a member of a community.

The Academy has seen many successes, such as a 90% graduation rate, which is twice the statewide average for children in foster care. Accepted students at San Pasqual Academy range in age from 14-18 and must have no previous record of violence or substance addiction. They must also be in good academic standing.

The Academy, modeled after a youth village in Haifa, Israel, aims to create an alternative to family reunification and conventions of contemporary foster care. San Pasqual Academy has shown that positive outcomes for children who have gone through the foster care system can be achieved through peer and mentor support in a community based model.

This article highlights an interesting difference between traditional practice that puts connecting youth with a permanent family first and using a group home setting to extend permanency connections for youth as they age and grow out of the system.

To read more on this model and research on San Pasqual Academy go to:
http://www.psmag.com/education/best-remedy-broken-family-family-65379/. View the Academy's website: http://www.sanpasqualacademy.org/admission_guidelines.htm

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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

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[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.

According to a study by researcher Alice Home, from the University of Ottawa School of Social Work, the major challenges for Canadian adoptive parents are finding and accessing post-adoption support and services, and getting a diagnosis and then understanding what that means for a child with special needs. Particularly challenging for parents who adopt internationally is the lack of information about the child's needs.

Home's study with 26 Candaian adoptive parents and with adoption professionals found that parents often struggle to find help, fearing that adoption agency workers will blame the parents for their problems.

Participants were videotaped and Home is in the process of publishing the findings.
The videos are available at the Adoption Council of Canada site.

Chapter 1: Working together across boundaries

Chapter 2: Stakeholder study

Chapter 3: Advocating for children with disabilities

Chapter 4: Ways forward

For more information:
HealthCanal article, "Unique study on adoptive parenting sheds light on lack of post-adoption support"
Adoption Council of Canada (AAC)

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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.

The costs of doing "nothing"

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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.

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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.

When an adoption is finalized, it is the promise of a new chapter in the lives of children and parents. And while the majority of adoptive families thrive, there are some that don't fulfill the promise of a "forever family" for a child.

The National Council for Adoption (NCFA)'s August issue of the Adoption Advocate looks at ways to support children and families when an adoption dissolution occurs.

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Authors John Bergeron, Jr., PhD and Robin Pennington discuss what they have seen in their practices assisting families that dissolve an adoption. Some of the observations the author describe as typical among parents that end up dissolving an adoption include difficulty understanding a child's attachment behaviors (particularly over-pathologizing what might be "normal" attachment problems for a child with a trauma background); marital stress, difficulty not getting into control power plays with the child; and interestingly enough families with higher incomes and higher educated mothers have been found to be a factor in dissolutions. Bergeron and Pennington also point out that in their clinical experiences it is usually when the adoptive mother decides she is not able to continue the adoptive relationship that a dissolution occurs.

Although the process of dissolving an adoption varies depending on the children and parents involved, the authors reiterate that the primary focus should be on ensuring the child's needs are at front and center. These needs include:

  • The child's safety and stability
  • A truthful explanation that is sensitive and thoughtful for the child
  • Assisting the child in creating a narrative of what happened, focusing on the family's inability to meet the child's needs and that it is not the child's fault

Information on the needs of the family and future recommendations for research are also included. And for the families who may be adopting a child that has experienced a previous dissolution, the authors state,

The receiving or re-adoptive family has its own distinct set of needs that must be addressed when a dissolution has occurred. The first area of need is that of recruiting and training these families. Children in need of re-adoption have, on average, a level of greater need than the typical adopted child. In addition, they have experienced yet another major loss - relinquishment by parents they thought were their "forever family" - that will assuredly make subsequent trust and attachment more difficult for them. Families re-adopting these children need to be even more psychologically healthy, stable, and experienced than typical adoptive families. They require specialized training that will give them the knowledge and tools they need to establish and maintain a family environment of support, healing, and growth.

For the whole guide, click here.

Camp To Belong is a special summer camp. Along with swimming, hiking, and other fun summer activities, the children who attend get to participate in something many of us take for granted - they get to do these activities with their brothers and sisters who live in other foster or adoptive homes.

Camp To Belong was started by Lynn Price who herself was separated from her sister when they were placed in separate foster homes. Price wanted to create a place where children separated from siblings, through no fault of their own, could maintain their relationship even if they didn't have the opportunity to live together.

This story featuring the camp was aired a few days ago on NBC news.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Camp To Belong is currently in ten states. I have long thought Minnesota should have one as well. How would having a Camp To Belong or a similar venue for reuniting siblings separated through foster care and adoption impact how we practice permanency in our state?

Thoughts?

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For those of you interested in all things permanency and adoption related, the Child Welfare Information Gateway has some terrific materials.

Last week I learned about the Enhancing Permanency For Youth in Out Of Home Care publication. You can download a pdf of this guide at the CWIG website.

This guide discusses:

  • The importance of focusing on youth and family connections
  • Federal legislation supporting youth permanency
  • Strategies for permanency planning with youth
  • Barriers to permanency for youth

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A couple of weeks ago, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare held its annual spring conference and the subject of this year's conference was the intersection of disabilities and child welfare.

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One of our speakers was Lupe Ortiz-Tovar, who along with her colleague Clay Fink, presented information on the National Resource Center for Youth Development's Making Healthy Choices: A Guide on Psychotropic Medications for Youth in Foster Care. This is a fantastic, youth-centric publication that I could see being a really helpful tool for workers or foster parents or adoptive parents to do along with a teenager who is currently taking psychotropic medications. I would encourage workers and agencies that work with this population to order your free copy of the guide!

The guide is available in English and Spanish.

This guest blog post was written by May Borgen.

The article was written by Amanda L. Baden, Lisa M. Treweeke and Muninder K. Ahluwalia in October 2012 for the Journal of Counseling & Development. The title of the article is Reclaiming Culture: Reculturation of Transracial Adoptees. The authors coin the phrase "reculturation" because they do not believe that the current term of acculturation or enculturation accurately describe the reclamation of birth culture of individuals who have been transracially adopted whether internationally or domestically. The reason given for that is that adoptees' birth culture is less readily accessible to them as they would be for other individuals who function cross-culturally.

Among the strong pints of the article is that it gives a good clear description of the developmental process that a transracially adopted person experiences from birth and onward in developing a cultural identity. The article also describes different outcomes of the reculturation process. Included in the article are differences and similarities between transracial adoptees who have been internationally and domestically adopted. The article also provides three different approaches to reculturation as being education, experience and immersion and implications of reculturation for parenting, practice and future research. The cultural developmental process is described clearly and informatively including tables and charts.

The article does dispel myths about adoption in that it describes the expectation generally held in society that individuals belongs to their birth culture for the rest of their lives. Due to most adoptive parents in the US being White-American, the lived culture of most adoptees will be White American regardless of their birth culture. The article describes the process the transracial adoptee experiences in developing a cultural identity consisting of both their birth culture and their lived culture combined. Many times this process involves identifying with a third culture of adoptees with which they familiarize themselves and come to identify with. When transracial adoptees reclaim their culture, this entails their full immersion into their birth culture. If the adoptees become bicultural they will rather seek reculturation the country in which they already live with persons of their own ethnic background. Those who assimilate into their lived culture will not pursue connection to any greater degree with their birth culture, and those who combine culture will combine all these different ways of relating to their cultural background.

The article mentions the different circles of influence that transracial adoptees participate in as well. Parental influence is mentioned as highly important in the reculturation process of the transracial adoptee but the article does state that "we believe that the transracial adoptive parents alone cannot eliminate the trajectory that adoptees make toward reculturation". The article doe however emphasize the importance of parental understanding, empathy, self-awareness, and racial consciousness as factors likely to affect the reculturation process of the transracial adoptee.

A weakness of the article is that it does not cover the topic of implications of the reculturation process for the practice of adoption, and the education of adoptive families which would have been very helpful.

This post was guest written by Brian Magruder.

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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.

Contested adoption pits family against foster parents

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This guest blog post was written by Emma Siebold.

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The article, Split the Baby: Two Sides of an Adoption Battle, was published in the Minnesota City Pages newspaper on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 and written by Olivia LeVecchia. It discusses the court battle between the Grossners and Dunnings, two families fighting for custody of two young African American girls, currently three and two years old. The two girls are the biological children of Princton Knox, the son of Dorothy Dunning. They were put into foster care with the Grossners after their births because drugs were found in their systems. The article mentions briefly their biological mother, Javille "Angel" Sutton, but does not comment on her current whereabouts and involvement in the case. The older of the two girls has been living with the Grossners since 2009 and the younger was born a year later. It was ruled by the lower court that the girls were to remain in the care of the Grossners. This decision was appealed by the Dunnings but the ruling was upheld; the case is currently being contested in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

A strength of this article is that the information is presented in a way that is easy to understand to the general population. It provides general legislative information pertaining to permanency laws such as the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) and federal and state laws regarding race and permanency decisions. This tone is appropriate because this article is featured in a public newspaper, as opposed to a scholarly journal, which may require more scholarly language. The author seems to take on a sense of neutrality when discussing the viewpoints of the foster parents and paternal grandparents. The article does not seem to side with either party. One limitation of this article, however, is that it does not include very much information about the role of the biological parents in this case. The biological mother is mentioned briefly, the author mentions she has had several other children removed from her custody due to drug addiction. The author discusses the biological father's drug addiction, noting that he is no longer using drugs and has another family. In order to present a well-rounded discussion of all the parties involved in this case, including the foster parents, paternal grandparents and child welfare system, the article should include more of a discussion of the biological parents.

The article seems to take the position that the Child Welfare system fractured. It subtly comments on how the adoption process is very slow and provides a disservice to children and families; foster, adoptive, and biological alike. On several instances the article seems to critique the slowness in finding relative placements for children, citing federal and state mandated timelines that were not followed. The article also comments on the discrepancies in the federal and state laws around race considerations and permanency. The article seems to take the position that it is not as simple an issue to eliminate race completely in permanency decisions; race and culture are inevitably intertwined.

This guest post was written by Katie Johnson.

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In the March/April 2013 issue of the Adoptive Families magazine Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky wrote the article "7 Ways to Give Your Child a History." This article discusses the need of older adopted children to understand their story of placement and what it means when they are adopted and joining a home forever; several hands-on activities that parents can do with children are presented.

Keck and Kupecky outline 7 activities that can be done with children when they are adopted:

  1. The Timeline--create a timeline with the children representing life from birth to 25, use colors to represent different placements. This activity allows children to see where they have been and also reinforces the security of their current place in a family.
  2. Photographs--gather as many photographs from biological relatives, foster families, social workers, schools, and hospital as possible to compile an album for the child. This allows him/her to see him/herself at different life stages.
  3. The Lifebook--create an autobiographical book for or with your child that explains his or her life from birth and who his or her birthparents are, to reasons that the child was placed in care, the different places he or she was in care and the reasons for adoption.
  4. The Water Exercise--in this activity you use a pitcher, a glass, and water to illustrate to the child his/her different placements. You fill the glass with water to represent the length of time spent somewhere and pour the water into the pitcher. As the pitcher fills the water mixes together and you see that all of one's life-experiences make a person whole.
  5. The Family Tree--create a family tree that shows the child's birth-family as well as the new adopted family.
  6. Movie Night--a movie night can be a great way for children to process feelings and begin a discussion.
  7. Written Correspondence--a child who has been in multiple placements may never have received a letter or card in the mail, as you begin the process of adoption send mail to the child, after adoption ask former foster parents and others to send mail to the child.

This article is helpful in dispelling the myth that most adopted children are adopted as babies or that it's better to adopt babies. The authors also displayed some of the struggles a child who is adopted may go through, positively promoted the need for children to have a permanent home, and the need for adoptive parents to help the children they adopt have an integrated view of themselves and their life. I would have liked to see a greater discussion on challenges children face and activities parents can do with their children at different ages and stages after adoption. I felt this article was limited by focusing on activities to do with children when initially adopted and would have liked to see a list of resources for further activities and resources that parents could make use of.

Experiencing the Joy and Grief of Fostering to Adopt

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This guest blog post was written by Tina Graber.

Saying Goodbye to the Foster Child I Fell in Love With

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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.

This guest post was written by Brittany Kellerman.

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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.

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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.

References

  • 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.

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[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" (projectprevention.org) 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

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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.

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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.

Introducing student blog posts

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Starting next week, we will be posting posts from students enrolled in the Permanency in Child Welfare courses in the MSW program.

Students were asked to choose an article, either in the current media or in a peer-review journal, or other related item, related to permanency and adoption. The purpose of this assignment is to apply critical thinking skills to topics related to permanency and adoption and to educate a broader, general audience through analyzing writings about permanency and adoption in a way that is accessible.

Their analyses will include:

  • A short description of the article—who wrote it, name of publication, date of publication, topic
  • A discussion of the strengths and the limitations or weaknesses of the article
  • A discussion of the ways in which this article promotes or dispels myths about permanency or adoption
  • Links and citations

Enjoy the series!

Documentary about former foster youth changing the system

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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.

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Prevention Action, an online news publication on issues related to improving child development and health around the world, published an article, "Stressed welfare systems impede evidence-based support for foster children" last week.

According to the article, a collaborative effort by rsearchers in the US and UK found that while several strong evidence-based interventions have been found to improve well-being for children and youth in out-of-home care, that these interventions are not being implemented because of system challenges.

The report cited several evidence-based interventions, including:
- Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC)
- Multidimentional Treatment Foste Care for Preschoolers
- Bucharest Early Intervention Project
- Incredible Years Parenting Program
- Keeping Foster Parents Trained and Supported (KEEP)
- Middle School Success (MSS)
- Fostering Individualized Assistance Program

These promising interventions were all found through rigorous research to have improved the well-being of children and youth in foster care, yet according to the authors, were not implemented because of the challenges of the child welfare system - including high case loads, staff retention issues, and a system that has to respond to immediate crises and high stress situations.

The authors state that child well-being should be the focus - as a strong priority on well-being leads to greater outcomes regarding safety and permanency.

For the article, click here.

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.

What happens when adoption fails?

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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.

Using social media to connect foster youth with relatives

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An interesting story came out earlier in the week about using social media sites such as Facebook to connect foster youth with relatives.

We typically hear stories about the problems associated with social media use among foster youth. In this story however, it is not a foster youth - or a biological parent - that is using Facebook to connect, it is the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services!

So far workers have searched Facebook for 80 families. From KHAS-TV in Nebraska, watch the video for more information.

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Last week a local news organization, The City Pages, published a feature article about a contested adoption case that the Minnesota Supreme Court is reviewing. As with many of these cases, this story highlights systems issues in child welfare, the tension between biological family and foster families, racial differences, interjurisdictional placements between states and the differences in state's proceedures regarding adoption, and much more.

In "Split the baby: Two sides of an adoption battle" reporter Olivia LaVecchia's story delves into many of these issues but the main attraction, as is often the case, revolves around race. The placement of the two young sisters at the center of this story has been presented as one in which the African American paternal grandmother has been denied custody in favor of a white foster family.

Our executive director at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, Traci LaLiberte and I met with Ms. LaVecchia to provide background context for adoptions and child welfare practice in Minnesota and a few of Ms. LaLiberte's comments are featured in the article.

Among the issues we brought up include:

  • The pendulum swing in child welfare as the profession emphasizes relatives and kin over "new resource" adoptions, a change from the past when many thought that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree"
  • The interjurisdictional mistakes that were made in this case
  • The MultiEthnic Placement Act and Interethnic Provisions and how that legislation differs conceptually with the Indian Child Welfare Act
  • The difference between "active efforts" and "reasonable efforts"

While both parties in this case are arguing issues regarding race - that the children need to be raised in their cultural community according to the grandmother, over the argument by the foster parents that they are the only parents these children know and that race should not trump the relationship and bond they have with the girls.

This story, as with the baby Veronica case, pits the contested adoptions as matters of race, which often becomes the story and illustrates the very divided opinions people have about race and culture in America. However, what is often not as considered is that these issues are almost always about much more than race alone - they typically involve intense differences in opinions about whether biological families are more entitled to raise children than new resource families; the issues of class is often unspoken but foster families in these legal cases are almost always white and middle class while the relatives are often from communities of color and are working class; and finally in most of these cases one or more significant practices required by law were either not done properly (in the baby Veronica case, for example, the workers did not follow the procedures of ICWA) or they were not done to the effort they should have (such as following through with the state of Mississippi in the case of the Dunnings).

Some things to think about:

  • If the relatives, the Dunnings were white, do you think they would have been more likely to receive the children?
  • If the Dunnings had lived in Minnesota instead of Mississippi, do you think the case would have been ruled as it was?
  • If the foster family, the Grossers, were African American, how do you think this case would have been resolved?
  • Can race really be taken out of it, as the attorneys argued before the Supreme Court?


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The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) will graduate its first cohort of 39 adoption-competent mental health and child welfare workers through CASCW's Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC) program today. The graduation celebration will take place from 4 PM to 6 PM in the Minnesota Commons Room at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Student Center.

The PACC is a professional training program developed in response to community demand for an adoption-competent mental health and child welfare workforce able to serve the unique and complex clinical and practice needs for adopted individuals and their families throughout Minnesota. Through the PACC, mental health and child welfare workers are given the knowledge and skills needed to serve families and help prevent disruptions in the post-adoption period.

The PACC includes the nationally recognized Training on Adoption Competency curriculum developed by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) and additional modules focusing on child welfare permanency and the Indian Child Welfare Act. The PACC emphasizes the use of 'real world' case studies, small group work, and partner interactions in order to promote critical thinking and practice application discussions among participants.

"Going through the different case studies and having discussion was most helpful and relevant, as I can use the feedback [and] ideas to help in my job in engaging families I work with." Participant Response

Graduates of the PACC will be listed in a searchable online database. Families and professionals will have access to this database in order to locate adoption-competent practitioners in their area.

There are 37 additional participants in the current (fall 2012) cohorts in Rochester and the Twin Cities that will graduate in 2014.

For more information, please visit the PACC website.

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Last Thursday, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute released its newest report focused on the impact of the internet on adoption. The report describes the impact of the internet and social media as having "transformative effects - positive and negative - on how adoption is perceived, practiced and in terms of the policies and laws that are responding from, and attempting to proactively address, ethical challenges that are raised.

The report was instigated because of the lack of research on the use of the internet and social media in adoption, as well as to begin a dialogue. The Adoption Institute's key findings include:

  • Adoption is more and more about finding children for families than in finding families for children, with a growing "commodification" as supply and demand for infants "heightens competition."
  • The ability for unregulated websites to unethically facilitate adoption practices as a way to compete with brick and mortar adoption agencies raises concerns.
  • More birth parents and adoptees are using social media and other internet-related technologies to search and contact each other.
  • Recruitment for adoptive families for children with special needs has been more successful through internet technologies.
  • Prospective and adoptive families are able to find many resources and supports through internet sites.

The report also laid out several practice, policy and legal recommendations. Among them:

  • The development of a best-practice standards guide, by key organizations, experts in the field, and - though not included I would add adoptive parents, first parents and adopted individuals as well.
  • The development of training programs for adoption professionals on a number of items including:
  • Positive and negative uses of the internet and social media
  • The internet and social media as a tool for search and reunion, and how professionals can counsel those using the internet for search and reunion
  • The use of the internet for parents (both birth/first and adoptive) to obtain adoption services
  • An examination of the current policies and laws related to fraud, exploitation and other illegal activities and the internet
  • Working with internet and social media companies about issues of privacy, ethics, and conduct of users
  • An examination of current laws regarding the ability of adult adopted persons from accessing original birth information.

For more information about the key findings and to read the whole report, see the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute link here.

A webinar on engaging families around kinship care is available from the Florida's Center for the Advancement of Child Welfare Practice. This video could be helpful for practitioners looking for stragegies when working with families to provide kinship care. This video was created in 2008.

Jack Levine and Ron Morris developed this video training. They discuss differences in family structures, the development of a family engagement plan, working with families and the need for professionals to advocate for comprehensive services.

You can access the video here.

Building social capital for youth in foster care

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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.

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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.

I recently came across this resource from the National Resource Center for Adoption, part of the Children's Bureau network of Technical Assistance programs.

The Youth Permanency Cluster or YPC, is a group of demonstration projects funded in October 2005 during which sites worked to create, implement and evaluate strategies for achieving permanency for youth that involve practices that have not always been encouraged in traditional paradigms of "adoption":


  • Open adoption, in particular with sibling groups and families of origin

  • Promoting a range of permanency options including guardianship and kinship care

  • Promoting

models that draw on collaboaration and youth leadership

More information on the projects can be accessed at this link.

You can also download a copy of a powerpoint presentation, "Successful Strategies in Achieving Youth Permanency" that provides an overview of the projects.

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An article for The Republic and azcentral.com published late November highlighted the challenges that some adoptive families face that lead to a diruption or dissolution of an adoption.

The article highlighted one family whose adopted child struggled with mental health and behavioral issues so extreme, the family felt they had no other options but to "return him" to the system.

However, it is not just adoptive parents adopting from foster care who make these decisions. From famous adoptive parents like Joyce Maynard who announced this year she had dissolved the adoption of two Ethiopian adopted siblings to the case that made international news, Torry Hansen's "return" via sending her Russian born adopted child to Russia alone on a plane, adoptive parents often struggle to find quality and effective services for their children and themselves. Some parents, such as the ones in the The Republic article, "return" the child in order to get services that they could not access on their own.

With an increase in foster care adoptions in the U.S., the need for services will also need to increase in order to support these chlidren, many of whom have experienced a significant amount of abuse, neglect and trauma. With no way of tracking national disruptions and dissolutions for all adopted children, the scope of the issue is difficult to know. For the families who struggle, however, the impact of the lack of services is devastating.

The Republic article asks, "Who helps when adoptions unravel?" Another question we need to ask is "what can we do to prevent disruptions and dissolutions to begin with?"

What are your thoughts?

Chinese-adopted children's adoptive parents' narratives

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AsGirl_000004802916Medium.jpgA recently published article in Adoption Quarterly by April Chatham-Carpenter explored the narratives that adoptive parents of internationally adopted Chinese children construct about the circumstances around their child's abandonment or relinquishment.

The study was conducted to explore the story narratives that adoptive parents use, and what is included and left out in these stories.

In Chatham-Carpenter's qualitative study, the author found that adoptive parents tell a "dominant narrative" in their stories to their children, in which they attempt to humanize their child's biological parents decisions,and counternarratives that seem to be an attempt to make the story more palatable for the adoptive parents feelings rather than their child's.

Parents in the study often included details about their reasons for adopting, the "referral" news, and the day the parents met the child along with their guesses about the reasons the child was abandoned or placed.

Birth parents and birth parent decisions/actions were mostly described in positive ways, portraying them as "loving" but "victims of something larger, outside their control."

Practitioners working with adoptive parents may find this article informative and helpful in training pre-adoptive parents about ways to talk about adoption with their child.

The article is available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10926755.2012.698404.

This morning NPRran a story, Helping Foster Kids Even After Adoption, about the types of post-adoption supports that families that adopt from foster care often need.

image001[1].jpgOne of the interviewees on this show is Debbie Riley, our partner at the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE). CASE's Training on Adoption Competency curricuum is the basis for our Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program.
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You can hear the podcast below, or click here to access it on the NPR site.

NPR Post-adoption support.mp3

For more information on our Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate program, click here.

A while back I blogged about food issues among children that have experienced foster care, institutionalization and adoption. I was recently at a conference and saw this wonderful resource created by the SPOON Foundation called Adoption Nutrition: A Starter Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents.

This guide provides helpful information and hints about common nutrient deficiencies adopted children may have, understanding feeding challenges and tips for transitioning your child's diet.

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You can request a copy of the booklet here. It's free! The website is full of information as well, so I recommend taking time to look through all the pages. This is a great resource for foster and adoptive parents, but also for adoption professionals and mental health specialists working with children and families that might be experiencing food and eating issues.

For many children in foster care or those adopted from foster care, being separated from one or more sibling is unfortunately a common experience. Although the sibling relationship is the longest relationship any person will have to another family member, about 70% of the children in foster care also have another sibling in care. Because of many barriers, these siblings are often placed in separate homes. Some children lose contact with their siblings and never have the chance to develop a relationship.

Resources such as Camp To Belong and Camp Connect (featured in this article) are one way that child welfare professionals and adoptive and foster parents can support sibling relationships.

Camp To Belong

Camp Connect

For more information on best practices with sibling groups in foster care and adoption, the following resources may be helpful.

Webinar on helping children with sexualized behaviors

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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:

trainings@mnadopt.org or

612-861-7115
612-861-7112 (fax)
866-303-6276 (toll free)

When multiple caregivers fight to adopt

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for siblings3.jpgA story by Gail Rosenblum was published today in the StarTribune that is, unfortunately, not all that uncommon a scenario in the child welfare system these days.

Tomorrow, the MN Court of Appeals will hear arguments on behalf of two families that want to raise two young girls that have been in foster care.

We often say that a child can never have too many adults in their lives who love them, but what if these adults are fighting over who gets to claim parenting rights?

This case brings up many issues that permanency workers and families struggle with when making permanency decisions. When I read this article, I had the following questions:


  • Was the grandparent given the opportunity to be the foster parent?

  • Was there bias on the part of the agency toward the extended relatives of these children? (I once had a county worker tell me, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" regarding placing children with extended relatives)

  • Whose responsibility was it to ensure the grandparent's information was being submitted, particularly since it turns out Mississippi did not send her information to MN?

  • Why was Minnesota allowed to withdraw its request for the grandparent to adopt based on "frustration over lack of communication?" What follow up could or should the agency have had when this happened?

  • What recourse do families have when agencies fail to communicate and/or advocate on their behalf?

  • Was there bias on the part of the agency toward moving the children across state lines?

  • Was there racial bias, as the foster parents are white and the grandparent is black?

  • Was the county agency afraid of violating the MultiEthnic Placement Act/InterEthnic Provisions?

  • Have all the adults in this issue (foster parents and biological grandmother) discussed what an open adoption and/or open relationship would look like? Would the foster family, if they adopted, be willing to facilitate having the grandparent in an active role in the girl's lives?

  • Why wasn't there more effort to emphasize an open relationship that truly shows that there are never too many adults who can love a child?

For the full story, see the Star Tribune's article here.

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.


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