Read a rundown on the top public policy issues facing state lawmakers in 2015, state-private sector partnerships for infrastructure, e-cigarettes and taxes and dealing with cuts to mental health programs.
NCSL can help state child welfare systems develop ways to safely reduce the number of children in foster care. We can make presentations, informal briefings, and testimony before committees and hearings; offer written research and analyses; or conduct informal conference calls with state child welfare administrators, legislators and legislative staff in other states to discuss their experiences with child welfare reform.
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NCSL hosted the 2014 Legislative Summit in Minneapolis Aug. 19-22. The Legislative Summit is the nation's largest gathering of legislators and legislative staff. Included in the lineup of great workshops was “Keeping the American Dream Alive,” focusing on how states are using research on the effects of poverty to shape programs and public-private partnerships to tackle this complex problem and ensure every American has the opportunity to succeed. In addition, there was a criminal justice plenary meeting regarding child trafficking and an update on what is happening at the federal level.
For more information about NCSL's 2014 Legislative Summit, visit the Summit Resources Online.
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NCSL has recently summarized 2013 legislation dealing with child fatality reviews. In 2013, five states enacted bills paying particular attention to addressing child fatality review, child fatality prevention review teams and oversight committees.
Colorado enacted a bill that requires county or district public health agencies to establish local or regional child fatality prevention review teams operating under the purview of the Department of Public Health and Environment.
An Indiana bill establishes the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to study issues concerning vulnerable youth, review legislation, cooperate with other entities. It also establishes a Child Services Oversight Committee to review data reports from the child services department, establishes a local child fatality review team in each county and creates a statewide child fatality review committee.
Kentucky’s legislation creates an external child fatality and near fatality review panel that is attached to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. In addition, the bill requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and any agency, organization or entity involved with a child subject to a fatality or near fatality to confidentially provide all records of services provided to that child within 30 days of request, in addition to other provisions.
North Dakota’s law authorizes a child fatality review panel to review near deaths alleged to have resulted only from child abuse and neglect, and report specified information.
Texas enacted a bill that addresses the need to study the causes of child fatalities and makes recommendations for reducing them, including fatalities from the abuse and neglect.
View legislation from 2008 to the present.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 is a federal law that governs the removal and out-of-home placement of American Indian children. The law was enacted after recognition by the federal government that American Indian children were being removed from their homes and communities at a much higher rate than non-native children. ICWA established standards for the placement of Indian children in foster and adoptive homes and enabled tribes and families to be involved in child welfare cases. Click on the title to find states statutes related to strengthening or enhancing ICWA in states.
NCSL has recently updated its State Statutes Related to Indian Child Welfare page. As of August 2014, 33 states had statutes addressing various provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act. States have addressed these issues in different ways, from state ICWA laws in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington to codification of specific ICWA provisions in Colorado, California, Wisconsin, Oregon, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Montana and Florida, to legislatively mandated study commissions in Maine and South Dakota.
In addition, NCSL has a wealth of resources related to the Indian Child Welfare Act. Resources include new legislation, evidence based programs, early childhood, brain science and trauma, affordable care act and tribes, kinship care, supporting Indian youth and Medicaid and Indian children and youth. View NCSL’s ICWA Resource page.
NCSL recently attended the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative National Summit on Authentic Youth Engagement that addressed ways in which child welfare providers can better engage youth, particularly former foster youth, in policy decisions and service planning. Issues addressed included youth homelessness, LGBTQ youth, education of former foster youth, youth participation in the juvenile justice system, youth involvement in case planning and transition planning and youth leadership or engagement boards in the states.
For example, Hawaii presented information about its HI H.O.P.E.S. Youth Leadership Boards, which are made up of former foster youth ages 14-26. The Hawaii Youth Leadership Board meets regularly to discuss issues facing youth transitioning from foster care and were involved in getting the voluntary extension of foster care to 21 legislation enacted in 2013.
For more information about services for older youth visit NCSL’s Child Welfare website for information about the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 and what states are doing to extend foster care beyond 18.
Also, stay tuned for the September 2014 issue of State Legislatures Magazine for an article about states that have extended foster care beyond 18 under the Fostering Connections Act.
Following recent news stories about “re-homing,” the process by which an adoptive family seeks to find a new home for its adoptive children without going through the proper or official channels, the Children’s Bureau issued an Information Memorandum and a webinar discussing the practice and ways states can approach the issue. Often, families take to websites to advertise the availability of a child and then they execute a power of attorney, handing over decision making power to a new family. The information memo references a Wisconsin bill that was recently enacted that expands existing prohibitions on advertising a child for adoption, requires the juvenile court to approve a delegation of parental powers to a non-family member for more than a year, and prohibits the unauthorized interstate placement of children. In addition to the information memo, the Children’s Bureau also released a 2014 webinar discussing the issue of re-homing.
Be sure to check out the Webinar and Information Memorandum.
View NCSL’s chart of recent legislative enactments to provide adoption and post adoption supports and subsidies.
View a chart of legislation to expedite and streamline the adoption process.
The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections recently posted a series of papers from the Children’s Bureau designed to “further the national dialogue on how to more effectively integrate an emphasis on well-being into the goal of achieving safety, permanency and well-being for every child.” Following the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, child welfare agencies were not just expected to achieve safety and permanency, but well-being also. Since then, child welfare agencies have struggled to identify what well-being means and the best ways to achieve it. These papers are designed to help child welfare policymakers and practitioners understand the issue of well-being better through information on child development and the importance of well-being, using evidence-based practices to achieve better well-being outcomes, and a practical case study showing these policies in practice.
The first paper, a "Comprehensive Framework for Nurturing the Well-Being of Children and Adolescents," starts with the premise that abuse and neglect do not just lead to physical harm; they also affect the child’s emotional, psychological and behavioral health. Attending to and preventing problems in these areas leads to higher executive function and better outcomes for kids. From this understanding, the paper looks to a developmental framework in which the child welfare system pays attention to children’s developmental needs at all stages of childhood and adolescence in order to better achieve well-being. In particular, the paper looks at the influences in the child’s life and how they work to create social and emotional well-being.
The second paper is "Screening, Assessing, Monitoring Outcomes and Using Evidence-based Practices to Improve the Well-Being of Children in Foster Care." It identifies three critical components—screening for mental and behavioral health symptoms, clinical assessment of the child’s needs, and selection of evidence-based programs to meet those needs—of a well-functioning response to the social, emotional and behavioral needs of vulnerable children and families.
The third paper, "A Case Example of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families’ Well-Being Framework: Kansas Intensive Permanency Project (KIPP)," “presents a case study of the Kansas Intensive Permanency Project (KIPP) and describes how it has implemented many of the core aspects of a well-being framework.” The Kansas project is a statewide public-private partnership between the University of Kansas-School of Social Welfare, the Kansas Department of Children and Families and Kansas’ private providers of foster care. KIPP is a five-year demonstration project that targets a population of children with serious emotional disturbances who are at-risk of long-term foster care placement. The project is testing an evidence-based parenting intervention strategy by identifying the target population and its barriers, examining the possible evidence-based interventions available and picking one, and tailoring the intervention to the targeted population and community.
View the full series
The Children’s Bureau Express, the most recent newsletter from the Children’s Bureau, put a spotlight on child welfare and domestic violence in the July/August issue. The issue highlighted a 2013 study from the Child and Youth Services Review which discussed the co-occurrence of child maltreatment and domestic violence. The study found that children who had experienced domestic violence were more likely to be removed from the home and placed in out-of-home care while children already in out-of-home care who experienced domestic violence were less likely to be reunified with their family.
View the Children’s Bureau Express article
View the full issue of the Children’s Bureau Express
Youth Law News published a report summarizing a study conducted by the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) on teen pregnancy in foster care. The study illustrates the negative outcomes of teen pregnancy along with the higher likelihood of teen pregnancy among adolescents in foster care than those still living at home. Teenagers who have children are often subject to lower levels of educational attainment, higher rates of single parenthood, and less stable employment than their counterparts who delayed childbirth. Children of teen mothers are more likely to drop out of high school, be incarcerated, end up in foster care, become teenage parents themselves, and be unemployed as adults. The earlier ages of sexual activity and higher rates of teen pregnancy among youth in foster care has been attributed, but is not limited, to reproductive coercion due to abusive relationships, frequent address changes resulting in medical and educational instability, lack of sexual education, lack of access to reproductive health care, and confusion about who may give consent for reproductive health care.
Also check out NCSL’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention resources
Typical family court proceedings often neglect the underlying issue of parents who have suffered trauma. For this reason, Judge Judith Claire of the Chautauqua County Family Court, and Aimee Neri, the New York State Child Welfare Court Improvement Project Liaison to the 8th Judicial District, have initiated the enforcement of trauma-informed court procedures. The women are collaborating with social workers, psychiatrists and attorneys for children to implement trauma-informed care and trauma training in the family court system. They found that applying trauma-informed proceedings must be based on the principles of safety, trust, choice, empowerment and collaboration. By creating this sort of positive environment in the courtroom, more settlements are being achieved and children are being permanently placed faster.
View the Children’s Bureau Express article HERE
Trauma-informed care was a recent topic at NCSL and the National Governors Association’s Three Branch Institute Meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Read more
The American Bar Association recently published an article by Ann Park, “Keeping Immigrant Families in the Child Protection System Together,” describing the challenges faced by families in which the parent or parents are undocumented immigrants and have been detained. According to the article, children of such families are often placed in the custody of the state or the parents are given the opportunity to be reunited with their children. Difficulty locating the children, meeting reunification timelines, lack of access to court proceedings, and a systematic bias against undocumented immigrants are just a few of the challenges that these parents face when attempting reunification with their children. The article discusses policies issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to diminish some of these challenges. These policies include placing the family members as close together as possible, arranging for parental visitation, and arranging for parental presence at court hearings for the children.
Also check out NCSL’s Child Migrants to the United States Brief covering recent trends in arrivals of unaccompanied children, an overview of the federal unaccompanied minor program, federal budget proposals to respond to the increased arrivals, and benefit eligibility for unaccompanied migrant children.
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