Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays!

We will be back in the new year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

ASFA: Intentions and Results

The Center for the Study of Social Policy in collaboration with the Urban Institute commissioned a series of papers to analyze the implementation and effects of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA).

Intentions and Results: A Look Back at the Adoption and Safe Families Act begins with a framework piece that provides an overview of the ASFA legislation, and analyzes state implementation efforts, the effects on service delivery and agency culture, and trends in outcomes for children and families since ASFA’s inception. Five perspective papers follow which capture the experiences from parents and youth directly affected by the legislation; the point of view from one of the original drafters of the law; a child welfare leader who has experienced these reform efforts firsthand; and, a judge charged with enforcing the law. The series include seven policy briefs by researchers, advocates, and policy analysts who examined the implications of ASFA for specific populations, such as parents who have a mental health or substance abuse illness. The series concludes with a set of recommendations from the Center for the Study of Social Policy.

For policies to safely increase exits from foster care to reunification, guardianship and adoption.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Flaws in How the Feds Hold the States Accountable for Foster Care

A new brief from Chapin Hall presents their critique and criticism of the federal government's system for evaluating the performance of the states' child welfare agencies. Summarizing the shortcomings they find that the federal Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSR):
  • Overlook important variation among states in the demographics of the children and families served.
  • Fail to account for systemic state differences in caseload inclusion criteria, and the inherent practice and policy conflicts between measures.
  • Draw on data derived from a database (AFCARS) that was not designed to measure longitudinal performance, and is still not of the quality to justify imposing fiscal penalties.
  • Count/weight states equally despite enormous differences in the size of the child population.
  • Employ a complicated statistical method, principal components analysis (PCA), in the absence of any evidence that such a method is in any way required or superior to simpler and more-transparent approaches to measurement.
  • Make many arbitrary and statistically inappropriate decisions in the use of the PCA procedure, thereby undermining the ranking of states that the method produced.
  • Arbitrarily set the national standard at the 75th percentile, and then rely on ill-conceived rules that adjust the standard to a different level.

State policymakers can use their own policies for holding their child welfare systems accountable.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Results-based Public Policy: Did you miss the webinar?

If you missed the webinar on December 9th that we posted on previously, a recording and the slides are posted on the website. We had over 50 participants from four countries!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Illinois Integrated Assessment: Collaborative Results for Children and Families

A new report from Chapin Hall examines the Illinois Integrated Assessment (IA) program and its substantive effects on interventions for children and families. Begun in 2005, the IA partners child welfare caseworkers with licensed clinicians outside the child welfare system to collaborate on better-informed child and family assessments, which allow for the development of stronger service plans and earlier, more appropriate interventions. The report outlines the IA model, discusses its implementation, and explores its utilization through the experiences of frontline caseworkers. The IA program’s results for children, families, and even caseworkers provide a useful example to policymakers.

Policies to increase exits from foster care to permanency.

Monday, December 14, 2009

National Data on Households with Food-Insecure Children

Food security is essential to children’s current and future health and well-being, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service found that 15.8 percent of U.S. households with children were food insecure at some point in the year. Food Insecurity in Households with Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics describes the prevalence and severity of food insecurity in households with children as of 2007 and the trends since 1999. The study also examines the characteristics of households with food-insecure children, suggesting that job opportunities and wage rates for less educated workers are significant factors affecting children’s food security. Policies to expand food assistance to families and promote family economic success can help address food insecurity and its affect on children.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Job Training in a Jobless Recovery: Training for What?

Another excellent piece on Spotlight on Poverty comes from Bob Giloth and Maureen Conway. They present the challenges to job training progams in this economy: where will programs find jobs for their trainees? One of the ways to address this challenge is through sector-based training programs, citing recent research that found
workers trained in such sector-based approaches earned more money and were more likely to remain employed than similar workers not chosen for the programs.
Many of these employees were young, poor, African-American or Latino—among the groups hit hardest by unemployment. They go on to remind the White House, along with the rest of us, that
the chief lesson of the sector-based approach: the best money is spent training for a job that’s waiting to be filled.
For state policies to promote sector-based job training.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jobs and People of Color, What Can Policymakers Do?

The latest unemployment figures were encouraging, until you disaggreated by race. The overall rate may have dropped to 10% but for Blacks unemployment stands at 15.6% and for Latinos it is 12.6%. With one newspaper reporting that "Latinos and African-Americans in Massachusetts and across the country are facing high unemployment rates that could spiral to levels not seen in decades". But a new report from the Economic Policy Institute called "Getting Good Jobs to America's People of Color" lays out a bold, progressive agenda for creating jobs targeting those with the highest rates of unemployment. While making the case for improving access to education, among other strategies, the report also says "Good jobs should be available to workers at all educational levels. Many of the service sector jobs in the American economy do not require a high level of education. A good jobs agenda cannot leave the large number of workers in this big and growing sector of the economy behind." State policymakers can address this issue with policies to promote a strong job training agenda.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spike in Foster Care Placements: the Economy or Re-balancing?

An interesting piece in the Texas Tribune noting a sudden increase in foster care placements for the month of September. In that month 1500 children were removed from their homes, as compared to the highest single month of removal previously that included the 400 children removed from a polygamists' ranch. The article goes on to suggest that this may be a reflection of an appropriate refocusing of the system from a period when too many children were left in their homes.

Certainly when recent headlines announce that "Texas leads the state in child abuse deaths", it is easy to see how this sudden "course correction" might occur. Another potential factor identified in the article is the Gates case, where the 5th Circuit clarified when social workers can remove children without a court order and when they are immune from prosecution. Many believe that following the Gates case, the Texas child welfare agency took a very strict view of when a child is considered to be in danger. However, the article also suggests that the economy could be a factor in the increase of child abuse cases. With the recession causing more families to experience hunger, homelessness, unemployment and family stress, there may also be an increase in child neglect or family violence. At the same time, many agencies are forced to lay off social workers.

What do you think? Is the Texas system re-balancing? Or is the economy resulting in more vulnerability for families and children? Or are agencies with fewer social workers less equipped to help families and children in crisis?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Webinar: ASFA 12 Years Later


Monday, December 14, 2009; 9:00-10:45 a.m. ET

Panelists: Olivia Golden, Institute fellow, Urban Institute, and author, Reforming Child Welfare
John Mattingly, commissioner, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services Carmen Nazario, assistant secretary for children and families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Susan Notkin, New York director, Center for the Study of Social Policy (moderator), Jeanette Vega, parent, writer for Rise magazine, and a community representative who guides parents in child safety conferences, Nancy Young, executive director, Children and Family Futures, and director, National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare

The ground-shifting Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 was passed in response to growing concerns that the nation’s child welfare systems were not providing for the safety, permanency, and well-being of abused and neglected children. The ambitious new law aimed to reaffirm the focus on child safety in case decisionmaking and to ensure that children, rather than languish in foster care, were promptly connected with permanent families. It declared that, in making decisions about foster care and adoption placements, “the child’s health and safety shall be the paramount concern.”

A dozen years after passage of this landmark legislation, the Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Urban Institute are publishing a comprehensive retrospective titled Intentions and Results: A Look Back at the Adoption and Safe Families Act. Its 14 papers, by a broad sweep of scholars and practitioners, probe the realities of ASFA’s implementation compared to the hopes and fears that attended its enactment; its effects on families facing such issues as substance abuse, mental health problems, or parental incarceration; the perspectives of youth and families involved with the child welfare system; the future agenda for adoption, guardianship, and reunification; and more.

To mark the collection’s release, five panelists -- each with a unique perspective on the child welfare system -- will look back at the lessons of ASFA and assess what they mean for tomorrow’s vulnerable children and families, including opportunities presented by the new Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act.

To attend this event in Washington, D.C., RSVP at
e-mail, or call (202) 261-5709.

To listen to the live audio webcast, register at

Monday, December 7, 2009

Webinar: Results Based Public Policy, in Good Economic Times and Bad

Results Based Public Policy: Using Results to Develop Public Policy, In Good Economic Times and Bad

Join us for a Webinar on December 9 at noon

Space is limited.Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Results-Based Public Policy focuses the energy of government on a singular purpose: to achieve sustainable and measurable improvements for children, youth and families. Results-based Public Policy is defined as using the desired outcome to drive the actions taken by government to address a particular issue. This decision-making process for developing public policy starts with a clearly articulated desired result or outcome to be achieved, assesses current circumstances, uses policy options that have demonstrated an ability to achieve this outcome and evaluates progress through data and performance measures. The New York Times reports that, in spite of stimulus funding, states are severely cutting programs for the most vulnerable. Agencies must compete for scarce dollars while being evaluated on the basis of their ability to position states to thrive in unforgiving competitive national and global economies. Focusing on the results they want to achieve, states can maximize federal funding, create returns on investment and generate savings. States need tools, like, designed to help policymakers make effective budget decisions that will both protect the most vulnerable and achieve long-term results for their state.

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements
PC-based attendeesRequired: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista Macintosh®-based attendeesRequired: Mac OS® X 10.4 (Tiger®) or newer

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another Look at Foreclosure Mediation Programs

New from the Urban Institute, "the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) program is a special federal appropriation, administered by NeighborWorks® America, that is designed to support a rapid expansion of foreclosure intervention counseling in response to the nationwide foreclosure crisis. Loan modifications received by NFMC clients resulted in significantly lower mortgage payments than would have been received without the help of the program. ... [A preliminary] analysis of the NFMC program suggests that the program is having its intended effect of helping homeowners facing loss of their homes through foreclosure". For policies to reduce home foreclosures.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What States Are Doing to Assist Immigrants With Integration

The National Governors Association has released a new issue brief called "Rising to the Immigration Integration Challenge: What States are Doing and Can Do". The brief highlights activities by states to globally address the issues related to integration such as improving data about immigrant populations, better information about the benefits of integration and public awareness campaigns to engage the broader community. States can facilitate successful integration by:
    • Making sure that immigrants who work in highly skilled occupations, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, and researchers, can quickly obtain necessary U.S. licenses and credentials;
    • Making sure that those with limited formal education have access to a combination of English instruction, adult education, and job training to improve their job prospects;
    • Making sure that children of immigrants have access to, and use, programs that will help them be healthy and succeed in school;
    • Making sure that immigrants know they are eligible for citizenship, understand how to apply, and know English well enough to qualify; and
    • Helping immigrants understand the U.S. financial system and how banking and credit can help them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Seizing the Opportunity to Reframe and Integrate Human Service Administration

A white paper by the National Human Services Assembly’s Family Strengthening Center argues that the current economic crisis provides a key opportunity for rethinking the way human services frame “the client” and deliver services to children and families. The product of a May 2009 convening of national leaders in child, youth, and community development and family strengthening, the paper lays out major themes discussed and actionable strategies for reframing and cross-disciplinary service administration. In the face of challenges like organizational siloing and fragmented funding, the group calls for a new lens that acknowledges the family as the client, policy that supports families raising minor children, integrated and more accessible human services, and immediate changes in case management, data sharing, and benefits eligibility screening.

Policies that support children and families, and a framework for policy success.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage: The 2007-2008 Data

The U.S. Census Bureau’s recently released report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008 provides a picture of the dynamics of economic well-being between 2007 and 2008. The data show that:
  • Real median household income fell between 2007 and 2008. The decline was widespread and coincided with the recession that started in December 2007.
  • The poverty rate increased between 2007 and 2008.
  • Though the percentage of uninsured was not statistically different than in 2007, the number of uninsured increased between 2007 and 2008.

Policies to increase family economic success and policies to improve health care access.