Children's Voice Jan/Feb 2006

In This Issue...

Executive Directions
Parenting Pages
Management Matters
About Children's Voice

Eye on CWLA

CWLA and Hollywood Team Up for Hurricane Relief

CWLA hobnobbed with the stars in Las Vegas October 15 to raise funds for child welfare agencies directly affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Lance Bass, Jessica Beal, Ashton Kutcher, and Demi Moore were just a few of the celebrities who walked the red carpet to participate in a celebrity auction at the Empire Ballroom benefiting CWLA and two other charity organizations.

The event was part of uBid for Hurricane Relief, a fundraising effort organized by online auction website with Lance Bass, AJ Discala, and Pantera Sarah Productions. During the live auction and two-week online auction on, participants bid on an eclectic assortment of items, including outings with celebrities and guest appearances on TV shows.

CWLA President/CEO Shay Bilchik In Las Vegas, CWLA staff were able to speak directly with celebrities about the needs for children and families. President and CEO Shay Bilchik addressed the audience, speaking about CWLA's work around the hurricanes and more broadly about serving children, youth, and families.

"It was wonderful exposure for the League, our members, and the issues we care about," Bilchik says. "It will also provide a great opportunity for follow up with those in attendance in pursuing ways they may be able to support our work."

The live auction, conducted by Christies Auction House, included a golf outing with Brett Favre that went for $15,000; snowboarding with Justin Timberlake, which sold for $30,000; and a 1950s Chevy used in a movie and rehabbed with all the conveniences of today's modern cars, which went for $60,000. Singers Macy Gray and Marc Broussard, a Louisiana native, also performed during the celebrity event.

The auction received wide coverage by the Hollywood press and broadcast media and was the lead story on both Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood.

NBA Star Makes a Commitment to CWLA

CWLA is participating in a new program by the Giving Back Fund called Be a Hero in the Eyes of a Child. The program pairs philanthropic athletes and entertainers with a select group of leading national children's charities, including CWLA and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

NBA Star Jalen Rose Celebrities will serve as Youth Ambassadors to CWLA and other charities to raise awareness about and funding for children's issues. The ambassadors will make meaningful financial contributions before encouraging others to give.

NBA Star Jalen Rose (pictured left) has already committed to serve as a Youth Ambassador for CWLA. Last fall, he made a $25,000 donation toward CWLA's efforts to help children devastated by Hurricane Katrina. "Although I've never experienced a hurricane, I feel blessed to be in a position where I can help the survivors, especially the kids who were devastated by this tragedy," Rose says.

After the Storm, CWLA Answers Members' Calls for Help

Serving the needs of vulnerable children and their families is not an easy job. Throw a hurricane into the picture, and the job becomes even tougher.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita dealt a severe blow to the work of CWLA member agencies in Louisiana and Mississippi last September. The storm disrupted essential services for children and left them traumatized. Many staff lost their homes, relocated during the evacuation, and could not return to work immediately. Wind, rain, and floods battered the offices, group homes, and shelters serving these children and staff, causing costly damage.

"Systems of care are already stretched and struggling to meet the needs of vulnerable children and their families," Keith Liederman, CEO of Kingsley House in New Orleans, told CWLA last fall. "The aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita could easily overwhelm these already challenged safety nets."

CWLA immediately stepped in to provide support not only to agencies directly affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but also to dozens of agencies in surrounding states that have lent assistance. During the storm's immediate aftermath, CWLA national and regional staff facilitated communication among public and private members to quickly identify needs and access offers of support.

Responding to the enormity of the situation, CWLA established three funds to funnel support directly to these agencies:
  • CWLA's Katrina Kids Fund will help the children and families from the regions affected by Hurricane Katrina by supporting certified CWLA member agencies in their efforts to respond to the most urgent needs and as they rebuild their capacity to meet the long-term recovery needs of children and families in the affected areas. To contribute to the Katrina Kids Fund, click here.

  • Thanks to generous support from the Freddie Mac Foundation, the Katrina Fund for Foster Children is being conducted in partnership with CWLA's Katrina Kids Fund to provide necessary services and supports for children in foster care recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The fund will provide both immediate disaster relief, as well as longer-term recovery needs for community-based agencies.

  • Last October, the online auction site hosted the largest celebrity auction to date to benefit hurricane victims. uBid kicked off the online auction with a live event in Las Vegas on October 15. (Read more about this event, above.) One hundred percent of the proceeds from the uBid for Hurricane Relief fund will be split evenly between CWLA, the Brett Favre Fourward Mississippi Relief Fund, and RockWorks (in association with Ashton Kutcher).
To learn more about these funds, go to

CWLA members are already beginning to use the funds for temporary housing while rebuilding their facilities, to secure and train new employees, to provide counseling for post-traumatic stress, and to reunite families who became separated during the storms.

"Thankfully, in this time of extreme hardship, there is also hope," says CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik. "We have heard from many of our 800 member agencies with an outpouring of offers of support for their colleagues and the children and families they serve."

In addition to fundraising, CWLA dedicated an information portal on its website to the Katrina relief efforts. Users can make donations directly on the site and access an extensive list of resource links.

Survey Finds State Definitions for Reunification Vary

Reunification with parents or primary caregivers is the goal for most children in foster care, but many children wait a long time before this happens. To address this concern on the national level, the federal government has developed an outcome measure for the how long it takes to reunify children and their caregivers, and a standard that states should meet as part of the Child and Family Services Reviews.

State child welfare agencies and others, however, have become concerned that methodological issues plague the federal measure, including a lack of definitional consistency among states' data. To address the issue, CWLA's National Working Group to Improve Child Welfare Data (NWG) implemented a survey to identify the variations and consistencies among states in their reporting of reunification data. State child welfare agency representatives were actively involved in developing the survey, and 41 states responded about their data reported as of October 2004.

The survey results indicate similarities and differences in states' reporting practices, and suggest areas that need further federal guidance and state practice considerations. For example, states showed considerable variation in reporting of children discharged to relatives and other caregivers from whom they were removed. Seventy one percent of the states include children discharged to legal guardians in the "reunification" category; 61% percent include relatives from whom the child was removed under "reunification," whereas 41.5% count these children as "living with other relatives."

The results also reveal that states don't share a common definition of discharge date. The discharge date marks the end of a child's placement in state care; it provides the length of time the child was in foster care and, in most cases, the length of time until reunification with parents or other primary caregivers.

The survey found, for example:
  • Half the states define the discharge date as the date legal custody is returned to parents.

  • More than one-fifth use the date legal custody is returned, or the date six months after the child physically goes home if the child is home on a trial basis more than six months and the end date is not specified.

  • One state reports the discharge date as six months from the date physical or legal custody of the child is returned, or the date the court relieves the department from responsibility for placement and care, whichever is earlier.

  • One-fifth of the states report the discharge date as the date the child physically returns home to the parent or caregiver.
NWG released a bulletin last fall, Defining Reunification for Consistent Performance Measurement, highlighting the survey results and recommendations for improving the language used to discuss reunification. Among its recommendations: "Use of more specific descriptors, aligned with common definitions, may promote our ability to communicate, measure, and improve reunification outcomes."

In the bulletin, CWLA also recommends "that the [U.S.] Children Bureau convene an active advisory group, consisting primarily of state representatives, and including researchers and other child welfare professionals, to identify and implement modifications needed to support better outcome measurement."

The entire bulletin is on CWLA's National Data Analysis System. "Army of Miracle Workers" Rallies Behind Kinship Care Traveling from more than 40 states, hundreds of grandparents gathered on Capitol Hill last September for the GrandRally--a celebration of the work relative caregivers do for children and a push for Congress to increase support of policies and funding for extended family members who take care of children.

During the two-day event, grandparents and other relatives attended advocacy training and met with members of Congress. They also rallied on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, wearing brightly colored T-shirts and hats and listening to musical performances and a variety of speakers, including child advocates, grandparents, children of grandparents, and legislators.

AARP, CWLA, the Children's Defense Fund, Generations United, and Grandparents for Children's Rights organized the event.

"You really are an Army of miracle workers," Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) told the crowd. Joining McDermott onstage were Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL) and Thelma Drake (R-VA), all of whom expressed their support for pending legislation to benefit kinship caregivers.

McDermott, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, has introduced the Leave No Abused or Neglected Child Behind Act, which would expand Title IV-E funding for kinship placements. Davis has introduced the Guardianship Assistance Promotion and Kinship Support Act, and Clinton is sponsoring the Kinship Caregiver Support Act. All would extend funding to kinship placements and provide other supports for kinship caregivers.

CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik, along with other child advocacy leaders, also rallied the crowd. "People like you need effective and timely support," Bilchik said. "Ask your Senators and Congressmen to act in your best interest and to support your families."

Read more about the GrandRally and the Kinship Caregiver Support Act from the Executive Directors of Generations United and Grandparents for Children's Rights in Other Voices.

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