Children's Voice Mar/Apr 2007

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Eye on CWLA

Child Protection and the Housing Connection

Families with inadequate housing conditions, such as overcrowding, disrepair, or housing instability, face enormous challenges in adequately caring for and protecting their children. These families need concrete support to provide care and protection for their children.

To maximize human service professionals' ability to serve these families, CWLA, with support from the Freddie Mac Foundation and the Daniels Fund, has developed the Keeping Families Together and Safe project. In its initial phase, the project's primary goal is to develop and administer a curriculum designed to promote and initiate cross-systems education, training, and collaboration for child protective service (CPS) workers and housing providers to address the housing and safety issues that cause many children to be separated from their families.

The intended audience is child welfare frontline workers--CPS and family service workers--and homeless-service workers who provide direct services to the homeless and families in precarious housing situations.

Objectives of the multiyear project include:
  • Increase understanding among agencies and systems about one another's roles, responsibilities, and resources.

  • Provide a foundation to establish formal and informal linkages and partnerships across the child welfare and housing service systems.

  • Improve both systems' capacity to assess and identify the housing needs of families who come to the attention of child protection agencies.

  • Develop both systems' capacity, when resources are available, to address the housing needs of families who come to the attention of the child welfare system.
The Prince George's County (Maryland) Department of Social Services piloted the curriculum in 2005. Pre- and post-tests demonstrated the department successfully met the project's objectives. The department employs 650 people in both its homeless and child placement services, but the two efforts work in separate buildings, explains Prince George's County Social Services Director Karyn Lynch.

"Bringing them together for this cross training did a lot of things," she recalls. "It really helped significantly with networking--placing the name with the face was an initial benefit of the training. It also provided an opportunity for our child protective service workers and our homeless-service workers to discuss the issues related to housing stability and protective services--and specifically protective services for vulnerable and at-risk families. [The curriculum] helped identify linkages where they could collaborate."

As a result of the training, the two departments have improved their screening process for families, and staff from both departments meet monthly. Each side has realized how important mental health services are to both departments, and they now work together to identify private mental health providers for the children and families they serve.

In the project's second phase, the Arizona Department of Economic Security in Phoenix and the Illinois Department of Children and Families in Chicago piloted the curriculum in 2006. Again, pre- and post-test results show participants were more knowledgeable about interagency collaboration after the training.

In addition to the Phoenix and Chicago pilots, phase two of Keeping Families Together and Safe includes developing and field-testing a curriculum for the cross-systems education of supervisors of CPS and homeless-service workers, as well as an administrators' guide. This comprehensive training package, targeting professionals at the frontline, supervisor, and administrator levels, is designed to promote the sustainability of the child protection and housing connection.

For more about Keeping Families Together and Safe, visit CWLA's website.

CWLA Seeks Law to Make Members of Congress Mandatory Reporters

Move follows Foley scandal.

In response to the controversy over former U.S. Representative Mark Foley's (R-FL) interactions with House pages, CWLA called on Congress last fall to enact legislation that would make all members of Congress mandatory reporters of child abuse. In a press statement, CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik said:
Fifty states and the District of Columbia have mandatory reporting laws that require various professions such as physicians, nurses, schoolteachers, child care providers and law enforcement officers to report instances of abuse when they become aware of it. Since Congress does not fall under the jurisdiction of any state government, it is appropriate that a new federal law now be applied to all members of Congress.
The new law CWLA has proposed be applied to members of Congress would follow the laws of all 50 states and DC, which require key professionals and those responsible for the care and safety of children to report instances of child abuse and neglect. CWLA believes this standard should be applied to members of Congress, who assume the role of trusted caretaker for minor children who serve as pages, the same as any health professional or teacher.

Pre-Election Grassroots Advocacy

As political candidates nationwide sparred over issues leading up to the general elections last November, CWLA made sure child welfare and child abuse issues received attention. CWLA's "5-Point Congressional Platform" outlined major legislative issues for CWLA members to use when questioning their Senators or members of Congress about where they stood on child welfare issues.

The five points included
  • protecting the Title IV-E entitlement for foster care and adoption assistance;
  • fixing Title IV-E eligibility for foster care and adoption assistance;
  • extending funding to kinship placements;
  • fully funding prevention and services programs like the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and Promoting Safe and Stable Families; and
  • ensuring any changes to vital initiatives, such as the Social Services Block Grant, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, do not harm children in the child welfare system.
Hundreds of kits containing the platform and summary and background information were mailed to CWLA members and placed on CWLA's website. The website also included links to voter registration sites and useful tips on using the 5-Point Congressional Platform.

"The platform served as a very positive tool for our members who were able to crystallize the issues surrounding child welfare to educate their legislators," says CWLA Government Affairs Codirector John Sciamanna.

Member Agencies Encouraged to Push for Greater Federal Support

CWLA launched a series of forums last fall that took Government Affairs staff to seven states, where they encouraged League members to pressure their U.S. Senators and Representatives to support child welfare funding in Washington.

In Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, CWLA staff addressed the declining federal role in child welfare and answered questions from member agencies about why their states or counties have seen federal funding allocations dry up. At the same time, CWLA Government Affairs staff issued a call to action, pointing out how members can influence the situation. Last year, members' direct and consistent contact with Congressional members helped block cuts to the Social Services Block Grant.

CWLA staff also shared the results of a Congressional Foundation survey that found 90% of Capitol Hill staff regards direct, in-person contact with constituents as the most important form of communication they receive. It exceeds phone calls, faxes, and mailed letters as having the most impact, and it's much more effective than the e-mail that inundates Hill staff.

During the forums, members also learned how to use CWLA's 5-Point Congressional Platform when questioning local lawmakers, and about a preconference institute during CWLA's 2007 National Conference designed to give members tools and resources for advocating on a local level.

CWLA Government Affairs Associate Cristina Fahrenthold, who has spearheaded the outreach effort, says the forums have not only educated members, they have also helped Government Affairs staff better understand how Capitol Hill's budgetary actions have directly affected members. "It's very important for us to see how this has played out on the state level so we can take these stories back to Congress," Fahrenthold says.

Government Affairs staff will continue to bring these issues directly to members' attention in 2007, including attending member conferences. Members interested in working with Government Affairs on this effort should contact Fahrenthold at 703/412-2418 or cfahrenthold@cwla.org.

Learning from Peers Through the League

Regional affinity groups are one way CWLA members can involve additional staff in the benefits of League membership. Developed around job responsibilities or program areas, these groups enhance professional development and increase learning about new practices in the field.

In 2007, the Mountain-Plains Region is launching new affinity groups using conference calls, CWLA's members-only website, and in-person meetings during regional and national events. Suggested areas include chief operating officers, development directors, residential program managers, cultural competence, women in leadership, and foster care. Contact Brian Brant at 720/570-9488 or bbrant@cwla.org, or Cindy Ryman Yost at 402/730-9275 or crymanyost@cwla.org, for more information.

The Midwest Region is also planning to start a senior management affinity group in 2007 to focus on networking, training, and leadership development activities for chief operating officers, vice presidents, and senior program directors. Contact Miller Anderson at 312/701-0491 or manderson@cwla.org if interested.

The New England Region has sponsored a number of affinity groups over the past several years, including a chief financial officers group. The program operations and human resources affinity groups are beginning a new cycle in 2007. Contact Louise Richmond at 617/769-4001 or lrichmond@cwla.org for more information.

Coming Soon!

July 18-20, 2007
National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology
Making IT Work: Linking Data with Practice and Outcomes
L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, Washington, DC

September 24-26, 2007
Mid-Atlantic Region Training Conference
Crisis in Child Welfare: Strengthening Public Policy and Practice
Westin Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland

Dates and locations subject to change. For more information on the CWLA calendar, including conference registration, hotels, programs, and contacts, visit CWLA's website, or contact CWLA's conference registrar at register@cwla.org or 703/412-2439.



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