End Notes

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End Notes

There's a new online resource for Minnesota's child welfare community featuring current information about public policy developments at the federal, state, and local levels. The University of Minnesota's Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare has launched the resource to keep the state's child welfare community informed about the latest policy proceedings and relevant research findings that impact Minnesota's child welfare system. With this online knowledge base, child welfare professionals and stakeholders will have the opportunity to play a more active role in policy debates and decisions that will determine the future of child welfare practice and provisions in Minnesota.

News about the latest policy proceedings will be published weekly on the site's child welfare policy blog during the legislative sessions and monthly during the rest of the year. The blog gives Minnesota's child welfare community the ability to track the progress of legislation through committees, relevant hearings, and key votes. The website also features a listing of other resources that provide reliable and relevant child welfare policy news updates and information. Visit the center's new online resource.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death among our nation's adolescent and young adult population. Youth in foster care are particularly vulnerable due to traumatic life experiences. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), a national resource center that provides suicide prevention support, interventions, and training, has deployed a new online resource for foster families. The online resource What Foster Parents Can Do to Prevent Suicide provides a wealth of information on suicide and suicide prevention to help foster parents recognize and respond to the warning signs associated with suicidal behavior and access professional help for the youth in their care.

SPRC's customized website for foster families is available here.

Health Beat

Finding foster families for medically fragile children with special needs can be a difficult undertaking. The possibility of placing them in a loving, nurturing foster home is greatly increased when the prospective parents know they will have the training, resources, and ongoing support they need. The Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) program at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, is committed to recruiting and empowering prospective foster parents who have the desire to help and the capacity to love a medically fragile foster child who would otherwise spend his or her life in institutionalized care.

In January, the Baltimore Sun featured an article about Jason and Hollie Costa, who were eager to become foster parents and eventually adopt. It was love at first sight when the Columbia, Maryland, couple met 5-year-old Daeonna (DiDi) Smith who was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that causes a loss of feeling below the waist. However, they had deep concerns about their ability to meet DiDi's multiple needs and handle the inevitable challenges associated with her medical condition. Their reluctance changed to resolve when they learned about the Krieger Institute's TFC program.

With the help of the Krieger's interdisciplinary team of experts and support groups, the Costas have the confidence, skills, and the continuum of around-the-clock support services to be great caregivers. DiDi has been thriving ever since she moved in with the couple and their 8-year-old son Benjamin (who is also adopted) last summer.

To read the Sun article, click here. For more information about the Kennedy Krieger Institute's TFC program, visit www.therapeuticfamilycare.org.

Tech Trends

Mobile devices are not just for techies anymore. Increasingly, child welfare systems and agencies across the country are realizing the productivity gains and substantial savings--especially on printing costs and the improved service delivery that can be achieved with mobile computing technology.

Child Advocate Shirley Salomon using her mobile phone to access information for one of her cases.

Like many of its counterparts, ChildNet, an agency in Broward County, Florida, is making a move to mobile case management as a way to reduce printing costs and improve data collection. The longstanding practice of lugging around loads of large bulky binders to court and home visits will be replaced with the portability of mobile technology when ChildNet begins supplying its workers in the field with Google's Android-driven smart phones and tablets. Mobile case management has huge potential for enhancing accountability, transparency, and the efficiency of workers in the field.

Using this technology, ChildNet's caseworkers can perform all their duties in the field rather than making frequent trips back and forth to the office. Through the power and portability of the mobile devices, caseworkers will have immediate access to case files and the ability to update their cases and submit the information remotely. To officially implement the mobile case management system, existing case files will be digitized to make them accessible on the Android devices and indexed to comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Account-ability Act) privacy standards.

The Children's Advocacy Centers in Georgia (CACGA) are putting new technology in place to expand the medical capacity and expertise employed in the assessment of alleged child abuse cases statewide. The centers are in the process of deploying Telehealth's long-distance medical assessment technology, which gives local providers immediate access to a multidisciplinary team of experts in all aspects of child protection services who will remotely participate in the assessment of child abuse cases.

Using Telehealth technology in suspected cases of child abuse or neglect, local providers will be better equipped to make the best medical evaluations and more timely child safety decisions. The technology also reduces travel time, costs, and the trauma to injured children who would have to travel long distances for further medical evaluation and treatment.

Already, 13 of the 39 CACGAs are making use of the new equipment. A grant from the Georgia Governor's Office for Children and Families will fund the purchase of the equipment for the other 26 centers. In January, CACGA featured the Telehealth technology at a summit of CACGA medical providers at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. CACGA's centers serve more than 10,000 children a year in 146 counties.

Speaking Out

"As silly as it may sound, Extreme Recruitment was inspired by the television show Extreme Home Makeover, an exciting race against time to build a house in just a week by coordinating hundreds of professionals and volunteers.... I was watching the last few minutes of the show on a Sunday night in March 2008 when I thought, if they can build a home in a week, why can't we apply the same principles to finding permanent homes for hard-to-place children in foster care?"

-- Melanie Scheetz, Executive Director of the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis, Missouri, who pioneered the Extreme Recruitment quest to find forever families for foster youth. Extreme Recruitment partners with social workers and private investigators in a race to match youth with a safe, lifelong family connection. In just 12 months, they have matched 42 out of 60 youth--three times the number of matches in a third of the time as usual. Scheetz hopes to eventually replicate Extreme Recruitment nationwide. To read a TIME article about the initiative, click here.

Have an opinion on child welfare issues in the news, especially the comments above? Send a letter to the editor to voice@cwla.org.

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