Published in Children’s Voice, Volume 30, Number 1

Supporting Permanency through Adoption-Competent Mental Health Services: The National NTI Free Interactive Web-Based Training
By Edna Davis-Brown and Lisa Maynard

Family relationships in today’s world can be complicated. Families who come together through foster care, guardianship, and adoption often experience added layers of complexity due to trauma, abuse, and neglect that the COVID-19 pandemic has been shown to intensify even more. The combination of these complex experiences can lead to behavioral and mental health difficulties and compromise well-being in the family system. Infusing adoption competency in the provision of casework and clinical practice is essential to keeping children, youth, and families strong.

A variety of adoption-competent supports can help and greatly assist in creating a holistic environment in which families can thrive. When children have support and services that help them process their past traumatic experiences, they are better able to develop healthy and appropriate coping skills. Similarly, when parents are provided with tools and strategies that make sense based on their adoption experiences, they are better able to provide support and stability for their children. Studies indicate (Atkinson et al., 2013) that adoptive parents often must extensively search and endure multiple providers before finding a therapist who truly understands issues and experiences relevant to adoption. For a variety of reasons, clinicians and caseworkers often lack training specific to the adoption experience; this limits their ability to practice effectively with this population. Adoption-competent practices can spare families the stress of implementing tools and responses in their homes that are often ineffective and sometimes cause additional distress or trauma.

The Need for Adoption Competency Training
Training is needed to ensure that mental health and child welfare professionals are well prepared to expertly support foster and adoptive families. When professionals have the right training to respond effectively to the myriad issues that may arise, children and their families can flourish. The National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI) is an effective solution to meet this critical need.

What Is NTI?
NTI is a state-of-the- art, web-based training developed by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE), funded by the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NTI is designed to ensure that mental health and child welfare professionals are better able to effectively respond to the needs of foster and adoptive families. The training, offered free of charge, is available for all U.S. states, Tribes, and Territories.

Catch a Glimpse
NTI Training for Child Welfare Professionals consists of an eight-module, 20-hour curriculum, with an additional five hours for supervisors to support transfer of learning in day-to-day practice. Modules address topics including attachment, race, ethnicity, issues facing youth and families who are LGBTQ+, loss and grief, trauma, identify formation, and permanency. A 30-hour training for mental health professionals includes two additional modules addressing assessment and treatment planning and therapeutic parenting strategies.

Participants Gain Best Practices from Aligned Trainings and Resources
The modules have been informed by experts in the fields of adoption, mental health, and child welfare. Participants gain best practices and effective strategies for working with children, youth, and families. These two aligned, web-based trainings use adult learning principles to actively engage the user through completion. Each self-directed module includes a mix of text, video, and audio and includes links to resources, activities, and opportunities for reflection using examples and stories from adoptive parents, youth and children, and experts for each content area. Resource materials included with each learning module provide tips and tools that enable professionals to seamlessly transfer their learning into the real practice setting.

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Edna Davis-Brown, MPH, currently serves as an Implementation Specialist with the federally funded National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI). Ms. Davis-Brown has more than 25 years of experience in program development, management and implementation, program monitoring and evaluation, group facilitation, and training/technical assistance development and delivery. She has supported and managed numerous federal and non-federal projects for health care management firms and national organizations in areas such as health equity and disparities, substance abuse prevention and treatment, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, emergency mental health disaster response and coordination, and child welfare mental health training. Ms. Davis-Brown is also co-founder of the Gregory B. Davis Foundation, a small nonprofit formed to preserve the legacy of her youngest sibling, Gregory, who died of AIDS in March 2000. She holds a graduate degree in Public Health Education from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Lisa D. Maynard, LMSW, currently serves as an Implementation Specialist with for the federally funded National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI), and as a trainer for Training for Adoption Competency (TAC) with the Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE). Ms. Maynard has more than 30 years of experience working in child welfare and mental health, and holds certificates in administrative management, adoption therapy, traumatic stress studies, trauma counseling, and trauma-sensitive yoga. Ms. Maynard is a certified yoga and meditation teacher and maintains a private therapy practice in Upstate New York, integrating yoga philosophy, meditation, and mindfulness in her work with clients, guiding them to explore life challenges in a safe, supportive environment. She holds a graduate degree in social work from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.